Equitable Distribution Litigation

Friday, October 30, 2015

Divorce Settlements

What should you ask for in divorce settlement negotiations?

It was a hard decision, but you have finally decided that you want a divorce. Unfortunately, it might get worse before it gets better. At this point, you have to contemplate what your situation will be like after you transition from being part of a couple to being a single person. There are financial and logistical matters to address and an experienced divorce attorney can assist you in identifying and obtaining what you want out of your divorce settlement.

If you have children, they are likely your number one priority. Decisions relating to children can be difficult, but they must be thought through. Do you want custody of your kids or would you prefer visitation? Are you likely to get custody if you petition for it? If do not want or receive custody, can you pay child support? All of these matters can be agreed upon or litigated and incorporated into your divorce settlement agreement. It is always best to negotiate agreements that are as detailed as possible when it comes to custody, visitation and support matters, as these agreements are difficult and expensive to modify after the fact.

Another important matter is where you will live after your divorce. Do you want to stay in the marital home? Can you afford to buy your partner out and make any necessary monthly payments? Or would you rather sell and move somewhere that is better suited to your new status? You can work out all of the details of either buying or selling the family home and including these terms in your divorce settlement agreement.

It is also essential to think about your greater financial future. Can you afford to live on your own after your divorce? Will you need time to get back on your feet? Will you need maintenance during the transition? You must also make an accounting of all of your assets and liabilities, especially those held jointly, and determine how each will be dealt with. Do you have any assets, such as a house, that you will not be able to afford to maintain? Would it be better to liquidate these? You must also think about joint debt. Which spouse should be responsible for which debts?

More than likely, you and your spouse will have differing opinions on many of these issues.  You will have to negotiate and possibly compromise to put together a divorce settlement agreement that works for both of you. That is why it is essential to have the best attorney possible by your side.

Nassau County, New York divorce attorney Howard B. Leff has years of experience working with individuals going through a divorce.  Contact his office today at (516)739-7500 for a consultation.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

NY High Court Considers Appeal of Divorce Court Contempt Order Over Hidden Assets

What are the consequences for hiding assets during a divorce in New York State?

When it comes to divorce, full disclosure is a hallmark requirement of both parties. In order to ensure each spouse is treated fairly during the process, New York law requires that both parties submit their financial information, including all assets and debts, as of the date of separation. If one spouse attempts to shield or hide assets from the other, the former could face significant liability and contempt charges.

In one ongoing divorce case, a husband is accused of hiding the proceeds from the sale of one of his dry cleaning businesses – and this is not the first time he has faced such allegations. According to reports, the feuding spouses share an escrow account wherein the proceeds from any major sales of property or liquidation of other assets are expected to be placed. Allegedly, the husband sold a dry cleaning business and transferred several other pieces of property, but has not made a deposit in the escrow for nearly 5 years.

In the husband’s defense, he claims that the transfers were to family members and were not actually profitable sales. The wife, on the other hand, believes the husband is shielding the assets in a private account, refusing to reveal the amount and location of the funds.

In 2010, the husband spent 15 days in jail for selling another piece of marital property and refusing to disclose the location of the proceeds. According to public records, the property sold for $776,000, but the husband claims he has no idea where that money is located. Moreover, the husband claims he has already obtained a divorce under the laws of the nation of Lebanon – a claim which remains unsubstantiated.

In September, the parties reconvened for a contempt hearing over the missing funds and proceeds, and the three-judge panel is expected to make a decision in the next 30-60 days.

If you are considering divorce on Long Island or in the greater metropolitan New York area and would like to discuss your options in terms of property division or other matters of family law, please contact the office of Howard B. Leff, PC: 516.739.7500. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

New York Legislature Passes Significant Changes to Alimony Laws

How are professional degrees treated with regard to spousal support in New York State?

In New York, spousal support – which is sometimes referred to as “alimony” – is determined based on a number of factors. First, the court will examine the earning potential of each party, as well as whether one spouse maintained a “homemaker” role during the marriage. As part of this review, courts have routinely included the long-term value of a professional degree and/or licensure in determining a party’s likely future income – and increased spousal support for the other party accordingly. More specifically, a spouse with a high-level doctorate degree would be considered to own a substantial “asset” in terms of future earning potential, and courts could consider this fact when quantifying a fair and equitable spousal support sum payable to the other party. 

However, citing concerns with the economy and job markets, the New York legislature recently took another look at this measure, and ultimately decided that professional degrees should not be considered “assets” for purposes of calculating alimony. The following details this important pending change, and we encourage you to contact a competent New York law office if you are considering a possible modification to your spousal support order. 

Details of alimony amendments

Following a months’-long push by advocacy groups including the New York Women’s Bar Association, the Family Law Section of the New York Bar Association and the New York State Maintenance Standards Coalition, the New York senate finally passed the sweeping changes to the alimony guidelines as of June 24, 2015, and received ultimate approval from the Assembly on June 25, 2015. Pending Governor Cuomo’s signature, the bill would overturn the standards added to the Code in 1980 after a wife was unceremoniously met with a disappointing alimony award after putting her career on hold to help her husband complete medical school. If the Governor approves, professionals will be treated no differently than any other litigant in this regard.

Historically, courts have relied on the figures presented by accountants during divorce proceedings to determine the approximate long-term value of a professional degree. However, in a statement by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, “[t]his is a very positive development because the maintenance guidelines will make awards more consistent and predictable, which will make it easier for divorcing couples to understand their financial rights and obligations.”

If you are looking for advice and counsel regarding your spousal support or alimony situation, please contact Nassau County, New York divorce attorney Howard B. Leff today: 516-739-7500. 

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