Family Law

PRE-NUPTAL AGREEMENTS

Pre-nuptial agreements are contracts between parties contemplating to be married. They define property rights of the parties during the marriage and in the event of separation, divorce or death. A pre-nuptial agreement becomes effective upon marriage. It may contain a testamentary provision, a waiver of right to elect against the provisions of a will, provision of ownership, division or distribution of separate and marital property, provision for the amount and duration of maintenance or other terms of the marriage within legal bounds.The conditions must be fair and reasonable at the time of creating the agreement and are not unconscionable at the time of entry of judgment.

DIVORCE

Our firm handles New York proceedings. We serve clients who are involved in contested and uncontested divorce. A contested divorce refers to a divorce where the parties disagree on either the grounds of the divorce, the division of property, custody and visitation issues, or all of them. Litigation will be the path pursued and there must be a hearing at which at least one witness will have to testify about your allegations. If the Supreme Court of the State of New York finds your testimony to be more believable than the testimony of your spouse, you will have succeeded in proving your case and the court will grant you a judgment of divorce. Here, the court decides on the issues mentioned unless the parties reach a settlement. The divorce proceedings start when the action for divorce is filed. If you serve summons without a complaint, your spouse has 20 days from receipt to serve a notice of appearance upon you. Consequently, you have 20 days to serve your verified complaint upon your spouse. If you serve summons and a verified complaint, your spouse has 20 days to serve his or her answer to your complaint. The answer may also contain counterclaims against you. You, in turn, have 20 days to respond to the counterclaims.

There are six (6) grounds for divorce in New York. Four of which are based on fault—cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment or one or more years, imprisonment for three or more years and adultery. The two other grounds are: one year of living apart under a separation judgment granted by a Court, or under a separation agreement signed by the parties.

Under the new no fault divorce law, which took effect in October of 2010, spouses are allowed to terminate their marriages within 6 months after declaring “irretrievable breakdown of their marriage.” In the past couples that wanted a divorce without proof of fault had to be separated for at least a year before becoming eligible to file.

Given that separation agreements can be an important aspect of your New York divorce, we help our clients in drafting and negotiating separation agreements that protect their best interests. We are able to figure out expectations for the following issues: maintenance, child support, custody and visitation, property distribution, insurance policies and debt allotment. Spouses have the right to complete financial disclosure as to the other spouse’s income, assets and expenses before settlement negotiations and proceeding to trial. We are aware that divorce can be tiresome and emotionally charged. We work with our clients and assist them in deciding which issues require most attention and which should be prioritized.

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CHILD CUSTODY

Child custody issues affect children under the age of 18. When conflicts between parents exist, a New York Court will appoint a guardian who will investigate and make a recommendation regarding child custody and a visitation schedule. If parents are not given joint custody, one parent will have sole custody. This means that a parent has the authority to make legal decisions for the children. The non-custodial parent is awarded specific visitation with the children. Whereas in a joint custody situation, both parents have legal custody with one parent designated as the primary residential parent. Joint custody involves both parents in making major decisions for their children. These decisions include residence of the child, medical and dental treatment, education, and religion, among others. A shared custody situation has both parents sharing legal custody. Each parent has specific period of responsibility with the children. Both parents have the right to make major decisions. Parents must demonstrate maturity, willingness and the ability to forgo their personal differences for the best interest of their children.

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