Divorce, Custody, Visitation & Support

 

 
 

 
Divorce
To most people Divorce is the second most stressful event they may ever experience, surpassed only by the loss of a loved one. That is because a divorce or separation often involves changes in a person's financial, social and psychological circumstances. It also requires making very difficult decisions that can affect, not just the individual, but his or her child or children as well.

Typical issues in a divorce usually concern matters related to property division and the distribution of assets; alimony/maitenance; the custody of the child or children, along with the rights of both parents to have parenting time (also referred to as visitation): and the amount (and provider) of child support that will be necessary to maintain that child's current standard of living.

We believe that an important component of representation for those going through a divorce is to have a split understanding of the legal processes involved and the issues that typically arise. Second, because many issues can become highly contentious, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who seeks to reach fair and amicable resolutions, but who can also litigate aggressively when necessary.

Finally, many of the concerns that come up in a divorce, may very well have to be re-visited when circumstances for either or both spouses, as well as their children change. Hence, the attorney client relationship may be a long one. For this reason it is critical to work with an attorney who fully understands your needs and goals.
Child Custody and Visitation
Matters of child custody are the most difficult challenges of divorce. Reaching an understanding as to the "best interests of the child" is not always easy. And individuals must weigh a myriad of competing concerns and emotions.

The most common types of custody arrangements are sale custody and joint custody with physical custody to one of the parents These arrangements are based on the "best interests of the child" and involve looking at the mental and physical health of all parties, the historical involvement of the two parents, the respective physical and emotional environments, as well as educational opportunities.

We believe our first obligation is to help our clients negotiate child custody arrangements without having to enter into litigation. Nobody wishes to see such arrangements determined by the Court. When they are, it is often a lengthy process, as the Court will have to understand many aspects of the child's life in order to make an informed decision.

Because child custody matters ultimately involve the well-being of a child, it is critical to work with an experienced lawyer who can resolve custody matters 'in a peaceful and timely manner, yet also knows when and how to take a more aggressive approach when absolutely necessary.
 
 
Child Support
The dissolving of a relationship should have no impact on the economic welfare of the child or children of that relationship regardless of whether the family income is high or low, whether the individual incomes of the spouses are similar or vary greatly, the child's lifestyle should not be unduly affected. Because the determination of child support is important for ensuring the future well-being of the child or children, it can often be a trigger for intense debate and force the couple to make some difficult decisions.

The determination of child support is largely based on New York's "Child Support Guidelines" which outline the factors used to establish the financial needs of the child as well as the ability of the parents to meet those needs. The criteria considered are the custody arrangement; age of the child; any special health, educational and/or emotional needs the child may have; as well as the child's current standard of living. Child support covers food, clothing and shelter and may also include other costs such as college expenses, health insurance and day care. We help our clients understand the "Child Support Guidelines" as more than just percentages and work with them to outline their needs, address their concerns and try and negotiate an agreement without going to court.

Taking matters to litigation is always a last resort. It is also critical to know that because the situation of a child or the parents may, and undoubtedly will change overtime, matters regarding child support will change as well. Therefore it is important to work with an attorney with whom you can establish a strong relationship, particularly for those times when issues of child support modifications or enforcement arise.
Maintenance
Maintenance, (spousal support, formerly referred to as Alimony is an amount of money to be paid from one spouse to another in order to enable both parties a reasonable lifestyle.

Maintenance is been based not on formula, but upon a series of factual considerations that include:
  • The standard of living and economic circumstances of each party
  • All sources of income and assets
  • Duration of income and assets
  • Parental responsibilities for the children
  • History of financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party
  • Tax considerations
  • The educational achievements of both spouses
Because of the court's wide-ranging latitude in determining maintenance, it is vitally important that individuals involved in a divorce or separation, work with an attorney who truly understand their unique circumstances.
 
 

Same Sex Relationships

With the passing of Civil Union Acts, various states have provided for same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Because the concerns that arise during the dissolution of a civil union are very similar to those that arise in a traditional divorce, the courts treat both similarly as well. Civil union partners have essentially the same rights and obligations as those in a traditional marriage. There are issues related to Equitable Distribution, including how to divide the assets and who assumes liability for debts. Civil unions also include an obligation to provide support for the other partner that parallels maintenance in a traditional divorce.

Despite the similarities between the dissolution of a marriage and that of a same-sex union, the ever-changing landscape of this segment of family law and the sensitive nature of such relationships suggest that one work with an attorney who has years of experience.