Long Island Family Law and Mediation Blog

Although divorce lawyers are required to remain current with their knowledge in all areas involving family law, this FinancialNeutraldoesn’t negate the value of accessing external insight from other professionals during a divorce mediation or collaborative law procedure. I often find that divorcing couples seem unsure of their rights regarding financial matters during a divorce, and may be unaware of the financial implications posed by different settlement options. Just as a child specialist can be effective in helping couples to navigate the complexities associated with child-centric cases, a financial neutral can be beneficial in providing guidance regarding financial concerns. Specifically, financial neutrals can be particularly helpful in answering the question of how both sides in a divorce can manage the transition from one household, to two households, in a way that maintains financial stability.

Unlike collaborative cases – which often involve a team of professionals, most mediation sessions involve a divorcing couple, and a mediator. However, this doesn’t mean that mediation, like collaborative law, cannot be supported by independent parties. In fact, mediating coupes are regularly advised to seek out review attorneys who can review their mediated agreement and help them understand their rights. In the same vein, there’s nothing preventing other professionals from joining the mediation for the best interests of both parties involved. After all, during a litigated case, other experts are frequently retained and court ordered. In collaborative cases, financial neutrals, and neutral divorce coaches usually make up vital parts of the team. Continue reading

Matters of family law are almost always more complex when they involve children. This is one of the many Young Couplereasons why a large number of parent’s attempt to resolve disputes and concerns through amicable legal methods such as mediation and collaborative law, in an effort to avoid some of the frustration and turmoil that can result through litigation. Sometimes, in order for a mediation or collaborative case to have the most successful impact in any given situation, it may require the input of additional input beyond that given by the neutral mediating party, and any collaborative lawyers present. In fact, many mediators and collaborative lawyers actively advise working alongside other experts during a negotiation-friendly discussion of child custody and parenting time issues whether in the context of a divorce or not.

One of the many valuable experts involved in collaborative and mediation cases for parents, is a child specialist. These individuals are often engaged in an attempt to assist with easing the emotional transition and friction involved in making decisions based on parenting time, custody, and other highly significant family matters. Child specialists are unique in their ability to offer significant value to many cases in the form of additional specialized knowledge, techniques for dispute resolution, and more. While child specialists are referred to most commonly in the context of collaborative law, they can also be used to positive effect in mediation. Continue reading

Grueling custody battles between parents are rich with emotion and frustration, which means that they are Parent Coordinatorperfectly poised to become hostile and antagonistic. In most circumstances, the greatest amount of conflict may not even be caused by addressing significant life-altering decisions, but when dealing with the day-to-day agreements of where to meet to exchange children, or how to provide the correct educational and medical care. Because of the significant friction in custody cases, it can be difficult to find a scenario that works well for both parents, and the children involved. However, in New York and Long Island, the presence of a parenting coordinator, as part of the custody and parenting time order, could be the tool required to prompt an amicable agreement for the resolution of future issues.

Usually, the parenting coordinator comes in to assist with decision making issues, after the case is done.  After all, if there are two parents voting there could be ties on certain issues.  How will the ties be broken?  Continue reading

The goal of divorce mediation is for a couple to reach a settlement on one or more issues related to their divorce. To that end, a neutral third party known as a mediator helps each side understand the relative strengths and weaknesses in their position and tries to move them closer to a consensus. While neither party may get exactly what they want, they try to come to an agreement with which they can both live. Often, mediation allows for a better outcome than litigation, and it can be easier on a couple’s children.

If an agreement is reached at mediation, it may be formalized in a separation agreement. Courts treat this agreement the way they would treat other contracts. Although a neutral third party may help the parties reach a different outcome than what a judge would have decided, the court will treat the agreement seriously, except in certain circumstances.

In Ruparelia v. Ruperalia, a husband and wife were married in 1994 and had three children. The husband was a doctor, and the wife had a Master’s degree in social work. In 2011, the couple experienced significant discord, causing them to participate in divorce mediation. During the mediation, they reached an agreement as to asset distribution, spousal maintenance, and child support. These agreements were formalized in a separation agreement, executed in the summer of 2011.

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grandparents-1256161In a 2015 case, Matter of Rumpff v. Schorpp, a New York appellate court heard an appeal regarding grandparents’ rights. The petitioner was the father of two children. The respondent in the case was the children’s mother. Soon after the younger child was born, the Department of Social Services started neglect proceedings against both of the parents, claiming that their drug and alcohol abuse had caused them to fail in providing the children with adequate supervision and guardianship. They agreed to have the children live with their maternal grandmother, also a respondent in the appeal.

Later, the grandmother asked for sole custody. The parties stipulated to joint legal custody for the father, mother, and grandmother, with the children physically placed with the grandmother. In 2011, the father sought physical custody of the kids by filing a petition to modify custody.

The order continued the prior custody arrangement by the agreement of all the parties. In 2013, the father again brought a petition to modify, seeking sole custody. The family court granted him sole legal custody and physical placement. The mother was given parenting time, and the grandmother was given visitation. The grandmother, the mother, and the children’s attorney appealed this decision.

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CPS ( Child Protective Services ), ACS ( Administration for Children’s Services ), and Judges in New York make determinations to indicate or found cases regarding neglect and Children Grassabuse of children in New York or whether these determinations should stand.  But, when these findings are challenged, when should an emotional neglect finding stand or not?  In the State of New York, the law dictates that emotional abuse, including neglect, can be defined by the omissions or acts made by caretakers or parents that result in serious changes to a child’s conduct, cognitive, mental, or behavioral functions. Parents have a responsibility to support the proper physical and emotional development of their children – failure to offer that support, either deliberately or passively, can be a sign of neglect. Under section 1012(f) of the Family Court Act, a maltreated or neglected child is an individual under the age of eighteen who has had their physical, emotional, or mental condition impaired as a result of his or her parents, or caretaker’s action or inaction. The minimum degree of care expected from parents or caretakers according to the New York law, includes:

  • Supplying the child with adequate education, shelter, clothing, and food.
  • Providing medical, optometric, dental, or surgical care.
  • Giving the child proper guardianship or supervision to reasonably prevent potential harm and risk when possible.

One example case drew attention to proof provided for the injuries that a child sustained as a result of neglect. The case determined not only that the condition of the child was legitimate, but also that it could not have occurred within a typical five-year-old, without the presence of neglectful behavior from the parent. In this particular case, the respondent mother was the primary caretaker of a five-year-old who consistently exhibited troubled behavior, an obscene vocabulary, and an obsession with deviant and explicit sexual conduct. Regardless of whether the respondent in question tutored her son towards this behavior, or allowed the traits to take place in an environment wherein she should have been exercising control, the case of neglect was made. Continue reading

 

There are several different ways to approach divorce. Among the gentlest, yet sophisticated dispute Collaborative Meetingresolution methods is collaborative divorce. The parties in a collaborative divorce enter into a contract (“Participation Agreement”) to negotiate a divorce settlement without involving the court, or a mediator, but rather assembling a team comprised of collaborative attorneys, a neutral psychological professional (divorce coach), and often a neutral financial professional. During the collaborative law process, the parties sometimes engage experts for assistance, such as appraisers.

Among the benefits are more control over the process than you have by going to court, less acrimony and stress, usually less expense and time than a highly litigated case, and the preservation of existing family relationships. In many cases, collaborative law is the best choice for parents trying to protect their children from the emotionally destructive aspects of traditional divorce litigation.

The parties also have the benefit of counsel advice during the process, which they sometimes don’t during mediation (even though people are advised to use review attorneys in mediation). However, critically, if a matter does not get resolved through the collaborative process, the attorneys who represented the parties in the collaborative divorce cannot represent them in the litigation that follows. The rule is intended to allow the divorcing parties to be more honest and direct and posture less. It also ensures that attorneys commit themselves to the collaborative process, rather than abandon it for litigation.

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two-boys-and-a-bug-1545817A noncustodial parent is required to pay child support to a custodial parent in New York until a child is 21 years old. In many cases, this means that support continues to be paid while a child is in college.

Basic child support is calculated based on a formula using initially the first $143,000 (as of 2016, this number changes over time) of both parents’ combined income and a discretionary amount or an amount based on the same formula for income that exceeds $143,000.00. For a noncustodial parent of one child, basic support is their pro-rata share of 17% of that $143,000, a “cap” that changes every two years in addition to any amount ordered above that cap as mentioned above. The percentage changes based on the number of children. However, a child can also receive add-on support if his or her parents’ combined income is beyond that cap, after the court looks at what are called “paragraph f” factors. Under Domestic Relations Law 240 1-b(c)(7), the court can award educational expenses, such as college costs, as an add-on to the basic support.

This type of support is not mandatory, however. When deciding whether to make the award, the court may consider the parents’ financial circumstances, their educational backgrounds, the parents’ history of paying for these types of expenses to the child at issue or other children, and the child’s academic qualifications. However, college expenses usually aren’t awarded before ascertaining whether a particular child will actually attend college.

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In New York, child support has a basic component, as well as an added component. The basic support is calculated first by looking at the initial $143,000(known as a “cap” which is current as of 2016) of combined annual parental income. The amount of the cap is adjusted every other year. Income includes gross total income, investment income, and various benefits, such as workers’ compensation, unemployment, or retirement benefits. After adding your income with your co-parent’s income, the court multiplies the total by a percentage per child, which is 17% of the combined parental income for one child, 25% for 29% for three, 31% for four or more, and no less than 35% for five or more children.  The non-custodial parent pays their percentage share of this amount (pro-rata share).  If your combined income with your co-parent is greater than this $143,000 cap, the court may look at whether there should be additional support for the amount of combined income that exceeds $143,000.

However, if you and your co-parent’s combined income is more than $143,000, you can get additional child support beyond what that cap allows if you can establish certain factors known as “paragraph f” factors. The court can use the same formula of taking 17% or the appropriate percentage, or it may make adjustments to the amount of the add-on according to its analysis of the factors.

These factors include the financial resources of you and the other parent and child, the health of the child and any special needs or aptitudes (like learning disabilities), tax consequences, educational needs of one or both of the parents, the standard of living the children would have enjoyed had the parents stayed together, a determination that one parent’s gross income is substantially less than the other’s, any needs of other children for whom a non-custodial parent is providing support, extraordinary expenses like international travel, and other relevant factors. For example, DRL § 240 (1-b)(c)(4) provides that if a custodial parent is either working or going to school in order to be able to work and incurs child care expenses as a result of this, the court can determine reasonable child care expenses to be prorated in the same proportion as each parent’s income is to the combined income. The pro rata share of the child care expenses are separately stated and added to the basic child support as an add-on.

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During a separation or divorce mediation in New York, couples are expected to honestly disclose their assets. Dishonesty during this process can result in a case being set aside.

In the 2015 case Moore v. Moore, an ex-husband tried to subpoena financial records from his ex-wife so that he could use them to challenge a separation agreement negotiated two years before. The couple had divorced in 2013 based on a mediated settlement agreement.

Both parties had provided financial disclosures in order to reach the agreement. They both provided warranties that they had completely and truthfully represented their current assets. They also agreed that if they divorced, they would have to produce all documents necessary to enforce the agreement terms. The agreement was incorporated into the divorce judgment.

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