Divorce and Family Law
Divorce or Separation is certainly an extremely difficult time for almost all clients, even in the best of circumstances these situations are complicated at very least. An experienced attorney can focus on all the legal aspects of the situation to ensure that the individual’s rights are preserved. No matter what stage in the Separation/Divorce process, including representation in Family Court after or are going to Family Court for the first time the LFKF will vigorously address all related issues, such as:
- Child Custody & Visitation
- Children’s rights
- Child Support
- Equitable Property Division
- Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs)
Uncontested Divorce: An Uncontested divorce is where the parties agree that a divorce should take place and the terms of the divorce have been discussed in enough detail to allow an agreement to be drafted that resolves all the issues of the marriage. This means that the parties have come to an agreement on maintenance (formerly called alimony), and the division of marital assets and marital debts, in a manner that is mutually satisfactory to both parties. If there were children born of the marriage, it also means that the parties have reached an agreement on custody, visitation and child support. Usually No Fault is agreed upon for grounds.
Contested Divorce: A Contested Divorce is where the parties do not agree on the terms, or one party does not want a divorce, and it is necessary to seek court intervention to obtain the divorce. This is often the case when a divorce is sought because of domestic violence, or because one party is too difficult to deal with in the context of an Uncontested Divorce.
Step-Parent Adoption: Sometimes when one biological parent gets married (or remarried), it is in the child’s best interest for the new spouse to adopt the child by doing a Step-parent Adoption. Often the other biological parent has had little involvement in the child’s life and does not pay child support (or is in arrears). In the typical step-parent adoption case, the step-parent is eager to take responsibility for parenting the child, and the uninvolved biological parent is eager to shed responsibility for the child. Some stepparent adoptions, however, result in contested litigation because the uninvolved biological parent does not wish to relinquish his or her parental rights.
Adult Adoptions: Adult adoptions are when one adult adopts another adult. Usually it is for one of the following reasons:
- A foster child, or step-child, may wish to be adopted because of a close relationship.
- An adult adoptee may choose to be adopted by a biological parent after learning their identity.
- A way to create inheritance rights.
Private Independent Adoptions: In a private independent adoption, the birth parent(s) and the adoptive parents, agree to the adoption. If the adoption concerns an unborn child, the adoptive parents often have contact with the birth parents prior to birth. The adoptive parents may also be involved with the pregnancy and sometimes be present for the birth. In fact, building a relationship with the birth parents is an important part of the adoption process because it builds trust and confidence in the adoptive parents paving the way for the adoption to occur as planned. Upon birth, the adoptive child is placed in the care of the adoptive parents.
Re-Adoption of Children Adopted Internationally: If a child was adopted outside of the United States, it may be necessary to re-adopt the child in your home state, as it may be a requirement of the international adoption agency. Other times certain countries only grant guardianship of the child, so an adoption is required to finalize the adoption. Nonetheless, it should be done to protect your legal rights to the child.
Family Court is where you litigate issues concerning Paternity, Custody, Visitation, and Child Support. The Family Court also handles cases brought by the county for child abuse, child neglect, and adjudications for juvenile delinquency (JD), and person in need of supervision (PINS).
Paternity: When children are born out of wedlock and the father was not present to acknowledge paternity at the hospital, a paternity petition is required to be filed in the Family Court to establish parental rights for the father. If the mother wants child support from the father, paternity needs to be established before a Child Support Order can be issued. The County may file a paternity petition on behalf of the mother, when the mother is receiving public assistance, to obtain child support from the father. The County may also seek money from the father to pay for his share of the birth, if the mothers birth costs were paid by Medicaid.
Child Custody: It is important for parents that have a child out of wedlock to establish Custody. If the parents cannot agree, the Court will decide who gets custody based on what is in the “best interest of the child”. There are three basic forms of custody for parents to choose from under NY Law.
- Sole Custody: Sole Custody gives a parent the right to make all decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare, and permits him or her to be the primary residential parent of the child. The other parent will have visitation with the child based on a schedule. If the parents agree, or the Court awards Sole Custody to one parent, it does not negate that parent’s parental rights (this is a common misconception). The non-custodial parent will generally receive independent access to the health education and welfare records of the child and is free to bring a petition to change custody in the future if there has been a change in circumstances.
- Joint Custody (One Parent as Primary Residential Parent): Joint Custody with a Primary Residential Designation, gives one parent the right to have the child primarily reside with him or her, but the decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare are shared between the parents.
- Joint Custody: Straight Joint Custody is where the parents share both physical custody and the decisions regarding the health, education, and welfare. Neither parent is the primary residential parent and the children spend about the same amount of time with each parent.
Child Visitation: Visitation is an Order granted by the Family Court that describes the schedule that the non-custodial parent sees the child. Typically, the schedule will include alternate weekend visits, one day during the week after school, and holidays. The schedule is usually designed around work schedules.
Child Support: Child Support is the amount of money that the custodial parent receives from the non-custodial parent. The amount paid comes from the Child Support Standards Act (CCSA). Additional Support may be paid for healthcare insurance premiums, uninsured medical costs, and daycare costs. Below is a link to my Child Support Calculator. Support may also be paid via an income deduction order.
Child Abuse: Child Abuse Petitions under Article 10 of the Family Court Act are sometimes brought by the Department of Social Services against parents that are accused of Child Abuse. The charges may lead to a termination of parental rights and may cause separate criminal charges to be brought by the District Attorney. A non-abusing parent often faces Neglect, for failing to take the necessary steps to protect the child from the abusing parent.
Child Neglect: Neglect Petitions under Article 10 of the Family Court Act are sometimes brought by the Department of Social Services against parents that are accused of Child Neglect. The charges may lead to a termination of parental rights. Typically neglect petitions stem from poor living conditions, failure to protect the child from abuse, educational neglect, and child obesity.
Juvenile Delinquency: Petitions against children for Juvenile Delinquency are sometimes brought against children for the crimes they commit by the county. Although it can often be avoided, children can sometimes be placed in Juvenile Detention Centers for a period up until the age of 18. Sometimes the crime is of a severity necessary to charge them as an adult.
Persons in Need of Supervision (PINS): PINS petitions are often brought by the Department of Social Services that are instituted by a parent claiming that a child is unruly at home and does not respond to discipline. Typically, the Court puts services in place to address the root causes of the unruliness, or in some cases places the child in a Juvenile Facility.
If you are in need of Divorce and Family Law help, please contact us today and put our legal team on your side!