The first thing to understand about divorce – is that no matter how you go about it, you’re probably going to face Happy-Couplesome emotional complexities and other personal difficulties. Divorces are a difficult process – after all, most couples enter a divorce after years of trying to make it work with their spouse, and find themselves suddenly considering the prospect of single life all over again. It can be extremely difficult to regain your confidence, find financial stability, and make sure that you’re ready for the change in lifestyle that lies ahead, but that doesn’t mean that everything about divorce is negative. As I often tell my clients – it’s up to you to decide when your marriage is over. If you simply can’t be happy in the relationship that you’re in – for any reason, then divorce may well be the answer.  My last blog article discussed some of the negative, as well as positive aspects of divorce and separation.  This article will focus on the up sides.

After you receive those final divorce papers, it’s easy to find yourself mourning the loss of your relationship, but it’s also important to focus on the positives that could come your way now that you’ve removed yourself from a potentially toxic situation.

Divorce Could Make You Happier

I often find that it can be difficult for some clients to believe that they may enjoy a happier life after their divorce is over, but I frequently see ex-spouses moving on to live more peaceful, fulfilling lives once their divorce is settled. Though the initial feelings that you experience during the onset of a divorce may center around a fear of the unknown, that anxiety and sadness will in most instances eventually get better. Continue reading

Nobody gets married with the belief that a few years, or even decades, down the line they’ll be considering visiting a Business-People-Fightdivorce lawyer. In fact, most couples get married with enthusiasm and hope for an ever-lasting relationship. Unfortunately, marriage can be a difficult construct to maintain, and can break down in ways that we are unprepared to deal with. While some problems in a relationship can be overcome, others lead to the dissolution of a marriage that is impossible to repair. Rather than continuing to live in a painful or unhappy situation, this is when many people consider divorce.

Of course, no matter how bad the situation may seem, there’s always a nagging question in the back of your mind when you’re considering divorce – a question that many of my clients ask me: “How can I know for sure that divorce is the right choice?”  This is not a question that I can answer for them.  Many clients may hope for a checklist of features that can convince them whether divorce is the right step forwards or not, the truth is that dissolving a marriage will always be a personal decision. Only the people within a marriage can know whether it is right for them to divorce or not.  In many instances chances are you’ll have a lot of considerations to address regarding whether to divorce or not.  This article will touch upon some of the more negative aspects and mention the positive.  My next article will enumerate the benefits that many find from moving on from what they view as a negative marriage.  Continue reading

When it comes to using the process of mediation to settle disputes in divorce, I believe in meetings with both sides of Caucus-lunchthe dispute together with the neutral mediator.  Therefore caucusing is not the first method I would employ if I do at all in resolving issues with a couple. A caucus in family law and divorce mediation takes place when private meetings between each participant and the mediator are held. Depending on the circumstances, a caucus may be a one-time occurrence, something that happens several times, or something that takes place throughout the full course of the mediation. In my opinion, usually separating the clients involved in a dispute resolution is a disruptive and problematic process that removes some of the empathy and understanding that goes into making mediation work. On top of that, the use of private sessions can frequently make clients feel as though they are being conspired against, as during high-conflict divorce cases, emotions are often running high, leading to feelings of anger and paranoia.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule in most cases, and in some circumstances, caucusing may be considered as a useful solution to a divorce mediation problem. For instance, one goal that I try to keep in mind while working as a divorce mediator is to help de-escalate conflict and assist clients in overcoming difficult emotions. Ideally, this would mean allowing each spouse to discuss their issues face-to-face, however in some instances one spouse may refuse to reveal something in the presence of the other client – particularly when physical violence has existed in the past or other threats may be in place. Sometimes, even when communication appears to be honest and open, divorcing spouses may struggle to break free from old patterns of communication, which leaves them unable to speak up about important concerns.

When Do Mediators Consider Caucusing?

When divorce mediators choose to utilize caucusing, I believe that they should only do so because they have considered all of the circumstances and determined that it’s the best approach for making progress. After all, providing a caucusing opportunity opens up possibilities for suspicion developing amongst parties – thereby risking the appearance of neutrality and transparency of the mediation process. Continue reading

In the world of divorce and family law issues, there are many different types of dispute resolution available, from BusinessManAloneclassic negotiations, collaborative law, litigation, and of course – mediation. When a couple opts for mediation as a way of settling their divorce concerns outside of the courtroom, they generally come together as two opposing parties with one neutral party in the middle – the mediator. However, some people perform the mediation process differently – offering their clients the opportunity of “caucusing”.  In caucus-style mediation, the mediator provides separate meetings for both parties involved in the divorce – while the other party is absent. Some professionals use this method once or twice during the mediation to help resolve significant issues, whereas others maintain the caucus format throughout the full mediation, shuttling backwards and forwards between clients.

For the most part, I have not employed caucus mediation (although in next week’s blog I will discuss times when mediation by caucus might be a good idea), but I do believe it can have some utility to handle certain situations which can arise with mediating couples.  This week’s blog will outline the reasons I initially approach a divorce mediation without the thought we will have separate caucus sessions to work through the issues that need to be settled in a legal separation or divorce mediation.     In my mediation sessions, I explain that everything is done with reference to both parties, both parents, or both the husband and wife – together. This helps the people I work with to see me for what I am – a neutral party within their dispute resolution that is there to help them iron out an agreement which can be used to make a binding legal contract.  In most instances (we can mediate issues other than just divorce, such as custody, support, etc.) that contract is a settlement agreement that can allow them to get an uncontested divorce either right away or at some future date.  While there may be instances wherein caucusing is the right move (something I’ll address in my next blog), I am wary to employ the caucus approach at least initially.

Caucusing Can Raise Issues

Perhaps the most significant problem with caucusing is that it removes the intimacy from the negotiation technique. Rather than allowing for both of the parties to be directly involved in the resolution of their various arguments and concerns, the mediator is forced to run back and forth conveying offers and suggestions. There’s no room here to discuss matters thoroughly and examine the different opportunities for negotiation – which means that by the end of the mediation, one or both spouses might leave with questions. At the same time, the caucus method of mediation can shift the position of the mediator so that he or she no longer appears to be neutral within the case. When all of the conversation with the other side of the divorce takes place out of sight of the other client, most clients can begin to feel as though the mediator and ex-spouse are plotting behind their back. Even if this isn’t true, it’s worth noting that divorce and family law issues are emotional and can prompt feelings of paranoia and anger. Continue reading

When it comes to equitably dividing the assets that have been gathered during the course of a marriage in a divorce – formal coupleretirement assets from pensions to IRAs to Annuities are important ones. Though many couples are busy fretting about who’s going to get the house or how custody agreements are going to be determined – there’s also something to be said for the importance of properly splitting retirement accounts and plans. After all, depending on the income of either spouse and the age of those spouses when the divorce takes place, retirement savings can frequently be one of the most valuable assets that any person owns. As such, we regard them as a very important matter to consider when figuring out which assets should go where for the best interests of both parties.

Unfortunately, the issue with retirement savings is that they have their own unique intricacies. These packages of money are subject to various complicated factors, such as tax implications, and this can mean that people struggle to handle them appropriately when figuring out how to divide assets. As a family lawyer, I’m left to do what I can to guide my clients carefully when they’re making decisions about financial plans and the potential options that might be available to them during the divorce.

Do You Have to Share Your Retirement Savings?

This is a question that many people have when they approach me with matters regarding the distribution of assets during a divorce.  The short answer is probably yes to the extent that the assets were earned during the marriage.  Portions of retirement assets which were earned before the marriage or after the end date of the marital estate (often the filing date of the divorce), are usually separate property and not shared on the other hand.  People often wonder whether they can avoid sharing their savings with their soon to be ex-spouse in some way. However, most of the time, if you are going through a divorce or legal separation and your spouse or you have some money sitting in retirement savings accounts, then you will be required to share these assets amongst yourselves in an equitable fashion – either through negotiation with collaborative lawyers, an agreement made in mediation, settlement negotiations or through litigation in which a decision will be made for you by the courts of New York if your case is one of the few that does not settle before the ultimate trial. In certain cases, the assets that have built up within a retirement savings account may be awarded to one single party – but this only takes place when specific circumstances are in play. Continue reading

It is a fundamental principle in New York Family law that for a request to modify a custody order to be able to Kitchen couple fightproceed in court, be it Supreme Court or Family court, there needs to be a substantial change of circumstances.  Only if there is a substantial change of circumstance can the court make a determination on what new child custody order is in the best interests of the child or children.  I have previously blogged about the quandary about when should the change of circumstances be measured from?  Is the change of circumstances to be measured from the date the case was settled or in the cases that went through trial from the close of evidence at trial?  Or, in the alternative, should the change of circumstances be measured from the date the order is finally drafted and entered with the clerk of the court?  This can be an important distinction as often there is a substantial lag in time between the two events.

A recent case, Matter of Ladd v Krupp, 136 A.D.3d 1391 (4th Dept. 2016) decide in the fourth department has highlighted this disparity.  One of the issues raised on appeal was if it was error to use one date as opposed to the other.  The court ended up resting its decision on the fact that it believed it did not matter, for that case, which date the change of circumstances was measured from as from either date there was a substantial change of circumstances.  However, clearly, it can matter in other cases.  That case cited various precedents which detailed the different dates that are used to measure the change.  Continue reading

One fact that presents itself to me time and time again as a family lawyer in New York, and Long Island, is that CoupleMoneyFightdivorce and family law can deliver a wide range of different complications. From issues regarding child custody, equitable distribution, to matters concerned with child support, spousal support and at times, orders of protection, each unique family brings with it specific issues to navigate. One of the most common issues that raises conflict in family law is proving the income of the other parent or a spouse.

Child support, in New York is payable to the residential custodial parent until the children are emancipated.  Spousal support is what a court can award, under appropriate circumstances, when a couple is still married.  Maintenance, f/k/a as alimony is the payment that a spouse makes to another spouse after a divorce or during the process of a divorce. The purpose of this payment is to help the less monied spouse get in a position to be self-supporting. In some cases, spousal support can also be useful for giving supported individuals the finances they need to gain the training they need to earn employment in a new job. In New York, as of 2016, there are guidelines now, based on income, for maintenance, spousal support and child support.

The challenge sometimes becomes, then how does one prove income when the other side of the case is being less than forthright?  This might happen when someone works off the books or is self-employed.

Determining Accurate Income Details

If one or more of the parents or spouses within a case is working off the books, self-employed – working as a business owner, licensed professional, or independent consultant perhaps – then the matter becomes even more complex. Not only do you need to work out the details of maintenance or child support, but you also need to find a way to prove the other parent’s income.  Proving the income is essential because it represents a key factor for the courts to consider when it comes to deciding whether to award spousal support, child support, and attorney fees. If your spouse was a standard employee, then getting the information you needed for spousal support would be simple enough – as you’d be able to simply look at his or her paychecks. However, providing the income of a spouse who is working off the books or is self-employed can be dangerous, as many self-employed people are less than stringent with their deductions and may claim a large amount of expenses. Continue reading

Divorce and the Marital Residence

Divorces often aren’t easy. I have spent a number of years now guiding clients through the complications of divorce throughout Long Island, and New York.  I’ve seen very few cases, although they exist, where there is a big dispute over lower priced property like furniture.  Often if there is a dispute over assets it involves higher priced items like the marital residence. For most couples undergoing divorce, the biggest shared asset to consider is the family real estate, marital residence or former matrimonial home, as it is referred to in legal circles. The family home is an emotive subject, and often the largest asset to share amongst parties – though investments, businesses, savings, retirement assets and pensions could be worth more or be considerable assets too.

Although it’s possible to leave the concerns of asset distribution to a judge – I often find that this leads to dissatisfaction for both spouses involved. In most cases, it seems that couples are best served when they exercise their right to come up with personal solutions themselves.  My office gets involved with litigated matters, settlement negotiations, and alternative dispute resolution like mediation and collaborative law.

Agreeing on an OutcomeHouse Jealousy

I often find that if both parties within a divorce still have a civil relationship, and would prefer to end their marriage with a simple, clean, and quick break – selling the property might be a good idea. The only issue that presents itself here is that the individuals involved will need to think about how the proceeds from the home are going to be divided between spouses. Regardless of how you choose to break up the family home, it’s important to remember that if you can agree to a solution using mediation or collaborative law, you can often find a solution that both parties can live with. If the attempt to come up with a solution outside of the courtroom fails, like through settlement negotiations between the lawyers on a case, then the judge presiding over the divorce case in New York will need to make a determination based on existing facts and laws. However, that process will remove the parties’ ability to create a better arrangement between themselves – sometimes causing both parties dissatisfaction with the outcome. Continue reading

There are various subcategories of issues that need to be addressed in a divorce settlement or final order from a Justicepiccourt. Not only do you need to make decisions about various different things – including the debt that you and your spouse have gathered over the years – but you also need to think about what steps you can take to protect your financial future. Parties sometimes expect their debt and loans will be split in a certain way – only to find that a court may see things differently.

Just like a marital home, and various other assets, debt acquired during the course of a marriage can be regarded as marital debt, and therefore allocated between the spouses involved. Commonly, this means that couples during a divorce will have a choice to either settle the responsibility for debt before filing for divorce in a negotiation, mediation, collaborative law or other process, or a determination or agreement will be made while a divorce makes its way through the court system.  Ultimately, the court will make the decision if the parties do not settle ahead of time.

The New York Domestic Relations Law indicates that financial obligations taking place through a marriage which aren’t the sole responsibility of one spouse, can be offset against the total marital assets that need to be divided. However, there needs to be some kind of proof showing that the debts in question were created for marital purposes. In other words – it’s up to the person who is claiming marital debt to prove that the debt they’re referring to was incurred for marital purposes (like paying household bills, rather than a separate vacation for example). Continue reading

When it comes to arranging a divorce, many couples look for the various ways in which they might be able to protect themselves from future financial issues. Part of this may involve looking closelyseniorbrokenheart at concerns regarding asset distribution between partners, and split pensions. In the case of senior divorces, one particularly important concern is the issue of social security benefits, and how they can be distributed between both spouses. Importantly, it’s worth noting that social security is not something that can be argued and negotiated in family law through litigation, collaborative law, mediation, or any other dispute resolution method. Instead, social security is something that must be determined by the federal law of social security.  However, it is probably helpful to know what one’s financial situation will be, taking into account all resources, in the future.

As the social security administration posts on their website, in most circumstances, if you were married to your ex for a minimum period of ten years, and you decide to undergo divorce procedures, then you may be able to qualify for a social security benefit that is equal to (at most) 50% of your former spouse’s benefit amount. However, for this benefit to be received, you will need to be unmarried, aged 62 or over, and ensure that your ex-spouse is entitled to disability or social security retirement benefits. Crucially, to receive a portion of your ex-spouse’s social security payments, the benefit that you are entitled to will need to be lower than the benefit you would receive from your ex-spouse. Continue reading