Long Island, New York Family Law Attorneys

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The Sallah Family Law Firm

Services: Our Areas of Practice

Divorce

Divorce is a difficult and involved process, both emotionally and financially, for all parties concerned. In addition to the emotionally-charged issues of Child Custody, clients will have to go through the processes that resolve division of property, spousal support and child support. Having an experienced and understanding Family Law attorney on your side during this process will not only help ease your burden, but also preserve your property and assets.

New York is now a no‑fault divorce state. Anyone can now get divorced by simply claiming that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This has eliminated the issue of fault in a divorce proceeding.

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Maintenance/Alimony

The determination of spousal support considers numerous factors such as the income of both spouses, the lifestyle and standards of living during the marriage, a spouse's ability to work, the length of the marriage, health limitations, if any, of each spouse, and other special needs of each spouse. In New York, generally, spousal support is both deductible for the paying spouse and taxable as income to the recipient spouse. Our lawyers can advise you on what you can expect in the way of spousal support payments and help you determine the factors that best represent your interests before the divorce court.

In October of 2010, an Amendment to the Domestic Relations Law made it far easier for the non-monied spouse to secure temporary maintenance while the divorce action is pending. The intent of this amendment was to prevent the spouse who earns more money from financially bullying the non-monied spouse in the divorce preceding. A formula was created, similar to the formula used to calculate child support, to ensure that the needs of the spouse who has no income, or far less income, are met during the pendency of the divorce action.

In simple terms, it is now far easier to go to court and secure support order for a party whose spouse has "cut the tap" because a divorce has started.

The Amendment to the Domestic Relations Law also made it far easier for the spouse with less income and assets to secure an order of the court directing that the other party pay counsel fees. This amendment was intended to level the playing field so that the less affluent spouse can receive equal representation in their divorce.

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Equitable Distribution

New York requires an equitable division of marital assets. This involves determining how family assets were acquired during the marriage. For example, the court can decide who gets the house or the business, who can stay in the family home with the children, who gets which car, the life insurance policy, pension funds, profit sharing plans and stocks, and even who will be responsible for certain debts, such as IRS tax debts and credit card debts.

The key to a successful division of marital property in your favor is the proper valuation of it. Almost every asset and debt obtained during the marriage will be valued and subject to property division. Separate property interests, whether kept separate by contract or individually-owned premarital property, will not be divided by the court. Valuation of the family home or business, car, property and real estate, valuable personal property. such as antique collections and other real and tangible property, may impact the amount of spousal support that will be paid. With over 70 years' combined experience, our attorneys can help you evaluate your assets and home in an appropriate way to ensure you receive the greatest property interests possible.

There are many considerations for the court in determining each party's share of the assets or debts. Since every case involves different families and circumstances, a free consultation is necessary to learn what you are entitled to.

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Custody

Child custody is the most difficult area of Family Law. When parents divorce or separate and have disputes about their child's best interest, the courts intervene. This can often turn a simple divorce into a contested divorce. Having an experienced attorney is invaluable in sorting out these issues. As a parent, you want to make sure that your child is protected. Having a skilled New York child custody attorney can make a world of difference in the outcome of your case. The Sallah Law Firm, P.C. will help you fight for your child's best interest.

Most of the time, the best outcome for custody is a result that the parties have negotiated and agreed to on their own. This results in reasonably satisfied parents. This is important because unhappy results are, more often than not, passed onto the child/children through the parents, resulting in children who are burdened with an angry or unhappy parent. It is best to work out custody without a court imposing a result.

However, many custody disputes cannot be settled. When that occurs, an attorney experienced in handling custody trials is absolutely necessary. The Sallah Law Firm, P.C. has handled hundreds of custody trials with successful results.

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Visitation

Visitation issues are not as simple as in years past. Courts have recognized that non‑custodial parents should be just as involved in their children's upbringing as the custodial parent. The days of the non‑custodial parent receiving only alternate weekends (Friday‑Sunday) and maybe a night for dinner during the week, as a rule, are over.

In recent years, agreements and court decisions have provided substantial parenting time to the non‑custodial parent, which can include large blocks of time, in addition to alternate weekends and dinner visits.

While many cases still result in the traditional visitation schedule, it is most likely a result of an unwillingness of either the client (or the attorney) to fight for larger blocks of time and additional interaction with their children.

With an experienced matrimonial attorney, non‑custodial parents should be able to work out, or if necessary, litigate before the court a schedule of parenting time that provides for a more equitable balance of time with the children and both parents.

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Relocation

What if a custodial parent wants to move out of the local area, state, or country with the children? This results in a relocation case. There are two ways this type of case can begin.

In the first, the custodial parent brings an action requesting court permission to relocate. Where a non‑custodial parent has significant time and interaction with the parties' children, it is difficult to succeed in a relocation case. The court wants to ensure that the children have close and loving relationships with both parents. It is presumed that a relocation of the children will have a dilatory effect on the relationship with the parent who is not moving. However, these types of cases can be successfully prosecuted in instances where there is clear evidence that the best interests of the children would be met by the relocation.

The second way this type of case can be brought is through preemptive action, or responsive action, in the event the custodial parent has moved without court permission. Either way, the non‑custodial parent wants to prevent the other from moving.

Whichever way the case reaches the court, an experienced Family Law attorney is necessary to represent the party. These cases are complicated and are difficult to settle. For this type of matter, securing an attorney experienced in this area of litigation is absolutely essential.

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Parental Alienation

Has your child become withdrawn or expressed an unwillingness to spend time with you? Has your once solid relationship with your child become strained with no reasonable explanation?

This could be the result of parental alienation. Parental alienation is not recognized by New York courts as an actual syndrome. However, New York courts will accept evidence of parental alienation in determining custody matters. Indeed, there have been numerous cases in this state where custody has been changed from one parent to another directly because the former custodial parent was engaged in a course of conduct that resulted in the alienation of the child or children from the other parent.

Parental alienation is difficult to prove and even harder to stop. A parent willing to engage in conduct that results in parental alienation is not suitable for custody. It is a person who is unwilling to put the needs of their children before their own anger. Cases of this nature are also difficult to settle.

This is not the type of case to be handled by an inexperienced attorney. A party who believes this type of behavior is going on needs an experienced trial lawyer.

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Child Support

New York child support is an obligation of both parents. Parents are obligated to provide financial support for their children until they reach the age of twenty‑one. In intact households, providing for child support is rarely an issue. The parents merely contribute to the child's expenses in whatever manner they deem appropriate.

When parents separate or divorce, how the two parents meet the needs and expenses of their children can be a difficult issue. Child support includes the expenses of raising a child, including food and clothing, housing, utilities, medical expenses, transportation, education, childcare, extracurricular activities and more.

New York enacted the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) to dictate how New York child support will be calculated and paid. The CSSA is a very detailed law, set out in many pages of fine print. It defines income, support and other terms, and provides a step-by-step formula for courts and attorneys to use to determine New York child support issues. Child support will be determined by reference to the CSSA in every court in the State.

A parent's obligation to pay child support does not depend on marital status. Unmarried parents, as well as those who are or were married, can be obligated to pay support for their children.

Only the non‑custodial parent makes a Support payment. That payment is made to the custodial parent. New York requires that the Court identify a custodial and non‑custodial parent for the purposes of the CSSA, even when the parties have Joint Custody. In many families where the parents have Joint Custody, one parent is still the primary physical custodian, and the children reside primarily with that parent. That parent would be the custodial parent, and that parent will receive the child support payment.

When parents share physical custody on an absolutely equal basis, it is not so easy to determine which parent must pay support. This can cause a great deal of litigation. In many cases, the Court will simply order the party with the larger income to pay child support to the other parent. The case law in this area is complicated, and many times, insufficient. A party needs an experienced Family Law attorney in this situation to obtain a just result.

A. Child Care

New York child support includes "add on" child support obligations that parents must pay for their children. Those add on expenses are in addition to the Basic Support and include unreimbursed medical expenses and daycare expenses.

Reasonable day care expenses incurred to allow a custodial parent to work, to seek work, or to allow a custodial parent to enroll in educational programs that will lead to employment will be paid by both parents.

The obligation to pay day care expenses is based upon an apportionment of the parents' incomes. If one parent earns 30% of the combined parental income, that parent will pay 30% of the daycare expense in addition to the basic child support amount.

B. Medical Expenses

Child support includes the payment of unreimbursed and uncovered health care expenses. These expenses are an "add on" to the Basic child support amount and they are divided in proportion to the parties' income. Managing unreimbursed health expense can be difficult. A number of issues seem to be recurring and problematic for non-custodial parents in the payment of unreimbursed health expenses. Those issues include the timing of the expenses, notice for extraordinary expenses (usually dental or optical), the reasonableness of the expenses incurred, and notice on a regular basis of the expenses incurred. If a non-custodial parent is struggling to make ends meet, an unexpected $300 dental bill will be a serious problem. If the custodial parent does not provide receipts and seek reimbursement for health expenses for eight months and then demands reimbursement for all of the expense incurred during that time period, the non-custodial parent is put in the same position.

C. Educational Expenses

Support can include the costs of current or future college, private, special or enriched education for a child. This support is an "add on" to Basic child support. Based upon the facts and circumstances of the case, the Court will determine whether a parent must pay such expenses and, if so, the reasonable and fair amount of each parent's financial responsibility. This is one area of child support where the portion paid by each parent is not necessarily apportioned based upon his or her income.

D. Emancipation

Support is paid until the child reaches the age of 21, unless the child is emancipated earlier. What constitutes emancipation is a case-by-case factual determination. A child attending college away from home is not emancipated. A child not attending college, living at home and working full time may be emancipated. New York child support cannot be terminated simply because a parent believes their child is emancipated. A decision must be obtained from the Family Court or Supreme Court to stop the child support payments.

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Separation Agreements (Legal Separation)

In New York, a Separation Agreement is a detailed contract which should be prepared by an attorney. In this agreement, the spouses agree to live separate and apart. The agreement must contain the respective rights and duties of husband and wife with respect to the custody of children, visitation rights, support payments, distribution of property, and all other matters pertaining to the marital relationship.

Certain vital formalities must be carefully followed or the written agreement will not qualify as a ground for divorce and may not be binding as a contract.

The agreement, or a memorandum of separation, is filed (with complete confidentiality) with the Clerk of the County in New York where either spouse lives. At the end of one year from the date of the agreement, either spouse may sue the other for a "no‑fault" divorce known as a conversion divorce.

All that must be proven to the New York Court is that the agreement was duly executed and acknowledged and was properly filed; that the spouses have, in fact, lived apart during the period of the agreement up to the time of the divorce action; and that the Plaintiff has substantially complied with the terms of the separation agreement.

Separation Agreements can be a useful alternative to divorce where parties wish to continue to provide medical insurance or for tax purposes.

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Pre-Nuptial/Anti-Nuptial Agreements

Pre‑Nuptial Agreements are contracts between prospective spouses who are contemplating marriage or are already married. These contracts define the property rights of each of the prospective spouses during marriage and in the event of death, separation or divorce. A Pre‑Nuptial Agreement becomes effective upon marriage.

Domestic Relations Law Section 236, Part B, (3) states that such agreements include the following subject matters: "(1) a contract to make a testamentary provision of any kind, or a waiver of any right to elect against the provisions of a will; (2) provision for the ownership, division or distribution of separate and marital property; (3) provision for the amount and duration of maintenance or other terms and conditions of the marriage relationship, subject to the provisions of section 5‑311 of the General Obligations Law, and provided that such terms were fair and reasonable at the time of the making of the agreement and are not unconscionable at the time of entry of final judgment; and (4) provision for custody, care, education and maintenance of any child of the parties.

The Sallah Law Firm, P.C. is well equipped to handle any type of Pre‑Nuptial Agreement.

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Neglect

When certain conduct, actions, or inactions are reported to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency may commence a neglect proceeding against one or both parents which may result in removal of the child(ren) from that parent. These proceedings are heard before a Family Court Judge.

These types of cases absolutely require private representation for the party or parties. The parent is defending himself or herself against the County Attorney's Office, the Department of Social Services and, in most instances, an attorney for the child. This type of case can involve the termination of your parental rights. It is not the type of case an attorney with limited experience should ever be handling. The Sallah Law Firm, P.C. has vast experience handling these types of matters to successful conclusion.

There are certain requirements for a matter to rise to the level of neglect. It may involve the failure of the parent to do something, or actually doing something the agency believes may damage the child physically or emotionally.

Child Protective Services, in most instances, provides a valuable service and insures that many children who would otherwise be in danger are taken out of harm's way. However, at times, CPS can become overzealous against a good parent or parents who either did nothing wrong or made a minor error in judgment. These types of clients need an aggressive attorney to fight for their rights as parents. The Sallah Law Firm, P.C. has tried these types of cases on many occasions and secured results over the objection of an overzealous agency.

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Orders of Protection

The Family Court Act provides that a person may secure an Order of Protection ("OP") under certain circumstances. Those circumstances include physical abuse, harassment, menacing, certain types of threats and/or threatening behavior, to name a few.

There are many different forms an OP may take, including a complete stay away from the person and children, to simply an order to refrain from certain acts, such as harassment.

The OP can be useful in protecting a party in an abusive relationship. Having an attorney to represent you in this process is important because unless the other party consents to having such an order against them, a trial will be quickly scheduled. No person should be unrepresented at trial – particularly when that party's safety is at stake.

Unfortunately, there is much abuse in this area of law. Many people seek an OP, not because they are truly in need of protection, but because they want to get a "leg up" in a divorce or custody action. Having the monied spouse removed from the home greatly increases the chance of a large support order. Worse, many use the OP as a means of securing temporary custody and limiting the time the other parent can spend with the child or children.

In this scenario, aggressive representation is absolutely essential. The Sallah Law Firm, P.C. has successfully litigated hundreds of orders of protection. We always represent our clients zealously to disprove false charges.

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Adoption

Legal guidance is invaluable for assistance in making adoption decisions. Many alternatives exist, such as international adoption, U.S. agency adoption, private adoption, step-parent adoption, open adoption and closed adoption. Understanding the legalities involved, precautions to take and the advantages and disadvantages from a legal perspective can make the adoption process go more smoothly.

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Same-Sex Marriages and Divorces

Recently, the State of New York amended its laws to allow for same-sex couples to enter into legal marriage. As a result the Domestic Relations Law now controls the dissolution of their marriage. This not only means that same-sex couples can get married – it also means that they can get a divorce. The dissolution of a same-sex marriage is legally the same as a heterosexual marriage; the steps are the same and the Courts are required to view it exactly the same as a heterosexual marriage.

However, although New York recognizes the marriage, and consequently the divorce, the Federal Government does not, and as a result certain tax issues will effect same-sex divorcing couples differently than heterosexual couples. It is important to have an attorney with experience in handling issues with same-sex couples and marriage to safely and effectively deal with these nuances in the law.

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