Can I Get Child Support Modified if I Lost My Job Because of COVID-19?
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the American economy. Job losses have skyrocketed to 10 million in the last two weeks. If you have been furloughed or laid off as a result of the widespread public safety measures that have been enacted, then you are not alone. You may now be struggling to pay many of your bills, including your payments for child support.
The first thing you should know is that courts have made it very clear that all child custody and support arrangements are still in effect, and that they will not tolerate violations of these orders. You should therefore follow your existing child support obligations if possible. Under normal circumstances, you could seek a child support modification order if you could not afford to comply with an existing support order. However, due to the pandemic, the Courts are currently operating on a very limited basis. Their situation remains fluid, but for now their immediate attention is mainly directed to emergency situations.
How to Get a Child Support Modification Order
To get the advice you need, you should first contact Garden City divorce attorneys. They will help you navigate through this crisis. To modify your child support obligation, you must demonstrate changed circumstances that are substantial and continuing. If you have lost your job because of COVID-19, you may or may not meet this standard of proof. The fact that the economy continues to crater and that very few businesses are hiring right now can only strengthen your case. However, there is a lack of clarity about how long this crisis will last and when people will be able to go back to work. Although your application may not be heard at this time, by making the application, you will have preserved your right to retroactivity, if and when the application is granted.
As always, you should also reach out to your former spouse or partner to reach a negotiated agreement. Before applying to the Court, given the suddenness of this crisis and its prospective length, the person who is the primary carer for your child may accept a reduction in the amount of money they receive or may be willing to do without for a time. That is not likely. If your former spouse does agree, you should get such an agreement in writing and notarized with the requisite formality in order for it to be legally binding.
The Garden City divorce attorneys of Fass & Greenberg can help you obtain a child support modification order. You should call Fass & Greenberg today for a consultation.
As COVID-19 continues to ravage America, parents throughout the country are doing their best to look after the health and well-being of their children. This is hard enough to do for parents who still live as a couple. It is a more serious challenge for parents who are divorced. The social distancing and shelter-in-place orders that have been issued in various states make it hard for divorced couples to co-parent effectively.
The first thing that should be noted is that in normal times (pre COVID-19), courts have made it clear that violating custody court-sanctioned custody arrangements and withholding visitation were tolerated. These actions, absent a viable reason, are still not tolerated. Those in violation are subject to sanctions, including a contempt of court citation.
However, just as in normal times, i.e., if a parent appears for visitation in an intoxicated state, in these times, if a parent does not appear to be practicing social distancing and demands to exercise in person visitation rights, you may have valid concerns about the health of your child. In this case, you need to contact Garden City family attorneys for advice before taking unilateral action.
How do lawyers advise clients when our access to non-essential courtrooms are virtually non-existent for the time being? First and foremost, act as if your actions will be scrutinized by the Court as soon as it becomes available. Keep in mind at all times that a (if not the most) significant factor in determining custody is which parent is most likely to provide access and promote a positive relationship with the other parent.
When the dust clears, the Court will look at (and children will remember) how their parents cooperated with one another during this time. If practical, parties should adhere to their current visitation schedules. In the case of a parent who has a high risk job (such as a health care professional), both parents should agree that it is in the best interests of the children that strict hygiene protocols be observed before coming near the child the children. In certain cases, the parties should also consider the following alternatives to in-person visitation:
-Scheduling daily virtual visits through FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype
-Doing daily phone calls so that your child hears your voice
-Sending regular text messages
The Garden City family attorneys at Fass & Greenberg can help you sort through custody issues during the COVID-19 crisis. You should contact Fass & Greenberg if you need assistance and advice.
Divorce is an emotional undertaking and is often contested from beginning to end. There are important differences between dissolutions of marriage which are contested and uncontested. In uncontested divorces cases, the parties are able to agree upon the major terms of their divorce and only need the terms and conditions reduced to writing. In contested divorces, the parties cannot agree on the main points of dissolution and require skilled legal advice and guidance.
In either case, Fass & Greenberg are the experienced Garden City family attorneys you can trust with either your contested or uncontested divorce. Below are the main points to know about contested and uncontested divorces.
In some cases, the parties have short-term marriages and few – if any – assets to divide. They often also do not have children. Because of these factors, uncontested divorce makes most sense. Where parties have agreed to go their separate ways and wish for proceedings to be amicable and agreeable, uncontested divorce is the solution.
Parties involved in longer-term marriages, who have assets to divide or children are more likely to be involved in a contested divorce. Often, the distribution of assets in longer-term marriages requires the experience that the attorneys at Fass & Greenberg have to offer. Real property and personal property are both subject to equitable distribution and parties often do not see eye to eye on their division. Similarly, child custody and child support are often the most highly emotional and highly contested aspects of divorces and require experienced attorneys to offer a detached point on view to guide the matter to a reasonable resolution.
Whether you are involved in a contested or uncontested divorce, it is important to consult with and retain the finest Garden City family attorneys in practice. Call the law firm of Fass & Greenberg today and take the first step toward a successful contested or uncontested divorce today.
When a couple decides to divorce, all of their issues relating to child custody, child support, alimony, and division of assets are resolved either by a judge after trial, or in most cases, between the parties by agreement. This agreement is created after full disclosure of both parties’ finances, valuations/appraisals of marital assets, such as a house, pension, and/or business, and expert opinion regarding custodial arrangements, in some cases. After the “discovery” phase has been completed, the attorneys for both parties negotiate terms with the goal of reaching resolution, and incorporating those terms into an agreement. This agreement must be signed and by each person and notarized before it can become binding. Prior to finalizing such an agreement, the divorcing couple should each hire New York divorce lawyers to represent their best interests. Given that there is a legal component involved with a marital settlement agreement, an attorney needs to be involved in every step of this process. At Fass & Greenberg, our Garden City divorce attorneys are knowledgeable about the steps in a divorce and can give you the legal advice you need.
How To Approach A Marital Settlement Agreement
In the event of a separation or divorce, this agreement will serve as a written record of how the couple has decided to manage the aspects of their lives that are shared. This can include care for children, spousal maintenance, and separating property. It is very important for each spouse to note that there are laws governing how this type of an agreement can take effect.
It is also critical to have an attorney involved so that each person’s interests are represented by their respective lawyers, even if they both agree to the terms. Garden City NY divorce lawyers can also help propose changes to that agreement to make it more fair, if necessary.
In the instance where you have finalized and signed the agreement, an attorney can assist with making any changes. However, before these changes can be made, both parties must agree to them and understand that they will prevail going forward. Most significantly, any changes to the agreement must be signed by both parties with the same formality, i.e., notarized and acknowledged, with the same formality as the original agreement.
The Difference Between a Separation Agreement and a Stipulation of Settlement
The only difference between a Separation Agreement and a Marital Settlement Agreement, or Stipulation of Settlement, is that in the case of the latter, there must be a divorce action pending before the parties enter into the agreement. The terms of the Agreement are then incorporated into a judgment of divorce. Once the parties are divorced, they are free to remarry, are no longer eligible to remain on one another’s health insurance plans, and are able to distribute retirement funds to the other spouse pursuant to the terms of the agreement without any tax consequences.
In the case of a Separation Agreement, the parties have provided for the division of assets, support, child custody, etc., with the same formality as a Stipulation of Settlement, but they remain legally married. As a result, most insurance companies provide for parties to continue maintaining their spouses on their policies as long as they are not divorced.
If you are in need of legal assistance with creating a marital settlement agreement and have other questions, contact Fass & Greenberg for a consultation. Let us help you with this transition for you and your family.
When parents physically separate, they will need to create a visitation schedule with their child’s other parent. These schedules vary greatly, and should not be taken lightly. Just because a couple is on friendly terms at the time of their separation does not mean it will remain so; particularly if one of them establishes another relationship. Jealousy, rivalry, and work schedules may render a loose arrangement ineffective.
Try to be as reasonable as possible when creating a schedule. Sit down with the other parent and an attorney so that you can focus on the schedule of your child as well as the work schedules of both parents. Sometimes, a parent with greater financial resources may want to negotiate more time with the children so as to avoid paying a greater amount of child support. Parents should be aware and resist a parent who places their needs above the child. Also, parents should avoid the “split the baby in two” to avoid litigation, because they will end up in court ultimately if the schedule is not viable.
Holidays can sometimes become difficult when you’re sharing custody with another parent. The office of Fass & Greenberg, family lawyers in New York, can help you develop a holiday schedule that is fair and that often means alternating schedules with the other parent each year. You should consider your child’s holiday schedule at school and the days you are able to get off work for each holiday as your child could stay with the other parent while you’re working instead of trying to find a sitter. There are also provisions such as “right of first refusal” that can be inserted into agreements which are designed to prevent a parent from being able to claim time with the children when they are in fact unavailable to be with the child due to work or other obligations. Our family attorneys in New York can work with you to develop a schedule that suits both parents so that each person can fit events in during the year with your child.
In the State of New York, a marriage can end one of two ways: divorce or annulment. While divorce dissolves a legal marriage, an annulment retroactively determines the marriage was invalid from the outset. People with religious or cultural objections to divorce may view annulment as an attractive alternative means to end their marriages. However, an annulment is much more difficult to obtain than a divorce. The office of Fass & Greenberg, family lawyers in Garden City NY, can assist with gathering the information needed to file for an annulment in court and can assist in ensuring that the process is completed in a fair manner for both parties involved.
Types of Annulments
There are two different types of marriage annulments, religious annulments and civil annulments. Religious annulments are conducted by religious institutions and have no bearing upon an individual’s legal marriage status. Civil annulments are issued by courts and follow a similar procedure to divorces.
In New York, the legal action to declare a marriage annulled is brought in the Supreme Court, the court of general jurisdiction.
There are two different types of marriages that can be annulled: void marriages and voidable marriages. A void marriage is void at its inception and, as a result, can never be made legal. Examples of void marriages include a marriage between an ancestor and a descendant, such as between a parent and a child; a marriage between an uncle and his niece or an aunt and her nephew. Other examples of void marriages include: a marriage between siblings; a marriage with a person who is already married, whose marriage was not terminated or dissolved, and whose spouse is still alive; and a marriage performed by someone who did not have the legal authority to perform the marriage.
Although a void marriage is not recognized as valid, such a marriage cannot be legally terminated without obtaining a declaration of a nullity of the marriage. In addition to the declaration, the court can also legitimize children of the marriage and address all issues of the marriage, such as custody of the children, child support, maintenance and equitable distribution of marital assets. There is no time limit on bringing an annulment for a void marriage. The action may be brought anytime during the life of the parties.
Voidable marriages are marriages that, although legal at inception, can be annulled if any of the following conditions are met:
- A marriage involving a person younger than 18 may be annulled at the discretion of the court, if the spouse who is under 18 wants an annulment. The annulment will not be granted if the minor freely cohabited with the other party as spouses after reaching the age of 18;
- Either spouse was unable to understand the nature, effect and consequences of the contract of marriage because of mental incapacity (mental illness or mental retardation). This action may be brought by a relative of the incapacitated spouse at any time during the mental incapacity or after the death of the incapacitated spouse. This action may also be brought by the incapacitated spouse at any time after he/she has been restored to sound mind. This action may also be brought by the non-incapacitated spouse during the incapacity if the incapacity was present at the time of the marriage and the non-incapacitated spouse did not know of the incapacity at the time of the marriage. This action may not be brought if the spouses have freely cohabitated with the other party as spouses after the incapacitated party has been restored to sound mind;
- Either spouse was incurably unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage. This action must be brought within 5 years of the marriage;
- Either spouse consented to marry as a result of force, duress, or fraud by the other. An action brought on the basis of fraud must be brought within 3 years of the discovery of the fraud; or
- After marriage, either partner becomes incurably insane for five years or more.
A legal action is also required to annul a voidable marriage. In most cases, only the spouse not at fault may commence the action to annul. Actions for an annulment require a higher degree of proof than a divorce. Often, corroborative evidence from other witnesses is required to establish the proper grounds. Each of the reasons for an annulment listed above may also contain further restrictions.
The vast majority of annulments are based upon fraud. Fraudulent acts that warrant an annulment include marriage for a green card; falsely claiming the desire to have children; falsely claiming to love the other spouse; and falsely claiming to be pregnant.
Annulments are more difficult to acquire and less common than divorces, but for those who qualify, an annulment can be a great relief. Consult our family lawyers in Garden City NY to see if your situation allows for the possibility of an annulment.
Custody battles between parents are frequently emotional and frustrating, making them perfectly poised to become hostile and antagonistic. In most circumstances, the greatest amount of conflict may not even be caused by addressing significant life-altering decisions, but when dealing with the day-to-day agreements of where to meet to exchange children, or how to provide the correct educational and medical care. Because of the significant friction in custody cases, it can be difficult to find a scenario that works well for both parents, and the children involved. One option that many parties find effective is to hire a parent coordinator (“PC”). Our Garden City lawyers at Fass and Greenberg can assist you with all of your legal concerns and questions.
What is a Parent Coordinator?
PC’s are professionals that offer guidance to parties who are unable to make joint decisions for their child. These experts are trained to provide a method of dispute resolution in high-conflict cases of child custody which puts the child first above all else. By helping to highlight decisions in the best interests of a child, a parent coordinator can reduce the level of friction in cases by assisting parents to make better decisions as parents. Though PC’s don’t necessarily determine which parent should be the primary caretaker of the child or children in question, they can help to manage a great deal of the parenting time issues after the case is over and the parents have a custody and parenting time order in place.
Who Hires the Parent Coordinator?
New York courts may appoint a PC in any case, regardless of the parties’ objections. Courts do so most frequently in cases with high conflict parents who have demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to make parenting decisions with the best interest of their children in mind. High conflict cases are ones where the parties exhibit excessive anger and distrust, causing them to engage in excessive litigation, physical aggression, and verbal abuse. Parents in these cases are often consumed by their disdain for each other, leaving their children caught in the crossfire and preventing them from cooperating in their care.
While most PC’s are appointed by a court, some parents voluntarily choose to seek the assistance of a PC. This can be a smart, proactive decision if the parties foresee their divorce becoming contentious.
What Roles Does the Parent Coordinator Play?
The PC’s primary role is to assist the parties to work out disagreements regarding the children with minimal or decreasing conflict. As a neutral facilitator the PC may utilize dispute resolution skills from principles and practices of negotiation, mediation and arbitration. To assist the parents in reducing conflict, the PC may monitor the parents’ communications and suggest more productive forms of communication that limit conflict.
PC’s also serve as educators. PC’s educate the parties about how their actions will affect their children’s development. This knowledge allows the parties to make informed decisions on their own when solving the problems that inevitably arise during divorce.
PC’s can only make decisions to the extent agreed upon by the parents or by court order. When parents are not able to decide or resolve disputes on their own, the PC can make decisions to the extent allowed by the court. These decisions are not regarding custody and visitation, but generally deal with enforcement and/or modification of existing orders. The PC may also make reports and recommendations to the court. The issue of whether or not they can be used as evidence is decided within the parameters of their engagement by the court or by the parents through mutual stipulation. These are not binding on the parties but are often shown deference by courts.
How do Parent Coordinators Work?
In an attempt to resolve disputes, the PC will generally hold a number of meetings that include both parents. These meetings act as a space wherein the parents can discuss concerns regarding the parenting plan, and the PC can offer a combination of dispute resolution techniques, parental education, and counseling to assist in facilitating agreements. Often, PC meetings are not attended by the attorneys of the parties involved, but there are exceptions to this when the parents and PC both agree to the presence of legal representation, or when the court orders that attorneys should be present during all meetings. Day to day disputes might be solved through a phone call with the PC.
During the negotiations, the PC attempts to find solutions for problems before they have the chance to escalate. Ideally, this process should help the parents involved to meet a settlement that they both consider to be fair, and which is also in the best interests of the children involved. PC can be given a significant amount of power and sway in a child custody or parenting time order. While they may be unable to determine where the child lives, or who is given custody, these professionals can decide on a number of issues to be included in their recommendations. For instance, a PC cannot change a court order, but they can make minor changes or clarifications to the schedules outlined in the order, and parenting time decisions, such as temporary variations, holidays, and vacations. Additionally, parent coordinators can:
- Establish recommendations and make small changes to the custody and visitation orders based on their understanding of the child’s best interests.
- Report suspected abuse of children to protective services
- Determine where, when, and how the family and friends of the non-custodial parent will be permitted to see the children.
- Manage complaints from the parties involved in the case about various subjects, and make decisions that the parties must utilize, such as which friend’s children can visit, what religious services they should attend, and so on.
- Prevent parents from having conversations with children that involve certain topics.
- Make determinations as to where the parents involved are allowed to go during their day with the child, and which activities should be allowed.
The PC cannot advocate specifically for one party, and they do not have the right to compromise the parent’s ability to be heard within the process. For a PC to have a positive impact within a child custody case, it is crucial to maintain neutrality, accessibility, and fairness for both parents. Many PC’s have significant training in psychology and mental health, but they are prohibited from offering mental health services or counseling to any child or parent they have been appointed to.
What are the Risks of Having a Parent Coordinator? A court may not delegate the authority to resolve issues affecting the best interests of the children to parent coordinators, but courts are very deferential to their recommendations.
Professional misconduct is the most common reason for attorney discipline. Lawyers can also be disciplined for conduct in their personal lives. In addition to suffering the legal consequences of any criminal activity in some instances, i.e., if the crime involves dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation, a lawyer may also be subject to discipline imposed by the Grievance Committee of their State Bar Association. While some may believe it is unfair to impose a higher standard of ethical conduct upon lawyers in their personal life, they must keep in mind that this professional discipline is a result of the legal profession’s self-regulation. It is meant to encourage ethical behavior among lawyers as well as public trust of lawyers and the legal system.
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct
The American Bar Association (“ABA”) created the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (“MRPC”) as a model on which states can base their legal ethics laws. The MRPC has been adopted in whole or in part by 49 states and the District of Colombia, making it the best rubric for legal ethics in the United States.
What Qualifies as Misconduct?
One type of misconduct outlined by the MRPC is “criminal acts that reflect adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” This means that a lawyer who commits a crime may face professional consequences, in addition to criminal consequences, if the crime includes dishonesty or calls the lawyer’s fitness into question. Crimes that commonly result in discipline for lawyers are driving while intoxicated, failure to pay income taxes, and fraud.
Another type of misconduct outlined in the MRPC is “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” This rule encompasses all actions, not only criminal ones. This rule is aimed at punishing moral turpitude or depravity. Though rarely enforced, the MRPC lists adultery as an example of an action that may implicate moral turpitude even though it is not related to the practice of law.
Under these rules, New York lawyers have faced discipline for dishonest business practices in a real estate business, entering into a bigamous marriage in another country, continuing to live in a rent-controlled apartment after the leaseholder died, and falsely accusing a police officer of uttering a racial slur in order to get out of a speeding ticket. In each of these instances, the lawyer was disciplined for actions unrelated to their practice of law.
What is the Penalty?
Courts have discretion to discipline lawyers by issuing a censure (which is a public condemnation with no legal ramifications), suspending them from the practice of law, or complete disbarment. And while most discipline is the result of professional misconduct, courts often treat private misconduct just as harshly as professional misconduct.
When determining how to discipline a lawyer, courts balance the severity of the conduct against any mitigating factors. These mitigating factors could include a lack of a prior disciplinary record, cooperation with the ethics investigation, admissions of guilt, expressions of remorse, and a reputation for integrity.
For example, in In re Bikman, a lawyer continued to live in her sister’s rent-controlled apartment after her sister died, without informing the landlord of her sister’s death. While the lawyer “did not quite manage to commit criminal or common-law fraud,” the court found that “she surely was dishonest, she was deceitful and she did misrepresent.” Furthermore, the lawyer did not admit to doing anything wrong, failed to cooperate with the investigation, and made efforts to impede the Committee’s investigation. Based on these factors, the court suspended the lawyer for 18 months.
The ability to practice law is a privilege, not a right. To ensure that each lawyer is deserving of that privilege, the ABA and state legislatures have created a system of rules and punishments for unethical behavior. And since the ethical practice of law is a vital element of society, these rules aim to punish lawyers for any conduct which suggests that they are unfit to practice law, regardless of whether the conduct was professional or personal.
Should lawyers be held professionally accountable for their private actions? The answer depends on what role lawyers play in society. People often look to lawyers (as attorneys, judges, government officials, etc.) to hold others accountable for their actions. This is a position of power within society, a position that could easily be exploited without oversight. This alone may justify the rigorous self-regulation in the legal profession. However, some lawyers may feel that such an interference into their private life is too much to ask. Perhaps lawyers are fully capable of separating the moral problems of their private life from the ethical duties of their professional life. But as things are today, these higher personal standards are the unavoidable cost of practicing law.
Unlike some states, New York requires divorce records to be sealed. This means that only the former spouses or someone with a New York state court order can access those documents with proper identification, such as a driver’s license, passport, or military ID. If the former spouses are represented by attorneys, those attorneys can also access the divorce records.
A Judgment of Divorce is the document signed by a judge which outlines the general terms of the parties’ divorce. A copy of the Judgment of Divorce can only be obtained from the Office of the County Clerk in the county in which the divorce was granted. You should check with your county clerk to get accurate information as to their procedure for obtaining this document. The Nassau County Clerk, for example, will provide the Judgment of Divorce only to the former spouses or their attorneys, with a valid government issued photo ID. The fee for a regular copy is .65 per page with a minimum of $1.30. The fee for a certified copy is $1.25 per page with a minimum of $5.00.
General information about past or current divorces may be found through an online search of Supreme Court cases using New York State’s WebCivil Supreme feature on the e-Courts page. After selecting a county, using an Index Number or the name of one of the parties, the case may be found. Information to be accessed there includes the name of the presiding judge, the case history of appearances, the general outcome of each appearance, and any motions which have been filed. The next future appearance date, if any, will also be shown. Attorneys who have been involved in the case will also be named. What will not be found is access to any documents.
Family Court handles family law matters other than divorce. For general information about future appearance dates on active cases in Family Court, you can also perform an online search using New York State’s WebFamily feature on the e-Courts page. You need to first have a docket or file number, attorney or firm name, or the judge’s name and appearance date to access this information. Information on past cases is not available.
You may also contact Fass & Greenberg, LLP for assistance with accessing your divorce records, or with questions you may have about any divorce or family law procedures.
For couples seeking to end their marriage, it is important to know that the State of New York is one of the few states to consider both at-fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Prior to the enactment of DRL §170(7), a spouse needed to prove one of the following causes of action to obtain a divorce:
- Cruel and inhuman treatment
- Abandonment for a minimum of one year
- Confinement in prison for a minimum of three consecutive years
- Living separate and apart pursuant to a written separation agreement for a year or more
For every one of the above cases, substantial evidence must be provided to prove the alleged cause of action as grounds for granting the divorce. The spouse who wanted the divorce, but was unable to prove the essential elements of abandonment, cruelty, or adultery, was at a distinct disadvantage in negotiating financial terms with their adversary spouse. In such cases, the adversary spouse could take the position that they would “consent to grounds” if they received an unfair financial benefit. Similarly, a spouse who opposed the divorce had the power to force a “grounds trial’, which could result in the dismissal of the action, thus forcing the parties to remain married.
On August 15, 2010, then-Governor David Patterson signed the no-fault divorce bill which affects all divorces commenced after October 12, 2010. This provision referred to as the ‘no fault divorce” cause of action only requires a spouse to demonstrate that ‘the relationship between husband and wife has broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months “, to constitute a cause of action for divorce in New York.
While clearly, the 2010 law has made it less difficult to divorce in New York, there are many nuances to the statute which the Garden City lawyers, Fass & Greenberg, LLP., are familiar with. For example, there is a requirement that no judgment of divorce shall be granted under this subdivision unless and until all of the issues in the parties’ divorce, i.e., equitable distribution, spousal support, counsel fees, custody, etc., have been determined by the court or resolved by the parties and incorporated into a judgement of divorce.
The law firm of Fass & Greenberg, LLP are familiar with the type of evidence needed and can inform you on the steps you need to take in this process. A lawyer can also draft the necessary documents that will state your expectations regarding the divorce, alimony, asset division, and arrangements for children. They can also be present at any mediation sessions (if that route is chosen) and can appear in court on your behalf at your hearings.