COVID-19 Update: How we are serving and protecting our clients.

Coronavirusmasks-300x200For everyone’s information we are still doing business and trying our best to help people during this crisis. In difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we all still have issues that we need to face in our personal lives, such as dealing with child support and maintenance awards. The default law around child support modification indicates that either party in a case can file for a modification of child support based on:

  1. A substantial change of circumstances
  2. That income has changed by 15% or more
  3. That three or more years has elapsed since the last support order

These default requirements apply unless the parties agreed that they would opt out of options 2 and 3 in a written agreement. If the parties have changed from the default with a written agreement, the language of that document would highlight in which circumstances a modification can be sought.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was clear that you could file a request at any time if you had one of the circumstances that would normally apply to the parties to get a child support modification. If a modification was granted, the law is that it would be retroactive to the filing date in court of the petition of application for child support to be modified. This basically means that if you filed for child support to be changed on December 1 and then the court case was decided on February 1 in your favor, the amount due would be recalculated backwards from December 1 (the filing date) forward. Continue reading ›

Phone-call-300x216Currently, as I’m writing this blog, the Darren Shapiro Law and Mediation Office is still doing business, albeit since the governor ordered 100% of the workforce must work from home, I am working from home by phone, email, skype, zoom, and whatever works. Even before the order, we were taking as many steps as we can to protect our clients, and the people who come to us for help. This means not only ensuring that we follow all precautions for health and safety, but also supporting everyone adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Since it seems, for now, people need to avoid meeting your divorce attorney or mediator in person, but you still have options. For new clients, we have always, and will continue to provide initial consultations, with up to the first half hour free, that are available either over the phone, skype, zoom, or other digital means. If you want to discuss your case, you can connect with me over the phone, via email, or schedule an appointment for a video conference, we will make different arrangements work.

Dealing with Mediation and Litigation

Currently, divorce mediation can still be done via phone or video. We can initiate Skype videoconferencing, Zoom, audioconferencing, or possibly other sessions for people since we will not be able to attend a mediation session in person. This option has been used in the past by our office for those who were unable to attend meetings due to distance, work or travel commitments. Payments can also be collected via email, text, or over the phone. We can use encryption in emails to protect your personal data. Continue reading ›

Finger-Pointing-300x200There are a lot of complicated components in family law that need to be addressed when a divorce takes place. That’s one of the reasons why I’m creating this bullet point guide, to help people find the answers to the questions that are most important to them.

In today’s guide, we’re going to be looking at the guidelines in place for things like health insurance and medical expenses when dealing with divorce.

 

Ongoing Health Insurance Benefits in Divorce

In most cases under New York Domestic Relations law, the courts will consider any assets accumulated during a marriage as “marital property”. However, this can leave a lot of things open to speculation. For instance, a question that often arises is how your divorce lawyer can ask a court to address pension and healthcare benefits in a divorce.

  • Typically, pension benefits can be subject to equitable distribution in a divorce. The pension benefits that a party accrues when married can be seen as a marital asset. However, the portion of benefits of obtained before the marriage and after the filing date of the divorce action isn’t considered an asset of the marriage. Pension plans, however, often contain more than just provisions for future financial compensation. These plans often provide for continued health insurance too.
  • While courts consider pension plans in equitable distribution, that’s not always the case for health insurance coverage. Courts issued an opinion a few years ago that a husband/s pension plan of lifetime healthcare coverage wasn’t a marital asset, and that it shouldn’t be split between the husband and wife. The court also noted that the wife wouldn’t totally lose out in this matter, because “loss of insurance benefits” would be considered in the equitable distribution analysis of other assets.  Keep in mind also, as part of the Automatic Orders involved with a litigated divorce, health and other insurance benefits that were in place before the filing date of the divorce must continue while the divorce is ongoing unless an agreement or court order is made to the contrary.

Continue reading ›

Arms-Crossed-200x300Welcome back to our bullet point series addressing some of the biggest issues that people face with divorce litigation. If you’ve ever considered a divorce before, or you know someone who has been through the process, you probably have some questions about how everything works. This bullet point guide is designed to give you a better insight into what you can expect.

In this part of the series, we’re going to be looking at things like the costs incurred in a Queens, Nassau or Suffolk County, New York divorce, and the different options available to suit your budget. We’ll also address agreements and strategies that can speed up your divorce, and how money can come into the discussion when you’re planning your divorce.

The Costs of a Divorce in New York

One of the biggest concerns that clients have when it comes to figuring out how to plan their divorce, is how much everything is going to cost. Beyond your divorce attorney fees, filing for divorce isn’t free. The court filing fees are approximately $370.00. At the same time, there are expenses like marital debts to think about too. So, how much is everything going to cost? Continue reading ›

Welcome back to our second set of bullet points for the divorce and litigation series guide. If you read my previousHurt-Couple-300x204 blog, you’ll already know that I’m using this several-stage guide as a way to provide quick and useful information about divorce litigation to anyone who might be considering starting their own case. These guides will act as a source of quick-fire knowledge when you have questions that you need to answer as quickly as possible.

In this part of the series, we’ll be looking at relocation clauses and how they work when it comes to child custody agreements made in litigation. I’ll also touch on the concept of separation agreements, and when they’re helpful in a divorce case.

Relocation Causes Agreed To in Divorce Litigation

Family law is made up of many complicated areas, from maintenance, to equitable distribution. However, there are few aspects more stressful for most families than deciding on divorce with custody and visitation times. Continue reading ›

If you’ve been staying tuned with my blog recently, then you’ll know that I’ve been creating a list of blogs highlighting Colleagueslaptop-300x200key points in divorce mediation. These guides are designed to give you easy access to important information about mediation in a bite-sized package. Now, I’m going to be looking at more traditional divorce representation, that in which the lawyer is representing a client as their advocate, in a similar fashion, highlighting key points for you in an easy-to-read format.

This is the first of what is likely to be a number of lists about divorce litigation, and it will be looking distributing debts and assets, the concept of filing for divorce, maintenance, child custody, child support and more.

Divorce and the Latest Distribution Laws

One of the major issues that couples need to address when getting divorced, is how they’re going to handle the distribution of assets. This includes dividing not just important assets like belongings and the family home, but also deciding who should be responsible for debts after the marriage is over. Continue reading ›

Lawyeratdesk-300x200In this blog we’re going to be talking about the administrative process that occurs when someone challenges an indicated finding of neglect or abuse.

If there is a complaint made to Child Protective Services (the agency responsible if it is on Long Island or outside of New York City) or the Administration of Children’s Services (the agency responsible for New York City), a process begins. The agency has 60 days to either indicate the case (aka determine that the case is founded) or decide that the case is unfounded (aka not indicated).

There is a low standard applied in the initial indicated determination of “some credible evidence” in order to decide whether to indicate the case or not. Because of this low initial standard, some cases that are relatively minor or there is weak evidence get indicated initially despite the low amount of evidence of neglect. Continue reading ›

This blog is the conclusion of my six part bullet point series summarizing my divorce mediation blogs over the years.WhiteTableContract-300x200

Mature couples going through divorce, sometimes referred to as gray or mature divorces often have a different perspective than younger couples. Mediation is a good option for these couples as well, though, some will still opt to litigate. After all, it takes two people willing to sit down and negotiate to be able to engage in alternative dispute resolution. Having an expeditious process, which mediation is the most likely to be, is often a top priority for older divorcees. Having a fair settlement that allows each side to meet their needs going forward is of utmost importance. Like for everyone, these couples are advised of the importance of using review attorneys and speaking with financial and tax professionals to ensure that they will be able to take care of themselves, in the right manner, after the couple separates and divorces. The mediation can focus on budgets and how it is that the transition from one household to two can be accomplished so that everyone is able to move on with the next chapters of their lives. How to handle distribution of retirement assets like IRAs, 401ks, and pensions is particularly important to focus on in divorce mediation for older individuals. What to do with the house, marital debt and perhaps child custody (if there are children under 18), and child support (which the default law in New York is that it lasts until 21 years of age) all are topics that might still apply. Everything needs to be explored.

Notably, social security benefits are not something that can be distributed in divorces. Rather, each person’s entitlement to social security benefits is determined by the federal Social Security laws. But social security benefits might be something that does get discussed in mediation. The benefits are income to the recipients and can be important in determining the proper amount of maintenance or support to be paid from one party to the other and for how long it should last. Likewise, someone’s entitlement to Medicare is something of a matter covered by federal law. This might be worth discussing in order to figure out how long one spouse needs to stay on the health insurance plan of the other. Often a separation agreement might be an option to stay on the spouse’s plan for a period until Medicare would kick in. Divorce is an event that in all or most instances prevents someone from staying on the health insurance plan of the ex-spouse. When Social Security or Medicare kicks in is something that parties can discuss with their divorce mediators in order to figure out how long maintenance should last. Continue reading ›

Couchcouple-300x200This blog is a continuation of my bullet point series on divorce mediation that summarizes my past mediation blogs –

Maintenance, also know as alimony, can be discussed with your divorce mediator.  How much money, if any, and for how long one spouse should pay the other maintenance needs to be discussed.  Some couples each feel that they are capable of making enough money to be able to support themselves.  In those cases, waivers of maintenance by each spouse is possible.  Other times there is a feeling that one side of the relationship needs money over a period of time in order to be able to get back on their feet.  If there is not an agreement about maintenance couples can be reminded that there are guidelines in the law, based on income, and the length of the marriage for how much and how long maintenance presumably should last.  But they are just guidelines.  Sometimes, if the couple wants to hear about the guidelines it might be a useful discussion to have regarding the topic of maintenance.  In mediation, though, we are not bound to the statutory guidelines.  The focus of the conversation could be about budgets and how much each side of the table needs in order to transition into their new lives and meet their monthly expenses.

Likewise, if there are minor children (under 21 for child support purposes), the payment of child support needs to be discussed.  This topic too can center around budgets and how is everyone going to meet their monthly expenses and take care of the children.  While couples are not bound by the statutory guidelines for child support, every agreement in child support, even if it deviates from the guideline amount of child support, must spell out what the statutory guidelines are in order for the agreement to be binding.  Therefore, when I draft the settlement agreement the child support section will spell out the guideline amount of child support.  Sometimes we might discuss the guideline numbers in the mediation sessions, but the parties will definitively know the guideline numbers before the agreement is signed.  We can discuss and spell out legally recognized reasons for deviating from the guidelines in our mediations and mediated agreements. Continue reading ›

This blog is Part 4 of my divorce mediation bullet point series. It looks like there will be a couple more to go to Couch-Meeting-300x200continue my summary of my divorce mediation blogs from over the years.

53 – Neutrals can be utilized in divorce mediation to get past sticking points or to help resolve certain issues that agreements need to be made to be able to obtain a settlement on all the issues involved with the dissolution of the marriage. For example, a neutral child specialist, such as a psychologist might be brought in on a mediation to resolve parenting time issues. Financial neutrals, such as accountants or certified financial planners might be used to work with the couple on budgets and how they can transition from one household to two. Appraisals for homes, valuations for business and other aspects can be done by neutral third parties. Many options are possible in mediation. There is no one set in stone formula for how we can solve problems and move forward.

54 – While mediation might be difficult in ultra high conflict situations, such as where there has been domestic violence, there do not have to be hard and fast rules. If both sides are willing to sit in a room with neutral divorce mediators it might be possible. Because of the potential of imbalance of power that may exist in such a situation, it is particularly important for the parties to utilize review attorneys to advise them about the divorce to ensure that there rights are being protected. I don’t believe that there needs to be a per-se exclusion for a couple from using mediation. Continue reading ›