718.864.2011 Request a Consultation

Mark Gilmer, Esq.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Should You Divorce to Get Better Benefits?

Many different government programs in the United States are written in such a way that a marriage penalty is created.  For example, the tax code has some penalties for married couples when both spouses earn higher incomes and/or have similar incomes that, when combined, push them into a higher tax bracket.  Getting married can also cause some couples to lose means-tested benefits.  Now, the Huffington Post also reports that couples are considering divorce because of restrictions found in Obamacare.

New York divorce lawyers know that it can sometimes make sense to cohabitate with a cohabitation agreement, rather than get married, for financial reasons.  For couples who are already married, however, divorce isn't very likely an option except in the most extreme circumstances. 

 Divorce to Save Money on Insurance

According to the Huffington Post article, Obamacare provides subsidies for a couple up to $62,000 per year.  However, a single person can qualify for subsidies by making $46,000 per year or less. This means that two people who each make $40,000 would both receive subsidies to buy insurance while they would lose subsidies entirely and face hundreds or thousands of dollars in extra costs just for being married.

This has resulted in at least some couples considering ending their marriage and living together.  One couple, interviewed for the Huffington Post, said that marriage was not important to them and that divorce might make sense to avoid the steep marriage penalty. 

However, we would advise this couple to think carefully about what benefits they might lose. People who cohabitate do not have the same protections as a legally married couple, nor do they have the same rights. In cases of a medical emergency, for example, a spouse would typically have the right to visit in a hospital and to make decisions on behalf of his or her husband or wife, while this would not be the case if the couple was merely living together. A person can also qualify for Social Security benefits based on his or her spouse’s work record, and is exempt from certain inheritances taxes when obtaining money or property after a spouse’s death.

Still, these benefits may not outweigh the added costs associated with the marriage penalties inherent in Obamacare.  Getting a divorce to save money and avoid the marriage penalty isn’t a new thing, as some couples have also divorced in the past in order to avoid the penalties in the tax code. The IRS has taken steps to stop the practice of couples divorcing at the end of the year and remarrying at the beginning of the next, as many were doing this because they could then file as single.  However, there do not seem to be any legislative fixes in the works to prevent a couple from divorcing to get larger subsidies for healthcare coverage.

The larger point illustrated here is that health care coverage can be a major consideration when debating divorce, and yet is too often overlooked. The same can be said for cashing out certain retirement accounts or making other financial decisions with major tax implications before speaking to an experienced, affordable Family Law attorney in New York.  

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

More Blog Entries:

Informal, Long-Term Marital Separations Can be Risky http://gilmerlegal.com/lawyer/2013/10/23/Matrimonial-Law/Informal, Oct. 23, 2013, Brooklyn Uncontested Divorce Lawyer Blog


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Protecting a Business in a Brooklyn Divorce

Many couples who divorce are concerned about how assets will be divided.  Things become even more complicated when there is a family business that is closely held or privately owned, as both spouses may have an interest in continuing to run the business or in continuing to own a portion of it.  It is essential for a couple who is divorcing to understand how the law will treat their shared family business, and a divorcing spouse who wants to protect his or her interest in the business should consult with an experienced New York family court attorney.

Your Business and Your Divorce

Recently, the Huffington Post wrote about the messy divorce of a deli owner in Carnegie who indicates that her husband gave away secret family recipes, making it possible for his mistress to create a knock-off deli that serves similar classic foods that were the trademarks of the famous Carnegie deli.

The case is not the first of its kind where one spouse accuses the other of misusing proprietary business information.  Another example of this type of messy divorce occurred when a famous fashion designer split up from her husband and accused him of trying to create a knock-off clothing company that made use of her designs. 

These types of divorces are a clear illustration of the importance of protecting a business from the outset. If you own a family business and are getting married, it is advisable to have a prenuptial agreement in place that makes clear that all business property and trade secrets belong only to the spouse who has a claim to the business going into the marriage.  

Keeping private business information secret, even from your spouse, can be a good idea when it is important that the information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands and when you want to maintain your own individual ownership of the business rather than sharing it.  If you do share secrets about the business and you have an agreement in place making clear that the business and its assets belongs to you alone, you should be able to take legal action to obtain an injunction to prevent the sharing of company secrets.

If you start a business over the course of your marriage and have no prenuptial agreement in place, it becomes trickier to protect the company from the consequences of a divorce. A post-marital agreement could be used in these cases to protect your business interests in the event of a divorce.

If no premarital or post-marital agreement is in place and you and your spouse work on the business together, then it may become necessary to divide the business or buy your spouse out in the event that your marriage ends. This may require working with a business valuation expert and you may also need to take aggressive steps to prevent a vindictive spouse from doing something to undermine the success of the business during divorce. An attorney can help you to protect the business and can explain exactly what your options are for protecting your interests in the company during your divorce.

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Collaborative Divorce an Alternative for Amicable Exes, Oct. 11, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Divorce in the Courts vs. Divorce Within a Religious Community

For those who are not religious, divorce in civil court is sufficient to move on with their lives.  A divorce obtained in family court legally dissolves a marriage and the agreement reached in family court is the one that is given legal effect and that the state will enforce in terms of custody and asset division. A  Brooklyn, New York family court attorney help clients follow the legal steps necessary to obtain a divorce within the courts and to arrive at a fair settlement through either litigation or out-of-court mediation or negotiation.

For some individuals, however, a legal dissolution of a marriage by a family court is not the only step necessary. In many religions, there are different procedures associated with ending a marriage in the eyes of the religion and the eyes of the community. For example, many Catholics who divorce will seek an annulment from their church so they can get remarried. Within the Orthodox Jewish community, the faith’s decree of a divorce is even more essential for someone to move on with his or her life. In the Orthodox Jewish community, the decree of divorce is called a “get.”

Divorced Woman Speaks Out About Struggles Dissolving Her Marriage In Her Community

A recent article in the New York Post highlighted this disconnect between a civil divorce and a religious divorce. The article featured the story of one woman who married four-and-a-half years ago and who divorced in civil court in 2010.  The divorce in the New York courts officially ended the couple’s marriage and established a custody arrangement in which the child’s father received custody every other weekend as well as every Tuesday and Thursday. The mother has custody outside of the 12 hours per week that the child spends with the father.

Despite being legally divorced, however, the woman who wishes to date and someday get remarried is unable to do so because her husband will not grant her a get, which is necessary to be seen as divorced within the Orthodox Jewish Community. 

The woman indicates that she has tried everything she can to get her ex-husband to agree to give her the get so that they can move on. The couple has been through negotiations, and their families have tried to come up with a solution. However, he has proposed only that she override the custody agreement and pay him a huge sum of money in exchange for the get.

The unfortunate situation is one that the civil courts can provide little relief for -- at least after a divorce agreement is reached.The divorce is finalized in civil court already and under separation of church and state and religious rules within the Orthodox community, the civil court’s decree of divorce has no impact on the ability to obtain the get.  While the couple could perhaps have negotiated this issue at the time of the divorce if they reached a divorce settlement agreement outside of court, civil divorce and any religious institutions procedures for ending a marriage are entirely separate procedures. Just as one cannot legally dissolve a marriage by getting an annulment or get, a civil divorce also doesn’t guarantee that the couple will be separated in every possible sense.

In other cases, a couple may decide to simply separate and lead separate lives, so as to avoid the hassle of unwinding their marriage in the eyes of the church. In these cases, a formal legal separation is best pursued to protect a clients legal rights and long-term financial well-being. 

Our New York City divorce attorneys are available for consultation at (718) 864-2011.

More Blog Entries:

 New York No-Fault Divorce in Its Third Year, Oct. 26, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog


Monday, November 18, 2013

Attaining Equitable Property Division in New York City Divorce

A man in Colorado recently stunned divorce attorneys during a deposition when he told them he had converted $500,000 in marital assets into gold and then proceeded to dump that gold into a massive landfill - all in an effort to avoid giving his soon-to-be-ex-wife a penny in their divorce settlement. 

While our New York City divorce attorneys have seen many shades of vindictiveness in the course of aiding countless marital dissolutions, this may be among one of the worst examples. 

Even assuming that he is telling the truth and no longer has possession of the gold, such actions are extremely rare. More commonly, we run into situations where one spouse attempts to hide assets from another. This is why hiring a good divorce lawyers is so critical in these cases. There are a number of methods your divorce lawyer can use to help you uncover those assets and ensure that you have access to all relative marital property. An attorney who is both dedicated and experienced is going to be central to the success o such efforts. 

Courts in New York honor a system of asset division in divorces called "equitable distribution." Equitable in this case does not mean equal. In fact, more than likely, you're not going to see a 50-50 split. The court's goal is going to be having each spouse walk away with as fair a deal as possible, based on a number of factors, including what each is going to need in order to move forward. 

In many cases, we have found that couples without children can amicably reach conclusions about how to divide property on their own, without any help from the courts. In choosing to decide between themselves how assets will be divided - without court intervention - couples can file for an uncontested no fault divorce (which our offices offer for $499). These tend to be far less expensive, less time-consuming and more amicable. 

However, we also understand that sometimes it may not be possible for a separating couple at odds to reach an agreeable solution on their own. In these cases, the court is going to weigh a number of factors in choosing how property is going to be divvied up. Among those factors are:

  • The length of the  marriage;
  • How much each spouse earned in income when they first married and how much they earned at the time the divorce was filed;
  • The health and age of each spouse;
  • Which spouse is going to retain primary custody of any common children (or if they both intend to share custody equally);
  • The rights to health insurance, pension and inheritance that one spouse may lose as a result of the divorce;
  • The future outlook of each spouse's finances;
  • The details of tax consequences to each spouse;
  • If there has been any wasteful dissipation or unfair encumbrance of marital assets by one spouse (dumping $500,000 in gold bars in a landfill would certainly count under this item). 

There may be ways for each spouse to retain a larger chunk of certain assets by arguing necessity on one of these grounds. Alternatively, there could be an argument to be made that the property in question is not marital property, but rather separate property.

Generally, marital property is going to be all of that which was acquired by either or both during the marriage - regardless of who actually holds the title. (The same principal applies to debt as well.) The courts for the most part are going to consider marital property as any income earned during the marriage, any property bought with that income, any property bought at all during the marriage and any retirement benefits earned during the course of the marriage.

Conversely, separate property is going to be that that you had or acquired prior to the marriage, property received as an inheritance or gift (except from the other spouse), any personal injury compensation or any property that is defined as separate in a prenuptial agreement or any other sort of marital contract. 

Each case is going to be different. If you are weighing a divorce filing in New York and have questions about what you might be able to expect in terms of asset division, call us today. 

Our New York City divorce attorneys are available for consultation at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Teller County man claims he dumped gold in landfill during divorce dispute, Oct. 24, 2013, By Lance Benzel, The Gazette

More Blog Entries:

 New York No-Fault Divorce in Its Third Year, Oct. 26, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog


Monday, November 18, 2013

Will I Lose My Home If I File Bankruptcy?

Filing Bankruptcy is one of the hardest financial decisions a person faces when in debt.  The decisions made during this time affects the entire household and your family relies on you to make the best decisions for the family.  Hiring an experienced Bankruptcy attorney is the only way to ensure your rights are protected and you do not lose property wrongfully during a New York Bankruptcy proceeding.

 

If you file for Federal Chapter 13 Bankruptcy and your Chapter 13 plan is approved, the short answer is no, you most likely will keep your property.  In Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, a debtor repays all or a portion of debt through a repayment plan over a period of three to five years.  In exchange, you keep your property (car and home), with the assurance you keep up with payments on any loans secured by the property, and keep making your Chapter 13 plan payments.

 

If you file for Federal Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, which is a liquidation bankruptcy, you may not retain your real property (home).  Which is the reason you must tell your NY Bankruptcy Attorney about all items you own.  The equity in your home will determine whether you can keep your home.  In Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, you’re asking the Bankruptcy court to discharge most of the debts you owe.  In exchange for a discharge, the Bankruptcy Trustee can lawfully take any property you own that is not exempt from collection.  They can sell the property and distribute the proceeds to your creditors.  New York State property exemptions include some equity in your home and car, retirement funds, public benefits, and most household goods, furniture, furnishings, clothing (other than furs), appliances, books, some jewelry, and musical instruments.

 

Will I lose my house?

Whether or not you can keep your home in a NY Chapter 7 filing will depend on the amount of equity (equity is the fair market value of the home less the amount of outstanding debt against the property) you have in your home, and whether or not you are in default under your mortgage instruments.

 

If you have no equity in your home, or if you are able to exempt all of your equity, your home will not be liquidated by the bankruptcy trustee to satisfy unsecured creditors.  And, if you are current on your monthly payments and not otherwise in default under your mortgage documents, your lender will not foreclose.  Therefore, if you have either no equity or your equity is exempt, and you are current on your monthly payments and not in default, you may generally retain your home in a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.

 

Your Household Furnishings and Goods

Generally, your furnishings, household goods, and clothing are exempt from liquidation in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.  There may be exceptions, however, if you have items of extraordinary value, such as antiques or valuable artwork.  Specific exemptions are available for jewelry; however, the exemption amount is limited.

 

New York Property Exemptions

 

The comprehensive list below details New York State Exemptions; however, you may be eligible for additional Federal Property Exemptions.  Contact Attorney Gilmore for more information on filing Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 and retaining your property.

 

George M. Gilmer, Esq.

26 Court Street

Brooklyn, New York 11242

718-864-2011

 

NEW YORK STATE EXEMPTIONS

 

ASSET

DESCRIPTION

LAW

Homestead

Real property including co-op, condo or mobile home, to $150,000 for the counties of Kings, New York, Queens, Bronx, Richmond, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester, and Putnam; $125,000 for the counties of Dutchess, Albany, Columbia, Orange, Saratoga, and Ulster; $75,000 for the remaining counties in the state.

*Husband & wife may double

5206(a)

 

In re Pearl, 723 F.2d 193 (2nd Cir. 1983)

Personal Property

Bible; schoolbooks; books to $500; pictures; clothing; church pew or seat; stoves with fuel to last 60 days; sewing machine; domestic animal with food to last 60 days, to $450; food to last 60 days; furniture; refrigerator; TV; radio; wedding ring; watch to $1,000; crockery, cooking utensils and tableware needed, to $5,000 total (with farm machinery, etc.)

 

Burial plot without structure

 

Cash, the lesser of either $2500, or an amount that, with annuity, totals $5000; in lieu of homestead

 

Health aids, including animals with food

 

Lost earnings recoveries needed for support

 

Motor vehicle to $4,000 and $10,000 for disabled person (husband and wife may double)

 

Personal injury recoveries to $7,500 (not to include pain and suffering)

 

Security deposits to landlord, utility company

 

Trust fund principal to 90% of income

 

Wrongful death recoveries for person you depended on, needed for support

5205(1)-(6), Debtor & Creditor 283(1)

 

5206(f)

 

Debtor & Creditor 283(2)

 

5205(h)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(3)(iv)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(1)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(3)(iii)

 

5205(g)

 

5205(c), (d)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(3)(ii)

Insurance

Annuity contract benefits due or prospectively due the debtor, who paid for the contract; if purchased within 6 months prior & not tax-deferred, only $5,000

 

Disability or illness benefits to $400 per month

 

Life insurance proceeds left at death with the insurance company pursuant to agreement, if clause prohibits proceeds from being used to pay beneficiary creditors

 

Life insurance proceeds and avails if the person effecting the policy is the spouse of the insured

Insurance 3212(d), Debtor & Creditor 283(1)

 

Insurance 3212(c)

 

Estates, Powers & Trusts7-1.5(a)(2)

 

Insurance 321(b)(2)

Miscellaneous

Alimony, child support needed for support

 

Property of business partnership

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(d)

 

Partnership 51

Pension

ERISA-qualified benefits needed for support, includes IRAs

 

IRAs needed for support

 

Keoghs needed for support

 

Public retirement benefits

 

State employees

 

Village police officers

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(e), 5205(c)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(e), 5205(c)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(e), 5205(c)

 

Insurance 4607

 

Retirement & Social Security 110

 

Unconsolidated 5711-o

Public Benefit

Aid to blind, aged, disabled, AFDC

 

Crime victim compensation

 

Home relief, local public assistance

 

Social security

 

Unemployment compensation

 

Veterans benefits

 

Workers compensation

Debtor &Creditor 282(2)(c)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(3)(i)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(a)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(a)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(a)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(b)

 

Debtor & Creditor 282(2)(c)

Tools of Trade

Farm machinery, team, food for 60 days, professional furniture, books & instruments to $600 total

 

Uniforms, medal, equipment, Emblem, horse, arms and sword of military member

5205(b)

 

5205(e)

Wages

90% of earnings from milk sales to milk dealers

 

90% of earned but unpaid wages received within 60 days prior (100% for a few militia members)

5205(f)

 

5205 (d) (e)

Wild Card

$1,000 if no homestead claim

 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Successfully Negotiating the Terms of Your New York City Divorce Settlement

In a recent blog post entry, our New York City divorce attorneys discussed the benefits of a negotiated divorce versus a litigated one. Choosing the former can save you and your spouse a great deal of time, money and emotional energy. 

That said, it doesn't mean the process won't be somewhat draining. After all, we're talking about a major life change for everyone involved. You may both recognize the split as something that is both necessary and ultimately positive. But that doesn't mean you won't at any point feel sad or overwhelmed or angry or have moments of doubt. 

A successfully negotiated divorce settlement doesn't mean that you deny your emotions or overlook your concerns. However, it does mean that you both need to be on the same page about the ultimate goal: An overall amicable separation that is fair and will leave you both in a better position to begin the newest chapter of your lives.

As you prepare to sit down face-to-face with your soon-to-be-ex to work through the details - whether in a collaborative divorce process  or through a mediator - there are some tips you may want to keep in mind that could ultimately bolster your success. 

The first of those is, as much as possible, avoid letting your emotions dictate the tone of the discussions. This does not mean you can't acknowledge what you feel or where it is you are coming from. However, keep in mind that the goal of these meetings is to reach a point where you can move forward. Laying bare every past iniquity is not going to get you there. Think of these meetings as a business transaction, which is what they ultimately are. You are trying to untangle the life you had with this person. This may inevitably dredge up some hard feelings. That's why seeking mental health counseling on the side can be an important part of the process. But understand that the purpose of divorce settlement negotiations is to outline the legal terms of dissolution. By maintaining as much of an emotional distance from the process as possible, you increase your effectiveness at the table. 

Secondly, we would suggest that both parties be open to compromise. Presumably, if you've opted for a negotiated divorce as opposed to a litigated one, you have both voiced the determination at the outset not to turn this into an epic battle. You may not be the best of friends, but you don't want to walk away hating each other either. To some extent, that may mean a willingness to let go. That doesn't have to mean anything extreme, such as giving up custody of your kids. However, it may mean being open to hearing your spouse out and truly considering their reason for asking for a concession. The hope is that he or she is going to then extend that same courtesy to you. In the end, this kind of cooperation is going to result in a plan you are both more likely to feel good about - or at least will be willing to accept. 

Finally, do not be afraid during the course of this process to take a break. If you are feeling overwhelmed, call a time-out. If you are not understanding all of the legal jargon that is being tossed back and forth, request some time to review it in greater detail and gain a better understanding of what it means to you. What's at stake here is the landscape of your future, so don't hesitate to take a breather if that is what you need to do. Recognize that one meeting may not be enough to resolve every difference. It may take several meetings before you reach a good place with it - and everyone involved should be understanding of that process.

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Divorce Confidential: How to Prepare for a Settlement Meeting, Oct. 31, 2013, By Caroline Choi, The Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Collaborative Divorce an Alternative for Amicable Exes, Oct. 11, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Choosing Between a Negotiated or Litigated Divorce

As many decisions as there are to make in beginning a marriage, there are equally as many in deciding the way you want to end it. 

Arguably, the latter has the potential to be more important. For example, choosing a negotiated Brooklyn divorce over a litigated divorce can result not only in saving  you both an inordinate amount of time and money, it is likely to leave you walking away from the table far more amicably than if you'd battled it out in court. In hindsight, that is almost certainly more valuable than who you ultimately hired as the wedding caterer or officiant. 

Our Brooklyn divorce attorneys know that a negotiated divorce often isn't without contentious issues to resolve. Rather, it means that you both decide the way you are going to resolve your differences isn't going to involve bitter, drawn-out fights that drag on for years, draining your finances, your emotions, the patience of your loved ones and the stability of your children. 

That said, we recognize that there won't be a one-size-fits-all approach for every couple. Thankfully, there are several options available for those who are looking for a more peaceful path. 

The first is a cooperative divorce. In a cooperative approach, you and your spouse are still each represented by your own lawyer. Through your attorneys, you and your spouse work through some of the touchier issues such as child custody and asset division, to reach amicable resolutions. These negotiations take place outside of a courtroom. There are a number of benefits to this approach. Because you are both still represented by attorneys, you ensure your legal rights are preserved. By keeping it out of the courtroom, you avoid extensive delays and an inherently adversarial approach. In a cooperative divorce, you are both on the same page about the end goal being working through differences to reach fair resolutions. 

The second option is a collaborative divorce. This is very similar to a cooperative divorce, except that in addition to your respective attorneys, there may be more professionals involved. It may cost a bit more (still less than a litigated divorce), but you will have the benefit of access to experienced financial planners and mental health professionals. This approach is much more comprehensive, and makes sure that the emotional and financial resources of your family are preserved throughout each phase of the process. 

And finally, your third option is mediation. This approach is a bit different from the first two in that you are both unrepresented by legal counsel. Instead, there is a neutral mediator who is there to help you and your spouse carve out a plan that is going to work for you. This is not for everyone, particularly if there are some serious points of contention between the two of you or if you have trouble effectively communicating with one another or if you feel your soon-to-be-ex may be manipulative or dishonest. You will lack the benefit of a legal professional who will act as your advocate and ensure your rights are protected. 

We strongly urge anyone considering divorce to least set up an initial consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer to help you carefully weigh the options. You don't have to make a commitment right away, but you should at least have the benefit of a professional opinion so you can make an informed decision about the best approach for your situation. 

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Divorce Confidential: Should I Negotiate or Litigate My Divorce? Sept. 25, 2013, By Caroline Choi, Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:

Informal, Long-Term Marital Separations Can be Risky, Oct. 23, 2013, Brooklyn Uncontested Divorce Lawyer Blog


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Uncovering Hidden Assets in a Brooklyn Divorce

We never want to believe that someone about whom we once cared could be so low as to work actively to deceive us. 

Of course, that's why so many marriages crumble in the first place, so it should come as no surprise when ex-spouses don't play fair when it comes to divorce. 

Our Brooklyn divorce attorneys know that while many soon-to-be-exes might be inclined to simply let go of any shared assets and liabilities just to be done with the whole thing, it's important that you fully understand what that's going to mean for your financial future and that of your kids. Making an informed decision is going to mean having a clear picture of everything that is on the table. 

Unfortunately, hidden assets can be a major problem between spouses, even those whose separations are relatively amicable. Assets that were acquired during marriage are, per New York law, subject to consideration and possibly division between the two spouses. Still, that doesn't stop some individuals from attempting to hoard certain valuables or conceal certain accounts. 

In most cases, an experienced divorce lawyer can help review the most common (and some of the not-so-common) ways exes try to conceal assets. 

Understand first that both you and your spouse will be required to submit a financial affidavit. This is a sworn legal document in which you attest to all of your assets and liabilities to the best of your knowledge. It's basically your word and your soon-to-be-ex's. As you may have learned in the breakdown of your marriage, that may not be solid enough evidence upon which to rely. 

Again, your attorney can help initiate a number of formal requests to determine whether there is anything that has been omitted or overlooked. 

The places where he or she will probably tell you to start will include: 

Your tax returns and 1099s. This will give you an idea of whether bank account interest and reported dividends in brokerage accounts have been disclosed. 

Look through public records to see whether there are any properties your spouse owns that he or she failed to reveal. 

Comb through pay stubs and compare them to bank statement deposits. This will give you an idea of whether there is money generated that is unaccounted for. Just as an example, if your spouse earns $15,000 a month, but yet only $8,000 of that is deposited into the bank account that was disclosed in the financial affidavit, there may well be bank accounts that are not disclosed. 

Compare payment receipts for all the major bills, including car loans, utilities, mortgages, credit cards, etc. If any of those bills are being paid through bank accounts that haven't been disclosed, that's a red flag that there are assets about which you haven't been told. 

Ask your attorney about issuing a subpoena to your spouse's employer in order to request any and all documentation relating to benefits, stock options, deferred compensation plans or retirements. Get the information directly from the source.

Use common sense. if your monthly expenses appear to exceed your spouse's monthly income, at least based on the papers you've received, there may well be another source of income or other hidden assets. 

Look closely at all financial statements on all bank accounts. If there are transfers that don't appear to make sense, press for more information about what those accounts are and where that money is going. 

Also take a close look at all credit card statements. You want to see if there have been any significant purchases of things like artwork or jewelry or other valuables that your spouse failed to disclose. 

Ask your lawyer about conducting a deposition with your spouse. Having him or her questioned under oath - where lying can carry a potential felony charge - can be an effective way to elicit information they may not have otherwise been eager to provide. All you're looking for are honest answers. Sometimes, you need a little more help than others in getting them. 

If you are contemplating a divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.


Additional Resources:

Discovering Hidden Assets: What Your Spouse Hasn't Disclosed During Your Divorce, Oct. 30, 2013, By Bonnie Sockel-Stone, Huffington Post

More Blog Entries:

Informal, Long-Term Marital Separations Can be Risky, Oct. 23, 2013, Brooklyn No-Fault Divorce Lawyer Blog


Monday, November 11, 2013

Bronx ACS Oversteps Its Boundaries for Many Families

The 10-year-old girl's mother thought she was doing the right thing when she revealed to her NYC ACS caseworker that she often felt frustrated with her daughter's tantrums. 

The girl had been diagnosed with ADHD. The agency had been involved with the mother due to the domestic violence she and her daughter had suffered at the hands of her former boyfriend. The agency was supposed to be providing "preventative services" to the mother and child. These would be things like assistance with counseling, transportation and  housing. She never dreamed that confiding in the child welfare worker would result in her daughter being taken from her. But it's been nearly five months now that her daughter has been in foster care, and her mother is still fighting to get her back. 

Our Bronx ACS lawyers recognize that this may be an all too common scenario. Case workers are trained to work closely with families in need. They gain the trust of the families with whom they work. The problem is that many of these caseworkers are often over-worked and underpaid. They don't always have the time or resources to launch a proper abuse or neglect investigation. But they don't want to be the one left holding the bag if something happens to the child. Believe it or not, it becomes easier to simply have the child removed. 

As was recently reported by Al Jazeera America, the majority of families ensnared in New York's Administration for Children's Services arm are economically disadvantaged minorities. In addition to being misunderstood by case workers, they can be targeted by vindictive exes, nosy neighbors or well-meaning but mistaken teachers. 

One option for children fighting to regain custody of their children is a program called the Child Welfare Organizing Project. It's a peer-to-peer guidance and counseling operation that offers an outlet for parents accused of neglect or abuse. Fellow graduates are then asked to attend the child safety conferences of their peers.

The program was founded in 2007 in Harlem. Records show that in looking at data from 2010 to 2012, those parents who were involved in CWOP lost custody of their children in 15.5 percent fewer cases. A similar program offered by the Center for Development and Family Services Inc. is available in the Bronx, Staten Island and Manhattan. 

What is likely to help to an even greater degree would be the involvement of a Bronx attorney experienced in handling ACS cases. While a parent peer advocate can attest to the judge your commitment to improved parenting, your attorney can aggressively challenge any unsubstantiated claims, request certain claims be returned unfounded and ask that your record be expunged. 

The good news is that the ACS workers have become less inclined than they were just a few decades ago to put children in foster care. Where there were 50,000 children from New York City in foster care back in the early 1990s, that figure is now down to about 12,100. 

Still, for those families embroiled in the system, it can have a profoundly damaging effect. 

We are dedicated to helping families reunite - and remain together. 

If you are the subject of an ACS investigation in the Bronx, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Can parents accused of neglect redeem one another? Oct. 9, 2013, By E. Tammy Kin, Al Jazeera America

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Child Custody and Abuse Claims: Proving Your Case, Sept. 18, 2013, Bronx ACS Lawyer Blog

 


Monday, November 11, 2013

What is a Green Card? How do I get a Green Card in New York?

Green Cards in New York

What are Green Cards?

A Green card,  known as Unite States Permanent Resident cards, are identification cards that indicate, though the person identified on the card is not a United States citizen, they are still authorized by law to live and work within the U.S. on a permanent basis. Many look at green cards as an important step towards someday becoming a full-fledged U.S. citizen.

Who can get a Card?

Family Members of U.S. Citizens

One of the most common ways for people to get a green card is for them to apply for it based on the citizenship of one of their family members. A person may be qualified to apply for a green card if they are:

  • An immediate relative of U.S. citizens such as spouses, children, and parents
  • A family member of a person who fits in to a “preference category” such as a brother and/or sister over 21 years of age, married children of any age, and unmarried sons/daughters over 21
  • Family members of green card holders

There are also a number of special categories that a person may belong to making them eligible for a green card. Many of these categories are tailored towards vulnerable persons who are or were related to a U.S. citizen and towards people who have suffered domestic abuse. These special categories have additional requirements on top of the basic green card qualifications and are more difficult to get.

People Offered Jobs within the U.S.

Certain jobs that are offered to non-citizens within the United States may help a person qualify for a green card. With the employer’s cooperation, non-citizens who are offered a permanent job within the U.S. can apply for a green card. The application process is sometimes burdensome for the employer, so it is important to make sure that you establish in advance that your employer is willing to work with you throughout the green card application process if you are offered a permanent job within the U.S. and are considering accepting it partly because you want a green card.

Also in the job-related category of green card candidates are those individuals who have a special skill set that is in high demand within the U.S. or those whose investment creates jobs within the U.S. Additionally, if a person interested in a green card has established himself as an Alien of extraordinary ability or has received a National Interest Waiver, he or she may also qualify for a green card.

People Granted Asylum or Refugee Status

People who have already been granted entrance to the United States based on their status as asylum-seekers or as refugees are eligible to apply for a green card after living in the U.S. for at least a year. People granted refugee status are known as refugees, while those who are granted asylum are known as asylees. The ability to apply for a green card after a year of residency within the U.S. may also extend to family members of asylees and refugees. It’s important to note that if you are allowed in to the U.S. as a refugee you must apply for permanent resident status after living in the U.S. for 1 year.

Other Ways to Become a Permanent Resident

There are a number of other ways to get a green card, but they are the exception rather than the rule when it comes to being granted a green card. Because family, asylum and refugee status may affect the success of a green card application, working with an experienced attorney is the best way to determine whether or not someone is qualified to apply for a green card in the United States. 


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Should I file for Custody and how do I win a custody battle?

Custody battles can be difficult to win and emotionally breaking.  Hiring an experienced child custody attorney is your best assurance of a positive outcome.  A NYC family law attorney can protect your legal rights, but it’s up to the client to take a few steps toward obtaining your goal.

Act First

Anytime a parent senses unusual tension between themselves and the other parent, talk to them about it and try to resolve it civilly.  If it appears that legal action must be implemented DO NOT wait until your ex-spouse hires a family custody lawyer and takes action first.  You need to take the first legal step and locate a New York custody attorney immediately to file a custody motion in the appropriate jurisdiction.  Parties attempting to save a little money and file paperwork on their own may end up making mistakes.  Individuals not familiar with the law unintentionally prolong the legal process.  For example, filing a Petition regarding custody at the wrong jurisdictional location can set a parent back months from obtaining custody of their child. 

Pay Child Support

During the early stages of a family separation child custody and child support are two legal issues most parents are concerned with.  Parents currently not living with their child and have no order of support against them are recommended to still pay something towards child support.  Always pay with a check or money order and never with cash.  Keep all receipts and a record of payments made for evidence.  Paying child support shows the court you truly have your child’s best interest in mind. 

No Arguing

Do not argue with the other parent, especially in front of your children.  New York family court judges look down on parents that cannot hold their temper and emotionally abuse their children.  Save all major conversations for a time when the children are not around, or handle those discussions over the telephone.  Anytime your ex-spouse wants to argue with you simply hang up and keep a record of the call.  This is evidence to protect you in case the other parent attempts to fabricate the truth during a custody action.

Keep Records

Always keep accurate and current records and receipts of child support payments, dates of each visit and activities with your children, receipts of gifts purchased, and a summary of conversations with your ex-spouse, along with the day and time.  Anytime you feel uneasy about a conversation let someone in your family know about it.  It’s helpful when another party is aware of the difficult time your ex-spouse is giving you during a legal battle. 

Contact Police

If after having a conversation with your ex-spouse you feel uneasy or if they have made threats towards you, contact the local police and make a report.  This is important not only for your safety, but it builds a history of harassment and threatening behavior against the other parent.  Not every time you contact the police will they be arrested, but obtaining a police report with the details of the incident is key evidence in any child custody case.  In serious cases the police will make an arrest and guide you on how to obtain a restraining order against the other parent.

Visit Children Often

One of the worst actions a parent can do during a child custody case is not visit their children and not show up for scheduled visits.  This hurts your children and shows the court you may not be serious about custody.  Your ex-spouse is keeping a record of each visit you miss and call you do not answer.  This will be used against you in court and is difficult to defend.  If you have to work and know in advance then simply call the other parent and reschedule as soon as you find out.  Then explain this to your children so they know it isn’t their fault.

Go To Court

Do not show up late when you appear at court.  Ensure you look in the mirror several times before leaving the house.  Showing up at court with ripped jeans or a work uniform on does not impress the judge.  Find your nicest suit and newest shoes.  If you do not have a suit then look for something in your closet that is clean, ironed, and without holes. 

A NYC family law attorney will explain the importance of all the steps written above.  Contact only an experienced custody lawyer in New York to handle the future of your family.  Attorney Gilmer of Brooklyn, NY ensures his client’s rights are protected and the best possible outcome is obtained.

 

George M. Gilmer, Esq.

26 Court Street

Brooklyn, New York 11242

718-864-2011


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