Nassau County Family Law Blog

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Legal Rights and Religious Law in New York

Can You Bring Your Spouse to Civil Court for a Religious Law Issue?

When a Jewish individual faces a religious law challenge, he or she usually first turns to a rabbi, family member or other member of his or her faith community for assistance and resolution. The result, sometimes, is a failure to obtain the solution sought, and, for many, that is the end of the matter. But what if the individual could seek a solution in a civil court of law?

Civil courts can, in fact, be used to address religious law questions. In a case currently unfolding in the Brooklyn Supreme Court, a wife desperate to obtain a “get” (a document that allows for a divorce under Jewish marriage and divorce religious law) may soon prevail.

In 2008, 18-year-old Rivky Stein married 26-year-old Yoel Weiss. In the following seven years, Stein claims Weiss raped her, punched her when she was pregnant, locked her out of their house in winter and withheld food from her and their children. Weiss now adamantly refuses to grant Stein the get she needs to obtain a divorce, remarry and pursue the life she wants. 

Stein may have a better than usual chance of securing her get in court, because the judge presiding over the case, Esther Morgenstern, faced a similar legal battle in civil court when divorcing her husband in 1987. Morgenstern’s current inclination seems clear: she has threatened Weiss with “alimony for life” if he doesn’t relent and grant Stein the get. Stein’s lawyer sees eye to eye with Morgenstern, stating that, without a get, future financial support for Stein would be “virtually impossible.”

If you face a civil or religious law challenge regarding divorce or any element of family law, exercise your legal rights with the help of Nassau County family law attorney Howard B. Leff. Attorney Leff has more than 35 years of matrimonial and family law legal experience in New York and can provide dedicated and effective counsel and representation. Call (516)739-7500 for a consultation today.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Judge's Decision in Child Custody Matter Seeks to Expand Discovery

Can parents have access to child custody forensic reports prepared by court-appointed evaluators?


One of the hardest parts of a divorce proceeding can often be determining custody of the children. When custody is disputed, the court generally appoints an attorney to represent the children's interests, as well as a forensic evaluator to assess family dynamics and recommend custody arrangements. The report prepared by the court-appointed evaluator is almost always available for review by the the attorneys in the case, but historically was not made available to the parties themselves. A recent decision seeks to change this and might usher in a new era of discovery in child custody litigation.

In J.F.D. v. J.D., each parent was seeking sole custody of the couple's two children. A forensic report was prepared and released to counsel for both sides. The husband requested that the court-appointed evaluator's entire file be provided to his own forensic expert. The husband's request was granted, and it also prompted the judge to examine the larger issue of discovery during custody litigation.

Since forensic reports are relied upon so heavily by the court, the judge reasoned that the parties should be given an opportunity to review them as well as the underlying data. Without such an opportunity, the judge found it unreasonable to expect parties to identify deficiencies in the report or evaluator bias; it also made preparing for cross examination of the forensic evaluator more difficult.

The judge ruled that, going forward, parties will be allowed to view the forensic reports and underlying data in their attorney's office with an attorney present. Parties will not receive a copy of the report or other materials but will be permitted to take notes (not pictures).

Nassau County attorney Howard B. Leff has more than 35 years of experience with family law matters, including child custody litigation. He serves clients on Long Island and in all five boroughs of New York City. Call him today at (516)739-7500.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Dealing With Hidden Assets During Divorce

What can be done if you suspect your soon-to-be ex-spouse is hiding assets during your divorce proceedings?

Some of the most hotly contested issues in divorce proceedings are financial.  Instead of fighting over money, some people attempt to hide it from their spouse and the court.  Some of these assets have been accumulated because the person knows that divorce is imminent and some are assets that the other spouse never knew anything about. Regardless, hiding assets is a violation of the law.  If you are facing a divorce and you think that your spouse is hiding assets, there are a number of things you can do.

If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets but you have no real evidence yet, you should investigate to see if there is any basis for your suspicion.  As these matters are usually handled over the Internet today, a good place to start to look for financial information is on electronics.  You should use the computer and smart phone to your advantage.  A web browser can give you a lot of information just by looking at the history and cache.  This will show you what sites have been visited and sometimes information will also be left on the page.  Social media can be utilized to prove that your spouse has money he or she claims not to have.  It is shocking how many individuals make posts and share pictures that are incriminating in this way.  If your spouse claims not to have a retirement account, check the company website, if one exists, to determine what benefits are available to employees.  If you have access to your spouse’s emails because he or she uses a shared family computer or you are authorized to use that computer, you can peruse them as well for anything suspicious.

Another way to discover hidden assets is by hiring a private investigator to determine where your spouse has been or goes to when he or she has unexplained absences from your residence, if you're living together, or otherwise, 

Even in the digital age, we should not forget about paper mediums of investigation.  Tax returns (interest and dividends earned during that tax year) and bank statements can also be examined to determine if there are any assets that your spouse is trying to hide from you during a divorce.

If you do find some evidence that your spouse is hiding money, you should consult with an attorney right away.  An experienced divorce law attorney will know exactly where to look for hidden assets as well as what evidence will be needed to prove these claims to a court.

Howard B. Leff has over 35 years of experience as a divorce and family law attorney.  He assists clients in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, all of the boroughs of New York City and the surrounding Counties and can help you discover if your spouse is hiding assets.  Contact him today at (516)739-7500 for a consultation.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bad Behavior In New York Divorce Case Leads to Interesting Result

What can be considered when a court is determining which spouse will pay attorneys fee?

It is no secret that divorce cases can become very contentious.  While the wide range of emotions usually present in these cases is often to blame, when the financial stakes are high the conflicts involved can become even more intense.  A recent New York case between two wealthy individuals has shown just how messy these cases can get.

Indian nationals, Mohan and Guni Murjani, were married and lived an extravagant lifestyle.  Both were beneficiaries of an international trust fund set up by Mohan’s wealthy father worth upwards of $50 million.  The father was a giant in the Asian garment industry and Mohan followed in his footsteps.  As a fashion merchandiser and financier, Mohan was instrumental in funding fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger and bringing the brand to India.

Unfortunately, Mohan and Guni decided to divorce and filed an action in Manhattan Supreme Court almost three years ago.  Conflicts immediately arose.  When deciding which party should pay attorneys’ fees, the Supreme Court judge could not determine who the monied spouse was.  This was in part due to the complex nature of the couple’s finances, which included large sums of cash, the trust fund, United States and international real estate holdings, valuable art collections and jewelry, among other things.  The difficulty was also partly due to the fact that neither party had been entirely honest about his or her financial situation.  As such, the judge thought it appropriate to consider the parties conduct in the case when making her decision.  She found that although neither party had been totally honest with the court, Guni’s behavior was particularly bad.  Guni had illegally moved the couple’s art collection to London after the case had started and filed a divorce action in Bombay to hinder the action her husband had filed in New York.  She also filed an improper jurisdictional claim years after the case had been filed.

In light of Guni’s behavior, the judge ordered her to pay her husband’s attorneys’ fees.  She was ordered to deposit $750,000 into an escrow account and was also sanctioned and fined  $15,000 for making the frivolous claim.  Guni appealed the decisions to the Appellate Division First Department and both were upheld.

Mohan has also retained five different attorneys since the case began, which shows how complex and chaotic these cases can become if not handled properly from the outset.  If you are facing a divorce and anticipate that there will be intense conflict over financial or other issues, Nassau County, New York attorney Howard B. Leff has experience in all types of family law and matrimonial litigation.  Contact his office by calling (516)739-7500 today.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Welcome to Howard B. Leff, P.C. Family Law Blog

Welcome to our family law blog, which will focus on matrimonial matters for those living in Nassau County, including divorce, child custody, support and collaborative divorce. Please visit back soon for new articles and informative updates.

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