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Matrimonial & Family Law

Now you have an experienced New York Divorce Lawyer on your side.
When you’re faced with the daunting challenge of dividing substantial personal, family and business assets and complex child custody issues, you need a New York divorce lawyer who is highly experienced in divorce law. A New York attorney who can aggressively negotiate an acceptable divorce, property division and child custody arrangement, or litigate if the situation warrants.

Goldman & Maurer, LLP. will help you untangle the sometimes challenging New York divorce laws. Ellen W. Maurer, Esq. a partner in the firm, has been specializing in Matrimonial Law for the last 25 years. She is well known in the Queens and Nassau Courts, as well as Manhattan, Suffolk and Westchester Counties, for her strong results, excellent litigation skills and practical solutions to complex family problems which require a creative solution. Ellen W. Maurer, Esq. will discuss your divorce situation, analyze your complex financial information, the custody and visitation issues and suggest the solutions that best suit your needs. Goldman & Maurer, LLP. cares about the people we represent and their children, helping you to discover the best divorce alternative for your unique situation.

Family Law

Areas of Concentration

Divorce - Contested
Divorce - Uncontested
Child Custody
Child Support
Separation/Settlement Agreements
Modification
Pre-Nuptial Agreements
Support Enforcement Proceedings
Relocation Cases
Mediation
Grounds for divorce in New York:

No Fault Divorce

            A new ground for divorce has recently been added to the six other "contested" grounds.  This new ground is defined as an irretrievable breakdown of communication for a six month period of time.  This new ground is supposed to be close to "irreconcilable differences".  However, all of the other old grounds still remain in tact.

Cruel and Inhuman treatment

Cruel and inhuman treatment can generally involve either physical or mental cruelty. To be a reason for divorce, the treatment must have such a serious effect upon the physical o4r mental health of the person seeking the divorce that it is not safe or proper for the parties to continue the marriage. Mere incompatibility between husband and wife is not a ground for divorce in the State of New York. Some examples of acts that Courts have held to constitute cruel and inhuman treatment for divorce purposes include physical attacks upon a spouse, constant screaming and profanity or other verbal abuse, gambling away the household funds, staying away from the house too often without an explanation, going out with another man or woman, and wrongfully accusing the other spouse of adulteress relations with another man or woman. Alcoholism, by itself, is usually not a sufficient basis for divorce unless your spouse becomes cruel or violent when intoxicated so that you fear for your health and safety. Each case stands on its own facts. It is very important that you give a detailed factual history to your divorce attorney so that he or she can judge whether or not you have sufficient grounds for cruel and inhuman treatment.
Abandoment

Abandonment means that your spouse has intentionally left you without your consent and of his own or her own accord. That is, you did not force or lock your spouse out of the house. It must also be without justification. You must also prove that your spouse had no good reason for leaving you, such as your ill treatment or your consent and also that your spouse left with the intention of never returning and that your spouse did not offer in good faith to return. Unjustified refusal by a spouse to have sexual relations for a full year is also considered a constructive abandonment and may also be considered cruel and inhuman treatment.
Imprisonment for three consecutive years

Divorce on the grounds of imprisonment for three or more years means that the defendant spouse actually must have served three or more years in prison before an action can be brought for divorce on this ground. This applies even if the conviction is later overturned or reversed on appeal. The physical incarceration must last for a minimum of three consecutive years. Anything less will be sufficient.
Adultery

Bringing an action upon the grounds of adultery, especially if your spouse is going to contest the divorce, is not a simple matter. The proof is difficult. You are not permitted to testify against your spouse and you must have a witness ready to convince the Court that your spouse did engage in sexual relations with another person. Adultery is usually proven by circumstantial evidence. That is, by showing that your spouse had the opportunity, inclination and intent to engage in sexual relations with another person. It is frequently necessary to retain the services of a Private Investigator to obtain the specific circumstantial evidence needed for trial. Since this can often be a difficult ground upon which to obtain a divorce, it is important that you discuss this issue with your matrimonial attorney carefully.
Living apart for one year

Living apart for one year pursuant to a separation agreement or a decree of separation is another ground for divorce in the State of New York. A separation agreement is a detailed written contract, usually prepared by an attorney where the parties agree to live separate and apart for the rest of their lives. It sets forth the respective rights and duties of the 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. The same attorney is prohibited from representing both spouses, no matter how friendly the matter may appear on the surface. After a couple has signed a written separation agreement and have physically separated, either party may seek a divorce after one year of living apart pursuant to the written separation agreement provided that the person seeking the divorce has complied with all of the promises that he or she made in the separation agreement. You should bring a copy of the separation agreement with you when you meet with your matrimonial attorney for the first time in connection with obtaining a divorce.
New York child support information

When does child support stop in New York?

A parent’s liability for the support of his or her children is limited to children under the age of 21. In the absence of an express or implied contract, parent’s duty to provide reasonable child support is not absolute. For custody, visitation and other purposes, the age of majority is 18, but for purposes of a parent’s support obligation, the age of majority remains 21. Of course, a parent’s duty to provide reasonable child support is not absolute. The duty may be terminated before a child is 21 if the child becomes emancipated by obtaining a full time job which pays enough that the child can truly be considered to be financially independent, by marriage or entry into the armed forces. Under certain limited circumstances, a parent’s duty to pay child support may also terminate if the child refuses, without just cause, to submit to reasonable parental authority.
How is child support calculated?

This Child Support Standards Act ("CSSA") provides that the Court shall calculate the "basic child support obligation", and the non-custodial parent’s pro rata share of the "basic child support obligation". Unless the Court finds that the non-custodial parent’s pro rata share of the "basic child support obligation"is unjust or inappropriate, after considering ten statutory factors, it must order the non-custodial parent to pay his/her pro rata share of the "basic child support obligation". In arriving at the "basic child support obligation"the Court must calculate the "combined parental income" and multiply it by the appropriate "child support percentage." "Income" is defined as "gross income as was or should have been reported on the most recent federal income tax return." There are required deductions from gross income for social security and New York City and Yonkers income taxes. The law contains provisions for additions to "income" and deductions from "income."
The "child support percentage" is:

17% of the combined parental income for one child;
25% of the combined parental income for two children;
29% of the combined parental income for three children;
31% of the combined parental income for four children; and
no less than 35% of the combined parental income for five or more children.
Where there are five or more children, the Court must exercise its discretion in fixing the amount of the child support percentage. Where the combined parental income exceeds $141,000 per year after the Court determines the non-custodian parent’s share of the "basic child support obligation," it must next determine the amount of child support for the amount of combined parental income in excess of $80,000. It may do so, in the exercise of its discretion, through consideration of ten discretionary factors and/or the child support percentage.

There are two additional items of support which are part of and which the Court must consider in determining the "basic child support obligation" and two items it may consider in determining the non-custodial parent’s share of the "basic child support obligation":

When a custodial parent is working or receiving education leading to employment, reasonable child care expenses must be apportioned pro rata, in the same proportion as each parent’s income is to the combined parental income.

In addition, the Court must fix the non-custodial parent’s pro rata share of the child’s future reasonable health care expenses not covered by insurance, prorated in the same proportion that each parent’s income is to the combined parental income and the non-custodial parent’s pro rata share must be paid in the manner determined by the Court.

The Court may also make an award directing the non-custodian parent to pay the costs of present or future post-secondary, private, or special education for the child. The non-custodial parent will pay these expenses in the manner determined by the Court. This provision is discretionary. When the Court determines that the custodial parent is "seeking work" and incurs child care expenses as a result, it may determine reasonable child care expenses and apportion them between the custodial and the non-custodial parent. The Court can direct the manner of such payment. This provision is also discretionary.

The CSSA mandates that a minimum of $25.00 per month be fixed as child support even if the non-custodial parent is unemployed and has no income or assets.

Can my spouse and I agree to amounts that are different from the amount of child support required by the CSSA guidelines? Yes. You and your spouse can waive the provisions of the Child Support Standards Act provided that you do so in writing, and the agreement contains certain required language demonstrating that you have been advised as to the amount of the child support that would have to be paid were the CSSA guidelines being observed, and further, the agreements lists the reason or reasons that it does not provide for payment of that amount. This provision may not be waived by either party or his/her counsel.

Based upon budget cuts in the judicial system, as well as the current downturn in the economy, this is an excellent choice.

Maintenance (also known as "alimony" or "spousal support"):

There are new laws on automatic percentages for temporary maintenance and temporary attorneys fees-- intended to enable the "less monied spouse" to carry on or defend a matrimonial divorce action.

There are nuances which your attorney must be versed in, whether representing the "monied" or "non-monied" spouse.

Ms. Maurer represents both parties.  Although courts do not award lifetime maintenance, the amount and duration of maintenance must be uniquely considered by an experienced attorney as it is factually specific to each case.
Questions and answers about divorce Mediation

1. What is the role of a trained mediator?

Throughout the mediation process, the mediator remains a neutral party. This means that the mediator is not acting as advocate, judge or jury. Rather, the mediator’s purpose is to assist the parties in identifying and clarifying the issues that must be resolved. He or she will help to develop a constructive dialogue that examines each issue with a focus on the parties’ needs, interests and priorities.  Because there is a backlog in the courts, which can make litigation costly and time consuming, this is an excellent choice for many litigants.
2. Will I need an attorney?

Yes. At the beginning of the mediation process, each party is advised to hire independent counsel to advise and consult with throughout the mediation process. The number of hours each party’s attorney spends as a consultant is usually significantly less than would have been spent during adversarial negotiations or Court proceedings. At the end of the mediation, if the parties have settled on the terms of the separation agreement, the attorney mediator drafts the agreement. Each party then has his or her attorney review the agreement.
3. If we cannot communicate with each other, how will we be able to communicate through the divorce mediation process?

The divorce mediator is specifically trained to help couples with communication problems.
4. By choosing mediation, do I give up any rights that I or my children may be entitled to?

Divorce mediation is an alternative to adversarial proceedings or negotiations. All issues that would normally be addressed in adversarial proceedings or negotiations (child and spousal support, parenting arrangements, division of marital assets, tax implications) are discussed by the parties. Neither party should need to relinquish any of his or her entitlements, but instead of litigating issues, you and your spouse privately work through your differences with the goal of reaching an agreement that will best serve your present and future needs.
5. Can I withdraw from mediation if I am unhappy with the results?

Yes. Divorce mediation is a voluntary process. This means that both you and your spouse must be willing participants. If you or your spouse are not happy with the progress of the mediation, either one of you can withdraw at any time.
6. How does mediation address power imbalances between spouses?

Not all couples are suited for divorce mediation. For a mediation to be successful, both parties must make their voices heard. In situations where there are serious power imbalances between spouses, divorce mediation may not be appropriate. At the initial session, as well as during the course of the mediation, the trained mediator, together with the parties, will assess the suitability of the couple for mediation.
7. Are there situations when divorce mediation is not recommended?

Yes. Divorce mediation is not appropriate for all couples. For example, divorce mediation is not recommended in situations involving domestic violence. It is also not appropriate when one spouse overpowers the other or refuses to participate honestly. In addition, if one spouse refuses to divulge all financial information or fails to cooperate with the mediator’s guidelines, mediation is not appropriate.
8. What are the benefits of divorce mediation?

Through divorce mediation, you and your spouse privately work through your differences and make decisions about your present and future needs. Generally, this process facilitates communication, promotes cooperation, reduces tension, and makes the inevitable separation easier. Divorce mediation is also a cost-effective alternative to divorce litigation.
9. How long does divorce mediation take?

Sessions usually last one to two hours. The number of sessions varies depending on the complexity of the issues and the needs of the parties. Successful mediations usually take from three to ten sessions.
10. How much does it cost?

The parties are charged on an hourly basis.


STATEMENT OF CLIENT'S RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES

Your attorney is providing you with this document to inform you of what you, as a client, are entitled to by law or by custom. To help prevent any misunderstanding between you and your attorney please read this document carefully.

If you ever have any questions about these rights, or about the way your case is being handled, do not hesitate to ask your attorney. He or she should be readily available to represent your best interests and keep you informed about your case.

An attorney may not refuse to represent you on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability.

You are entitled to an attorney who will be capable of handling your case; show you courtesy and consideration at all times; represent you zealously; and preserve your confidences and secrets that are revealed in the course of the relationship.

You are entitled to a written retainer agreement which must set forth, in plain language, the nature of the relationship and the details of the fee arrangement. At your request, and before you sign the agreement, you are entitled to have your attorney clarify in writing any of its terms, or include additional provisions.

You are entitled to fully understand the proposed rates and retainer fee before you sign a retainer agreement, as in any other contract.

You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory.

Your attorney may not request a fee that is contingent on the securing of a divorce or on the amount of money or property that may be obtained.

Your attorney may not request a retainer fee that is non-refundable. That is, should you discharge your attorney, or should your attorney withdraw from the case, before the retainer is used up, he or she is entitled to be paid commensurate with the work performed on your case and any expenses, but must return the balance of the retainer to you. However, your attorney may enter into a minimum fee arrangement with you that provides for the payment of a specific amount below which the fee will not fall based upon the handling of the case to its conclusion.

You are entitled to know the approximate number of attorneys and other legal staff members who will be working on your case at any given time and what you will be charged for the services of each.

You are entitled to know in advance how you will be asked to pay legal fees and expenses, and how the retainer, if any, will be spent.

At your request, and after your attorney has had a reasonable opportunity to investigate your case, you are entitled to be given an estimate of approximate future costs of your case, which estimate shall me made in good faith but may be subject to change due to facts and circumstances affecting the case.

You are entitled to receive a written, itemized bill on a regular basis, at least every sixty days.

You are expected to review the itemized bills sent by counsel, and to raise any objections or errors in a timely manner. Time spent in discussion or explanation of bills will not be charged to you.

You are expected to be truthful in all discussions with your attorney, and to provide all relevant information and documentation to enable him or her to completely prepare your case.

You are entitled to be kept informed of the status of your case, and to be provided with copies of correspondence and documents prepared on your behalf or received from the court or your adversary.

You have the right to be present in court at the time that conferences are held.

You are entitled to make the ultimate decision on the objectives to be pursued in your case, and to make the final decision regarding the settlement of your case.

Your attorney's written retainer agreement must specify under what circumstances he or she might seek to withdraw as your attorney for nonpayment of legal fees. If an action or proceeding is pending, the court may give your attorney a "charging lien," which entitles your attorney to payment for services already rendered at the end of the case out of the proceeds of the final order or judgment.

You are under no legal obligation to sign a confession of judgment or promissory note, or to agree to a lien or mortgage on your home to cover legal fees. Your attorney's written retainer agreement must specify whether, and under what circumstances, such security may be requested. In no event may such security interest be obtained by your attorney without prior court approval and notice to your adversary. An attorney's security interest in the marital residence cannot be foreclosed against you.

You are entitled to have your attorney's best efforts exerted on your behalf, but no particular results can be guaranteed.

If you entrust money with an attorney for an escrow deposit in your case, the attorney must safeguard the escrow in a special bank account. You are entitled to a written escrow agreement, and may request that one or more interest-bearing bank accounts be used. You also are entitled to a written receipt, and a complete record concerning the escrow. When the terms of the escrow agreement have been performed, the attorney must promptly make payment of the escrow to all persons who are entitled to it.

In the event of a fee dispute, you may have the right to seek arbitration. Your attorney will provide you with the necessary information regarding arbitration in the event of a fee dispute, or upon your request.

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