Queens & Nassau Divorce Lawyers and Family Lawyers
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If you are experiencing marital difficulties, contact Westchester Divorce Lawyers and Family Lawyers for a FREE consultation and case evaluation. Our highly experienced attorneys will put you on the right track for a successful divorce or family law case. We take pride in delivering one-on-one attention to clients that few firms can match. We are always available to answer questions and explain your options, such as: getting the court to order your spouse to pay for your attorneys’ fees during the divorce, obtaining temporary maintenance (alimony) during the divorce, obtaining immediate child support, advising what assets you are entitled to, such as a portion of your spouse’s 401k, pension, or other retirement accounts, and explaining what to do and what NOT to do during your case.
Our mission is to resolve your case as quickly and efficiently as possible – in order to save you time and money. We will guide you through the way courts make custody decisions for your children, visitation issues, which parent will have final decision making authority for your children, the ability to settle your case without protracted litigation, and many other issues. The way your divorce case proceeds from the start can have a profound effect on the outcome of your case. Make the right choice from the beginning to give yourself the best chance of success. Call us to educate yourself, you’ll feel better that you did!
There are two types of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody concerns decision authority over your children. Physical custody or residential custody concerns the parent that the children will primarily be living with. This parent is referred to as the custodial parent
Custody determinations are based on the “best interest of the child.” In a custody dispute, the court will evaluate the child and the parents to determine who will best meet the needs of the child. Court will consider the age of the child, and other factors such as, which parent spends time doing homework with the child, the habits of each parent, allegations of abuse, the level of responsibility of each parent, etc. Often, the child will be appointed an attorney by the court. If the child tells his/her attorney that he/she would rather stay with a certain parent—the court will give great weight to the child’s request. Generally, courts will provide joint legal custody to parents, which gives both parents a say in how their children are raised.
Child support is vital to the care and upbringing of children. New York courts provide for two types of child support: basic support and support for add-on expenses. (“add-ons”).
Basic child support is calculated with the child support formula that is explained more fully below. Add-ons are additional payments for certain expenses.
Mandatory add-ons, include, health insurance premiums, unreimbursed medical or dental expenses, and day care expenses. In some cases, additional add-ons will be required, such as after school programs, tutoring, summer camp, and other extra-curricular activities. These are determined on a case by case basis upon considering the parties’ income to cover these expenses and the specific needs of the child.
The amount of basic child support is based on a mathematical formula that incorporates the combined income of the parents and the number of children. Child support will be paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. As noted above, if parents equally share physical custody 50/50, generally the less monied parent will receive child support payments from the monied parent (the parent who has lower income.) In addition, the non-custody parent will be required to pay a portion of the add-ons. This is known as the parent’s pro-rata share of add-ons. Add-on expenses can include items such as child care cost, summer camp, and afterschool programs.
During a divorce action the court may order the non-custodial parent to pay child support upon receiving a child support application (motion for child support.) Once the divorce is finalized the non-custodial parent will continue to pay, unless there is a change of circumstances. If the parent’s income increases or decreases by at least 15%, an application for an upward or downward modification of child support can be made.
The formula for basic child support is as follows:
1. Determine both parent’s adjusted gross income by subtracting Social Security taxes, Medicare taxes (FICA taxes), and NYC local taxes/Yonkers taxes from gross income. Note, other federal and state taxes are not subtracted.
2. Add both parents adjusted gross income to obtain their combined income (up to the statutory income cap, which increases each year.)
3. Depending on the number of children, the combined income will be multiplied by 17% (for one child), 25% (for two children), 29% (for three children), 31% (for four children), 35% (for five or more children). This gives you the basic support amount.
4. Next it must be determined how much the non-custodial parent must pay, known as the pro-rata share. To determine the non-custodial parent’s pro-rata share, divide the noncustodial parent’s income by the combined income. This gives the pro-rata share.
5. Multiply the basic support amount by the pro-rata share to determine the amount of child support that must be paid.
6. Maintenance payments will affect the amount of child support paid. If the noncustodial parent is paying maintenance, the maintenance payments are subtracted from their income and added to the custodial parent’s income. This will reduce the custodial parents’ pro-rata share during the time maintenance is paid.
7. Courts can deviate from the support formula for a variety of reasons. Courts can instruct a well-off parent to pay greater amounts above the statutory income cap. Courts can also reduce the amount of payments due to sickness, disability, and/or poverty issues. If a parent is working below his or her earnings capacity, income may be “imputed” to the parent, based on their work history, education, and ability to earn. If a parent is receiving free-housing or other benefits, this may be imputed as income by the court. These issues should be explored by your divorce attorney and reported to the court when applicable, so that fair and just child support is paid.
Contact Westchester Divorce Lawyers & Family Lawyers to learn more.
In New York Maintenance payments (often called alimony in other states) are payments made to the less monied spouse based on a statutory formula that considers both spouse’s income, the duration of the marriage, and other factors. Like child support, the primary factor for maintenance is the income of the monied spouse. In certain situations a spouse may attempt to underreport income or conceal assets – in an effort to reduce their maintenance payments, below are some common tactics:
In some cases, a spouse may underreport income, such as off-the-books cash they receive, in an effort to reduce maintenance and child support obligations. Intentionally underreporting income is fraud and must be brought to the attention of the court. In instances where a spouse receives off-the-books cash income, we take measures to identify their cash income and disclose it to the court.
Misrepresenting Business Income
When a spouse owns a private business, close examination of finances is required to ensure proper reporting of income. In some instances a spouse will inflate business expenses to reduce net profits. In these instances business records must be carefully studied to determine if excessive expenses are made or if off the books payments are being made.
When a spouse actively conceals cash and other assets, additional discovery is typically required into the monied spouse’s business interests, off-the-books earnings, business expenditures (made in an effort to “zero out” their company and avoid distribution payments), as well as other sources of income the spouse may be hiding. In situations where a spouse conceals income, close cooperation between you and your attorney is required to identify hidden income and reveal it to the court. The lawyers at Solomos & Storms, PLLC have substantial experience exposing spouses who attempt to underreport their income.
What To Do When a Spouse Refuses to Work?
If a spouse is intentionally working below his or her earnings capacity, income may be “imputed” to the spouse. This will require your attorney to demonstrate to the court that your spouse is voluntarily making less money to reduce maintenance and child support payments.
The attorneys at Solomos & Storms, PLLC develop a close working relationship with clients, in order to ensure that they receive a just and equitable outcome in their divorce case.
At the commencement of a divorce action, a motion called a pendente-lite motion may be filed requesting certain relief during the pendency of the divorce, such as child support, temporary maintenance, visitation, attorney’s fees paid to you by your spouse, consolidation of any pending family court matters, and other relief. This preliminary relief helps to ensure your standard of living during the divorce and provides you with legal funds to obtain a just and fair resolution in your divorce case.
When the divorce is finalized, post-divorce maintenance may be ordered by the court. When determining the duration that maintenance is paid, courts consider the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, health, earnings capacity and other factors.
Generally, for marriages from 0 to 15 years, maintenance is 15-30% of the duration of the marriage. Thus, for a 10-year marriage, maintenance would be paid for 1.5 to 3 years. For a 15-20-year marriage, maintenance is 30-40% of the duration of the marriage. And marriages more than 20 years, maintenance is 35-50% of the duration of the marriage. As noted above, the court may modify the duration of maintenance based on a variety of circumstances.
Generally, the non-custodial parent will be afforded generous visitation, unless improper conduct arises during visits, such as neglect, abuse, or other harmful actions. Unfortunately, during visitation periods, many parents engage in “alienation.” This concerns efforts by a parent to interfere with the other parent’s relationship with the child. This can include not allowing a child to talk to the other parent during visits, monitoring phone calls, or instructing the child to say harmful things to the parent, such as, “I don’t love you.”
Alienation is taken extremely seriously by courts because it jeopardizes the parent-child relationship. Alienation often infuriates judges and can lead court to terminate visitation rights and awarding custody to the non-offending parent.
Courts encourage liberal phone use between parents and children. In the event your children report monitoring of phone calls, turning off the phone, bad mouthing, or other improper conduct—inform your attorney so that action can be taken, including the filing of a motion to modify visitation and/or custody orders.
The holidays should be a time of enjoyment with family. However, it can be a time when emotions run high and parents attempt to “weaponize” the children to antagonize their ex-spouse. Disputes can arise as to who spends Christmas with the children, New Year’s, and other special days. To avoid this, the lawyers at Solomos & Storms, PLLC provide detailed visitation schedules in settlement agreements, to include drop off and pick up times, and other provisions that make crystal clear where the children are to be during the holidays.
Refusal to Abide By Court Orders
Unfortunately, there are parents that refuse to follow the rules and choose to violate visitation orders and settlement agreements. In these instances, we have several options to cure the misconduct, such as filing a habeas corpus writ to have the children immediately returned, as well as filing a Motion for Contempt of Court that may be punishable by fines and imprisonment.
There are instances where drastic measures must be imposed to get a parent to comply with custody and visitation orders – this may include fines and imprisonment. Some parents simply refuse to follow the rules and require putative measures be imposed before they choose to behave correctly. The lawyers at Solomos & Storms, PLLC are well equipped to handle these situations – so that your children are quickly returned and your holiday plans are not ruined by a recalcitrant parent.
A key component of a divorce case concerns the distribution of marital property, this is called equitable distribution of marital property. Marital property is property acquired during the marriage, that is not considered personal property, and can include real estate, businesses, vehicles, boats, stocks, bank accounts, cash, pension and retirement accounts, and other assets. It is important to keep in mind that, unless you have an enforceable prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, your spouse is entitled to a share of your retirement, annuity, and pension plan until you file the divorce action. Thus, the sooner you file the action, you will keep a greater share of your retirement plan. Generally marital property is split 50/50; however, conduct during the divorce can affect this. For example, if a spouse engaged in physical abuse during the marriage, courts take this into consideration during equitable distribution and can provide a greater share of marital property to the abused spouse. Certain items are exempt from equitable distribution, such as inheritances, gifts, monies collected from personal injury lawsuits, property acquired prior to the marriage, and certain other property. Call Solomos & Storms, PLLC to gain a greater understanding of how marital property will be distributed in your divorce.
Quite often an appraiser will need to be retained to appraise assets, such as real estate, businesses, vehicles, and boats. A calculation of pension contributions during the marriage will also need to be performed to determine your spouse’s equitable share in your pension.
The assets can be sold and the proceeds divided by the spouses, or one spouse can choose to buy out the other spouse’s share in the asset. This is typically the case for the marital residence, especially if there are young children living in the home and a move would disrupt their schooling or social life.
Pension and retirement accounts are generally distributed via a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) – which is a court order requiring a portion of a spouse’s pension or retirement plan to be assigned or paid to the other spouse.
When the parties can agree on asset distribution, we draft settlement agreements that dictate how the property is to be divided. This can save considerable expense, and avoid the need of going to trial, where a judge would determine how the assets are to be distributed.
We understand the immense emotional and financial burden that divorce litigation can cause. Accordingly, we do our best to amicably resolve disputes as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the majority of our cases, we are able to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement agreement that can concern issues of child custody, visitation, maintenance, distribution of retirement accounts, property distribution, payment of credit card debt (and other debts), and other issues required to resolve the case.
While drafting the settlement agreement we work with you to ensure that your requirements are met. Thereafter, we negotiate with opposing counsel in an effort to come to a resolution. Sometimes mediation sessions are required to get the parties to come to terms – so that a settlement agreement can be entered into.
Settlement agreements have the tremendous advantage of certainty. At trial you don’t know how the judge will rule. Often parties prefer to control their fate through negotiations.
Not all cases settle. In the event your case does not settle, we will go to trial. At trial, our experienced attorneys we will present witnesses and evidence to demonstrate to the court that our desired outcome should be granted. You will likely be called to testify at trial. If you have children, your children’s appointed lawyer will present evidence at trial on behalf of your children, such as the child’s requested living arrangement.
A trial date will be set if your case does not settle – it can take months for the court to schedule a trial date, depending on the court’s calendar.
Prior to trial significant preparation will need to be performed, such as gathering evidence to prove contested issues and compiling your list of witnesses that will be called to testify at trial. We will prepare you for all aspects of trial – to include answering questions, your testimony, and other issues that may come up at trial.
At trial, the court has the power to decide all issues, including, child custody and visitation, child support amounts, maintenance payments, distribution of real property and liquid assets, such as cash, bank accounts, stocks, 401ks, distribution of pensions, retirement accounts and annuities, allocation of debt, and all other aspects of your case.
Trial can be stressful, but sometimes it is unavoidable if your spouse makes unreasonable settlement demands. You should always be prepared to go to trial in the event settlement negotiations fall apart. The attorneys at Solomos & Storms, PLLC are experienced trial attorneys that help put the odds of success in your favor.
We strive to provide the highest level of legal service to our clients, and go above and beyond the call of duty. Solomos & Storms, PLLC is a veteran owned business. One of the founding partners of the firm, Derrick Storms, Esq., is a former United States Marine, who served during the Iraq War.
Our commitment to clients is to provide the best possible service at the lowest possible price. We do our best to resolve your case as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Thank you for considering our firm.
An uncontested divorce in Westchester, NY can start anywhere from $1,500 and up, depending on the complexity of your case. This does not include court costs.
A contested divorce can start off with a retainer of $3,750 and up. An average divorce, without major assets and no children can cost approximately $6,500, but can vary depending on the complexity of your case and the number of issues in dispute. Although we always try to negotiate a settlement, if the case progresses to trial, costs will increase. An experienced divorce attorney is essential in a highly contested divorce.
*Please keep in mind that these costs are all speculative and may vary, depending on the circumstances. In situations where your adversary makes unreasonable demands – additional court time & costs will incur.
A separation agreement will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $2500, not including filing fees and court costs. A small estate with a pre-nuptial agreement would probably cost about $3,000.
A Family Court Petition can start at approximately $3,500, this is dependent on the type of matter and the complexity of issues in your case. Call Solomos & Storms, PLLC to discuss your case for a specific price quote.
A divorce is the judicial dissolution of a marriage- it requires a court order from a judge in order to be finalized.
A separation agreement is a contractual dissolution does not need to be signed off on by the court. It is not a divorce, but it is a legal step which often leads to a divorce.
A contested divorce is when both parties disagree on matters concerning the marriage such as the division of assets and childB custody matters.
A contested divorce is fought out in court, often leading to increased legal fees and longer resolution times.
No, a divorce trial is held in front of a judge. This is referred to as a bench trial, where the judge, not a jury, decides on the outcomes of various aspects of the divorce.
People often wonder who pays child support when you get divorced. A lot of people assume that the father automatically pays child support. This is not so. A mother may be required to pay child support, depending on certain circumstances.
The NYS Legislature has enacted a formula which judges use as a guideline to calculate which parent pays how much child support. A Family Court Judge may also use their own discretion to decide the amount and which parent pays.
Some of the factors the court may use to determine who pays how much are which parent has custody of the child, which parent makes more money, and living expenses, to name a few. In the end, the court will decide the financial responsibilities of each parent when it comes to paying child support in Nassau.
Yes, the court can order who is sometimes referred to as “the moneyed spouse” to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. This might happen in the case of a doctor’s husband or wife who is not employed. The doctor may be ordered to pay for their spouse’s lawyer! In a high asset divorce, you need the best Nassau divorce lawyers that money can buy: Solomos and Storms.
Yes, NYS Laws govern the counties.
If you are getting divorced in Westchester, NY, you will be required to appear in Westchester Supreme court at some point. Westchester Supreme Court is located at 111 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Blvd, White Plains, NY 10601.
No, there are times your lawyer can go to court without you. It is best if you attend as many court dates as possible to keep abreast of the goings on in your case, and to assist in it as well. No one knows your circumstances better than you do – you have lived through them. You divorce lawyer welcomes your insights and input into the case.
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We can help you settle your matter without going to court, if it’s appropriate, or go into battle on your behalf. We are trial tested.