A Court’s Notice-Do you need a lawyer?

A Court recently sent a letter to party without a lawyer…

I want you to be sure you understand the dangers and disadvantages of giving up your fundamental right to counsel in these proceedings. Amoung other things, you should be aware that if you choose to represent yourself in these proceedings:


  1.  You will receive no advantage or assistance from the Court, which is the impartial arbiter of the dispute in this case;
  2. The Court is not able to assist you in these proceedings, is not able to give you legal advice and no one will go easy on you because you are not a lawyer;
  3. You will be held to the same legal standards as a lawyer, despite your lack of legal education;
  4. You will be expected to present direct evidence and explore the testimony of opposing witnesses on cross-examination;
  5. You will be expected to make appropriate objections to the testimony or documents of the opposing side when there is a basis to do so;
  6. You risk not being able to introduce evidence because of the ignorance of the rules of evidence;
  7. You may be required to prepare and issue your own subpoenas for the production of witnesses and documents for trial and
  8. Some areas of the law are very complicated and that not even a lawyer should represent himself or herself in Court.

Remember what is at stake when you choose to go without a lawyer.

Do You Need to Hire a Divorce Lawyer?

When You Do – and Do Not – Need a Divorce Lawyer

Do you need to hire a divorce attorney?

Divorce Signpost Meaning Custody Split Assets And Lawyers

Whether or not you should hire a divorce lawyer depends on many different factors – including the value of your property and how cooperative both of you are capable of being.

On TV and in the movies, divorce usually involves both parties and their lawyers slugging it out or settling things in court. This does not have to be the case. The details of every divorce case are different. Depending on your unique situation, you may or may not need to hire a divorce lawyer.

Should You Hire a Divorce Lawyer? Extremely short-term marriage, no children and no assets. 

If you have been married less that two years and have no children together, no property, no financial investments or accounts or other assets acquired during the marriage, you can try the do-it-yourself packets provided by the Office of Court Administration.  Notice I said Office of Court Administration and not some online store. New York State is very specific about what forms need to be used.  Do not waste money on a legal online purchase that you may not be able to use.  Also, note:  the packet does not give any legal advice and no person associated with providing the packet does either.

Should You Hire a Divorce Lawyer? Just because you think your divorce is uncontested doesn’t mean you don’t need to hire an attorney.

Remember in New York State even uncontested divorces require a lawsuit. There is no piece of paper you sign and are divorced.  You are required to follow all of the rules that all other lawsuits follow for preparation and filing of documents and service of documents.

Your divorce does not come with a do-over-clause, so if you forget something or change your mind or didn’t understand something-YOU ARE OFTEN STUCK WITH THE TERMS OF YOUR DIVORCE.

How do you know you have explored all of your options or are choosing what is best for you or your family long term.  Do you really know what you are entitled to or better yet what you will need in the future.  Remember you don’t know what you don’t know.

When You May Need to Hire a Divorce Lawyer

There are a few additional situations in which you should hire a divorce lawyer. These situations can occur whether or not your divorce is contested or uncontested:

You and your spouse have high-value assets that must be divided;

There are children from your marriage to your spouse;

You or your spouse owns a business; or

Your spouse has hired an attorney.

If your spouse hires an attorney, you should also seriously consider hiring an attorney to avoid any disadvantage. In addition, if you and your spouse do not have a good relationship and you think there is a possibility that an uncontested divorce can quickly develop into a series of difficult issues, it is a good idea to talk to an attorney.

Stacey A. Balduf, Esq.  has practiced law since 1987, with an emphasis on representing clients in family law matters including contested custody disputes and divorce matters.

Courts and the Covid Vaccine for Kids

There is a rise here in Central New York of court cases whose central issue is the dispute over whether to allow kids to be vaccinated against Covid.  Not surprising parents who do not get along over the simpler things like whether or not to play soccer or take allergy medicine are not likely to agree on whether to have their children get the Covid vaccine.

What do you do when parents can’t decide?  The answer for many is go to Court.  I believe it is important regardless of which position you take to remember that the kids are the ones in the middle and how this matter is handled and proceeds is as important as the outcome.

If you choose to have the legal system assist you I can’t stress strongly enough to pick an experienced and compassionate family law attorney, who will not only be able to make your legal case but help you navagatie the lasting affect this will have on your kids.

To read further please check on the story link here She wanted to vaccinate their kids against COVID a Court had to decide. (Although not a NY case it gives insight to what is taking place here as well). https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2022/05/01/1091495933/divorced-parents-vaccination

A Good Day

Some days as a matrimonial and family law attorney we struggle with why we have picked this area of practice.  Clients and members of the bar often agree that the “system” is broken or unfair.  We spend a great deal of time, if we actually care about our clients, telling them things they don’t want to hear because we cannot change that same “system”. 

HOWEVER TODAY, is one of the reasons I do what I do.  A client who thought hard about changing lawyers stayed with me all the way to the end and followed my advice and today’s court outcome went really well. She even asked if she could give me a “hug”!!!

Later today, a client who wanted to drop her case and give up, (I talked her out of it), actually thanked me after our court appearance/hearing today.

Yes, members of our profession who do not practice  divorce and family law don’t understand, so many clients find understanding this process difficult and people are more often than not struggling…but TODAY is a good day.

As long as people need me, I am here.

Tax Changes Impact Your Divorce


There are a lot of moving parts to representing you during your divorce and the tax changes make it even more challenging. Now add the Recovery Rebate Credits (RRC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), Child and Dependent Care Credit (CDCC) and things get even more complicated.

First and foremost, your attorney should tell you that you need either a tax lawyer or a Certified Public Accountant to analyze any settlement or stipulation regarding your matter.  

So many attorneys don’t even understand that the recent tax changes impact your divorce.  The lawyer does not replace the experts but directs you to them so that after consulting with these experts and your attorney you are able to make the best decisions possible.

Information and knowledge are your friend.


Beware: Collection New Tax Credit is NOT for everyone!

If you’re divorced and taking turns claiming the credit collecting the credit may not be a good idea.

An example is: if Mom and Dad are divorced and have one child.

If Dad claimed the child on his 2020 tax return, he would have automatically begun getting the monthly payments on July 15. But Dad is not going to claim the child on his 2021 tax return, because it’s Msom’ turn.

So Dad ends up owing the government all the money he got through the monthly payments.Mom, meanwhile, has not been getting the monthly payments, so she will get the entire tax credit as one lump sum when she files her taxes.

Your child is now officially an adult!

The 2021 Child Tax Credit covers children from birth to 18. If your child turns 18 anytime in 2021 (even on December 31, 2021), he or she is not eligible for the credit. The IRS should have taken this into account in estimating the amount of your monthly payment, but it’s best to double check.

If you are mistakenly getting monthly payments for that child, you will have to pay the money back.

Likewise, if you have a child who turns 6 this year, you may want to double check that the monthly payment you’re getting for that child is correct. The 2021 credit provides up to $300 a month for children under 6, and up to $250 a month for children ages 6 to 17.–NPR 7.28.2021.

Okay, I’ve decided to opt out. How do I do it?

The IRS has created a website for managing your monthly payments. To stop the payments, you need to create an account with the IRS using a third-party app called ID.me. Heads up: It’s not the most user-friendly of apps. You’ll need to verify your identity by scanning a government ID as well as your face. Prepare to be patient.

You can also unenroll over the phone, but that may require even more patience.

An important note: If you’re married and filing jointly, both parents need to opt out. If only one parent unenrolls from the monthly payments, you’ll still get half the amount deposited into your bank account.

You have an opportunity every month through December to unenroll before the next payment lands. The deadline is three days before the first Thursday of every month. NPR 7.28.21https://www.npr.org/2021/07/28/1021285459/you-might-consider-opting-out-of-the-child-tax-credit-heres-why



For the past 35 years I have practiced matrimonial and family law.  During this period more than half of the clients I represent come to me to “fix” or “undo” what they did when they went unrepresented during their divorce, custody or support matter.

Here are the reasons I hear that they did not use an attorney:

  • Too expensive.

  • Don’t want conflict or to fight, want to get along.

  • Just want it over, in a hurry.

  • Believe it will be fair without involving a lawyer, trust the other party.

  • Can redo it later if it is not good.

Let’s break these down.

TOO EXPENSIVE.    The money they spend to try and “fix” it generally costs more and is less successful than if they hired the right attorney from the beginning.  Often my client realizes they lost more money and assets in their resolution than they counted on and financially it cost them way more than hiring an attorney would. Finally, in many situations the spouse may have to contribute to your legal fees (another reason they pressure you to not hire one).  ALSO, NOTE THAT NO ATTORNEY CAN REPRESENT BOTH PARTIES. DO NOT BE FOOLED.

DON’T WANT CONFLICT.  JUST WANT IT OVER. To completely avoid conflict this generally means that one party has to give the other party what they want.  I see clients generally “give in” to avoid rocking the boat or making the other party upset.  They are afraid and this fear is driving their decision-making. Once they are no longer apart and there isn’t a rush to get out of the situation and fear is not driving the situation, they realize that the “deal” they brokered for themselves is very “one-sided” and not fair and they are stuck with it. This breaks my heart.

TRUST THE OTHER PARTY TO BE FAIR.  First, without an attorney how do you know what “fair” should even look like.  Shouldn’t you know what you are entitled to and explore what you need, not just at the time, but well into the future, before you make choices.  And NO, the internet cannot tell you this, as it does not filter “bad law” or properly explain true applicable law.

CAN REDO IT LATER.  The only way to reopen a divorce (not enforce but do over etc.) is to prove fraud. This is very difficult. Otherwise, if you waive maintenance or other assets or take more debt than you should or not enough of an asset, you are STUCK with this.  If you make a custody arrangement like 50/50 it is REALLY HARD to change once it is started.  In, NYS the case law specifically states that a child’s wishes are NOT enough to change the custodial arrangement.  So, no, you cannot just change it because the kids are older and want something else.

Creating a settlement which involves your family, their ability to live, your life and your future involve the MOST IMPORTANT decisions of your life.  There is absolutely NO RISK in contacting me for a FREE initial consultation to aviod the pittfalls described above

Custody During Covid-19

The laws related to divorce and child custody have not changed in the unusual circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 outbreak. This means that a parent cannot unilaterally modify a child custody or parenting time agreement without going to court. If this is not an option in their area due to court closures, pauses or other limited access, the parents must maintain the schedule that was in effect prior to the outbreak unless they agree on a modified arrangement.

Transferring children between parents can expose them to an unnecessary risk of contracting the virus, especially if the parents do not live in the same area. Both parents may recognize this issue and work together to address it. If the parents have an amicable relationship, they may be able to agree on a temporarily modified custody arrangement. For example, they may agree to allow a child to spend more time with the parent who currently lives with them, in exchange for spending more time with the other parent later in the year. The parent who lives with the child also may agree to schedule video conversations between the child and the other parent. If you adjust your agreement with your ex-spouse or co-parent, you should put any changes to the agreement in writing and keep a hard copy of the revised agreement.

On the other hand, parents who feel hostile toward each other may not be able to reach an agreement. While you may have serious concerns about the health of your child, you should be aware that violating a custody order can result in a finding of contempt of court and other adverse consequences. Judges frequently reduce the custody or visitation rights of a parent who refuses to comply with a parenting time order, even in relatively extenuating circumstances.

Before taking this risk, parents may want to consult an attorney to file a petition for modfication or possibly work out a stipulation that follows NYS law (not just written on paper and notarized) to submit to the Court to alter their parenting plan. While the modification will not become an enforceable court order until a judge reviews it, it is likely to go a long way to keeping you from serious repercussions of simply “keeping” a child from a parent contrary to the current court order.



Conference with Clients in age of Covid

In the age of Covid, for all my current clients and those considering obtaining my services in the future, please note the following:

Prior to your arrival the area you will be in will be sanitized with Lysol spray, fresh air shall be circulated into the space (yes, even if 90 degrees), folder will be wiped down with sanitary wipes.

When you arrive you and I will both use the hand sanitizer.  You will be provided a face shield which we will ask you bring back with you for subsequent meetings.  I will be wearing a face shield as well. This allows for protection for both of us, given both the science and the mysteries of the Covid spread.  We will then sit 6 feet apart.

Shields allow us to still see expressions and body language and speak more clearly all critical components in communication successfully regarding matters as serious and challenging as  divorce and family.

When you leave, we will both again use the hand sanitizer.

Remember, in this age of Covid and even before Covid I offer both in person and phone or electronic conferences available at your request.  I look forward to assisting you and will do everything I can to help you reach a successful and safe future.



Effective June 3rd under Phase 2, essential matters will be heard in person for Family Court.  In addition, non-essential matters will continue to be heard virtually and attorneys can make a request to the assigned Judge to deviate from the Phase 2 Plan.

What does this mean for you?

It means your life can stop being on hold, you can once again start planning for the futre.  The emotional and financial burden on you and/or your children can become unbearable.

If you have a custody, child support or family offense matter that needs attention the legal system is OPEN.  For many of my clients it never really shut down and we have been working together for months. Do you need to make a plan and move your life forward?

If you have a divorce or matrimonial matter you can obtain legal counsel, file in the court system and have your matter addressed.  Why keep your life on hold when their are other options available once again.

If you have any questions, please contact me for a FREE initial consultation which can now be held by either phone conference or in person whichever you prefer.  I am here if you need me.


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