Articles Posted in Child Custody

As a divorce lawyer for the regions of Long Island, the surrounding areas and New York, I like to inform my clients Senior-Couple-300x212that I’m capable of offering them a range of solutions when it comes to dissolving a marriage. While some people will find that litigation is their best option (and I do litigate), others will prefer to access the often time, and cost-effective solution of mediation instead. As a trained mediator, I can offer clients a more collaborative experience when it comes to settling divorce issues.  I routinely litigate, as well as settle cases under the more traditional system, which is set up as an adversarial system (ie.  Plaintiff versus Defendant).  I also work as a mediator or a review attorney for those that choose divorce mediation as their process to dissolve their marriage. Here, I’ll address some of the common questions I encounter about divorce mediation.

Question 1: How Can I get My Spouse to Agree to Mediation?

Often, both spouses need to feel comfortable in a mediation setting for this process to work. As such, my clients often ask me how to convince their spouse to take part in mediation as an alternate source of dispute resolution. Often, I find that the best option is to simply approach the topic from an angle that both of you understand. For instance, if you’re concerned about money, you could acknowledge that mediation is often cheaper than litigation. Alternatively, if you want to defend the children from an emotional process, mediation is often a much calmer approach to divorce. Continue reading

As a child custody lawyer for New York, and Long Island, I know that people involved with a child custody case often Family-Breakfast-300x200have questions about it.  The complexities of best interests and various pre-set standards can make it difficult for parents to understand exactly what they’re getting into when they approach a custody case. With that in mind, I’ve put together this quick introduction into some of the most frequently asked questions I encounter as a child custody attorney.

1.     What Is The “Best Interests” Standard

For most legal matters, the court focuses on resolving issues by considering the past and present behavior of the parties involved. However, in child custody, the court must use that information to look towards the future, and predict which parent may offer a healthier, more successful environment for the child in question. By examining past behavior, and sometimes engaging psychological or other expert testimony, New York Courts must determine outcomes based on their opinion of the “best interests” of the child.

2.     What does the “Primary Caretaker” mean ?

Continue reading

Today’s blog is a blend of some of my prior blogs and/or website articles over the years on child support. As a New Happy-Blue-Sky-Family-300x200York divorce lawyer and family law attorney, one of the most common types of cases I deal with involves the issue of child support. Under the law of New York State, both parents responsible for a child are required to support their child financially until that child turns 21 years old. Regardless of whether the parents have been involved in a divorce or not, they remain financially responsible for their child.

In any divorce or child support case that I encounter as a family law professional, I find that it’s important to outline the details that go into determining how much child support is possible. Child support is a very complicated matter, and if it’s something that you’ve never encountered before, you might find yourself getting confused, or overwhelmed. Here, I’ll talk a look at a few things that you might not know about New York child support. Continue reading

DefaultDivorces in New York follow many of the same procedures as other lawsuits. The plaintiff spouse filing must provide the defendant spouse with notice consisting of a summons and either a copy of the divorce complaint or a notice describing the nature of the lawsuit. Delivering these documents to a defendant is commonly known as service of process. Failing to do this properly can delay a case or even result in its dismissal. Once the defendant has been served, they must file an answer or else risk a default judgment on some or all of the plaintiff’s claims. An interesting question arises when a plaintiff spouse serves a summons with notice—meaning without a copy of the divorce complaint—and the defendant spouse defaults. Does a defaulting spouse have a right to service of the actual complaint? The scant amount of caselaw on the topic, suggests that notice, without the complaint, is sufficient for a divorce but not for issues like custody and support.

New York law requires a plaintiff to file a summons, along with either the complaint or a notice that describes the nature of the complaint. If a plaintiff chooses the latter, known as “summons with notice,” they must file the actual complaint at a later time. The exact deadline depends on how the defendant responds to the lawsuit.

The New York Domestic Relations Law (DRL) and Civil Practice Law & Rules (CPLR) govern service of process in divorce cases. Section 232(a) of the DRL requires a summons to clearly state that it is for an “action for divorce.” Rule 320 of the CPLR states that the defendant has 20 days to respond if they were personally served, or 30 days if they were served by any other means. The plaintiff can seek a default judgment under Rule 3215 and DRL § 211 if the defendant does not file a response with the court clerk.

Continue reading

PolyamoryLaws relating to child custody have gone through a number of significant changes in recent years, which largely reflect the fact that the concept of “parent” can extend beyond biological mothers and fathers. New York law no longer limits legal custody to biological or adoptive parents, although it sets a very high bar for who may assert a claim for custody. In March 2017, a judge in Suffolk County, possibly for the first time in this state, granted custody of a child to three people. The court granted “tri-custody” in DM v MM to the child’s two biological parents and a “non-biological, non-adoptive parent” who had been involved in a relationship with both parents, who had helped raise the child, and whom the child recognized as a parent.

Under § 70 of the New York Domestic Relations Law (DRL), “either parent” of a child may bring suit to determine the legal custody of that child. The law specifies that neither parent has a “prima facie right to the custody of the child.” Instead, in the event of a dispute between parents, a court must make a decision based on “the best interest of the child.” The DRL does not provide a precise definition of this term but notes that it includes “what will best promote [the child’s] welfare and happiness.” A determination of a child’s best interest is therefore highly dependent on the facts of each individual case. Until recently, however, New York law has been clear on who may assert a claim for child custody.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015, in Obergefell v. Hodges, that state laws limiting marriage to one man and one woman, and therefore excluding same-sex couples, were unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment. Many states, including New York, had already recognized the legal validity of same-sex marriages, but Obergefell extended this recognition to the entire nation. This ruling arguably led to an expanded legal recognition for “non-traditional” parenting arrangements, provided that they meet the “best interest of the child” standard.

Continue reading

Different people approach divorce from different angles. While some are limited to litigation, others will prefer to Mediation-Coupleexplore alternative solutions like collaborative law and mediation. I offer mediation to couples as a way of helping them to sort through the various issues that commonly arise during a divorce or separation. As a mediator, I try to ensure that the discussion is calm, constructive, and open, so that both parties are able to have their say. Because of this, mediation is often seen as a very flexible process, and it can be used to address matters regarding children, visitation, and custody rights, or consider concerns about the financial side of dissolving a marital relationship.
Using divorce mediation properly is all about understanding what you’re getting involved with, what the benefits are, and who you need to be in contact with. It’s important to remember that mediation isn’t there to deal with your relationship problems or get you back together, but instead assist you in agreeing on the issues that will allow you and your ex-partner to move on with your separate lives. Continue reading

There are many considerations a court has to make when it comes to child custody cases. Though, ultimately, the Family-Sit-Downcourt must put the best interests of the child first when it comes to dictating who should be given parenting or visitation rights.  There are numerous factors that come into play when helping the court to define the best interests of a specific child. For instance, one issue that the courts of New York might consider may be the financial stability of the parents in question. Alternatively, if the child in question within the case is old enough to make informed decisions about his or her own future, the wishes and requests of that child may be taken into consideration.

It’s worth noting that a child who is already suffering from the discomfort and trauma of a broken home can often benefit from avoiding any further disruption in his or her life.  This was the concern of the New York Court of Appeals in the case Lincoln v. Lincoln that established how to take testimony of children in divorce and child custody cases.  As such, it can be a good idea to consider solutions for obtaining information about the child’s wishes regarding custody, in a private format. No child would feel comfortable having to publicly share information about his or her relationship with his parents, or choose between them while either party watches. As such, “In Camera” testimony and interviews can be conducted to help provide a less harrowing experience for a child of divorce. Continue reading

A family offense petition, or order of protection, can be filed in New York on the behalf of a child when a parent Order-of-Protection-Picturesuspects, or has evidence of an act of abuse or neglect initiated by another family member. To act within a child’s best interests, the New York courts must consider who should be permitted to file a family offense petition on the behalf of that child. The court inherently recognizes that a parent will always have the standing to commence a proceeding of family offense on the behalf of his or her child, under New York Family Court Act Article 8. However, grandparents and other individuals who share the same family home do not always have the same rights.

When dealing with cases that ask the court to re-consider issues of child custody and visitation, it’s important to remember that, in an effort to act in the best interests of the child, the court will not make changes to pre-existing custody orders unless there is evidence of a substantial change in circumstances that requires a need to look at whether modification is in the best interests of the child. As such, when it comes to family offense petitions made on the behalf of the child, the court must also be equally stringent about who it believes to be an appropriate individual to launch a complaint on the behalf of that child.

Usually, only a parent of the child, as recognized by the law, will be able to act on the behalf of that child when presenting an issue in court. For instance, in a case entitled Hitchcock v. Kilts, 772 N.Y.S.2d 386 (N.Y. App. Div. 3d Dep’t 2004), the family court awarded sole custody of two children to the mother during the divorce, but gave the father visitation rights. During the visitation, the oldest child told his father that his mother had slapped him, dragged him by the hair, and poured Tabasco sauce into his mouth. Those allegations led the father to file a family offense petition which was heard by the court because the father was recognized as an appropriate person to act on the behalf of the child. Though a temporary order awarded custody to the father for a short time, the order was reversed and the original order was reinstated after evidence from both parties had been presented. Continue reading

In the world of family law, many issues regarding everything from divorce, to maintenance, and even child custodyfamily-sitdown will depend on the unique factors that exist behind a particular case. For instance, whether child support is appropriate and how much should be awarded, though guided by a formula, will ultimately be determined by the circumstances of the parents, parties or spouses involved. However, one matter that always remains the same in cases concerning children is that New York courts are supposed to place the “best interests” of the child at the head of their considerations in making a decision about custody and parenting time. In deliberating about child custody, the New York Courts will endeavor to make a decision for the future of the child that will be most beneficial to the development, and future of that individual. However, as the needs of a child can change over time, the fact that an order is marked “permanent” doesn’t necessarily mean it cannot be changed under the right circumstances. There are two primary situations in which child custody orders are modified:

  1. When a parent violates court orders
  2. When one or both parents suggest a significant and material change in circumstances.

The circumstances that are deemed to be within the “best interests” of a child are subject to change in accordance with the elements surrounding that child at any given time. Therefore the New York court may grant custody modifications if circumstances change significantly since the time the original order was put in place. Modifications, however, must be made based on a change that was not obvious or present during the time of the original order. Examples of a substantial and material change in circumstances might include the use of illegal drugs, a felony conviction, or evidence of child abuse. If the needs of the child changes – such as a changing need in medical attention or schooling, the courts may also consider modification, but only if enough evidence is available to determine that such an alteration is in the child’s best interests.

Defining a Material Change in Circumstances

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