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

Articles Posted in Family Court

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 ›

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 ›

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 ›

There are many complex cases to consider in the world of family law. Some of the most often-discussed cases includeTeenage-girls-bench-300x200 those to do with divorce, child support, child custody and parenting time cases. However, there are also instances in which a parent may be accused of neglecting or abusing a child – either in a case brought in family court or outside of court after a CPS or ACS investigation.  Child neglect can appear in many different allegations, from a parent being accused of being unable or unwilling to provide their child with the right food and hygienic care to keep them healthy, to a care-provider being accused of neglecting to give a child the expected education.

The law says children are entitled to an education. If a parent fails to provide their child with that education, the belief is that they could be harming that child’s future and making it harder for them to succeed in life. As such, issues with education are often referenced in cases regarding abuse and neglect.

In New York, the family court defines a child suffering from educational neglect as an individual under the age of 18 whose mental, emotional, or physical condition is either impaired or in danger of becoming impaired because of a failure on the behalf of the parent to provide the right level of education. Parents are responsible for supplying children with an adequate education in accordance with the New York Education law. Continue reading ›

As a child custody lawyer for New York, and Long Island, I know that people involved with a child custody case oftenhave 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 ›

Unlike circumstances relating to child custody cases, where the testimony made by the children involved (please seemy last blog for more information), can be done in a private setting (In-Camera), circumstances can differ somewhat in order of protection or family offense cases, where children are brought forth as witnesses to a specific event. In the case of a family offense proceeding, which is a case in family court that addresses whether or not there should be an order of protection, a child’s testimony that will be entered into evidence must be presented in front of all the parties involved.

Obviously, asking a child to testify in front of the parties, who are often their parent(s), in a family offense case can be a very difficult process, and it’s something that is frequently avoided at all costs, whenever possible. The reason for this is that the psychological damage a child is exposed to during such a procedure can be very significant, particularly when he or she is offering evidence against their parents.

Though a family offense proceeding is recognized as a civil proceeding, and isn’t directly about crime and punishment, it’s seen as a “quasi-criminal” case, because when family offenses are found, an order of protection can restrict someone’s freedom by forcing them to stay away from certain places and people. Additionally, these orders can prevent certain people from performing certain acts and behaving in a particular way. Continue reading ›

In any divorce or child support case that involves children identified as minors, it’s crucial to determine how much support needs to beprovided to give those children an on-going, and undisrupted lifestyle following a divorce or separation of parents. Child support is often a very complicated issue within divorce cases, and I often remind my clients that the courts of New York must examine a number of crucial factors before determining how much should reasonably be awarded.

Generally, the guideline amount of child support is determined by the parent’s income.  There are a number of factors upon which a deviation from the guideline amount of child support can be based, including, but not limited to:

  • The non-custodial parent’s financial abilities
  • The custodial parent’s earning capacity: Both parents have a duty to support their children, thus the earnings of the custodial parent must also be considered.
  • Other factors that a court might deem appropriate.

Here, we’ll examine the difficulties that can become present during a child support case when it comes to considering combined income in excess of $143,000.00 (the initial cap in 2017, when this blog was written on child support), and the ultimate financial abilities of the paying spouse. In determining parental income, the courts of New York adhere to the Child Supports Standard Act, starting with an evaluation of parent’s “gross” income. Often, this income is evaluated according to the numbers on that individual’s most recent income tax return. Once that gross amount has been considered, the court continues to evaluate potential other compensation including, but not limited to voluntarily deferred, or additional income. Continue reading ›

It is a fundamental principle in New York Family law that for a request to modify a custody order to be able toproceed in court, be it Supreme Court or Family court, there needs to be a substantial change of circumstances.  Only if there is a substantial change of circumstance can the court make a determination on what new child custody order is in the best interests of the child or children.  I have previously blogged about the quandary about when should the change of circumstances be measured from?  Is the change of circumstances to be measured from the date the case was settled or in the cases that went through trial from the close of evidence at trial?  Or, in the alternative, should the change of circumstances be measured from the date the order is finally drafted and entered with the clerk of the court?  This can be an important distinction as often there is a substantial lag in time between the two events.

A recent case, Matter of Ladd v Krupp, 136 A.D.3d 1391 (4th Dept. 2016) decide in the fourth department has highlighted this disparity.  One of the issues raised on appeal was if it was error to use one date as opposed to the other.  The court ended up resting its decision on the fact that it believed it did not matter, for that case, which date the change of circumstances was measured from as from either date there was a substantial change of circumstances.  However, clearly, it can matter in other cases.  That case cited various precedents which detailed the different dates that are used to measure the change.  Continue reading ›

The New York Family Court processes petitions for child support, establishes new child support orders, and determines whether a modification should be made to an existing child support order.  It is possible to also utilize the Supreme Court to establish, enforce or modify child support, particularly in a divorce or postjudgment divorce case.  Most child support payments in New York are made by a noncustodial parent paid direct to the other parent or through the Support Collection Unit (SCU).

Once the court has issued a child support order requiring the support collection unit to collect payments, the SCU collects and distributes the payments. If the noncustodial parent falls behind in payments, the SCU can enforce the order. Once a parent applies for services, the support order has to be paid through the SCU, and the custodial parent can no longer accept direct payments from a noncustodial parent or informally agree to change the support order. If the noncustodial parent wants to pay the custodial parent directly, the noncustodial parent should either make sure this is reflected in the initial order or file a modification petition subsequently in order to ask that a direct payment be credited to his or her account.

Once child support is ordered, the parent who is required to pay is given a payment instruction sheet, indicating how much to pay and how to make the payments. For parents who work, a notice may be sent to their employer with instructions about taking the child support payments out of the salary and sending them to the Support Collection Unit or SCU. However, these payments can also be taken directly from other income streams, such as unemployment or even a pension. Payments may not be deducted from a worker’s paycheck for a few weeks from the time of the child support order.

Continue reading ›

When a custody case is brought to a New York family court, the law requires the papers to be served to the otherside, often in the form of a summons and petition. It is up to the parent that is filing the case to ensure that the other parent in the custody argument receives the papers – generally through in-hand delivery. Ensuring the service of papers is essential, as the law recognizes that there are few things more important in child custody cases than ensuring that every person entitled to make a claim on the behalf of the best interests of the child will receive notice of the proceedings taking place. Importantly, the law dictates that services of a petition and summons should be given at least eight days before the first court appearance is required of the other party. However, in practice, it is worth noting that regardless of how a respondent may receive the notice to attend court – so long as they attend and admit that they were served the papers, then the court will be given jurisdiction, and have the right to proceed with the case.

In cases of custody, visitation, or other matters brought before the family court, I often find that the case is started using an order to show cause, instead of a summons, and a petition. While the petition underlines what the person presenting the case to the court wants to address, the order to show cause specifies how service should be addressed.  When service is directed pursuant to the Order to Show Cause, how to serve the papers is spelled out by the judge who signed the order.  It takes the guess work out of service, however, it then becomes important to precisely comply with the method and timing of service that is directed. Continue reading ›

Contact Information