As discussed in previous posts, the judge presiding over a New York divorce has the ability to order one party to pay the other spousal maintenance. There are two types of spousal maintenance.

CalculatorThe first is called pendente lite. Pendente Lite is a Latin term meaning “during litigation.” This is a temporary maintenance award that is designed to last only through the divorce proceeding. The justification for this order of support is that the spouse who controls the finances could otherwise cut off the other spouse’s access to money during the divorce proceeding before any judicial finding has been made. The second type of spousal maintenance is post-divorce maintenance, which continues for either a set term of years or, in rate circumstances, until death.

Both types of spousal maintenance are calculated by the formula contained in DRL section 236 and take into account similar factors. However, under certain circumstances, a judge can deviate from the maintenance amount provided by the formula by awarding more or less support, depending on the circumstances.

Continue reading

Following a New York divorce, the judge presiding over the case may require one of the parties to provide regular spousal maintenance payments to the other party. These payments – known as maintenance in New York but commonly called alimony – are calculated according to a specific formula laid out in New York Domestic Relations Law section 236(B)(6). Spousal maintenance may be ordered for a specific period of time, or, in rare circumstances, it may be ordered for the lifetime of the receiving spouse.  There are presumptive guidelines for the amount and duration of maintenance based on incomes and length of the marriage.

YachtWhile spousal maintenance payments are primarily determined by the formula contained in section 236(B), there is a fair amount of judicial discretion in divorces with high-income earning spouses. As a general matter, New York law imposes an income cap when determining the appropriate amount of spousal maintenance. Back when the New York Domestic Relations Law was rewritten, the income cap was set at $175,000. However, the income cap increases incrementally year-over-year according to the consumer price index. The current New York spousal maintenance income cap is $184,000.

If a party to a New York divorce earns above the current income cap, the judge will apply the formula in section 236(B)(6) to determine the amount of spousal maintenance up to the income cap. However, a judge may exercise her discretion in ordering additional spousal maintenance by taking into account the party’s income in excess of the cap.

Continue reading

Many New York family law cases involve a child custody dispute. Most often, these disputes arise when the parents of a child or children go through a divorce and argue over who has primary custody of the children. However, in some cases, grandparents seek visitation or custody of a child. This may be after a divorce or even while the child’s parents are still together.

CounselorIn previous posts, we have discussed under which situations a court may award visitation or custody to grandparents. As previously noted, grandparents do not have a “right” to the custody of their grandchildren. Thus, custody will only be awarded to a grandparent if certain factors are present. Among others, a court must determine that awarding custody to a grandparent or grandparents is in the best interests of the child.

How Do Courts Determine What Is in the Best Interests of a Child?

Judges know the law. However, very few judges are trained in psychology, and fewer still are able to glean sufficient knowledge of a family’s dynamics through the evidence presented to the court. For example, much of the evidence presented in a New York custody case may be limited to text on a page, which may not provide a judge with much knowledge of the relationships between the parents, children, and grandparents. Additionally, any live-witness testimony has the potential to be biased or fabricated.

Continue reading

In a previous post, we considered a situation in which the grandparents of a child or children sought visitation when the custodial parent was opposed to such visitation. This week, we consider a related, although slightly different situation in which the children themselves have expressed a desire for the court not to order grandparent visitation.

Walk with GrandpaAs was the case in the previous post, section 72 of the New York Domestic Relations Law and Section 651 of the Family Court Act govern court-ordered grandparent visitation. Under section 72, grandparents who can establish that “circumstances show that conditions exist which equity would see fit to intervene” may obtain visitation rights.

While the issue of grandparent visitation can be a complex one, it is governed by a simple principle; as is the case in most New York child custody and visitation matters, courts will do what is in the best interest of the children. Of course, the expressed desires of a child may come into play when determining what is in a child’s best interests, although that will not always be the case.

Continue reading

Most New York child visitation cases involve courts establishing the rights and obligations of the parents as they relate to each other. However, New York family law does contemplate a situation in which a court can order visitation for a child’s grandparents under certain situations. This may even be the case when the custodial parents are against the establishment of such visitation rights.

GrandparentsNew York Domestic Relations Law Section 72

As a general matter, section 72 of the New York Domestic Relations Law provides that visitation or custody rights may be appropriate for the grandparents of certain minor children. Subsection 1 deals with visitation rights. This subsection begins by discussing the procedure in a situation in which one or both of the child’s parents have died.

However, this subsection also allows for courts to award visitation to the grandparents even in situations in which one or both of the parents are alive, if the court determines that “equity would see fit to intervene.” This second scenario presents a more interesting situation in which the parents of a child are still alive, and at least one parent is against the issuance of visitation rights to the grandparents. Of course, as is often the case in New York family law matters, the court must also determine that grandparent visitation would be in the best interest of the child.

Continue reading

In a recent post, we looked at the court’s power – and, in some cases, obligation – to order a DNA test in New York paternity proceedings. New York lawmakers have passed a similar, albeit slightly different, statute establishing when a court must order a DNA test in a New York child support case.

DNA TestGenetic testing can be a crucial part of a child support proceeding when one party disputes paternity. While the over-the-counter DNA testing that has recently become popular to determine an individual’s ethnic heritage has come under fire for its less-than-perfect accuracy, official DNA tests can often determine results with near certainty. That isn’t to say that state-administered tests always return an answer to a paternity question; however, when an answer is returned, the methodologies are such that courts are confident basing important legal decisions on the results.

Under Article 2 section 418 of the New York Consolidated Statutes, “[t]he court, on its own motion or motion of any party, when paternity is contested, shall order the mother, the child and the alleged father to submit to” DNA testing. When the language in the statute is broken down, the following is clear:

Continue reading

Ever since the time that DNA testing has been recognized as a reliable method of determining paternity, family courts across the country have relied upon the testing to resolve disputes over paternity. Indeed, the New York Family Court Act discusses the availability of DNA testing for the purposes of establishing paternity in section 532.

DNAIn fact, section 532 requires family law judges or magistrates to advise all parties of their right to request DNA testing in paternity cases, instructing that the court “shall” order testing when any party requests it. That being said, the statute also prohibits DNA testing when the judge determines that testing is not in the best interest of the child based on certain enumerated reasons.

As noted above, parties have a right to a paternity test, and a test will be ordered if any party makes such a request. Additionally, the court can, on its own motion, order paternity testing even if neither party has requested it.

Continue reading

Divorce or family law issues for unmarried people is a complicated time for any couple, but situations can become far more complex when children are added into the mix. Sophisticated-couple-fight-300x200Not only do New York divorce attorneys and the New York Supreme or Family Courts need to determine who should provide care for those children in terms of custody, but they must also decide whether and what child support should be given from a non-custodial parent. If child support is awarded, then the New York Courts may use a range of factors to determine exactly how much should be given. The decision comes from a careful consideration of both the payor’s income, the custodial parent’s income, the child support guideline’s and reasons to deviate from the guidelines.

Before a payor’s income can be used to calculate child support payments, certain deductions may be applied to the total earning potential of the individual. The New York Child Support Standards Act provides a formula based on percentage of income, to determine exactly how much support should be paid. Deviations from the guideline amount of support can be argued or negotiated by family law attorneys or divorce lawyers. The Child Support Standards Act indicates that there are numerous things that can be deducted from a person’s income before the formula is applied, including:

  • Maintenance/ alimony to be paid to the current spouse
  • Maintenance/ alimony paid to a previous spouse
  • Child support paid pursuant to a written agreement or court order for a child for whom the parent already has a duty of care.
  • Supplemental security income
  • Public assistance payments
  • New York City earnings or income taxes paid
  • Federal insurance contributions act taxes paid
  • Unreimbursed employee business expenses

This blog will briefly discuss, what are unreimbursed business employee expenses? Continue reading

New York is an equitable distribution state. Thus, when it comes to dividing up a couple’s assets in a New York divorce case, the court will consider a number of factors. However, before the court gets to the point of dividing up the assets, it needs to determine which assets are subject to the equitable distribution rules.

Pie ChartOnly marital property is subject to equitable distribution. And as a general matter, property that is determined to be the “separate property” of one spouse will remain with that spouse. Courts use a common-sense approach when determining whether property is marital or separate property. Under New York Domestic Relations Law section 13-236, separate property includes property acquired before the marriage and property that was gifted to one spouse by someone other than the other spouse.

In addition, “property acquired in exchange for [separate property] or the increase in value of separate property” will be considered separate property unless the increase in value is due in part to the “contributions or efforts of the other spouse.” This last category of separate property is often the subject of much dispute. A landmark case decided by the New York Court of Appeals set forth the framework regarding how courts view these claims.

Continue reading

When most people get married, they take into account their prospective spouse’s financial situation. Indeed, to some degree, it would be foolhardy not to take this information into account, given that in most cases a married couple acts as an economic partnership, sharing in both income and expenses. Indeed, New York courts take this reality into account when it comes to dividing up assets following a New York divorce proceeding.

Wedding RingsThe idea behind the economic partnership model of marriage is important to grasp when it comes to understanding how courts divide assets following a New York divorce. New York is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the court does not merely divide up all assets 50/50 and send the parties on their way. Instead, courts take into account a number of factors in determining how to divide a couple’s assets.

New York Domestic Relations Law Article 13 section 236 outlines the criteria courts use to equitably distribute assets after a divorce. In all, the statute lists 13 considerations, including the duration of the marriage, as well as the age, income, and education of the parties. Courts will also consider the sacrifices one spouse made for the benefit of the couple. In addition, courts are able to consider “any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper.”

Continue reading