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

When a couple splits up in a New York divorce, and the couple has children together, the court, or the divorce lawyers involved, must determine whether either of the parties is entitled to child support.  If the matter is handled in Family Court, in making this determination, the court looks at New York Family Court Act section 413, which outlines the considerations that must be taken into account when ordering child support. The exact formula is somewhat complicated, but essentially it looks at each parent’s income and the number of children involved.

Wedding RingsOnce a court makes a determination as to child support, that order will remain in effect unless one of the parties asks the court to reconsider the child support amount. Courts routinely make changes to child support orders based on either party’s changing circumstances. For example, if one of the parents loses a job, that parent may then petition the court to adjust the child support payments they are required to make. A question that often comes up in New York divorce cases is whether the income of a remarried parent’s new spouse can be used when calculating child support payments.

The general rule under New York law is that a step-parent has no obligation to support their step-children. However, there are ways that the income of a step-parent may be relevant to a child support determination. For example, assume parent A and parent B have two children and get divorced. Parent A has custody of the children, and Parent B is ordered to pay child support. Later, Parent B remarries. Normally, when it comes to determining Parent B’s child support obligation, Parent B’s new spouse’s income would not be considered. However, if Parent B has a child with the new spouse, the new spouse’s income may become relevant because the needs of the children that live with the non-custodial parent of the subject children of child support case  can be taken into account. According to the statute those children’s needs can be considered to deviate from the guideline amount of child support, but only if the resources available to support the children living with the non-custodial parent are less than the resources available to support the child or children that are the subject of the divorce or post judgement divorce or child support case.

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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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There are various elements involved in ensuring the best results fromJudgesbooks-300x200 a child custody case. Closing statements are one of the unique and valuable opportunities that child custody lawyers use when attempting to present their side of the story to the judge. Because managing a case with children involved can be particularly tricky, a summation or closing statement can provide a memorable way to draw all the facts of the case together into something that the judge can use to make their decision. Otherwise known as a “summation”, a closing statement, when performed by an effective child custody lawyer or divorce attorney, can sweep away any pre-existing feelings that the judge had, and replace their thoughts with a new insight into a custody case and why their clients desires are in the best interests of the child or children.  After all, that is what a child custody and parenting trial is all about.   

To some degree, a closing statement is similar to an opening statement. For instance, in both the opening and closing statements, the attorneys for both parties will have the opportunity to directly address the judge, and “discuss” the case, giving them a framework for understanding the role of each party in the case, and how the evidence should be considered. However, a closing statement can involve arguments that allow the child custody attorney to make their point more effectively, whereas an opening statement requires the lawyers for both sides to stick to the facts. Though arguments can be made about the evidence and how it was presented to help sway the judge or undermine the other party’s case, it’s worth noting that there are rules to follow. Continue reading

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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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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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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