Articles Posted in Trials

Child custody trials can be very challenging experiences for every individual Lawyer-Justice-Scales-226x300involved. After all, they require the court to consider the best interests of a child when moving forward after a divorce case. An important element to remember is that while many professional techniques are used during a child custody battle, no-one really “wins”. Instead, the best arrangement will be suggested based on the unique needs of the child, and the ability of a parent to provide the healthiest upbringing for that child.  It is very much preferred for parents to be able to make agreements as to what the custody and parenting time arrangements for their children will be.  Trials build the animosity between the parties and thereby are harmful to the children.  That being said, custody hearings and trials happen as people involved in a custody battle sometimes cannot or will not settle.

Opening statements represent the start of a custody trial.  Often times custody lawyers choose to waive opening statements as the trier of fact in the case is a judge (there are no jury custody trials in New York), not a jury, and the judge most likely would rather proceed to the testimony rather than hearing opening statements.  Opening statements are not evidence so a judge might actually appreciate the first witness being called who can provide evidence by their testimony, rather than hearing the musings of the child custody attorneys.  Continue reading

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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detective desktopIn Anonymous v. Anonymous, a husband filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss his wife’s petition alleging he’d violated an order of protection. The order of protection had been entered without a finding of fault and directed him to stay at least 1,000 feet away from the wife’s residence and job, except for court-ordered child visitation or to go to church on Sundays. It also ordered him not to commit a family or criminal offense against her.

The wife alleged that the husband had retained a private investigator. The PI recorded the wife, and the DVD showed she’d gone into a motel and had an affair with a priest at the church where she worked. The wife claimed the husband gave the DVD to her employers, and this forced her resignation.

She argued the husband had no legitimate purpose in sending a PI to follow her, and his goal was just to cause her to lose her job and humiliate her. She claimed this was a violation of the 2009 order of protection.

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Unlike circumstances relating to child custody cases, where the testimony made by the children involved (please see Parent-Fightmy 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

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

Child Custody disputes and Divorces are complicated at the best of times.  Often, legally breaking down a relationship becomes more Airport Rundifficult when children are involved. When a mother and father choose to separate or divorce, they not only have to think about the steps that should be taken to improve their chances of pursuing their own best interests, but they also should think carefully about the best interests of their children. That is the standard that a New York court would use.

While, in an ideal scenario, fathers and mothers seeking a divorce would carefully come to a decision about custody agreements, child support, and parenting time or visitation together, using a mediation method or collaborative law – without the strain of battling the issue out in court – family law is not always this simple. In some cases, a New York Supreme Court or Family Court judge will be forced to step into the scenario and figure out which parent should be awarded primary physical custody. In these cases, there are many factors for a judge to consider when putting the best interests of a child first, and one is the concept of who can be defined as the “primary caretaker” for the children.  Please note that the primary caretaker status is not determinative of the best interests of the children, rather it is one of the many considerations that can be taken into account. During this blog, I will discuss which details can be provided to show who can be regarded as the primary caretaker of a child, and what it means to be a primary caretaker.  Continue reading

two-boys-and-a-bug-1545817A noncustodial parent is required to pay child support to a custodial parent in New York until a child is 21 years old. In many cases, this means that support continues to be paid while a child is in college.

Basic child support is calculated based on a formula using initially the first $143,000 (as of 2016, this number changes over time) of both parents’ combined income and a discretionary amount or an amount based on the same formula for income that exceeds $143,000.00. For a noncustodial parent of one child, basic support is their pro-rata share of 17% of that $143,000, a “cap” that changes every two years in addition to any amount ordered above that cap as mentioned above. The percentage changes based on the number of children. However, a child can also receive add-on support if his or her parents’ combined income is beyond that cap, after the court looks at what are called “paragraph f” factors. Under Domestic Relations Law 240 1-b(c)(7), the court can award educational expenses, such as college costs, as an add-on to the basic support.

This type of support is not mandatory, however. When deciding whether to make the award, the court may consider the parents’ financial circumstances, their educational backgrounds, the parents’ history of paying for these types of expenses to the child at issue or other children, and the child’s academic qualifications. However, college expenses usually aren’t awarded before ascertaining whether a particular child will actually attend college.

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According to the New York Domestic Relations Law, as part of a matrimonial case, such as for divorce, annulment, separation, or obtaining maintenance or equitable distribution following a foreign divorce judgement, the court may award counsel fees. In New York proceedings it is well established that the Court in domestic relations cases has the discretion to award fees depending on the parties’ circumstances, the merits of each sides positions and the complexities involved in the particular case.  As part of a post nuptial agreement, pre nuptial agreement, separation agreement, or stipulation of settlement of a divorce, often times a provision is included about future payment of the other side’s counsel fees by the party that takes a non meritorious position.  In those situations the court will usually seek to enforce the terms of the parties agreement regarding counsel fee applications.  The balance of this blog is about cases that are not covered by counsel fee clauses.

The underlying purpose and rationale behind many counsel fee awards is to make sure that a “needy” spouse has the ability to defend themselves, or carry out legal actions in court. Through counsel fees, the New York court is able to situate both spouses on an equal economic footing when it comes to using legal help and carrying out court proceedings. What’s more, these fees can help to ensure that during litigation, both spouses have equal leverage. The Supreme Court of New York may deliver an order to either spouse involved in the case, requesting them to directly pay counsel fees to an attorney for the other spouse, so as to enable that spouse’s continued participation in the case.  Courts can consider:  type of services rendered; the actual time used; the professional experience and reputation of the counsel; and the respective financial situation of each side. Continue reading

Fair Hearing when Challenging “Indicated Findings” by Child Protective Services or the

Middle aged advocate prosecution with juror and judge sitting in the background

Administration For Children’s Services (CPS and ACS)

No matter what the reason behind a hearing may be, one thing that all of my clients should have access to is a fair hearing if they want it. The right to a fair trial is fundamental to the rule of law, and it applies to civil and criminal cases alike. The right to a fair trial or hearing requires a fair public hearing within a reasonable time by an impartial tribunal established by the law. This blog will cover exactly how a fair hearing should go when it is for the purpose of challenging an “indicated” finding by Child Protective Services.

So, if the case has proceeded to the scheduling of a hearing, that means a caseworker has investigated the case and made an initial determination that the case was “founded” or “indicated”. This means that they believed there was some credible evidence to believe that the allegations involving child neglect or abuse occurred. It also means that the person that was “indicated” or who the case was “founded” against made a timely request to challenge the finding. An administrative review happened after the timely challenge and the review did not overturn the initial indicated finding. Therefore the fair hearing is now scheduled. Continue reading