Lawyerlaptop-300x200Child custody is a complicated part of divorce and family law.

Parents will often fight tooth and nail to get the custody order that they believe is right for their family. Even after a court order has been ruled on by the trial court, one or sometimes both parties to the case may seek to appeal the decision of the trial court. However, because the trial court is vested with broad discretion to determine what is in the best interests of the child in mind when making custody decisions, it’s unlikely that arrangements will be changed in most situations on appeal. The courts in New York strive, in theory, to keep the disruption to a child to a minimum when making decisions about their future.

Typically, the decision of how to award custody is made in a trial court which is either the Supreme Court, in cases of divorces, or Family Court can also deal with child custody cases. The case law stands for the propositions that the trial court needs to be able to weigh various factors, including the character, sincerity, and testimony of the parties involved. The trial court has access to both parties and can supplement the information it learns from everyone with professionally prepared documentation and reports if such evidence is submitted. If one party in the case is unhappy with the outcome, then they can ask to have the matter reconsidered by the appellate court. However, appellate courts are often reluctant to re-evaluate the subjective factors addressed by the trial court. Additionally, decisions of trial courts are usually upheld, on an appeal, unless the party can prove that there was a lack of a sound or substantial basis, in the record, for the trial court’s original order. Continue reading

Maintenance-Fight-300x200While many aspects of family law may stay the same over the years, certain components may also need to be changed to adhere to the evolving nature of life in the United States. Recently, the federal tax law was changed, with the change in the taxation of maintenance (alimony) payments that came into effect on the 1st of January 2019. According to the rules of this new law, maintenance payments delivered from one spouse to another can no longer be classed as a tax deduction for the payor. Additionally, the payee no longer has to count those payments as taxable income. What this means is that there can be greater resistance to the payment of maintenance than before.

The last update in the New York State maintenance guidelines was made at the time that maintenance payments were tax deductible to the payor and taxable income to the payee. These maintenance guidelines are still in place, and at as of the time of this blog have still not been revised by the New York State legislature.  The law still reflects an environment wherein maintenance is tax deductible to the payor, and taxable income for the recipient. Accordingly the courts may decide to deviate from the guidelines for maintenance based on this change in the taxability, now that the rules are different, as deviation may be required to creating an agreement that’s fair for both parties. Continue reading

Businessdebtpicture-300x200There are many complicated things that a couple may need to address when it comes to managing their divorce. Everything from child custody agreements, to how assets and debts will be shared needs to be considered by the parties involved. In mediation, a mediator such as myself can work with a couple to guide them through their discussions about things like equitable distribution. The process of equitable distribution isn’t just about splitting things 50/50 after all. The parties need to think about how assets and debts can be shared fairly.

The equitable distribution of debt can be particularly complicated. While marital debts need to be shared between both parties, separate debt belongs to a single individual. Determining which debts are marital and which are separate can be difficult at times. Fortunately, when people do not immediate know how an issue should be handled, there are many cases that I can address with parties in divorce mediation or other divorce processes, to help them explore the concepts that come into question during equitable distribution. Continue reading

Relocation-Picture-300x200There are many complicated aspects of family law. Arranging equitable distribution in a divorce can be difficult, particularly in cases where it’s hard for the couple to agree. Deciding who should get control over a family home is also a complex discussion. However, few things require more caution and careful consideration than issues associated with child custody. Not only does a child custody agreement need to be approved by a court based on an observation of what’s in the child’s “best interests,” but changing the order is a challenge. Even if a modification of child was right for the child, absent an agreement about it, the court would need to see a substantial change in circumstances before even getting to the issue of whether the modification is in the best interests of the child or children.

When working with clients on family law issues that involve child custody agreements and visitation or parenting time rights, I find that it’s essential to highlight the complexity involved in making the right decision for a child. The courts of New York and Long Island will not disrupt a child’s life and growth by altering their custody situation unless there is a good reason to do so, that’s why a substantial change in circumstances is crucial. It’s also essential for the people requesting the change to show that the alteration is in the best interests of the child.

In the past, the situation used to be that if people agreed in advance that another parent would be able to relocate as part of a written agreement that was ordered by the court, the agreement would control the relocation. However, that may not be the case today. The court can no longer automatically say what might be in the best interests of a child without hearing the full case. Continue reading

MatureCoupleMaritalMediation-300x200There’s more to mediation in the family law area than most people think. While divorce mediation can be a powerful solution for people who want to bring an end to their marriage, address their separation, and more, there are also opportunities for those who might want to continue their marriage too. Mediation is a process that allows individuals to talk freely about the things that matter with a neutral third-party individual. Although I’m not a therapist, I am an experienced and trained mediator that can help with all aspects marital law.

One common option for people who do want to stay together, is using marital mediation with an eye towards the possibility of developing a post nuptial agreement that allows individuals to stay together, in the knowledge that certain things have been resolved as they go on with their marriage. This agreement can give both people in the marriage peace of mind. Continue reading

ChildSupportMediationCouple-300x200As a divorce attorney and divorce mediator, I often ask questions to learn more about my clients and their cases. Many aspects of law revolve around the ability to ask the right questions at the correct times. Recently, I attended a conference at the New York State Council of Divorce Mediation, to further my education on Divorce Mediation and network with my peers. During that event, Kenneth Cloke, JD, Ph.D., and LLM provided an interesting training session on the “art of asking questions.” This session raised some interesting insights in the questions in divorce and family law mediation cases, and I’ve written this blog to share those insights with you.

In any legal case, asking the right questions is crucial. For a divorce mediator, asking questions can be complicated and even dangerous, because it sparks emotional responses in clients. Sometimes, you need to ask the difficult questions to get to the deeper meaning behind certain issues and domestic disputes. One thing that all divorce attorneys and mediators see, is that the disputes between parties in a divorce are often two-dimensional. Dr. Cloke points out, usually, a husband or wife complaining about dirty dishes left in the sink isn’t just about the dishes – it’s also about the lack of respect that someone shows when they ignore something important to their spouse. Continue reading

Baby-and-Mom-300x200When a child’s parents are unwilling, unavailable or unfit to care for their children for any reason, another adult may be awarded either a guardianship of the children or custody of the children. Under New York family law, guardianship and custody are two related but distinct concepts, and the intersection of the two can be complex at times.

As a default rule, a child’s parents are awarded custody of their children. This includes physical custody (where the child lives) as well as legal custody (the right to make important life decisions for the child). However, in some cases, a child’s parents are either unavailable or unable to care for their children and an alternative caretaker must be established. Thus, custody in this context generally refers to a non-parent.

New York Guardianship

A minor child who is under the age of 18 and is not married must have a legal guardian. Once appointed, a legal guardian has the same power as a child’s parent to make decisions for the child.
Continue reading

In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed the benefits of separation agreements, and how they can affect the divorce procedure in New York. When you’re unsure whether you’re ready MatureBusinessPeople-300x200to go through with a full divorce, or you need to come to terms with your partner about your future before a divorce takes place, a separation agreement can be a useful process. Whether addressed as part of a divorce mediation process or negotiated between divorce attorneys, these agreements allow clients to lay out the details of their upcoming divorce as quickly and efficiently as possible.

If a couple negotiates a separation agreement and signs the appropriate documentation, they will have more options available to them in the future. For example, if a couple decides that they no longer want to get divorced and instead want to pursue opportunities to fix their relationships, they can simply nullify the separation agreement and go back to living together as normal. On the other hand, if the spouses involved in a separation agreement decide that they do need to get a full divorce, they will be able to apply for an uncontested divorce as all the issues were ostensibly settled in the separation agreement. This means that they won’t have to argue about issues like equitable distribution, child support, child custody and maintenance in court. Continue reading

In recent blog posts, I have discussed the concept of separation agreements, used both as a way to give couples a break when they’re not sure whether they want to Mediating-Couple-Bright-Window-300x200end their marriage and as a precursor or first step in full divorce experience that ensues immediately thereafter. A separation agreement is a document that outlines various answers to questions that a couple might have at the end of their marriage. For instance, your separation agreement might dictate what’s going to happen to your family home when your divorce is final, or who will be responsible for having custody of the children.

Because separation agreements require both parties to agree on what happens when their marriage comes to an end, there is a lot of negotiation involved. As a divorce mediator, I’m able to help parties collaborate during this complicated process and discuss the things that are most important to them. For instance, I can provide a safe environment, where both parties can come together to discuss everything from equitable distribution to visitation or parenting time agreements. Acting as a mediator, my job won’t be to provide any legal counsel or guidance, but to provide instead a neutral space where decisions can be made about your future after marriage. Continue reading

In a previous blog post, I spoke about separation agreements, and how they can sometimes be helpful, regardless of whether or not a couple decides to progress with Mediation-Therapy-pic-300x200their divorce. While there doesn’t necessarily need to be a legal agreement written up for people to start living apart and to say how parties should act during their separation.  These kinds of agreements, however, can be helpful in some circumstances legally. Many couples find that going through the details of their separation with a divorce attorney or divorce mediator, like me, can help them to protect their rights, improve the predictability of the experience and eliminate unnecessary arguments.

Frequently, separation agreements are particularly useful when the two parties considering divorce are involved in attempting to work out their finances. For instance, if one partner has been raising the couple’s children up until now, and hasn’t had a job, and the other is the wage earner, separation agreements may help to ensure that the needs of the family continue to be met. Some of my clients also find that separation agreements are useful if they haven’t yet decided whether they’re ready to officially dissolve their marriage with a divorce. Discussing the details of how you’ll live after the divorce may help you to decide whether completing the process is the right thing to do. Continue reading