Prior to filing a case in New York’s Family Court, you should consult an experienced family law attorney. While the Family Court can assist you in preparing your petition, a skilled family law practitioner can prepare the paperwork for you and handle the filing, service, and prosecution of your case.
Alatsas Law Firm handles many different types of family law concerns, including prenuptial agreements, divorce, child custody and visitation, child support, and spousal support. Our goal is to help you better weave through the maze of procedure and bureaucracy that exists in a large institution like the Family Court so you can move forward with confidence.
A prenup can be used to create guidelines for the use and ownership of any assets, debts, and finances during a couple’s marriage. This includes property owned prior to entering the marriage and the support of a spouse and any children from previous relationships in the household.
A few issues that may be determined in a prenuptial agreement include:
- Defining marital and solely-owned property. For example, an individual who owned a home before marrying may opt to retain sole ownership of the property, which means its value will not be divided in the event of a divorce.
- Allocating certain assets to go to one’s children, rather than one’s spouse, in the event of his or her death.
- Determining how marital funds will be saved and divided during the couple’s marriage.
- Ensuring that any debt accrued prior to entering the marriage remains the sole responsibility of the individual who incurred it.
New York offers two options for couples who wish to end their marriages: no-fault divorce and at-fault divorce.
- No-fault divorce is when the grounds for filing for divorce are irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, and irremediable breakdown of the marriage for six months. It does not require proof of fault of either party. New York State signed no-fault divorce into law in August 2010.
- An at-fault divorce requires at least one party to allege and prove the other has committed adultery, inflicted cruel or inhuman treatment on them, abandoned them, or has been in prison for three years. Alternatively, the couple may have been legally separated for over one year.
The claims can either be contested or uncontested by the alleged erring spouses. If they choose to contest the allegations, the process can end up in a court trial involving draining exchanges of charges and counter-charges. Even in an uncontested divorce, however, there are important issues involved—including child custody and visitation, child support, the division of assets, and alimony or spousal support. Irreconcilable differences on these matters often lead to court trials.
Physical custody is the responsibility of providing the child with a home. It is sometimes known as residential custody. A parent who has physical custody of his or her child provides a place to sleep, food, access to household goods and utilities, and an overall nurturing environment for the child. Parents who do not have physical custody of their children may have visitation to maintain consistent relationships with them.
Legal custody is the responsibility to make important decisions on the child’s behalf, such as choosing the school the child will attend, determining the religion in which the child will be raised, and making medical decisions for the child.
Physical custody and legal custody exist independently of each other, though a parent can have both. Having physical custody of a child does not guarantee that a parent has legal custody of them and vice versa.
Joint custody is typically the preferred way for the court to award a child’s parents custody. With joint custody, both parents have the rights and responsibilities associated with raising a child. Joint physical custody means that the child lives with one parent 50 percent of the time, and the other parent 50 percent of the time. In an arrangement like this, one parent may still be required to pay child support to the other to help with the costs of providing for the child.
Child support in New York is determined based on a formula that takes into account the income of both parents, the number of eligible children receiving support, the percentage of time each parent spends with the child, and special circumstances such as a child’s specific medical or educational needs.
Once established, child support payments do not change unless the court modifies the child support order. If either the custodial or noncustodial parent experiences a significant change in circumstances, there are legal procedures that must be followed to modify child support payments accordingly.
Spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance or alimony, refers to cash payments that a higher-earning spouse is required to pay a lower-earning spouse after a divorce. It is typically paid on a monthly basis for either a specific time period or until the recipient becomes self-supporting.
Spousal support is not automatically awarded. It must be requested in cases where one person does not have the education or skills necessary to be immediately self-supporting. Often, this occurs when a spouse has been a homemaker or stay-at-home parent for the duration of the marriage.
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We know that dealing with legal issues affecting your family can be stressful, but we will proactively work to provide you with peace of mind as you move forward. If you’re in need of assistance with a divorce or family law concern, contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.