Not all attorneys have the same experience.

Not all attorneys have the abilities.

Not all attorneys respond to client’s promptly.


What does this mean for you?

  1. READ

  • Read over the family court or matrimonial retainer agreement they give you very By the way, they must have a written retainer agreement for you to review. Take it home and review it prior to going to the office and signing, to make sure you understand it.


  • Do you charge a nonrefundable retainer regarding your legal fees? Do not be fooled, not all attorneys charge this.  It means you are paying a minimum amount whether or not the attorney has to work for it. So, if you settle with two hours work you still may pay for 8 or 10 etc. work not done. I do not charge a nonrefundable retainer. You are only charged for work done.

  • Do you get back retainer funds not used regareding your legal fees? You might be surprised to learn many attorneys have a minimum amount no matter what work is done?   You get back any retainer money that remains when my work is done.  Again, you only are charged for work done.

  • Do you charge a minimum hourly fee  for legal fees? Does the attorney charge you a minimum fee or for the actual time spent on your matter. This can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. There is never a minimum hourly fee for court or anything else.  Again, you are only charged for work done.

  • What is your retainer amount fregarind legal fees? What is your hourly rate?  This is the amount of money that the lawyer gets up front before they begin work. Some attorneys have a lower initial retainer amount however the hourly rate is so much higher than other attorneys that this retainer is used up really quickly and you are asked for MORE money sooner than with attorneys how charge a lower hourly rate.  THE HOURLY RATE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR. My hourly rate AND retainer are a reasonable amount given the area and economy and I try to work with clients. 


  • That the amount of money your attorney charges for legal fees is NOT a sign of their ability. Some of us believe that everyone is entitled to experienced and dedicated representation, not only the wealthy.

  • That even if your spouse will have to contribute toward your legal fees, they seldom are ordered to pay the whole amount and often if your attorney charges more that the “going rate” the courts take that into consideration when awarding fees for the other side to pay. What does this mean for you:  YOU COULD OWE THE ATTORNEY MORE MONEY THAN YOU EXPECTED.

Child’s Therapist- Legal System

I often have parents who tell me that their child’s therapist supports their position and insist that I tell the Court and the Attorney for the Child to be sure and take that position into consideration before rendering a recommendation, position or decision.

For over 30 years, with NO exception, therapists are seldom the supportive expert that my clients believe them to be.

This is not to say that a good therapist is not helpful. They can be:

  1. They can help the child understand and deal with the custody arrangement. Including one they may not like.

  2. They can offer therapeutic sessions between parties.

  3. They can work with parties to develop a parenting schedule.

But don’t be fooled.  This seldom results in their being a very good witness for you if things break down.

My clients do not believe me when I explain to them that therapist generally:

  1. Treat the child and do not want to damage the therapist relationship by getting involved in the court proceeding.

  2. Cannot be an expert for parenting plans as they have not done formal evaluations for that purpose or spent enough time with all parties.

  3. Are not willing or able to offer a professional opinion as an expert.

  4. If testify, often rendering something supportive comment regarding the opposing parent. Therapists are generally all about both parents having a relationship, not winning a legal case.

It is also VERY important to note that the therapist does not disclose to the parent all that they learn or know.  I often have therapists who disagree with my client’s position, however, do not feel it is helpful to discuss that with the client as it does not further the treatment of their client.  The takeaway here: YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT THE THERAPIST IS TRULY THINKING!!!! 

Recently I sent the following email to a child’s therapist.  I did so as I had a client who insisted that I had to make the Attorney for the Child and Court understand that her child was being detrimentally affected by Dad’s behavior and that the therapist couldn’t wait to tell everyone that on behalf of the child. This is how it went…

Dr. ________:  Can you please clarify some points for me. 

Are you able to testify as to the following if needed: 

Do you have a professional opinion as to what is best for a custody situation or parenting time. 

Do you have a professional opinion as to whether your client is being influenced by either party or by their behavior as to his desire to live with Mom. 

Do you have a professional opinion as to any negative effects the  current parenting schedule  would or does have on your client.

 Please feel free to add anything else you believe relevant or important for me to know.  I look forward to talking with you next week.  Thank you.



I am not in a position to testify or provide opinion as to any of those items.

When first meeting with my client, the purpose was to function as my client’s treating therapist, with no role in custody or parenting plan determinations. I intend to maintain that role, so any information I provide would be factual and likely redundant.

Thank you, 


Should I Hire a Father’s Rights Attorney?


Just for the record, there is no formal training or certification for being what is referred to by some as a “Father’s Rights Attorney”.  When used it is simply a label a lawyer gives themselves to induce men to hire them.father's rights

Ask yourself what does a “Father’s Rights Attorney” bring to the table?

  • A single- minded approach that is often lacking in a true understanding of the “other side”. Having a clear and experienced understanding of the position of the opposing party is critical to the successful strategy for your case.  When the attorney is experienced enough to have successful outcomes against fathers, that experience is then used to a father’s advantage when they represent fathers.

  • Limited experience and often argue father favorable positions, even if the facts don’t support the request. What does this mean?  I have had a “Father’s Rights Attorney” insist on a hearing because the Father was entitled to physical custody. It is important to note that the Father worked 5pm to 3am Monday through Friday, out of state, as a truck driver.  The hearing was held and the Father received less time than was offered as a settlement. Yes, the Father got heard.  Yes, the attorney made a dramatic argument about Fathers.  But in the end the outcome looked at the facts.  The attorney got paid, the Father got screwed. 

  • A false sense of what can be accomplished. Many “Father’s Rights Attorneys” make promises that just can’t be kept, and then blame the negative outcome on the system or the Court. The attorney gets paid regardless of the outcome.

 What is the take away here?  Don’t be fooled. Pick your lawyer because they are experienced and are willing to tell you the bad with the good.  When able, talk to a lawyer who is recommended by someone you respect.




When someone comes in to meet with me because they want to modify or change their custody order or arrangement, I begin each FREE CONSULTATION with this question:  What do you want the Court to do? 

This is the single most important question in a modification of custody matter.  What do you want a new or modified order to say in place of the old one

It is not effective to simply bring problems to the Court to solve, they are not in the problem-solving business, they are in the “what do you want me to do about it” business.  The Court’s ability to solve many of families’ complex issues is very limited.

I want the Court to put in an order that my children decide when to visit. 

There are attorneys who will take your money and go to Court with this request, however, an experienced attorney will have told you that in NY the child cannot decide when to visit.  Orders can reference “taking into consideration the activities and wishes of the child”  however, that still does not give the child the ability to just not visit.

I want visitation to change and not include current overnights or to have less time with the other parent. 

To accomplish this in Family Court you must show a CHANGE OF CIRCUMSTANCES since the last order.  What happened that would cause the Court to change your order since you were last in court.  The Court will not go back and re-litigate matters prior to that date.  You must be able to set forth specific actions (not just worries of what might happen) since the prior order.  If you simply say your child wants the change and do not put in other specifics your petition is not likely to survive a motion to dismiss.  Do the best you can to tie everything to an effect on your child or children. This can be tricky so hire an experienced attorney or you could spend the money and put in the time and get your papers and matter dismissed with nothing to show for it.

My child wants me to bring this request so they can visit differently. 

To be successful your child must understand a very important concept.  YOU CANNOT SPEAK FOR THEM!!!  I have represented hundreds of children over the 30 years I have been in practice.  So many times the children do not tell me anything that supports the effort to change the custody arrangement.  They simply assume that they told their parent so now they do not have to advocate for themselves or say anything bad about their parent.  This is NOT true.  The Attorney for the Child (AFC) is the one person who has to put forth their position and it is not hearsay.  The Court will ask if they have a position and why (much like your attorney is asked) and if the children do not have a position and specifics then it hurts your chances.

The final point here is that filing for a modification is complicated business and should not be attempted without experienced legal assistance.  Conta me for a free initial consultation before proceeding.

Tax Bill Impacts Divorce

The GOP tax bill signed by Trump late last year changed drastically how maintenance/alimony will be handled.

One way the Republican tax bill writers tried to raise revenue to compensate for the cuts was through maintenance/alimony. Under the new bill, alimony paid by one spouse to the other will not be tax deductible, and the spouse receiving the alimony no longer has to pay taxes on it. In the current system, it works the opposite way, with the payer deducting the full amount and the recipient paying taxes on the alimony at a rate of 15%. The new rule means the government will end up with more of a divorcing pair’s combined money.

Although the law won’t take effect until next year, giving divorcing couples a reprieve for now divorces are potentially likely to get a lot messier.

Amicable divorces will become more difficult now that the maintenance/alimony payer is not only going to have to pay but will lose a key deduction, thus suffering a much higher financial burden.  This will likely make settling more of a challenge and cause more tension and fights among parties and lawyers.

Perhaps the largest and most uncomfortable tension will stem from timing. One side could be dragging its feet in an attempt to delay, and the other will be trying to get a deal signed before New Year’s.

New York has a formula for calculating appropriate payments and less leeway for negotiations, so timing may be critical.

The loss is not only for the monied or paying spouse. If the courts start adjusting the maintenance to compensate for this tax change the spouse receiving the funds could loose out as well.

An example of the change

Using a wealthy client as an example, under the old system, if a highest-tax bracket, soon-to-be ex-spouse was set to pay $100,000 per year in alimony, they would get a deduction off the top — at the highest tax rate of around 40% — so they would only be out around $60,000. The recipient would end up with $85,000 after paying a 15% rate on that $100,000.

For couples divorcing in 2019, if the wealthier spouse paid $60,000 — the same out-of-pocket cost as the example above (they’d have less money without the deduction) — the other spouse would only get $60,000.

I encourage my clients to try and figure things out.  Most of my clients would rather see more money go to the family members than the government.

This new tax issue won’t go away in 2019 when the new tax bill takes effect. New York uses a formula to calculate alimony payment amounts, and there is no guarantee it will change the laws any time soon.

The formula factors in tax deductibility for the payor. Judges and courts generally have broad leeway to deviate from the formula if they see fit and to establish payment amounts to account for increased take-home income for the receiver and increased costs for the payer. The legal standard in many states, like New York for example, is whether something is “unjust and inappropriate.”

There’s no guarantee that this gambit works, however. Judges, unlike written laws, are humans, and it’s very difficult to predict how all of them will deal with the changes.  Some judges will compensate for changes in the tax law and some will not. That is also going to create tension.

What’s Your Divorce Plan?

Considering Divorce? You Need a Divorce Plan!

If you’re considering leaving your spouse, considering divorce, you need a solid divorce plan. So often people start consulting with their attorney only after the divorce process has begun and everyone is in the thick of things.  I often say to clients that they should have come to see me BEFORE they couldn’t stand the situation anymore and BEFORE when they were still getting along.

Pre-divorce planning is not about taking your spouse for all you can. It’s about making smart choices with a clear mind. It involves carefully planning out all aspects of your life from where you are now to where you would like to be. It requires methodical preparation in the months leading up to informing your spouse you want a divorce. The more you plan, the better your position will be in your post-divorce life. Below are a few areas to start thinking about.

Finances: Whether you expect to receive spousal support/alimony and child support or will have to pay spousal support/alimony and child support you might be in for a big surprise. You might find that you have a shortage of money to make ends meet after your divorce (these divorce financial planning tips can help).

Career: The best way to avoid financial ruin is to make your career plans a top priority. If you’re already working but your income won’t be enough when you’re single, start re-planning your career. If that involves career counseling, re-training or going back to school, do it now while you can. Any money spent in this area will be considered joint money and not deducted from your settlement. The key, however, is doing it before you ask for a divorce where possible.

Children: If you’re a parent, you need to be prepared for how to tell your kids about the divorce. In doing so, you also need to learn ways to help them cope and to understand how their lives will be impacted.

Support System: News of a divorce can create different reactions in your friends and family. Some people will feel threatened and fear their marriages will be at risk if they interact with you. Others, the unconditional friends, will be there no matter what. Knowing who belongs in this category is important. Those will be the people to turn to when you need a shoulder to cry on.

Future Goals: Divorce can be devastating. It’s the end of once-held goals that are now gone. Because of this, it’s very easy to get sucked into an emotional black hole of depression. The best remedy is to create new goals for your future. Take the time to consider your interests, desires and what you’d like to do with the rest of your life. Having something positive and productive to work toward will make a big difference in your emotional life.

There are many aspects to consider when planning for a life without your spouse. Instead of hoping the best will happen, take control and make sure you’re protected.  Make that divorce plan. It will make all the difference in your life and future.

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 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?


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