Articles Posted in Divorce

As a child custody lawyer, divorce attorney, and family law lawyer, I’ve been involved with several different divorceLawyerpinstripe-300x200 trials across Long Island and New York. While the specifics of these trials might change from couple to couple, it’s worth noting that the formats and many strategies attorneys typically use to present a case in front of a judge or jury have similarities. One of the most important elements involved in a divorce trial is the process of “direct examination”. This is the method that lawyers like myself use to outline facts and introduce exhibits, through our witnesses for the person we’re representing in any specific divorce case.

In the legal world, the concept of direct examination is used to refer to circumstances within a litigation trial, where the attorney questions his or her own witness to help give greater context and detail to a situation. After one side questions their witness on direct examination then the lawyers for the other parties, such as opposing counsel and sometimes the attorney for the child or children question the cross examination, where both attorneys can ask questions of the witness for the trial. I typically use direct examination as a way of getting to the bottom of the story with a witness, uncovering as much vital information as possible that can be used to support my client. Continue reading

A marriage is about joining two lives together at multiple Lawyer-with-Judge-300x200different touchpoints. When you agree to a marriage, you interweave almost every aspect of your life with your partner. For that reason, when a divorce takes place, it can be very complicated to untangle the situation, and make sure that both people come away feeling in-tact, and secure. While some cases of divorce can be handled with alternative dispute resolution strategies like mediation and collaborative law, some will eventually find themselves in front of the New York court. If your divorce requires litigation, then it’s worth understanding the different elements of a divorce trial, which you may need if your case does not settle ahead of time.

The opening statement for a divorce trial is basically the introduction to your case. It gives the judge context that they can use to understand the story behind your divorce. Petitioning parties in New York courts provide their opening statement to begin with, before the responding party has their opportunity. The important thing to remember about opening statements is that they’re generally not argumentative. Divorce lawyers like myself are not permitted to comment on the credibility of the other side during these statements, nor can we craft a story in an attempt to appeal to prejudice or passion. Continue reading

The college application process can be a daunting thing not FinancialNeutral-300x200just for aspiring students, but also for the parents that hope to support their children’s education. When it comes to children of divorce, the concerns regarding which schools to apply for and what courses to take can extend to additional worries about which parent should be expected to pay the ongoing expense of tuition, room and board, books, travel, and the rest of it.   In New York, the rules regarding college costs for child support cases or following divorce are often impacted by something called the “SUNY” cap. The SUNY cap is a concept commonly used by the New York courts to address the issue of how college education should be paid for. Parental payment for their children’s college isn’t automatic in the state of New York, the trend has been for courts to use a more child-friendly approach to financing college education.

The legislature has codified in the Domestic Relations Law and Family Court Act that courts need to order parents to contribute to a child’s college education, depending on the circumstances at hand, and the child’s best interests.  The cases have held that this determination is done according to the parent’s ability to pay, the expectations the parents had for the children (such as their own educational backgrounds), and the children’s academic abilities. Continue reading

For some people, the thought of going through a divorce can Collaborative-Meeting-300x200be terrifying. Divorces are emotional experiences, that require a great deal of thought and planning to make sure that you walk out at the other end of the procedure prepared for your future. As a divorce attorney, I know that the last thing many of my clients want to do when they’re dealing with the vulnerability they feel during a divorce case, is to present their argument in front of a New York court. Even if the divorce is amicable, taking the process to court can be an overwhelming, and time-consuming process. That’s why opportunities have emerged that allow people considering divorce to choose other methods of dispute resolution.

Alternative dispute resolution proceedings allow you to resolve the issues that appear during the divorce process, through a series of informal negotiations between spouses. These negotiations can take place in more comfortable office spaces, and may ensure that you never have to step inside of a court room. Eventually, the purpose of an alternative dispute resolution is to allow both parties to come to a voluntary settlement about how they want their divorce to be handled. Here, we’ll take a look at the two most common forms of alternative dispute resolution, both of which I can perform from my office here in Long Island.

Using Divorce Mediation for Alternative Dispute Resolution

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After a divorce is finalized, the former husband and wife will go their separate ways. When the former couple has children together, this may result in one of the parents leaving the state with the children. While the state overseeing the initial divorce proceeding generally issues an initial custody order, that order is subject to revision.

U.S. MapCustody orders can be revised by either the state where the original proceeding occurred or, under some circumstances, by the state where the child resides. A common issue in New York family law cases is the state’s ability to enforce custody orders that were made by another state.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act

Lawmakers understand that situations like the ones discussed above are likely to arise, and as a result, they have developed a uniform act to streamline custody proceedings across state lines. The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) has been adopted by 49 states, including New York, and provides guidelines as to which court has the power to issue binding custody determinations and modifications. It also allows for consistent enforcement of out-of-state custody determinations.

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When it comes to pursuing the best interests of a child in the case of “child Kitchen-couple-fight-300x200custody” there are many different paths for an individual to choose. For instance, some partners considering divorce who must think about child custody concerns will decide to undergo a professional course of mediation, Mediation allows couples to negotiate over potential outcomes for their child, in a setting that allows each side to have their say, without the emotional hardship of litigation. On the other hand, there’s also a “middle-ground” between mediation and litigation that’s known as collaborative law, where spouses will work alongside divorce attorneys and other experts to make decisions regarding parenting time and visitation rights.

Of course, there will always be some cases in which the only option to truly outline the best interests of the child, will be to take the matter to court. In front of the New York Court, divorce attorneys and child custody lawyers will attempt to present a case that shows their client as being the care-provider who can offer the best future for the child in question. This will help the court to make a decision regarding the “best interests” standard for child custody. To present a case fully, attorneys like Mr. Shapiro will frequently use questioning in the form of direct examination, and cross examination.

The Difference Between Cross Examination and Direct Examination

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There are various ways to approach a child custody case. For some parents, the ChildGlasses-300x258best solution to negotiating things like parenting time, visitation, and custody, will be to consider an amicable approach featuring settlement negotiations, collaborative law or mediation. Indeed, many couples believe that mediation is a powerful option for cases regarding children, as it allows them to limit their risk of exposing the child to painful memories of their parents fighting or uncomfortable emotional experiences such as being interviewed by an Attorney for the Children, a forensic evaluator or a judge. However, avoiding court battles will not be possible for every case. In some instances, the only way to properly pursue the best interests of a child, will be to take the matter to a New York Family court or Supreme Court, and present it in front of a judge.

Litigation in family law is a complex, and often highly nuanced area. There are numerous skills, methods, and techniques that an attorney can use to sway the opinion of the judge, or potentially assist in outlining crucial points in a specific case. One common element of child custody cases, and indeed many litigation circumstances, is the use of “direct examination”. When properly done, direct examination in a child custody case can be used to demonstrate to the judge, or trier of fact, that a person’s request or plan for parenting time or custody is within the best interests of the child or children involved.

What is Direct Examination?

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Addressing your Most Frequently Asked Divorce QuestionsLawyer-with-Judge-300x200

As a divorce attorney, I do my best to keep my clients informed and educated about each step of their divorce procedure. Often, this means answering some of the most common questions that might arise about the complications of marriage dissolution. To help people facing family law issues to address some of the most typical concerns surrounding divorce, I’ve put together this list of some frequently asked divorce questions that I have answered in my previous blogs and web site pages.  Child custody, parenting time, child support, maintenance (spousal support) are important issues that need to be decided in a divorce as well but I do not discuss them in today’s blog.

Question 1: What Are New York Divorce Residency Requirements?

Parties to a divorce in New York must meet the residency requirements for the state, or their case may be dismissed. To apply for a divorce, residents must meet with the following requirements:

  • The marriage ceremony must have taken place in New York, and one spouse must have had legal residence for at least one year prior to action taking place.
  • Both spouses lived as a married couple in New York, and one or both residents has been considered a resident for at least one year prior to action taking place.
  • The grounds for divorce took place in New York, and at least one spouse has been a resident for at least one year prior to action taking place.
  • The grounds for divorce took place in New York and both spouses were residents at that time.
  • At least one spouse was living in New York as a resident for at least 2 years prior to filing the case.

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When a marriage is ending, unless there is a valid agreement between the parties, it is left up to the judge to determine the financial responsibilities of the parties in what they call in New York equitable distribution. In most cases, this requires the judge to figure out all of the marital assets as well as the marital debts. Student-loan debt is no exception; however, calculating which party is responsible for the payment of student-loan debt may be more complicated that it initially seems.

Graduation CapStudent-Loan Debt Incurred Before the Marriage

As a general rule, student-loan debt that is incurred prior to the marriage is not considered a marital debt, and the party who took the loan out will be solely responsible for the payment of that debt. However, student-loan debt that is incurred during the marriage presents a more difficult situation and often requires the court to apply a multi-faceted test to determine which percentage of the debt, if any, is attributable to the spouse who did not incur the debt.

Student-Loan Debt Incurred During the Marriage

Under New York case law that was decided prior to the 2015-2016 updates to the New York Domestic Relations law student-loan debt may be considered marital debt that is subject to equitable distribution, depending on all of the surrounding circumstances. However, prior to the 2015-2016 update to the New York Domestic Relations law this used to also means that the degree or professional license that was obtained through the procurement of the debt may also be subject to equitable distribution.  The updated Domestic Relations law, however, specifically changed the law to say that degrees were not subject to equitable distribution.  In one of my next blogs we will examine whether the change to the New York Domestic Relations Law about degrees being subject to equitable distribution has altered the landscape about student loan debt.

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When a marriage is in the process of coming to an end, it is common for one spouse to make payments to the other spouse not just throughout the pendency of the divorce proceeding but also moving forward on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. The term for these payments is spousal maintenance. Payments made during the divorce proceeding are called temporary support payments, whereas payments made after the divorce is final are called post-divorce payments. Spousal maintenance, which is intended for the benefit of the payee spouse, is different from child support benefits, which are intended for the benefit of the children of the marriage.

CourtroomHow New York Courts Determine Spousal Maintenance Payments

Recently, New York lawmakers passed a new law that tweaked the way spousal maintenance payments were calculated. Under the new law, if an agreement is not made between the parties and their divorce lawyers, the judge presiding over the divorce proceeding will use a predetermined formula to calculate both temporary maintenance support payments as well as post-divorce payments.  Incidentally, this same formula applies to spousal support proceedings in Family Court.  While the formula is somewhat complicated and beyond the scope of this post, it takes into account the following:

  • Whether the payor spouse is also paying child support payments;
  • The total income of the payor spouse (under the new law, only the first $175,000 of the payor spouse’s income will be used in the calculation);
  • Whether the parties entered into a valid written agreement regarding the determination of spousal maintenance payments; and
  • How long the marriage lasted.

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