The New Significant Other PhenomenaAmazing couple in love over the city background talking

When it comes to dealing with visitation time, parenting rights, child custody, and child support – there are a lot of sensitive and complicated issues to consider. One set of situations I deal with somewhat frequently as a family lawyer within Long Island and in and around the City, are those that arise when a biological parent of a child – with rights regarding that child – gets a new significant other, or partner be it a girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife.

It’s a fact that is both inevitable and uncomfortable at the same time – when you engage in a divorce or break up with your partner, the chances are that you will eventually have to deal with your ex-partner getting involved with a new romantic interest. Likewise, life will go on for you and you too will find love again. Although this may not impact people who don’t have a child with their ex, it’s obvious that concerns can arise when a divorced couple have custody, visitation rights, and child support matters to consider. These issues can be sorted out through mediation, litigation, negotiations, or collaborative law. Continue reading →

Why the Rutherford New York Custody Jurisdiction Decision Makes Sense

Kelly Rutherford at "As Seen In...Harper's Bazaar" presented by L'oreal Paris to Benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Lindbrook Gallery, Westwood, CA. 12-08-05

Recently, well-known actress Kelly Rutherford was ordered by the New York County Supreme Court to return her children to their father in Monaco, where they had been living after the father lost his U.S. visa. Rutherford argued that she felt “lawfully” unable to remove her children from the United States so that they could live with their father in a foreign country. However, she complied with the order that was given by the judge, demanding that the children be reunited with their father and returned to Monaco. Under the facts of the case, the decision of the New York Court makes sense – despite the personal feelings expressed by Rutherford herself.

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act

The case makes sense under the law since according to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, New York would not have been considered to be the residential home state of the children in question. The facts suggest that instead the children were simply visiting the state, and their mother, after a California court issued custody to the father, Daniel Giersch, in 2012. If another country or state had not been given jurisdiction and the children were present in New York, then the New York Court may have been able to take up the case. However, as the case stood, New York simply did not have jurisdiction to allow Rutherford custody. Continue reading →

It is possible, under different scenarios, to discontinue a divorce, before it is finalized by the signing of the couple arguingjudgment. But how can it be done? The answer is found in the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules 3217 and corresponding case law that interprets it. What the law says is that for civil actions, in general (including divorces), an order is not required if no responsive pleading is served. But if no responsive pleading is required then it can be discontinued twenty days after the service of the original pleading. Otherwise a stipulation between the parties of discontinuance would need to be made or a court order for the same made.

So, what does this mean and how does this apply to divorces in New York? Divorces can be initiated by the filing of a document called a Summons with Notice (a complaint can be served with it in the beginning but often is not). Eventually a complaint needs to be drafted and served; however, sometimes this does not happen in a divorce for some time or even not until just prior to the submission of the judgment. If a complaint is not yet drafted and served, then the law seems clear that the initiating party can usually withdraw by their own accord. Less frequently, however courts have found, that the person waived the right to withdraw after lengthy proceedings and it would be inequitable, like in the case of Minkow v Metelka, (46 AD3d 864 [2d Dept. 2007]) where there were substantial court proceedings and the parties included a waiver of the right to discontinue at the Preliminary Conference despite not serving a complaint. If a complaint is served, and the defendant serves an answer, then the divorce can be withdrawn only by a stipulation signed by both parties or an order of the court. Continue reading →

High stress fight in office

Issues of conflict commonly arise when parties within a case find themselves intolerant of each other’s requests or opinions. When goals change, cracks can begin to form in relationships of any kind – from marriages, to parents and their children, colleagues in the workplace and more. When people think and act agreeably, there is an alignment that ensures dispute and conflict can often be avoided – however this is rarely the case in legal matters, particularly in regards to family law.

Unfortunately, the more conflict is allowed to grow, the more likely it is that such conflict will begin to cause serious problems – which can be a barrier to resolving a case and reaching an amicable settlement. The task of professional mediators, collaborative lawyers and negotiators is to utilize the right techniques in de-escalating conflict and resolving matrimonial and family law cases. Although this blog is mostly written with divorce mediation in mind, such techniques can also be useful in collaborative cases, and to a certain extent may have some impact on classic settlement negotiation or litigation. However, the adversarial model used within the court system often tends to escalate, rather than reduce conflict – leaving less room for resolution by agreement. Continue reading →

Egregious conduct affecting equitable distribution in divorce

Love triangle. Handsome man embrace his girlfriend while holding hands with another girl. isolated on white background.

As a matrimonial and family law attorney, my clients regularly ask me various questions about the factors that may have an impact on their divorce, or the determination of equitable distribution. Some partners believe that they should be entitled to an unequal distribution of assets during circumstances where one party within the relationship was involved in an affair, committed acts of abuse in an emotional or physical sense, or engaged in examples of domestic violence. Unfortunately, the response I often give to by clients is that in most cases – issues of “marital fault” are rarely considered to be a relevant factor in deciding equitable distribution.

The law of Domestic Relations in New York provides guidance for the factors a court should consider when making decisions regarding equitable distribution. Although that statute doesn’t actually offer a distinct provision for consideration of fault, it does allow for some flexibility in the form of a catchall provision permitting the court to analyze “any other factor” that can be determined as both proper and just in considering equitable distribution, maintenance (aka alimony) or child support. Unfortunately, most courts reject the idea that marital fault can be considered as a proper and just factor for consideration, except for in very specific or “egregious cases” which have a direct impact on the court conscience. The fundamental aspects of this rule center on the idea that marriage – in all of its many forms – is a type of economic partnership, meaning that martial estates should always be divided in an accordingly “fair” (equitable) manner. It’s also worth noting that many courts suggest that assigning fault in any particular circumstance can be incredibly difficult, and introducing such an issue into court procedure could make cases far more time consuming than they currently are. After all, New York now has No-Fault divorce, in addition to the fault based factors which still exist as grounds. Continue reading →

Team of lawyers in the law library at the university

This blog article will discuss some, but certainly not all, of the features and reasons for or against having payments going through the New York Support Collection Unit. Any recipient of child support has the right to ask that the court order provide that the payments be made through the Support Collection Unit. Payments could initially be made by the payor sending payments to the Support Collection Unit in Albany, New York. As long as the payments are sent on a timely basis, in that case an income deduction order or income execution order might be avoided. One disadvantage to the custodial parent or payee of child support for payments going through the Support Collection Unit is that it takes longer for the payments to be received by that parent. The payments need to go through Albany, get processed, and then distributed.

The Support Collection Unit, however, will keep a clear record of payments received. In the event of a “violation” case, in court, a representative from the Support Collection Unit can be summoned to the court room to provide a statement and report of payments received and balances due, if any. A lot of non-custodial parents like this idea as well since it eliminates debate about what was paid or not. Something for everyone to keep in mind when payments are ordered through the Support Collection Unit is that payments made in some other fashion might not get credited as child support. For example, if someone gives a direct payment of cash there is a danger that the recipient would not acknowledge it or that it would be called a “gift” instead of child support. Usually the question is asked to the custodial parent whether there have been any direct child support payments, even though the payments should have been through the support collection unit, but paying in some other way can be dangerous territory. Continue reading →

Family looking at globe together in the living room

In New York family law, often whether or not travel by one parent to a foreign nation with the child(ren) should be permitted is an issue that arises. I often look to whether the other country is a signatory to the Hague Convention or not when looking at the issue. The Hague Abduction Convention in law is a form of treaty or accord that was developed by the Hague Conference. Treaties are a method of establishing international law. The concept offers a method for returning a child who was taken from one country that is a member of the Hague convention, to another. In other words, the purpose behind the convention is to offer protection to children against the potential damage that may be caused by international abduction by another parent or other person, prompting the quick return of any children involved back to their habitual residence country. The convention also helps to secure and organize the rights associated with access to a child in parental time or visitation.

The concept centers on the fact that matters of custody and visitation should be determined by the court in the residential or habitual country of the child, meaning that the Convention champions the best interests of the child, and provides the opportunity to access a civil remedy that is shared with the other member nations. Legal parties use the Hague Convention to preserve an existing child custody arrangement that was created before the child was wrongfully removed from a place or circumstance. This deters parents from crossing over international boundaries in an attempt to avoid the court orders of the home nation. Individuals often wonder why they may need to access the convention if they already have an order of custody, and the answer to this is that, firstly, alternative countries may not recognize New York or United States court orders. Continue reading →

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in New York                                                         

Group of Children

 

Immigration and family law come together in this area of law. Some children living in the U.S. without a legal immigration status may need to access humanitarian protection for reasons of abandonment, abuse, or neglect. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a classification that may allow for vulnerable children to apply for permanent and lawful residence in the United States. To qualify for SIJS, the child must meet the following criteria:

  • Applicant must be over 21 years of age
  • Applicant must be unmarried
  • Applicant must be declared dependent within Juvenile court (this is where a family law attorney can be of assistance)
  • Reunification with one or both of the applicant’s parents must be considered not viable due reasons of neglect, abandonment, abuse, or a similar basis under the law
  • The court must determine that it is not in the best interests of the applicant to return to their last country of residence, or country of nationality.

There are numerous benefits to obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Firstly, SIJS waives numerous forms of inadmissibility that could otherwise restrict an immigrant from establishing themselves as a permanent lawful resident. SIJS waives working without authorization, unlawful entry, certain immigration violations, and status as a public charge. Applying for SIJS requires the consideration of numerous steps, with the help of a trained attorney.

A juvenile court is the court within New York that has jurisdiction under the law to make determinations regarding the care and custody of children. In many states, this can refer to delinquency cases, dependency cases, or probate and guardianship matters. Continue reading →

The Difference between Family Court and Criminal Court Orders of Protection in New York

couple fighting with pillows on white background

An order of protection is an official document issued by the court with the intention to limit the behavior of someone who has been alleged to harm or threaten another person. These orders are used in addressing numerous claimed safety issues, including matters of domestic violence. Supreme courts, family courts, and criminal courts are all permitted to issue orders of protection. So what’s the difference between an order of protection in family court, and one that is issued in criminal court?

First things first, a family court case is not regarded as a criminal proceeding. This means that for an order of protection to be permanently granted in family court, unless an agreement is made for the order, the petitioner would need to prove their case with the assistance of an experienced family law attorney by a “preponderance of the evidence” rather than the higher burden of proof in criminal matters . In criminal cases, if a plea deal has not been made, the case needs to proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” for a final order of protection to be issued. The accused must is convicted of a violation of the Penal Law, which requires a higher burden of proof than is expected in family court. Continue reading →

Best Interest Standardkids in air

In many legal matters, the focus of a court is often into the past of the parties involved in an attempt to resolve the issues. On the other hand, in a custody case, the court attempts to perceive the future and predict which parent will provide a better environment for the child in question. To this end, the New York courts employ various methods – relying on the use of expert testimony, and examining past behavior to predict future actions. Though the statutory law in custody in New York is somewhat sparse, the Domestic Relations Law 70 provides that there will be no prima facie right to custody for either parent – rather the court must determine solely what is in the best interests of the child.

Though most people are relatively familiar with the “best interests” term, it regularly defies a firm definition. Because cases regarding children are sensitive in their very nature, each case is decided in regards to its own particular merits. However, it’s worth noting that some definitions do remain consistent from one case to the next, and so too do certain factors that courts will consider in an initial custody determination. Following, we will consider a number of factors that are considered by the New York court in establishing the “best interests” of a child. The list that we will discuss is not exclusive by any means, however it will provide a general idea of some of the things courts consider in coming to a decision. Great deference is permitted to the trial court by appellate courts since the trial courts are in the best position to weigh the credibility and testimony in a case(Eschbach v. Eschbach 56 N.Y.2d 167).   This blog will summarize the best interests standard as articulated in the Eschbach case which remains an important case for child custody matters in New York to date. Continue reading →