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Articles Posted in Child Custody

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 ›

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 ›

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 ›

This blog is part three in my summary of points about divorce mediation take from my blogs over the years –Mediation-Consultation-300x200

42 – Child Custody topics can be worked through and agreed upon in mediation. One of the issues we can and should address for a comprehensive agreement is what will be the custody arrangement, i.e.: true shared custody; residential custody to one parent; joint legal custody; or sole custody?

43 –  Parenting time arrangements can be discussed and agreed upon in mediations.   It can be as open ended as language such as the parties shall each enjoy liberal parenting time as shall be agreed upon going forward. Other people like to have a more specific schedule of parenting time. We have come to arrangements where the parties split the time by alternating weeks or have what we call rolling fours and threes (four nights a week to one parent with four to the other parent then flipping again and again). Other schedules could be that the “non-residential” custodial parent enjoys time with the children on weekends, be it alternating weekends or some other arrangement. Frequently we may include that the parents will alternate or share holidays, school breaks, and special occasions in some fashion. Usually we include vacation time for each parent as well. There are countless variations for parenting time schedules as each family is truly different.

44 – Unmarried couples can use mediation for custody and parenting time as well as the traditional divorcing couple. A little differently though than divorce mediation I can draft the agreement for custody and parenting time. However, to be made into a binding court order the couple will need to bring the agreement to the Family Court, via a petition (that I can help the draft), without me as being listed as one of their attorneys. This process is different than divorce mediations where an uncontested divorce is submitted without a court appearance being required while in Family Court appearances are always required when a petition is filed. Continue reading ›

Negotiationpic-300x207In my last blog, I discussed the arrival of presumptive mediation as a mandatory addition to New York divorce cases. Presumptive mediation for family court cases on custody has now arrived in New York, as of the fall of 2019. So far, this is how I have seen this implementation work in the Nassau County family court. When custody cases are filed, whether it’s for a modification of an existing custody arrangement, or it’s a new custody case, the first court appearance will be schedule for mediation. A neutral mediator will be assigned to the case that can work for the court, and the case will be scheduled. The parties will be entitled to have their lawyers in the mediation if they choose. If the court has assigned an attorney to represent the child or children in the case, they will be able to attend the mediation too.

In the family court of Nassau County, parties will have the option to opt out of presumptive mediation. In cases that involve serious allegations of domestic violence, or similar conduct that would lead to an Order of Protection case in family court, mediation might not be a suitable solution. I have witnessed custody disputes in Nassau County that have still been referred to mediation after a Final order of Protection had been entered. However, the referral in that case took place prior to the enactment of the Mandatory Presumptive Mediation program. Both of the parties in the case agreed to attend mediation. Continue reading ›

Changing your name in New York or Long Island isn’t always a complicated process. If you are a legal adult, then you have the right to change your name without a court order, provided that the legal name is not misleading. In other words if it will not perpetuate a fraudulent activity, or interfere with someone else’s rights it is usually approved. Adults in Long Island and New York also have the option to change their child’s name – however, in this case, the circumstances are slightly different. When an adult attempts to change a child’s name, then the courts need to consider a number of things, including whether or not the name change will be in the best interests of the child.

In any family law case that concerns a child in New York or Long Island, the courts will always use the best interests standards as the basis for their decisions. This basically means that the courts will attempt to make a decision that will not harm the child’s physical or mental status in any way. For instance, in a case I advised a client on, a mother requested for the Nassau County Supreme Court to change the surname of her child to include her name. In this case, the mother and father were not married but were once engaged. As such, she originally was not concerned about giving the child just the father’s last name as she intended to take on the same last name when they got married. However, the romantic relationship fell apart and the couple never got married. Therefore the child and the mother had different last names. The mother was the residential custodial parent. The mother felt that because the child was under her primary care, his name should reflect both the names of the father and the mother.

The father in the case above said that the petitioner only wanted to change the name to alienate the child from him. The respondent felt that the mother’s reason to seek a name change was based on a need for control. However, the court found that the proposed name change to a hyphenated surname was in the best interests of the child because it meant that the child could share the same last name as both his father and his custodial parent. The petitioner (mother) was therefore given permission to change her child’s name. Continue reading ›

ParentsWalk-300x200Child custody, visitation, and parenting time cases are complicated for many reasons. The courts of New York are required to make decisions based on the “best interests” of the child or children involved. This requires a careful consideration of multiple factors, such as which parent can provide the child with the right level of care, the parenting skills of each parent, and more. It can take time for the court to be able to hold a full evidentiary hearing in order for both sides to present all the evidence necessary to make decisions regarding a child’s best interests. Until that time, though, temporary orders for visitation, parenting time, and child custody may be provided to guide parents while the final order is pending.  In Family Court they are called temporary orders and in a divorce, in the Supreme Court they are often called “Pendente Lite” orders which is a Latin legal term for an order while the case is pending.

A final order of custody, without the consent of the parties involved, if there has never been a prior custody determination, should not be made without a full evidentiary hearing that allows the courts to consider the factors surrounding “best interests” carefully. However, full evidentiary hearings may not happen for a long time, sometimes many months. If one side or the other in the case requests a visitation or parenting schedule when waiting for the final order to be provided, I find that the courts often attempt to ensure that each side has meaningful time with the child or children. The preferred method of the courts is generally to get the consent of the parents to a schedule that they both agree to for temporary orders. Continue reading ›

Mediation-Couch-300x200Divorce is rarely straightforward. There are a lot of things that couples need to cover when a marriage comes to an end, including figuring out how debts and assets should be divided between parties, and determining who should have primary custody over the children. However, depending on the nature of your relationship with your ex-spouse, and the strategy you choose for managing your divorce, it is possible to make things a little simpler.

Divorce mediation is often a more straightforward way to deal with divorce for the couples I work with that want to avoid things like litigation. During mediation, couples have the chance to discuss the outcomes that they want to achieve with their divorce and negotiate the terms of things like maintenance aka spousal support, maintenance, equitable distribution and more. For many parties, a divorce mediation is a more relaxing and fast-paced strategy for handling the various complications that arrive during divorce. That’s why I’m so committed to giving the people I work with the opportunity to choose mediation if they feel that it’s right for them. Continue reading ›

Review-Attorney-Picture-300x199Most of the time, the appellate courts recognize that the trial courts of New York are given a great deal of discretion to make decisions about child custody and visitation aka parenting time matters. This is because it is recognized that these courts are in the best position to determine what is in the best interests of a child.  The trial court’s opportunity comes from the ability to assess the character and demeanor of the parties, witnesses.  The theory is that combining the court’s observations of the witnesses in the case, combined with the submitted evidence puts the trial court in the best position to make custody determinations. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, it’s unlikely for the appellate court to overturn the decision an appeal is made by a parent or parents who want to appeal a custody or visitation decision. However, it does happen at times and it may be possible for the matter to be overturned in an appellate court if the attorney for the appealing party can prove that that there was not a substantial or sound basis for the custody decision in the first place.

For instance, in the relatively recent case of Weisberger v Weisberger,  154 AD3d 41 (2nd Dept. 2017) the court found that the trial court’s previous decision to modify the stipulation and award full custody of the children to the father in the case was made without a substantial and sound basis in the record. According to the details of the case, the trial court gave excessive weight to the religious upbringing clause in the case, rather than focusing exclusively on the children’s best interests. There’s nothing to show that unsupervised visitation was detrimental to the children, and it was therefore inappropriate for the court to order supervised visitation. Continue reading ›

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