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Saturday, October 26, 2013

New York No-Fault Divorce In Its Third Year

This month marks the third year of  no-fault divorce in New York, marking the passage of historical legislation that made this state the last in the union to pass such a measure. 

The intent of the law is to make it easier for couples to divorce, without having to ascribe blame to one party or another. It's not been without its hitches. Ultimately, however, it's an option that many soon-to-be-former couples are embracing, as it is generally cheaper, faster and less contentious than a traditional split. 

While we don't have updated figures for 2013, we do know that the Business Review in Albany reported that in the first year since the passage of the law, divorce filings in New York spiked 8 percent, for a total of nearly 65,000 filings. Figures for 2012 surpassed that. 

Prior to the passage of this law, couples who wanted to dissolve their marriage in New York had to accuse the other of some egregious offense like cruelty, imprisonment, abandonment or adultery. Those who had simply fallen in love were forced to lie, a phenomenon referred to in the New York Times as "institutionalized perjury." Some spouses had to falsely testify to wrongdoing of the other just to make the proceedings final. 

The old law forced one spouse to legally take the blame in a case. It eliminated the possibility of mutual consent, of two people who had simply made the adult decision to move on. 

The only other alternative was to legally separate for at least one year. For many couples, that proved a unique hardship. 

In the end, legislators came to the conclusion that forcing one side to take the blame offered no advantage to either party. In fact, it usually ended up harming children, as it tended to escalate conflict within the proceedings. 

For most divorce-seeking couples, the law has generally worked as intended. However, issues have arisen. 

There had been an issue for a while with some judges who interpreted the law differently than others. In cases where couples had cited that the union was simply "irretrievably broken," some judges called for a jury trial. That meant that those in different jurisdictions were sometimes facing different standards than those in other areas of the state. It also meant that the process continued to be drawn out, despite the reform efforts. 

However, in June of last  year, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Laura Drager ruled that parties were not entitled to jury trials in these instances and that due process rights were not infringed upon in the event such a trial was not granted. 

A state assembly bill, A4269-2013, was introduced earlier this year that would have amended domestic relations law to exclude jury trials in no fault divorce actions. However, the bill has been sidelined in judiciary since February. 

In the meantime, there have been instances in which judges allowed some no-fault divorce claims to be contested, forcing parties to testify on the stand to a series of personal questions they likely hoped to avoid by filing a no-fault action in the first place. One example was a 79-year-old woman who was made to testify - for hours -  as to the length of time since she and her husband had engaged in sexual relations, why she was dissatisfied with his refusal to fix things around the house and his estrangement from their children. 

That's exactly the kind of thing legislators had hoped to avoid when they first passed the law.

To ensure your rights are protected, call us today.

If you are contemplating a  no-fault divorce in New York City, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Divorces Drag on Even After Reform, May 6, 2012, By Sophia Hollander, The Wall Street Journal

More Blog Entries:

Uncontested Divorce in Brooklyn With Children for Lowered Fee of $499, Sept. 24, 2013, Brooklyn No-Fault  Divorce Lawyer Blog


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Informal, Long-term Marital Separations Can be Risky

It's one thing in a marriage to take some time apart, re-evaluate your priorities and determine whether this is a union worth saving. 

It's quite another to spend years in a virtual legal limbo, working toward neither divorce nor reconciliation and with no clearly outlined definition for the support or care of children, property use or division or the management of debts and investments. 

Our Brooklyn divorce lawyers know that this is the scenario in which many couples find themselves, and it often results in unpleasant surprises. it's unfortunate because there are ways to legally protect yourself, even if neither of you is quite ready - financially or emotionally - for a divorce. 

One of the best options is a legal separation. This is not something that is required of couples prior to a divorce. Rather, it's a way for couples to sort out some of the details of living in two separate domiciles, while still technically remaining married. 

In New York, legal separations, unlike divorces, are not something the court grants. There are no applications and it's not something for which agreements are formally approved. Rather, a separation, much like a prenuptial agreement or a marital agreement, is a contract between you and your spouse. Ideally, this contract will spell out who is going to be responsible for paying which bills, where the children are going to live, whether one spouse will pay the other child support, what the visitation schedule is going to look like, what's going to happen to shared marital property - and really any other aspect you want to include. 

It is highly advisable that you have an attorney counseling you through this process, helping you draw up the language of the agreement and informing you of any aspects you may have overlooked. If an agreement is poorly-worded, it can have unexpected and sometimes serious consequences for both parties, especially in complicated cases. 

So why have a separation agreement at all? While we generally espouse the many benefits of a clean break through an uncontested divorce, that's not always ideal. In some cases, considerations like military benefits or health care insurance comes into play. Ending the marriage could mean leaving one spouse at an extreme disadvantage. 

Other times, there are religious reasons. Couples don't want to be together anymore, but their faith won't allow them to legally divorce. A separation agreement can be a compromise. 

In other cases, couples are simply unsure whether this is what they truly want. Rushing into a divorce isn't appealing. They both want time to sort through not only their finances, but their emotions as well. A legal separation can provide that opportunity. 

Where we see bigger problems is when couples separate without a legal separation agreement. We're not talking about a few weeks in a hotel after a major fight. We're talking about years of simply living apart, with no formal agreement to define the terms of that space. There are a number of issues that can arise.

First of all, you are in a position of having zero control over the handling of marital assets. You can't control what your spouse is spending, saving, investing or earning - and worse, you may have no real knowledge of it either. Being in the dark about financial decisions that directly affect you is never a good idea. Plus, the fact that you no longer share a residence means your spouse may have ample opportunity to hide certain assets. 

Secondly, you could be seriously impacted if your spouse moves out-of-state - or worse, out of the country. New York divorce laws may not be applicable if your spouse has established residency elsewhere. Understand that a lot of states have passed severe restrictions on things like alimony, which could significantly impact what you walk away with if your spouse chooses to file for divorce in his or her new home state. 

Consider also the possibility that you might meet someone new. Some people might see this as a positive. However, starting a relationship while you're still legally married and not legally separated is generally frowned upon in divorce court. It's only been three years since York became the last state in the country to pass a no-fault divorce law, meaning you don't have to offer up a reason for the split. However, that doesn't  mean infidelity won't factor into the ultimate divorce agreement. 

It's understandable that many couples approach divorce with trepidation. Separations agreements allow you to take your time, while still protecting yourself. 

If you are contemplating a Brooklyn separation agreement, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Putting Off Divorce? Ten Ways Long-term Separations Can Do Women More Harm Than Good, Oct. 3, 2013, By Jeff Landers, Forbes.com

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Family Law Attorneys Discuss Divorcing Like Adults, Oct. 6, 2013, Brooklyn Legal Separation Agreement Lawyer Blog

Friday, October 18, 2013

Brooklyn Cohabitation Agreements on Rise With Decline of Remarriage Rates

Increasingly, those who have been divorced or widowed are opting out of second or third marriages. 

However, that doesn't mean they are ending up alone. Instead, new analysis of federal data by USA Today indicates that more often, couples are opting for cohabitation. 

It's certainly understandable, particularly following a bad experience, that people would avoid taking another plunge. But that doesn't mean you can't put some legal protections in place that will help to shield both of you in the event of a nasty break-up. In Brooklyn, cohabitation agreements serve to outline both parties' rights, responsibilities and boundaries in the event of a death or break-up. 

Unlike a prenuptial agreement, there is no promise or expectation of marriage - and that is just fine for a growing number of couples. 

At the National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University, researchers say remarriage rates in the U.S. have plummeted by 40 percent over the last two decades. Researchers found that this was true regardless of age. 

The data compared remarriage date from 1990 with that in 2011. Back in 1990, 50 out of 1,000 divorced or widowed persons sought remarriage. By 2011, that figure reached 29 out every 1,000 divorced or widowed individuals. 

While researchers found that remarriage had become less popular for all ages, it was losing traction with those under the age of 35, where a 55 percent decline was noted among those 20 to 24. Those 25 to 34 saw a 40 percent drop. 

There are believed to be two major factors here: cohabitation and older age at the time of the first marriage. 

Today, the average age of a first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. That means that at the time of divorce or widowhood, they may be well into their 30s or 40s, and not eager to jump into a new marriage. 

Cohabitation is also a major factor. When we look at what cohabitation meant a generation ago, it was akin to "living in sin." That's not an attitude we see much anymore. 

Neither do LGBT relationships have the same kind of taboos associated with them that they did years ago. That has also played a role.

Census data from 2012 shows that there are approximately 7.8 million people cohabitating together, increasing from about 5 percent of couples in 1990 to nearly 12 percent in 2012. Of those, nearly 40 percent have been married before. 

A number of couples have cited concerns about whether it's possible to make a remarriage work. We do know that remarriages are more likely than even first marriages to end in divorce. That has people wary. 

First marriages have the advantage of allowing couples to define what marriage is to them, to establish an internal culture. Second marriages tend to be harder because, with children, parents area already deeply bonded and there is a rhythm, a routine and culture that is already established. For an outsider to come in is not impossible, but it's certainly tough. 

Still, that doesn't stop people from spending years if not decades or the rest of their lives living with their new loves. 

However, there is a common misconception that long-term cohabitation simplifies things. There is a belief that if things end, they won't need to involve lawyers or litigation or messiness. But the truth is, cohabitation, as opposed to marriage, reduces your legal rights under the law. If you share any property or debt or assets, dividing it up gets to be much tougher and, in some cases, less fair. 

This is where cohabitation agreements can be so valuable. They provide the protection, without the commitment. 

If you are interested in drafting a Brooklyn cohabitation agreement,, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Remarriage rate declining as more opt for cohabitation, Sept. 12, 2013, By Sharon Jayson, USA Today

More Blog Entries:

New York City Divorce Lesson's From a Billionaire's Split, Sept. 6, 2013, Brooklyn Cohabitation Agreement Lawyer Blog

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Affordable Care Act May Impact New York City Divorces

There are many reasons why people remain in marriages for years after they are no longer happy or fulfilled. 

Our New York City divorce lawyers know that not the least among these reasons are the financial implications of a separation. Implementation of the Affordable Care Act may mean a rise in divorce filings by those no longer dependent on a spouse for medical care. 

People recognize that it will be a struggle to go from two incomes to one. They may be forced to downsize and possibly rack up a fair amount of debt in the process. 

Adding to those financial concerns surrounding separation: Health care coverage. While it may seem on the surface a somewhat trivial reason to remain with someone for whom you no longer love, for many, this is a major deal. It's especially concerning for older women, who comprise the fastest-growing group of individuals filing for divorce.

We completely understand the hesitation. Let's say a woman has a disease or illness that would be considered a "pre-existing condition" were she to reapply for health care coverage with a new insurance firm - all but ensuring her rejection from the plan or, at best, sky-high premiums.  She knows that if she divorces her husband, she's going to lose coverage. This can be an especially compelling reason to stay, particularly if the condition is serious and requires expensive medications, treatments and follow-up care. 

There will likely be an option to obtain COBRA in the immediate aftermath, but that's going to be expensive and will probably only last for three years, at best. Their employer may not offer insurance or perhaps they aren't employed. 

Even those without a serious condition know that developing one or enduring an accident could leave them near bankruptcy without good insurance coverage. At the very least, they may have been faced with putting off retirement for several years.

In a lot of cases, this has had people waiting until they turn 65, and are therefore eligible for Medicare coverage, before they filed for divorce. The figure waiting it out a few more years is better than incurring massive amounts of debt, should a medical issue arise. 

Now enter the ACA, also known as "Obamacare," which just became available for sign-up Oct. 1. This federal law, in part, makes it illegal for insurance companies to deny a patient coverage based on a pre-existing condition. It puts coverage within reach of people who otherwise might never have been considered. 

In terms of divorce, it's one less thing for a divorcing party to be concerned with. The knowledge that you can get by on your own is powerful. This essentially improves the worst-case scenario and provides people with assurance that they can survive solo. 

On the flip side, we also expect that this may be used when it comes time to talk alimony. Help with health care coverage has long been a consideration when determining support payments. If one party is able to readily receive coverage, that might result in a strong argument for reduced support payments. So too would any potential government tax credit toward coverage, which many people are expected to receive. 

Of course, these kinds of issues can be quite complex and require careful consideration. Take the time to consult with an experienced divorce attorney before making any major decisions. 

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

Additional Resources:

Obamacare could ease divorce's financial sting, Sept. 25, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog

More Blog Entries:

Brooklyn Family Law Attorneys Discuss Divorcing Like Adults, Oct. 6, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog

Friday, October 11, 2013

Brooklyn Collaborative Divorce An Alternative for Amicable Exes

No where is it written that a divorce has to be contentious or bitter or a long, drawn-out process. 

And yet, our Brooklyn family law attorneys know that is the view that many have of it. That viewpoint stems from the fact that in a traditional divorce, your case goes through the courts. Litigation by its very nature is adversarial, pitting one side against another and often escalating disputes that might have otherwise been fairly easily resolved. 

Uncontested divorces tend to move the fastest through the system because both parties have agreed to the most or all of the terms before the paperwork is ever filed. 

That's not the only option. Collaborative divorce may be something you want to explore.

We recognize that there may be a few sticking points even in friendly splits. It may not be enough to drive you to duke it out for years in court, but you'd like to have it resolved before walking away nonetheless. 

For example, let's say you are parents and the issue is a certain holiday. One side of the family tends to have a rather large annual celebration, while the other's traditions are a little less concrete. The former feels like that should be "his" holiday with the children. The other is reluctant to give it up entirely. 

Going a more traditional route can mean this single issue could take months to resolve. You could go the mediation route, but then neither of you have the benefit of your own legal representation to ensure your interests are protected. This is where a collaborative divorce might come into play. 

It's a dispute resolution process through which both parties and their lawyers agree to commit themselves to resolving differences fairly, respectfully and without the threat of going to court. This is an especially attractive option for parents because of how contentious the court process can be. These are individuals who know they are going to have to be partners in parenting for many years to come. They don't want to lay the foundation for a pattern of ill-will and poor communication that will ultimately negatively affect their children. They see the value in learning to work together at the outset of this newly-single chapter of their lives. 

The collaborative process requires both parties to reveal all relevant information both transparently and voluntarily. Both parties agree to use joint outside experts to help with questions of valuation of assets, etc. Child custody issues are settled jointly, perhaps with some guidance from family counselors. There is also an overall agreement at the outset that efforts and skills are going to be focused on creative problem solving in order to reach results that are going to be mutually beneficial for all parties involved.

The goal is not revenge, but rather a way to formalize the divorce in a way that is equitable and fair and doesn't turn both parties into warring enemies. It also tends to be quite a bit cheaper than a traditional divorce. 

This is not an option for everyone. Deciding to go this route is not something you should do without first consulting with an experienced divorce lawyer regarding all of your options. You should be comfortable with the benefits as well as the potential consequences of such a process. 

If you have questions about how it works or whether this is an ideal option for you, contact us today. 

If you are contemplating a Brooklyn collaborative divorce, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Why a Collaborative Divorce Makes Financial Sense, Aug. 13, 2013, By Geoff Williams, U.S. News & World Report

More Blog Entries:

Uncontested Divorce in New York With Children for New Lowered Fee of $499, Sept. 24, 2013, Brooklyn Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Blog

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Brooklyn Family Law Attorneys Discuss Divorcing Like Adults

Divorce lawyers catering to A-list celebrities say the scene has become crazier than ever, with nasty allegations and drawn-out public battles. The same could easily be said of less high-profile couples.

Sure, the elements often leading to the breakdown of a marriage - infidelity, dishonesty, secrecy - have been around a very long time. But the kind of mudslinging that sometimes results from these break-ups is something that can often be avoided with professional legal help. Our Brooklyn uncontested divorce attorneys know that with social media, publicly bashing one's ex or damaging his or her digital profile has never been easier.

What few stop to consider is that even once you divorce, this person could still be in your life long-term, especially if you have children. That brings us to a core theme we try to drive home in these cases: If you can divorce like adults, not only will it save you time, aggravation and money, you will have an easier time transitioning to your new normal once the ink is dried on the divorce agreement.

Yes, life is going to be different. However, there is an inevitable and cumbersome burden that one carries for a long time after enduring an ugly divorce battle. But if you can work toward ending your marriage well - on a positive note, even - you will find your recovery time greatly expedited.

That's the central message in a new book by Los Angeles divorce lawyer Laura Wasser, who has represented individuals like Maria Shriver, Ashton Kutcher and Kim Kardashian. The title, "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way," sums up the point we try to drive home to our clients.

There is a misconception that divorce is supposed to be messy, that the two of you are supposed to be at odds. However, if you can take a step back, breathe and maybe even separate the emotional from the practical aspects, you may find the process much simpler, less wrenching - and far cheaper.

Wasser offers what we believe is excellent advice for those interested in attempting to pursue a no-contest divorce in New York.

First, understand that your marriage is a contract. Throughout the course of your life, it's not unheard of that the terms of the contract might change. Accept that almost nothing ever stays the same. When the terms of the contract change, so too does your obligation to honor it.

Accept too that above all else, divorce is a business transaction. Yes, there are emotions involved, but you shouldn't allow that to fuel your negotiations. Focus instead on what is ultimately going to be fair and best for your long-term emotional health and that of your kids.

A big part of that means keeping your feelings - and the gory details - to yourself. You may want to invest in a therapist if that helps you to work through it. But don't drag family members, mutual friends, children or Facebook acquaintances into the mix. It only serves to make everyone uncomfortable, you end up looking bad (even if you weren't in the wrong) and it may even harm your children's psych in the long-term.

And finally, if you can work through the process as you started the marriage - as part of a team - the outcome will likely be ultimately better for everyone. That could mean coming to an agreement about what assets to split, how to arrange the custody and who should pay for what financial obligations.

Once you've come to a place of agreement on some of the most contentious issues, an experienced divorce attorney can review those terms to ensure that both of you are being treated fairly and to help finalize the agreement.

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

Additional Resources:

Power 10: The Secrets of an A-List Divorce Attorney, Sept. 27, 2013, By Julie Earle-Levine, New York Times Magazine

More Blog Entries:

Uncontested Divorce in New York With Children for Lowered Fee of $499, Sept. 24, 2013, Brooklyn Divorce Lawyer Blog

Friday, October 4, 2013

Successful Brooklyn ACS Appeals Require Experienced Attorney Help

Recently chronicled in the New York Daily News was the reported neglect of an infant and toddler by a young single mother who was accused of leaving the children at home alone and in filthy conditions and in a room with freshly-smoked marijuana.

On the surface, our Brooklyn ACS appeal lawyers know that it sounds like an open-and-shut case. After all, no one would argue that it's acceptable to leave a 1- and 2-year-old at home alone for any length of time, and no one wants to think of infants being left in soiled clothing in close proximity to potentially dangerous drugs.

However, as in so many of these cases, the details that emerge begin to paint a picture that isn't quite so black-and-white.

In this case, it was a neighbor who alerted authorities after noting that an adult at the apartment had left without anyone appearing to be inside with the children. The neighbor peered into a window and saw the two children looking back at her, one inside a crib. They were alone.

Sheriff's deputies arrived and found the children alone, in conditions they described as "squalid." On the living room table, there was reportedly a half-smoked marijuana cigarette, next to a plate of spaghetti that had turned moldy. The children were found to be wearing garments that were soiled.

The mother returned soon after police arrived. She was reportedly surprised to learn that an 18-year-old she'd hired to babysit was not there. When authorities contacted the babysitter, she at first said she'd been to the house, but had left to go to the store for 30 minutes. She later changed her story and said she was never there at all, so it's not clear which version was true.

The mother lamented to a news crew, which she allowed to tour her home, that she had hired a babysitter, and therefore couldn't understand why authorities were charging her with neglect and had removed her children. She described her home as "a little messy." However, she said as a working single mother, housework sometimes took a backseat to other priorities. She said she was horrified to hear that the children had been left in dirty diapers and that the marijuana cigarette belonged to her boyfriend - the father of her children - who does not live there but occasionally visits.

When we begin to analyze the totality of the circumstances, again, it does not appear as initially presented. And this is why appeals of findings handed down by the Administration for Children's Services in Brooklyn are so important.

The agency is charged with the protection of children, and it's a responsibility that many of its workers take very seriously. However, these individuals tend to be overworked and underpaid. Judgments have to be made quickly, and workers will usually err on the side of caution. Under those circumstances, mistakes are inevitable. Parents are falsely accused and families are needlessly separated.

But you are not without recourse.

Appealing an ACS finding of neglect or abuse will start with a full consultation. Copies of the ACS records will be requested and reviewed by your attorney. At that point, a formal request is made to change the finding to unfounded (based on what is in the reports) and to have the record expunged. A legal brief may be submitted, detailing why an insufficient record exits for the finding that was ultimately reached. In some cases, a Fair Hearing will be set before an Administrative Law Judge. At that time, your lawyer will advocate for the dismissal of the case and the expungement or sealing of your records.

If you are seeking to appeal a Brooklyn ACS neglect or abuse finding, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Florida mom faces child neglect charges after children, aged 1 and 2, found dirty, alone with marijuana: police, Oct. 1, 2013, By Nina Golgowski, The New York Daily News

More Blog Entries:

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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New York City Divorce Over 50 Increasingly Common

There is an assumption that marriage gets easier the older you get or the longer you've been at it.

That simply isn't true.

Given that Americans are living longer lives, our New York City divorce lawyers know that more and more couples are reaching the conclusion that they simply aren't willing to settle at age 50, 60 or even 70 for a remaining lifetime of unhappiness. Nor should they.

Sociologists have coined the term "gray divorces," which have begun to proliferate as baby boomers age. It's not that these couples haven't tried. Some have been married decades. They may have adult children, shared property and an extensive social circle that they share. For some, they find their whole identity is wrapped up in who they were with their partner.

Splitting is not easy, but after many years of trying to resolve differences, parting ways can make the most sense.

It's still the case that the longer you are married, the lower your chance of divorce. But having many years of marriage behind you no longer completely insulates you from the risk.

Fifty years ago, the Census Bureau's American Community Survey reported that just 2.8 percent of Americans over the age of 50 were divorced. Fast-forward to 2000, and that figure has jumped to nearly 12 percent. Fast-forward to 2011, and that figure had reached 15.4 percent, with another 2.1 percent separated. Compare that to 13.5 percent of those over 50 who are widowed.

Overall, divorce rates have leveled off, and have even slightly declined over the last several years. But when we look at the subset of those over 50, divorce rates have doubled since 1990. That's according to recent census analysis by researchers at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. When you figure that half of those who are married are over the age of 50, that increase begins to look increasingly substantial.

In many cases, the divorces we're talking about refer to second and third marriages. These, statistically, are more prone to end before "Death Do Us Part."

The professors at Bowling Green say the rising divorce rates among older Americans can be expected to continue. One of the primary reasons has to do with the fact that many people expect a great deal out of marriage. When the union doesn't meet those expectations, people (and especially women) have more options. Women with more work experience and more financial independence don't have to resign themselves to a mediocre marriage. While there may still be some financial challenges, people are finding those challenges aren't so insurmountable that they aren't willing to scale them in order to attain true happiness.

Many longer marriages may have been dead a long time. However, people hung on for the sake of the children, their finances or other reasons. Now, the children are grown. The property may be paid off. Interests have significantly shifted. There is still much life left to live.

In these cases, the fact that these couples no longer share responsibility for minor children may make an uncontested divorce an attractive option. On the other hand, there may be a significant amount of property, retirement accounts, savings, debt and pensions that may require some additional careful legal review.

We recognize that moving on represents a major shift in your life. We're devoted to helping to make that transition as smooth and comfortable as possible.

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

Additional Resources:

Divorce After 50 Grows More Common, Sept. 20, 2013, By Sam Roberts, The New York Times

More Blog Entries:

Divorcing But Still in Business Together: Our Brooklyn Divorce Lawyers Weigh In, Sept. 13, 2013, New York City Divorce Lawyer Blog

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Uncontested Divorce in New York with Children for Lowered Fee of $499

Divorce may not be pleasant, but it doesn't have to be pricey.

There is a misconception that if you hire an experienced Brooklyn divorce attorney, you're in for a long, protracted war - and that it will cost you doubly if you have children. This notion is what pushes many people into "do-it-yourself" territory, which, unbeknownst to many people may in fact end up costing you more in the long run.

Here's the truth of the matter: Our offices can help you secure an uncontested divorce - with children - for $499 plus court filing fees. That works out to a total of $850. For another $200, you can have the process expedited to completion within a 30-day window. Help with uncontested property division starts at $250.

We understand that not all splits are acrimonious. However, the litigation process is set up to be adversarial, pitting one side against the other. Especially when families with children are involved, a drawn-out divorce is difficult not only for the couple, but the children as well. No one wants that.

When you both agree ahead of time on the key points of contention (child custody arrangements, property division, alimony support), finalizing the process and making it legal does not need to be a further drain on your emotions - or your finances.

On the other hand, keep in mind that a do-it-yourself divorce is often fraught with potential perils that may not only leave you thoroughly unsatisfied, but potentially in need of returning to court. In these "do-over" cases, securing an attorney is advisable. Ultimately, you end up paying twice.

It's true that you can fairly easily find cheap services offering "DIY divorce packages" for even less than what our firm advertises. However, what you're going to find with these types of operations is that you aren't getting any legal advice or review. Oftentimes, there may not even be a single lawyer working at these companies. For those getting a divorce, this is generally not a good idea, no matter how uncomplicated your situation. At a minimum, you want an attorney whom you can trust to review the details of your case and ensure that all necessary financial disclosures are made. And to make sure you aren't setting yourself up for a serious financial pitfall or custody arrangement that is ultimately going to be unsatisfying or potentially even unworkable.

We recognize that more people are going to be looking into these types of services as funding for legal aide has significantly dwindled in recent years. In some areas of the state, low-cost legal aide may only be available in cases of documented domestic violence. Some offices have been forced to take on roughly 40 percent fewer pro bono clients overall, even reducing the number of domestic violence victims they can assist. But using legal aide assistance, of course, assumes you qualify financially in the first place. Many people do not.

That doesn't mean you can't end your marriage in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost.

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

Additional Resources:

Contested versus Uncontested Divorce, Brooklyn Divorce Attorney, 2013, Gilmerlegal.com

More Blog Entries:

 Brooklyn Divorce Lawyers Know Uncontested Divorce Not "Nasty," "Expensive," Sept. 18, 2013, Brooklyn Divorce Lawyer Blog

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Brooklyn Child Custody and Abuse Claims: Proving Your Case

The damaging consequences of child abuse and neglect serve not only to reshape a child's brain, but can in fact last a lifetime.

That's according to research from the national Academy of Sciences in the first major study on child abuse and neglect to be conducted in the last two decades.

Our Brooklyn family law attorneys know there is nothing more important than the safety and well-being of our children. We are dedicated to fighting aggressively for their placement with a safe guardian, as well as shielding them from maliciously false claims from those seeking vengeance on adult parties to the case.

We know that in many of these cases, parent who are fighting to protect their children from abuse have also been victims of the abuser. Some may continue to suffer that to an extent, even as they are trying to break free. Children are sometimes used by an abuser as a pawn in these situations, making a clean break difficult.

Though the cycle of abuse is complex, it is not impossible to break. Ending it is critical for your own safety, as well as that of your children.

According to the NAS research, the untreated effects of child abuse and neglect can have a profound influence on both the physical and mental health of a child in the long-term. He or she may suffer an inability to control their impulses and emotions. Their academic achievements tend to be sub-par and the relationships they form as adults tend to be quite troubled.

The authors say estimate that the national cost of child abuse and neglect is roughly $80 billion annually, encompassing costs for hospitalization, law enforcement, social services, juvenile and adult criminal justice and lost work productivity.

That's not to say that these effects are inevitable or that some can't be reversed. However, the longer the abuse is allowed to go unabated, the more likely that these ill effects will plague the child in the future.

Once you have decided to act to gain sole custody, you will want to consult with a lawyer as well as social service professionals to determine whether there are immediate safety concerns that must be addressed before you can move forward. Once you and your child are in a safe and secure location, we will help you put in motion proceedings that will help ensure your continued protection.

In almost every case of suspected abuse or neglect, either the state's Administration for Child Services or the Child Protection Services will launch an investigation. All abuse and neglect cases are heard by a family court judge. There won't be any trial-by-jury, except in cases where concurrent criminal charges have been filed against the abuser. That action will occur separate from the family court case, though the outcome may influence the family law judge's ultimate determination.

If either the ACS or CPS determines the child is in imminent risk of danger, the social workers have the authority to remove the child from that risk, even without a court order. The alleged abuser will be entitled to an emergency hearing at that point, if he or she wishes to fight to keep the child in the home.

That emergency hearing must be held within three days. At that point, it will be up to ACS or CPS to prove that the child is at risk of harm. Evidence that might be considered would include reports from law enforcement, health care professionals, school officials and relatives and/or other witnesses.

Whatever determination is made from there, the accused will have a number of other opportunities with which to fight the child's removal, though the process may be arduous and extensive. Again, we are committed to ensuring that your child is in a safe, loving environment, surrounded by people who will allow them to heal and successfully move past their ordeal.

To speak with a Brooklyn family law attorney, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

New Report: effects of child abuse and neglect, if untreated, can last a lifetime, Sept. 13, 2013, Staff Report, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:

New York City Divorce Lessons From a Billionaire's Split, Sept. 6, 2013, Brooklyn Family Law Attorney Blog

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Brooklyn Divorce Lawyers Know Uncontested Divorce Not "Nasty," "Expensive"

A recent article published by the Staten Island Advance proclaimed that however long, arduous and costly you are anticipating your divorce might be, go ahead and assume that it will be much worse.

Our Brooklyn uncontested divorce lawyers know that, of course, few would consider the process enjoyable. After all, very few expected this is where they would be when they made their vows. However, that is no reason that the entire experience has to be miserable or crazy expensive - particularly if you are seeking an uncontested split.

Uncontested divorces are those in which couples agree to all the terms, including child custody and division of assets. Therapists indicated that this was more the exception than the rule, but we would disagree. Most couples don't want a long, drawn out affair. They know when it's over. They want to move on. 

The system of divorce litigation in New York, as it is set up, is an adversarial one. However, there are ways that couples who are for the most part amicably parting ways can avoid a messy case. 

There is first of all mediation. This is where couples work through a single mediator outside the courtroom to help them sort through any outstanding issues before formalizing their split.

Alternatively, there is the option of a collaborative law divorce. This is a process whereby each party in the divorce is represented by a specially-trained attorney. Both parties sit down together, face-to-face, to identify which issued need to be addressed and resolved so that they can move forward with a divorce. If at any point, one party decides he or she wishes to litigate, the collaborative process ends and the case goes to court.

We tend to recommend the collaborative law approach because while it still represents cooperation, both sides are fully represented by a legal professional who is committed to ensuring each spouse's rights and interests are protected.

There are cases in which litigation may be the preferred route, for a number of reasons. However, bear in mind that while some parties who pursue this path are doing so because they are dedicated to the cause of justice, others are righting some perceived transgression or are just out to have their day in court.

But only about 5 percent of divorce cases are actually going to end up in trial. In the meantime, those who are waging a bitter war might expect it to last for months or possibly even years. The national average cost for a contested divorce is about $15,000.

You must consider what you are gaining by fighting. In some cases, the battle is worth it. In others, it may be best to simply cut your losses, tie up the loose ends and move one.

Keep in mind that once you are separated, the Institute for American Values estimates that your family income would need to expand by about 30 percent in order to maintain your current standard of living. For most people, expanding their income by a third simply isn't an option, unless they are remarrying right away. That means most former spouses are going to have to make some tough budgetary decisions in order to avoid severe debt. Opting for an uncontested divorce is one way you can start on good financial footing.

If you are contemplating an uncontested divorce in Brooklyn, call our offices at (718) 864-2011.

Additional Resources:

Divorce experts brace Staten Islanders for a nasty, expensive process, Sept. 3, 2013, By Elise G. McIntosh, Staten Island Advance

More Blog Entries:

Divorcing But Still in Business Together: Our Brooklyn Divorce Lawyers Weigh In, Sept. 13, 2013, Brooklyn Uncontested Divorce Lawyer Blog

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| Phone: 718-864-2011

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