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

Unhappy-couples-300x200The recent issues caused by COVID-19 have surfaced some common questions about family court cases, and what kind of issues require immediate attention. For instance, if a person was removed from their home because of a temporary order of protection, would this require an immediate hearing to ensure that each person is the case is properly protected?

For related people, and people who have been in an intimate relationship before, the Family Court can offer order protections when someone has a claim to being a victim of a Family Offense. The concept of a “family offense” can be difficult to understand, as there are many different levels to family offense cases. A broad description for this matter would identify family offenses as specific acts defined by Penal law and committed against members of “family”.

Family, defined by the New York Family Court Act, can include everything from obvious family relationships, to boyfriends, girlfriends, and people with children in common. The term “family” might also refer to people living in the same household. A person seeking an order of protection would need to file a petition with the Family Court and highlight the offenses that were allegedly committed by the “family” member. Continue reading ›

Video-Call-300x200Even in challenging times, when the courts aren’t operating as normal, our lives continue to progress, with various unique concerns to consider. Throughout New York and Long Island today, there are many people struggling with things like child custody concerns and making decisions about parenting rights. Unfortunately, at the time of the writing of this blog during the coronavirus pandemic, since the courts are closed for new filings right now (except for cases deemed essential and emergency matters), it can feel as though you’re stuck in limbo, unable to make progress.

The good news is that people in search of new solutions for the best interests of both themselves and their children can still get help using a family law and divorce mediator like myself. Mediation has always been a useful mode of alternative dispute resolution for couples who prefer to maintain an amicable relationship with the other parent to their child or spouse in a divorce. However, mediation also has other benefits. For instance, for unmarried couples, it can be a useful way to discuss issues that need to be addressed when ending a serious relationship, particularly for couples with children. For married partners, mediation can also offer a more reasonably priced and quicker way to get the courts to approve an order that’s suitable for both you and your partner, without exposing yourselves to litigation. Continue reading ›

Selfie-Mother-300x200At the time of writing this blog, the New York Courts are still only willing to accept new cases that it deems essential to help reduce interactions in the times of the COVID-19 coronavirus. This means that many issues have been put on hold for the time being.

In cases of child custody or divorce, it’s common to feel as though all of your issues are essential. However, the court may not be willing to hear them unless they can see a reason for the case being an “emergency”. One thing that is generally not dealt with, at this time during the coronavirus pandemic, as an emergency is child custody and parenting cases. However, there’s always a chance that a court could choose to accept any particular case as an emergency or essential when considering an application.

Recently, I’ve received a number of calls from parents looking to limit parenting time or that are concerned that they are not getting their parenting time because of COVID-19. The starting point in this situation is to remember that if an order already exists for custody and parenting time for a parent, then the starting point for any analysis is that order. There should be a presumption that this order is the proper custody and parenting time that should happen. However, if there are health concerns posed by the pandemic, for example, there might be exceptions.

Addressing Parenting Time In Difficult Circumstances

Continue reading ›

OrderofProtectioncouple-300x200At the time of writing, my office is still open during the COVID-19 pandemic however I am doing business a little differently, as everyone. We have made some changes to the way that we support citizens in New York and Long Island, to adhere with the guidelines implemented for the safety of US residents. This means that phone and video consultations are more likely during this time.

It’s also worth noting that the courts have reduced the number of cases that they are willing to hear, to avoid the unnecessary gathering of people in a legal environment. The courts are only open for essential cases at this time. Although the definition of “essential” may change in the months to come and may differ on a case by case basis, we do know that Orders of Protection are listed as essential. Usually, these cases are managed in Family Court, within Nassau, Suffolk, Queens County and other areas. Most of these courts have adopted virtual court appearances at this time for safety reasons and to comply with the orders, guidelines, and directives that apply during the coronavirus

Applying for an Order of Protection at This Time

People considered to be family have the option to access orders of protection against other family members when certain offenses are committed. My office has helped various families to apply for or defend against these orders over the years and will continue to do so at this time. Continue reading ›

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 ›

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