Staying Child Centered

Staying CHILD CENTERED is not as easy as one would think.  For almost 30 years I have represented parents, grandparents, children and even myself in divorce and Family Law matters and putting our children first takes real work and constant attention. 

Why this is so important: 

First, because statements and facts that are not child centered are seldom going to help you in your custody matter.  The Court and the attorney for your imageschild/children are not looking at your custody matter through the eyes of a parent.  This is crucial to understand.  This must be factored into your legal strategy for you to work toward a final resolution that is best for your children. 

Finally and probably of the most inportance, because staying child centered is best for your children who mean so much to you.

Even people who love their children very much will tell the Court and attorneys the following.  Note the example of the Parent Statement and then note the suggested Child Centered Statement. Of course, below assuming for this Blog that there are no safety or welfare issues regarding custody.

PARENT STATEMENT:  I can’t go more than one day without seeing my child.

CHILD CENTERED STATEMENT: I will miss my child but given her age, school and activities my child may not want to bounce from house to house very day, so how about a schedule where we have parenting time clumped a little more together.

PARENT STATEMENT:  Mom or Dad won’t work with me.

CHILD CENTERED STATEMENT:  How might I behave differently so that Mom or Dad is willing to consider what I am saying, how do I frame it as something for our child and not something for me.

PARENT STATEMENT:  I am the only parent who has ever done anything for my child.

CHILD CENTERED STATEMENT:  I have always been there for my child.  I will always be there for my child, however, since the Court is going to make me allow the other parent to be part of our child’s life and provide them with parenting time, how can I make this go as well as possible for my child.

PARENT STATEMENT:  My ex is always saying something bad about me to my kids.

CHILD CENTERED STATEMENT:  My ex is difficult however, I am not going to “defend” myself with my children, because they are my children and a conversation like that will stress them and not be in their best interest.

PARENT STATEMENT:  My kids are spending time with my ex’s family and significant other and not with him or her.

CHILD CENTERED STATEMENT:  My kids are spending time with my ex’s family and significant other and I am glad they are surrounded by people who want to spend time with them.

 

Divorce or Support Award of College Expenses…Premature

 balduf_lawLast month the New York State Appellate Division (Second Dept) rendered a decision in Repetti v. Repett which reminded us that the Court may direct a parent to contribute to a child’s college expenses, however, when college is several years away, and no evidence is presented as to the child’s academic interests, ability, possible choice of college or what his or her expenses might be, a directive compelling a parent to pay for college expenses is premature and not supported by the evidence.  This is not a new determination.  Yet it is often difficult to apply with many Courts.

It is important to have clear and specific conversations about what, if anything will go into your settlement agreement or support order, regarding college expenses for children.  Not addressing this property has lasting consequences.  Why is this important?

In some jurisdictions Courts order parents to pay thousands of dollars in college expenses even when they don’t have retirements for themselves or the income to support this.  There is no set formula for determining college expenses.  In some counties where these cases are heard the amount of contribution from each parent would differ not because of the circumstances of their case or the law–but simply because it is heard by different judges or support magistrates.

I can’t stress enough that parties should have the assistance of experienced attorneys who know the law and the specific tendencies of each court. BEWARE: Logic is not your friend and too many people go into court and believe because it doesn’t make sense or is outside their budget they won’t be stuck paying.

Unbundled Legal Services-RUN

balduf.unbundled.legal. service “Unbundled” means you hire the attorney to handle only specific tasks, such as preparing the court documents or entering a limited appearance, and then you handle parts of the case on your own to save money. It claims that fewer billable hours means less cost.

However, if your lawyer is only good for drafting documents than you have the WRONG attorney.  This thought is backwards– the documents are the least of the process.  What a true matrimonial or family law lawyer does for you is offer advice, skillful negotiation, helps you develop a successful plan and implement it, knowing the ropes, the players and the courts.

There are no do-overs!  If you didn’t think of something or consider something for the future, too bad.

If you don’t like something regarding the money, children or assets that you agreed to originally, too bad, it will forever follow you in the future.

If anything, I work with clients as they feel comfortable,  to do some of the paperwork parts of their divorce to save money, however I REPRESENT THEM THROUGH THE WHOLE PROCESS and together we make a life plan for the future and work to make it happen.  Saving money now is likely to cost a great deal later.  Ask around, walk through the halls of Family Court, see how people who have been handling things themselves think it is going.

If you are looking to save money regarding legal representation do your homework. Find one that specializes in the field but does not charge a fortune. The cost of the attorney does NOT indicate their expertise or success.  Some of us simple want to charge a reasonable rate. We believe what we do is important and that excellent representation should not only be available to people of substantial financial means.

Talk with each attorney you contact about how to keep costs down, but still get great service.  If they can’t answer this to your satisfaction, move on to someone else.  So many people spend less time shopping for their attorney than they do buying a car.  Crazy!

Understanding Unbundled Legal Services, Karen Covy

 

So Why Divorce?

I sat down to write a blog about why so many people are seeking a divorce after the first of the year.  What I found was that this article by Patricia Barbarito stated my thoughts so perfectly that I wanted to share it with all of you.

Key to her writing is her summary that…  

Marriages end for a variety of reasons – just as every relationship is unique, so too is every divorce. There is, however, one thing that every divorce has in common, whether it happens in January when cases tend to rise or any other time of year: Divorce does not just happen overnight. It happens slowly, day by day, little by little, wearing down the hopes and dreams upon which the relationship was built. Divorce can be complex and can take an emotional toll on a family. There are many sensitive issues that need to considered, including custody, real estate, tax, estate planning, or business considerations. It requires a planned, thoughtful approach.

Please take a moment to read the article at the link below. 

First Quarter of the Year Brings Resolutions and Reflection – So Why Divorce?

Every year, the number of couples filing for divorce increases between the months of January and March. The questions is, why do so many couples decide to divorce early in the new year?

By Patricia Barbarito
January 30, 2017

 

First Quarter of the Year Brings Resolutions and Reflection – So Why Divorce?

 

The Holidays

To all those who are surfing the internet regarding divorce, separation or custody at this time of year, please know that I understand how difficult a time this is for you and your family. It is a time of year when everything around you tells you how lucky and blessed you are and how happy you are supposed to be.  Yet for some, this is a time of uncertainty, a time of financial crisis or concerns, and you are feeling anxious, sad and sometimes even scared.  2017-1

My advice is to have not expectations and simple do the best you can to live in the moment until you can move to the next chapter of your life.  If you are one of my clients then we are likely to have a plan, so keep your head down, believe and keep going forward.  If you need me call.

I wish everyone the blessings of this season and the new year, because I believe you are going to find them as Christmas comes because God sent Jesus to help us because all was not well and perfect, because life is difficult and messy and sometimes feels like it is more than we can handle.  So during this Christmas Season have faith that you are not alone, from whatever faith you come your faith can be your strength and your companion, and you also have, me.  2017 here we come!

Your Spouse Hired Me. What does this mean for YOU?

Ok your significant other or spouse has hired me to represent them.  What will this mean for YOU?

First, I am not and will never be about how much money I can make off your misfortune or unfortunate circumstances.

Next, if your spouse has hired me I believe in working with a client to develop, propose and put in place, a Life Plan.  I want them to be able to say in a few years that life is where it should be for them, and for their children and yes, for their spouse.

My experience is that if your objective is primarily to try and “punish” the spouse or “win” then you will be in and out of court for years to come.

It is important to remember that the more you and your spouse fight, the more money lawyers make.

Next, I work to assist the parties in reaching a successful resolution to their matter.  I am not opposed to sitting down with the parties and attorneys.  I always offer to sit down with opposing counsel in every case I am involved with.  I will say that there are quite a few attorneys that will not do this.  I do not understand that position.  If the attorneys discuss the case before Court action, we get clarity as to what everyone’s position is and can discuss options.  Without options it is hard to come to an agreement.  If there is no agreement, we then go to Court where the Court has us tell each other the client’s positions.  Do you see the irony?  The only thing I can think of is the attorneys make more money because they spend more time on the matter instead of possibly resolving it at an earlier stage.

Please note:  Don’t let all this talk of  finding a resolution or settlement fool you.  I am a trial attorney and have no problem taking a matter to court or trial.  I will discuss what this will mean in broad terms for my clients and their families so that if my clients choose this path they understand what it will look like for them, but I also strongly encourage clients to go to court or trial if their spouses are not considering or offering a reasonable resolution.  No one pushes them into agreeing to something that does not work toward a successful Life Plan.

Remember, if you or your spouse hires me, I hope to help you satisfactorily resolve your matter at any stage short of a full trial—if I do this I make less money. That is fine with me…other files are waiting for my attention.  My Life Plan is NOT to send my kids to college on helping you achieve your Life Plan!!!

 

Find an Attorney

One Way to Find an Attorney

How to choose your divorce or family law lawyer/attorney is a very serious matter.  It is a substantial purchase financially and it affects all aspects of your daily life.  One way to find an Attorney is word of mouth.  This is often the best method.

I get referrals from my clients, but what continues to surprise me today is the number of referrals or recommendations I get from the people who I opposed in a prior proceeding.  The party or person that is the “other side” of the legal issue. Instead of recommending their attorney…the give my name to their friends who are trying to find an attorney.

Recently, I had a woman who is trying to representing herself this time (I am again representing the Father) come up to me after a Court appearance on her matter and tell me she gave my name to one of her friends.  I thanked her and asked her if I might inquire as to why.  She told me because I seemed to have a plan and direction and that my clients seem to be aware of what was happening and the end result I got for the Father worked for him.  Again, I thanked her, of course I did recommend to her she get a lawyer to represent her this time and offered her names. I told her it was important for her to find an attorney.

When you pick an attorney what might you look for:

  • Someone who offers a free initial consultation. Like test driving a car, check the lawyer out and see if the relationship will be a good fit.

  • Someone who matches your direction and temperament.

Don’t pick a meek attorney if you are looking for someone stronger.

Don’t pick an attorney who doesn’t work with you regarding life plans if you are looking for a life plan.

Don’t pick any attorney who doesn’t take the time to explain things well if you are someone who likes lots of detail.

Don’t pick an attorney who doesn’t think out of the box if you are not happy with the status quo.

Don’t pick an attorney who charges too much if you cannot afford it.

  • Someone you can afford. Paying more for an hourly rate or retainer does not mean they are better. Some of us simply thing it is the moral and right thing to do.  We do our best to offer an excellent service for a reasonable price.

  • Someone who specializes in Family Law and Divorce. Not all attorneys are the same and it is simply said that attorneys who devote their practice, training and life to this work make a difference.

  • Someone who calls you or emails you back promptly. Not the secretary or paralegal but the actual attorney who contacts you within 24 hours.  Look for an attorney who has this in their retainer agreement.

  • Someone who is passionate about their work. This is hard to explain but if you can find an attorney who loves and believes in what they do, that it is more than just collecting money to say out loud what the client wants—hire them.  If you can find an attorney who will sit with you and make a true life plan with you, including custody for now and the future, finances, employment and so much more—hire them.

Take the time to find your lawyer with at least the same amount of research and investigation that you would that new car or stove.  If you are looking at this post you are most likely at a troubled time in your life.  I wish for all of you the best for you and your families.

Father’s Day On Mom’s Day….

 

Father’s Day can be one of the best days of the year for any father, regardless of whether his children are young or old. But, sometimes Father’s Day can instead be painful, especially when the father looks at his current child custody order, visitation schedule, or parenting plan and sees that Father’s Day is actually one of mother’s days of custodial time under the order or agreement.  

Some suggestions:

Try to Work Out a Compromise

Just like in many family law issues, the first step to be taken should be a meaningful attempt at settlement (rather than jumping into litigation). It is quite possible that the other parent will be open to modifying the custodial schedule for Father’s Day. And, it may be the case that the issue of Father’s Day was not carefully contemplated at the time that the agreement was reached or when the family law judge rendered his/her custodial order.  Take a good look at the plan/order if Father’s Day is not set forth, Mother’s Day may not be either and a compromise will benefit both parents.

It never hurts to at least ask. In contentious or potentially contentious situations, the request should be made in writing. If the other parent is not agreeable to relinquishing the entire day, then perhaps a long period of visitation in the morning or afternoon will be an option. The father could also offer to “swap” another one of his custodial days in exchange for Father’s Day.

Under a “best case” senerio an objective mediator or therapist might help you work through this issue, but that will require the parties agreeing to this method of resolution.  Again it never hurts to ask. Having such a person to be the “objective voice of reason” may help the parties work with one another to reach a resolution.

If You Can’t Agree, Then You May Have to Go to Court

I constantly remind my clients that while settlement is always a desirable option, “it takes two to settle.” So, if settlement is out of the picture, then the only alternative may be to seek intervention from the Court.

Please note that in New York State unless you are addressing this well before June it is not likely that you will get his resolved before Father’s Day, however, resolving it for other years may still be desirable.

Typically, to modify a court ordered parenting plan you must show a change in circumstances.  Most orders/judgments have a clause that states that there be “other and further parenting time as the parties agree”.  If this exists, there is no mention of Father’s Day, you can prove you requested Father’s Day in a reasonable manner and was denied, some Courts will consider this enough to modify the order/judgment.

Most family law judges will be sympathetic to the father’s plea for time with his children on Father’s Day. But, the father should make sure that he presents a reasonable request to the Court. It may be helpful to offer to “swap days” with the other parent or to indicate that the father is willing to defer to the Court’s wisdom as to a fair and equitable outcome.

Also, it is important to remember that when you go to Court you may be opening up other issues, be sure to speak to an attorney before you file for Court intervention.

If It’s Too Late This Year, Plan Ahead for Next Year

If a father does not act on this issue in a timely manner or if he is unsuccessful in doing so, he should not be discouraged. Instead, he should be proactive. First, he should set up plans for him to have “his own Father’s Day” with the children on another one of his custodial days. After all, the date for Father’s Day changes every year and the spirit of the holiday is all about celebrating the special father-child bond. Therefore, there really is no reason that the holiday can’t be done on a “make-up day” later.

Custody and Visitation

Who is an Attorney For Children

Texting During Divorce or Court

Cheating: The Court doesn’t care!

Cheating:  The Court doesn’t care who is sleeping with who!

OK folks, I am writing this blog because I don’t want to see one more person spend a single dime of their hard earned money talking, texting, or fighting because their spouse, partner or former co-parent has cheated on them!  The Court does not care who is cheating on who.

The Courts do not care about this.

The Courts will not listen to this.

The Courts do not punish for this.

The Courts do not decide any monetary issue based upon this.

The Courts do not decide any custody issue based upon this—unless you have proof that your spouse, partner or former co-parent is taking your children around known pedophiles or drug dealers etc.

If you insist I will spend your retainer and listen.  I will spend your retainer and sympathize.   I will spend your retainer and tell the Court all about the cheating and what a crappy person they are. However, in the end it will not change your outcome.

Don’t let other attorneys fool you into hiring them because they are outraged or promise to fight.  Yes, there are matters which you may need to spend your resources to “fight”—but that cheating is not one of them.

 

Texting During Divorce

Purpose of Initial Consultation

Child Support. What Does it Pay For?

What Is Child Support?   How much is child support? What does child support pay for? Can I pay my child directly? child_support_new_york_state

Child support is the financial obligation you have to support your child as he or she matures. If you have custody of your child, the courts assume that you fulfill your financial obligation. If your child does not live with you, however, the courts may require that you pay child support to the custodial parent.

What does Child Support Actually Cover?

You’ve arrived home from work and as you sort through the day’s mail you see there’s a note from your ex   asking for payment for Tommy’s new baseball uniforms and asking you to pick up some new clothes and toiletry items for Susie when she comes to stay with you next weekend.

But wait a minute; you’ve paid your child support this month and on time like you have every other payment.

With all the money you are paying for child support, why are you being asked to provide additional support to cover these other expenses?

It begs the question, what does child support cover?  It is important to note the following:

  1. In New York State child support is paid to the parent who has physical custody of the child/children. It is not paid to the child/children. 

  2. You cannot designate what the child support/current care amount will be used to pay for.

  3. You cannot require that payments be made above child support by the payor/parent without a court order. Child support is to cover the child’s needs along with the custodial parent’s contribution for care. So above, you could say no to the extras for Tommy and Susie.  However, many parents who want to insure their children have these extras pay anyway.  Of course, the choice will be up to you.

How Much Should You be Paying?

Child Support is based upon a formula according to the New York State Child Support Standards Act and the new Maintenance Laws.  It is also interesting to note the following:

  1. NEED:  Child support is not based on the needs of the children but the incomes of the parents.

  2. AGE OF CHILDREN: Child support is paid until age 21 or emancipation in New York State.  New York State is one of the few states with payments required until that date.

  3. PAYMENTS AFTER AGE 18: Payments after age 18 should be reviewed with an attorney.  There are often circumstances which would allow for a modification of child support.  There could be increase for college expenses or reductions if the child is working or not working or going to college.

  4. INCOME OF OTHER HOUSEHOLD MEMBERS: Incomes of new spouses or other household persons is not calculated for child support but can be a factor if seeking a modification.

  5. OTHER REQUIRED PAYMENTS: In addition to current care child support based on the Child Support Standards Act formula can be required for health insurance premiums and uncovered medical expenses and employment related child care.  These amounts are determined by the proportion of income of the parties.  Whoever makes more pays a greater amount, unless another arrangement is reached.

  6. DEVIATIONS TO THE FORMULA: Deviation is possible but often difficult.  If you are the parent who needs child support don’t agree to a deviation it can follow you for ever and make supporting your child difficult.  If you are the parent looking for deviation you will need to meet certain criteria that may require the assistance of legal counsel to get the Court’s approval.

True of False?  Joint Custody Means You Don’t Have to Pay Child Support. 

FALSE!!! First, joint legal custody has no real bearing on child support.

Second, joint physical custody where the parents each have the child or children the same amount of time (days and overnights) each week or month may have a child support deviation circumstance. This is where child support does not have to be according to the formula.  Please note that even in a joint physical situation NYS authority is that the higher income parent still pays child support to the lower income parent.  I recommend an experienced attorney to assist in this very complicated and subjective senerio. 

See also:

Purpose of an Initial Consultation

What Will My Divorce Cost Me?

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