Articles Posted in Family Law

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Wendi Deng, who has been wedded 14 years to media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, was reportedly surprised when she returned to their home in New York to learn that her husband had served her with divorce papers.
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Rupert’s third wife and mother of his two youngest children was reportedly eager to immediately secure a skilled New York family law attorney. By default, she went with the same attorney who had advised her in the prenuptial agreement more than a dozen years earlier.

However, Deng has since switched attorneys after interviewing eight total, causing some to speculate that the divorce was about to take an acrimonious turn. Certainly, this is sometimes what such a change can mean.

Other, it can mean that a conflict of interest has arisen. That appears to be the case here, according to news outlets citing sources close to Deng. While her original attorney had advised her in signing the premarital agreement, that attorney had subsequently become a friend of the family’s. In this case, Deng reportedly felt it was too great a conflict of interest, and wanted a lawyer who could offer more independent counsel. Regardless of the back story, this makes sense at face value as the legitimacy of the prenuptial agreement could well become an issue in the divorce. This is why criminal appeals are typically handled by a different attorney — who then argues ineffective assistance of counsel at trial.

Although the wealthy couple had signed both prenuptial and two post-nuptial agreements, spelling out many of the specifics regarding division of assets in the event of a divorce, there are still many aspects of the separation are uncertain.

For example, one area of possible contention that was not addressed (and rarely is) in any of the previous agreements is that of child custody and child support. The couple has two daughters, ages 11 and 9. Prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements that pre-determine custody and support aren’t binding in court, which is why they aren’t typically included. Many times in divorce negotiations involving wealthier couples, this can be used as leverage by the less wealthy party to alter other aspects of the agreement that might have been less favorable.

Another possible reason that Deng may have chose to switch was that a family law attorney who may be well-versed in advising prenuptial agreements may not be the best to handle a contentious custody battle.

Not many people have the kind of financial options Deng does in this situation (and few have as much at stake). But some of these lessons are still relevant.

While we understand that divorce is often an emotional roller coaster, you don’t want to make any hard-and-fast decisions about when to pull the plug on your relationship with your attorney. Not every decision will go your way, regardless of how good your lawyer.

That said, there may come a point when making a change is necessary. Some possible indications of that may be:

  • He also represents your ex. Sometimes, spouses assume that because they can’t afford an attorney of the same caliber as their ex, sharing one will be a better option. It’s usually not. Having someone to solely look out for your interests in these matters is almost always preferable.
  • You aren’t able to communicate well. Effective communication is key to any relationship. If you feel you aren’t being heard, it may be time to hang it up.
  • Speaking of hanging it up, if your attorney doesn’t answer your calls or isn’t otherwise responsive to your concerns, you may need to find a new one. Everyone gets busy. But if you don’t hear back within a day or two, you probably need to search for someone who is more available.

While you don’t want to wait to long before hiring a divorce lawyer, staying with wrong one can cause you even greater headaches in the long-term.
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A new report recently released by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement indicates that nearly $110 billion in back child support is owed across the country. holdmyhand.jpg

Our New York City child support attorneys understand that about half of that is to taxpayers who support children who rely on public assistance.

Specifically in New York City, statistics show some $731 million in support from deadbeat parents was collected last year. That’s actually a substantial increase from where we were a decade ago. Before that, it was $700 million, and it’s a roughly 50 percent increase from the support collected back in 2002.

One could argue that the city is getting better at getting deadbeat parents to pay up. But it may also have something to do with the fact that more custodial parents are pressing the issue of support, which is going to inflate those figures.

The aid collected last year by the city’s Office of Child Enforcement breaks down to about $4,000 per family.

But part of what that report doesn’t say is that the process for collecting child support can be arduous, especially when you’re trying to do it on your own without the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.

Representatives from the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have been quoted as saying that it’s one thing to win a judgment for enforcement. These matters are fairly straightforward once you establish paternity or parentage, and then calculate incomes and factor in the number of children. However, it’s enforcement that becomes a problem.

In New York, the process is overseen by the Office of Temporary and Disability
Assistance, Division of Child Support Enforcement. Ultimately, it’s headed by the governor. This body has the legislative authority to collect overdue support through a variety of methods, including:

  • Submitting paperwork to the major consumer credit reporting agencies that will impact the non-custodial parent’s credit score, and therefore ability to make large purchases;
  • Interception of tax refunds;
  • Work to seize financial assets and property in order to satisfy the overdue support;
  • Suspend a driver’s license;
  • Deny a passport;
  • Enact property liens;
  • Apply penalties through tax collection.

Of course, all of this takes time. An experienced family lawyer can help you navigate a difficult process, and often can help expedite it by filing the proper forms and paperwork in a timely manner to the correct agency. Just like government support agencies, private attorneys can work to obtain license suspensions, garnish incomes, place liens on property and even file charges for contempt of court – and we can do it faster because we aren’t dealing with the same level of backlog as the government.

It’s estimated by the federal child support collection office that while 60 percent of all child support does get paid in full and at least 70 percent of custodial parents do receive at least some measure of support, some 11 percent of deadbeat parents owe nearly 55 percent of the outstanding support. These are the chronic abusers of the system, and in these cases, you need more help.

We do understand that parents who are relying on child support payments – and aren’t getting it – may struggle with the question of whether to hire an attorney to help. But when you’re desperate for payment, often hiring an attorney can be the best way to get the help you need.
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A dispute involving the family of the late Gil Scott-Heron, a Grammy award-winning musician and poet, entails numerous allegations of illegal actions in an effort to seize control of his multimillion dollar estate.

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While most family estate disputes in Great Neck don’t involve famous singer-songwriters, bitter accusations can quickly dissolve relationships, as well as any chance of peacefully resolving the issues at hand. This is why it is important to have a New York family law attorney at your side.

In this case, reports the

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While we’re at the tail end of the holiday season, emotions can still run high because of the recent loss of a loved one or because of loneliness or economic troubles brought on by the recession. For those going through a New York divorce, the frustration can be even worse.

As we wind down 2011, whether celebrity or everyday citizen, divorce can be traumatic. We have seen celebrity splits in recent months of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, and Kobe Bryant and his wife. Those are only a few examples compared to the many “real-life couples” who have drifted apart in recent years, ending in a 2011 divorce filing.
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While divorce can be an emotional roller coaster, it doesn’t have to be all bad. Preparation is key and attempting to have an amicable break-up can go a long way toward helping each spouse heal. When children are involved, that’s an additional element that must be considered in an effort for everything to work out over time.

A recent article in Lifegoesstrong.com looks at tips to help those who are going through a divorce at this time of year, when companies tell us to be jolly, lights are bright and families plan annual gatherings.

Charity begins at home: If you and your ex aren’t amicable, try to be during the holidays. Children are aware of the family’s split and talking bad about your ex to your children can cause deep roots.

Try to celebrate as a family: Try to provide a sense of continuity, for the children’s sake.

If possible, still give gifts as mom and dad: It reinforces the idea that you’re still a family, even if you’re split up.

Gifts for the kids: Communicate about gifts so there is no double-dipping, which can lead to a tug-of-war for attention.

Avoid gift guilt: Don’t spoil your children with gifts because you feel bad about the divorce. No expensive gift is going to change the fact that their world has been turned upside down.

Keep your emotions in check: The holidays can bring up bad memories and create emotion issues. Don’t engage with your children or ex in that state.

Separate holidays and the divorce: Don’t use holiday down time to hash out money issues, custody or other issues. Keep the holidays simple and keep the divorce proceedings or issues thereof separate.

Bad surprises: You may find out your ex has a new car, a new mate or your former in-laws are talking bad about you. Don’t take it out on your kids and try to shelter them by not bringing it up in front of them.

Emotions will run high: You may think you have it together, but you will stumble. Be prepared and take it in stride. It will happen.

Take a break: Use any downtime you have to relax and rejuvenate.

These are only tips and they may not completely apply to your situation, but they may help. If you are considering divorce, consult with an experienced Great Neck family law attorney who can help make the transition as smooth as possible.
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The recent breakups of long-time married couples Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Al and Tipper Gore show that even long-term divorces can have painful breakups.

Divorce in Great Neck remains a difficult decision, as many spouses, after months or even decades of marriage, decide to split up. For those who are deep-rooted in their marriages to those who realize quickly they have made a major mistake, divorce can still be painful.
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The Wall Street Journal recently provided some tips to those who, later in life, have broken up and are preparing for divorce. For the younger couple, this advice isn’t quite as useful, as they likely don’t have years of built-up equity in a house, children to provide college money for, retirement plans and even a family business with which to deal.

The division of assets can be particularly difficult and contentious because each side feels responsible for accruing the assets — whether a house, money, built-up savings accounts or investments.

“As years go by and they get close to retirement age, where they have to be near one another more, one of them realizes they don’t want to live the rest of their life in this manner,” said a divorce lawyer who has seen an increase in older divorcees.

One of the bigger issues of divorcing late in life and after years of marriage is the inability or tough position of finding work to recoup lost money and a new lifestyle. The earning capacity of someone in their 60s can be much different than someone in their 30s.

Below are some key assets that a long-married couple may have to split upon divorce and how best to handle:

The house: At one time, couples wrestled over who got to keep the house because it was a good investment and could end up being profitable for whichever spouse got to stay. Now it’s an albatross, the news article states, because of upside down values, the possibility of a long stay on the market and its ongoing expenses.

A retirement plan: Besides a house, the biggest asset for many couples is the retirement plan. Retirement accounts, 401(k) accounts and pensions are usually established in one person’s name, but could be considered marital property if the money was earned while the couple was married. New York is one of 41 “equitable distribution” states, where spouses have a right to claim a portion. Specifying the specific retirement plan in a qualified domestic relations order is important.

The family business: Many couples have worked years to build up a small business. But a divorce can not only rip apart the family, but also the business.
Perhaps a “post-nuptial” agreement should be considered to spell out what happens to the business in death or divorce. While these agreements can be tough to discuss, they are recognized in most states and are essential to protecting the business.
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Divorce in New York can be a painful experience, but with New York’s law change that no longer requires couples who want to split to prove why, legal separations have increased, the New York Post reports.

The newspaper reports that divorce filings are up 12 percent since last October, when the state adopted no-fault separations, which allow couples to split without having to prove why. There were 37,015 divorce filings statewide from October 2010 through May, compared to 33,160 in the same time frame a year ago.
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Under New York’s former system, husbands and wives had to prove grounds for dissolving the marriage by providing embarrassing — and often false — testimony.

“The Ten Commandments say, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery,’ ” Woody Allen once quipped. “But New York state says you have to.”

Attorneys believe the process is now much easier and less expensive to couples because attorneys no longer have to spend time deciding with clients which option to choose for why the marriage should be dissolved — whether adultery, cruelty or refusal of sex for more than a year — was to blame for the breakup.

Along with the rule change that no longer requires a reason for the split, the state put into effect a rule in October that the wealthier spouse pay the attorneys fees. That has led to an increase in filings as well.

According to statistics by the New York State Department of Health, divorces overall statewide were on a steep decline in the last five years leading up to 2009, the most recent statistics available:

2009: 50,310 2008: 53,166 2007: 55,243 2006: 59,928 2005: 59,479
Most people would likely attribute those statistics to the economy. Many people were forced to live together because of financial reasons in order to continue paying rent and keeping up with the rising cost of living expenses.

Divorce can be an emotional process and can leave emotional scars and create baggage that can take years to resolve. It’s an already difficult decision often because of years invested with another person.

Issues relating to child custody, child support, alimony, division of assets and debts and how to avoid costly taxes in a divorce are all factors that an experienced Great Neck divorce lawyer will be able to sort out.

The law change, if it makes the divorce process easier, will be beneficial to those couples who no longer believe their marriage works. Not having to bring up years-old, personal secrets about their lives is less intrusive. While some believe that divorce is far too easy and people aren’t willing to stick it out to see if it works, there are often examples of times when a couple simply must break up, whether because of abuse, infidelity, dishonesty or other reasons.

A New York City divorce attorney can work to eliminate the emotion, protect the future financial stability of the client and see that the process is as painless as possible for those going through the split.
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A recent column posted on townhall.com suggests that shared parenthood is the new trend taking over child custody battles in New York divorce cases.

Family law can be an emotional area in the justice system because it involves those closest to us. Chief among family law issues is divorce. These matters must be handled carefully in order to minimize the amount of stress and emotional turmoil these cases can cause all while making sure the future financial stability of the spouse is protected.
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In the article, the columnist points out that while there are more divorces now than ever and the dynamic of the family has changed, with women working and building careers and some men taking a more active role at home.

In years past, it was standard for men to have to pay significant amounts of child support, sometimes on top of alimony. Being late on a payment meant the father was a “deadbeat dad” and often was sent to jail for non-payment, despite a possible job loss or outside circumstance.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 83 percent of custodial parents are mothers, a figure that has gone unchanged since 1994. And some believe children can develop parental alienation syndrome — a dislike of one parent usually brought on by the custodial parent after a divorce.

But advocacy groups, typically those representing fathers, have fought to make shared parenting an option in divorces in states throughout the country. Shared parenting means just that — the child or children live equally with each parent rather than a once-a-weekend or once-every-other-week arrangement.

Below are some questions and answers regarding child custody and visitation in New York by the New York State Unified Court System:

Q. What is custody?
A. There are two types of custody. One is legal custody — the right and responsibility to make decisions for a child and the other is residential or physical custody — where a child will live.

Q. In awarding custody, do New York courts favor one parent over another?
A. No. The law says a custody award is based on what’s best for the child.

Q. What do courts think about when they decide what’s best for a child?
A. Many things, including:

•which parent has been the main care giver •the parenting skills of each parent, their strengths and weaknesses •the mental and physical health of the mother and father •domestic violence in the family •work schedules and child care plans of each parent •the child’s relationships with the rest of the family •what the child wants, depending on the age of the child •each parent’s ability to cooperate with the other parent
Q. If one parent has sole custody, can the other parent visit the child?
A. The courts generally want children to have a relationship with both parents.

Q. What kind of visits are there?
A. Visits can be unsupervised, supervised, or therapeutically supervised. They may involve a neutral site or monitored exchange:

•Supervised Visits: A parent can’t be alone with the child. The court will choose someone to supervise the visits if there are concerns about a parent’s ability to act properly.
•Therapeutic Supervised Visits: A mental health professional supervises the visits and can try during the visits to improve the parenting skills of the parent.
•Neutral Place of Exchange: A safe location where a child goes from one parent to the other for visitation.
•Monitored Transition: A third person is present when the child goes from one parent to the other for visitation.
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