Saturday, April 25, 2015

Divorce and Family Law: Put On A Happy Face

One of the most difficult issues that some parents face when dealing with divorce, custody, or visitation is the pick-up and drop-off.  In addition to logistical problems (who drives where and when), the exchange is an emotional trigger for all involved.

One frequently used adage by judges is that both parents need to "put on a happy face."  In normal circumstances (absent health and safety issues), even if there's a profane litany of thoughts about your ex in your mind, and your child is expressing their reluctance to go, your outward expression needs to be something to the effect of "you're going to have so much fun."  It is similar to school.  Even if you didn't like going to school, and your child doesn't like going to school, you make them go and try to sound positive about it.  

On return, you welcome them back.  If you ask questions, they should generally be positive and geared towards reinforcing the exchange as a positive experience. The drop-off should not be followed by a debriefing trying to dig up negative information about the other parent.

Kids look to their parents for guidance about how to feel about situations. If you show that you're scared, nervous, or upset, then they may feel scared, nervous, or upset.  

Friday, April 24, 2015


There has been a lot of activity lately in the Superstorm Sandy litigations.

At least with respect to my inventory of cases on the insurance claims, we are getting closer towards finalizing settlements in both the residential and commercial matters.  

I spent the morning in the Town of Hempstead building department helping a client work through issues.  Although the process may be difficult for many, the local town staff in the affected municipalities have been, from what I have seen, very helpful.  

Many individuals and businesses have recovered, but too many are still unfortunately, as I have heard it described, "trapped in the second day of the storm."

For those with attorneys, there are plenty of excellent lawyers working on these cases.  There are also, sadly, many storm victims who just became numbers on a spreadsheet somewhere halfway across the country.  

If you need help resolving your Sandy-related claim, please feel free to contact me at 631-482-9700 or send me an email at 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Equitable Distribution Rights in New York

In many contested divorces, both sides lose.  The way to win - for both sides - is to identify and know your rights, stay focused, and keep any litigation targeted towards defined goals.

In principal, matrimonial litigation is an easy area of law.  Nearly everything is a question of "equity," with the court determining what is fair based upon the unique facts of each case in the event the parties cannot agree.  In practice, however, it can be very difficult to get divorcing spouses (or even reasonable attorneys) to agree on what is fair. 

There are some basic guidelines for equitable distribution.  Some of these guidelines are established by statutes and case law, while others are a matter of common practice that divorce attorneys pick up with experience.   There are, generally, four categories of assets at issue in a divorce.

First, seperate property (premarital property, inherited property, personal injury proceeds, and certain other defined categories) remains seperate.  

Second, ordinary marital assets (bank accounts, the marital portion of retirement accounts, real estate, etc.) are generally divided equally.

Third, personal property and tangible household items are best divided by mutual agreement.  In most cases, the personal property is not worth fighting over.  Although perhaps costly to acquire, used items often have negligible value.  They can be sold with the proceeds divided, but that often is not an ideal solution.  If you have two decent TV's for example, you are probably better off getting the worse of the two rather than selling them both and trying to buy a new one with your half of the proceeds.  Resolution of simple disputes can be facilitated by a series of coin flips or a similar divice. In higher asset cases, a detailed appraisal can be used to account for the value of collectables, artwork, jewelry, antiques, etc. 

Fourth, with illiquid "assets," such as a business created during the marriage, the value of a degree or professional license, or similar items, equitable distribution usually does not mean equal.  The non-titled spouse's interest in these assets is proportionate to their direct or indirect contribution towards the acquisition and growth of the asset during the marriage.  These rights can range from zero for an essentially absentee spouse to near-50% for a side-by-side equal business partner. Experts can place a dollar value on these items, and the non-titled spouse's interest is usually around 20% in a typical case. 

There are no "winners" in equitable distribution in the ordinary sense.  The parties are dividing what they already own.  The winners in divorce are the parties who maximize their proceeds from the marital estate, which in most cases means reaching a fair distribution while minimizing the transaction cost of obtaining that result.  Hiring a skilled attorney is an investment.  Divorce attorneys cannot increase the overall marital estate, but we can complete the due diligence needed to assess the value of the estate, and guide you towards making informed decisions as to your rights.