Family Law Litigation

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bill O’Reilly’s Children Choose to Live With Their Mother

How much weight does the child’s preference carry in a custody case?

When there is an issue of child support and two parents cannot come to a resolution, the courts will often become involved.  The courts decide custody matters according to the best interest of the child standard. This standard consists of many factors, one of which is the preference of the subject child.  The preference of the children has played a large role in an ongoing New York case involving a celebrity news anchor.

Famed Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly married Maureen McPhilmy in 1996 and they had two children.

Read more . . .

Friday, August 14, 2015

Divorce Litigant Goes to Great Lengths to Prove Forgery in Divorce Trial

What happens if a party to a divorce proceeding lies about his or her assets or debts?

One of the most important components of the divorce process is the division of marital property, assets, and debts. When couples decide to dissolve their marriage, they must also give careful thought to how to divide the value of their home, and joint accounts, as well as how to properly divide debts –- which may or may not be eligible for refinancing. 
In light of these divorce milestones, parties are bound by law to be 100 percent forthcoming in disclosing their assets and debts at the outset of the proceedings or risk facing serious legal consequences, including civil contempt. Likewise, lying on a court document or committing perjury to the trial court judge is considered a serious crime that could result in jail time and hefty criminal fines. For these reasons, parties are best advised to avoid the temptation to inflate or underreport financial information. 

In one recent New York divorce case, a divorce attorney resorted to handing the court an old fashioned magnifying glass to highlight the presence of alleged forgery on the opponent’s financial statement. During the maneuver, counsel for one spouse asked the other to closely examine the documents and to testify whether a Whiteout product had been used to alter the page numbers of bank statements. More specifically, the spouse alleged that her ex had submitted bank statements showing only withdrawals, not deposits, and altered the page numbers of the statements to make the packet look complete and legitimate. Overall, the former media executive claimed that he was flat broke and unable to continue the $16,000 per month alimony and child support payments ordered by the original divorce order. 

Citing poor eyesight, the witness/spouse asserted he was unable to testify as to any of the information contained in the documents. The spouse also testified that he has been unable to maintain gainful employment after serving 20 days in jail in 2014 – a sentence which was imposed after the court found he had similarly lied under oath during a separate proceeding. 

If you are facing a difficult situation and would like to discuss your options with an experienced and knowledgeable New York divorce attorney, please contact Howard B. Leff, P.C. today: (516)739-7500. 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Judge Sends Children to Juvenile Detention Amid Parents’ Custody Battle

Can children be taken from parents during a custody battle?

If expectations are not managed or parents fail to follow the terms of the agreement, child custody cases can quickly turn contentious between parents. However, a recent case out of Michigan illustrates one of the more extreme examples of custody litigation gone awry – and showcases the extent of animosity between parties as they fight it out over physical and legal custody of the children. As this case also points out, the true victims in an unmanaged child custody battle are usually the children caught in between – and our office works diligently to ensure that no custody case takes the unbelievable turns that occurred in the instance described below. 

Amid court battle, judge orders permanent juvenile detention

The facts of the custody case begin in 2008 when mother and father of three children went through a divorce, resulting in physical placement of the children with the mother and joint legal custody shared between both parents. The father was entitled to visitation on an intermittent basis, and was sometimes required to submit to supervised visits. 

Allegedly, the mother failed to arrive at a scheduled visit with the father – and this was becoming a common occurrence within the family. However, upon the father’s filing of a contempt of court action against the mother, the court inexplicably ordered the children remanded to a juvenile detention facility, separate from one another, and cut off from virtually all contact with the outside world.

In a frenzied hurry, the mother’s attorney filed a writ of habeas corpus against the judge, demanding the children be released to the custody of their parents. 

As of July 10, 2015, the same judge has ordered the children released, apparently to the custody of a summer camp. It is unclear whether either parent will continue physical placement with the children. 

Regardless of the outcome of this particular case, a child custody matter must always focus on the best interests of the children involved – and parents are encouraged to thoughtfully and carefully negotiate the terms of custody and visitation in a manner congruent with this goal. 

At our law office, we strive to maintain a smooth and seamless transition through the child custody process. If you are considering filing for custody, or would like to discuss your options for a modification, contact divorce and matrimonial attorney, Howard B. Leff at his Nassau County, New York office today: 516(739)-7500. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Study Shows Drop in Severe Mental Illness Cases in Children

Which parent is responsible for healthcare decisions of children after divorce?

A recent study by The New England Journal of Medicine reported a substantial drop of severe mental illness in the past generation of children.  This finding was a surprising one due to the general criticism of current health trends including over-diagnosing and treating kids.  Although some child psychiatrists do find some kids are treated when they do not need it, more often than not, kids who need the treatment are the ones who go without treatment.  It appears the percentage of children with a severe mental illness dropped approximately two percent from 12.8% to 10.7%  
Some doctors believe that the explanation for the drop is that parents are monitoring children at an earlier age and getting psychiatric care at an earlier time.  Parents are educating themselves about mental health care treatments for children.  Although this is good news, doctors are still concerned for those children whose parents are waiting too long to seek treatment for children.  

This issue may come to a head in a situation when there is a custody agreement in place under which one parent is primarily responsible for a child’s health care.  In this case, the parent who is responsible for the child’s healthcare may be reluctant or even refuse to seek mental health treatment for a child with a psychological disorder, while the other parent believes it is necessary.  While custody agreements can be difficult to modify, in situations like these the court may feel that it is necessary to change the arrangement or order the parent with primary custody to seek treatment for the child in question.

If you are concerned that your spouse or former spouse is making poor decisions regarding the health of your child or about your role as a parent in making health decisions for your children, contact attorney Howard B. Leff.  Howard B. Leff is an experienced family law attorney based in Nassau County, New York who can help you with your child custody case.  Please contact his office at (516) 739-7500 for a consultation. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Woman Sentenced to Probation For Leaving Kids in Car

What are the consequences of being accused of child abuse?

In 2014 a jobless and allegedly homeless mother made national news for leaving two of her kids in a hot car in Arizona with the windows cracked for an hour in 70-degree temperatures while attending a job interview at an insurance agency.  The woman claimed she was unable to afford a sitter or childcare for the children and was arrested immediately after the interview for felony child abuse.   

After the incident made the national news, strangers donated over $100,000 to the family which the mother allegedly spent the money on nonessential items such as cell phones, cable TV, and other entertainment for the family.  The court initially agreed that it would dismiss the felony abuse charges if the mother put some of the donation money into a trust fund under all of her children’s names.  The mother missed deposit deadlines relating to that court agreement because she was concerned that the trust was written to restrict the children’s access to the money to use only if they attended college.  After she missed the deadline, the court reinstated the felony abuse charges, and the mother recently pled guilty to the felony abuse charges.  

The court was concerned about the mother’s apparent lack of responsibility and determined the mother lied during trial regarding her status as homeless and jobless.  During the trial, the court found the mother was living with family and had turned down job offers prior to attending the interview where police arrested her.  Attorneys for the mother argued she is a military veteran, which makes it hard for her to admit the reality of her situation.  The mother also requested a transfer to Chicago where she expects to have better familial support.

The court referred to the mother’s decisions as “criminally poor judgment” and developed a probation sentence to coincide with her children’s status as adults based on the youngest child’s age.  The mother will serve 18 years supervised probation, which includes a court’s monitoring of the trust funds and she must attend a parenting class and a treatment program for domestic violence offenders.

While tough to be a part of, child abuse and other family offense situations are never easy for family members or those associated with family members, and can have a huge impact on family law cases such as custody battles. Also, donations made towards the welfare of the children need to be properly managed according to court requirements and using this type of money improperly can reflect on a litigants character.

Howard B. Leff is an experienced New York family law attorney who can help you through the process of defending yourself or complying with court orders regarding children’s trusts or alleged abuse cases and any other family law issue.  Please contact his office at (516) 729-7500 for a consultation. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

One Set of Twins, Two Different Fathers?

I’ve heard it is possible for a set of twins to have two different fathers. How would New York family law handle this scenario? 

In an unbelievable feat of fertility, a woman in New Jersey recently gave birth to a set of twins with two distinct and distinguishable sets of DNA. In other words, the twins were half-siblings – with two different fathers. As implausible as this scenario may seem, statistics reveal that one in 13,000 paternity actions involving twins reaches the same result – and family law attorneys must be prepared for the unexpected, notwithstanding the seemingly impossible odds. 

New Jersey Mom Delivers Twins, Paternity Challenge Ensues

In the case out of nearby New Jersey, the issues surrounding paternity began once the twins reached approximately 18 months of age – at which point the putative father (of both children) initiated a lawsuit challenging his status as the party legally responsible for the children. Turns out, he was half right. The results of the DNA test revealed that he was, in fact, the father of one of the twins, with a former paramour revealed to be the father of the remaining child. 

Impact Under New York law

Under New York law, a man is presumed to be the father of a child if, at the time of birth, the man is married to the child’s mother. If, however, the mother is unmarried at the time of birth, establishing paternity may be more of a conundrum. If both mother and presumed father (known as the “putative” father) are in agreement, the father may voluntarily consent to paternity, sign the birth certificate, and continue with the full rights and obligations of a biological parent. Otherwise, the father or mother may petition to establish paternity by filing for recognition as the father in a New York court of law, which will require the administration of a DNA test. 

If you are considering a paternity action or would like more information about the process under New York laws, contact experienced family law  and paternity attorney, Howard B. Leff, right away by dialing (516)739-7500.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tips for Working with a Law Guardian During a Custody Dispute

The court wants to appoint an Attorney For The Child in my custody dispute. What does this mean? 

An Attorney For The Child is not necessarily something to worry about and, in many cases, might be a welcome party to a hotly contested child custody matter. Under New York law, a judge may appoint an Attorney For The Child to a case in any of the following types of matters:
* Cases involving allegations of abuse, neglect and/or drug dependency
* Custody and visitation
* Termination of parental rights
* Child support
* Adoption
* Permanency
* Paternity
* Juvenile delinquency

For the custody and visitation litigant, the court may deem it necessary to inject an Attorney For The Child into the matter if there are allegations of domestic violence or abuse, if the matter is extremely contentious, or upon the request of one or both parties. If you are involved in a case and an Attorney For The Child is appointed, remember that he or she is there to help – and is focused entirely on the best needs of the child. 

Working with an Attorney For The Child during the case

New York law grants an Attorney For The Childs broad powers to investigate the many facets of a child custody dispute. For instance, the attorney may review the child’s medical, counseling or school records without interference. Likewise, the attorney is permitted to interview individuals who play a role in the child’s life, including teachers, caretakers and extended family members.

As a litigant, it is important to allow the Attorney For The Child the opportunity to fulfill his or her role as outlined by the law; obstructing the Attorney For The Child’s access to evidence will not only prove futile, but could also result in a contempt of court violation. As the child’s parent or guardian, you are also under a duty to reveal material information to the Attorney For The Child upon request, and you should never appear combative or uncooperative – as this will undoubtedly get back to the judge. 

Contact a reputable Nassau County family law attorney today

If you are considering a child custody action against your co-parent, contact Howard B. Leff right away by calling (516)739-7500. He has the experience and knowledge needed to zealously advocate for you. His office serves clients in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island and in the five boroughs of New York City.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Asset Appreciation and Divorce Settlements

Will a spouse pay a lower financial settlement if his fortune was gained through luck?

Business executives have become notorious for their high salaries, benefits and perks. To justify this compensation they often talk about how skilled they are, how knowledgeable they are about the market and what great decisions they made over the years. If they are in court because of a divorce, however, a business executive may instead say how lucky he was. That’s because it may result in a lower financial settlement.

This “Jed Clampett defense” has gotten more attention due to the divorce of Harold G. Hamm from Sue Ann Arnall. Mr. Hamm, the chief executive and founder of Continental Resources, who had his wealth peak at more than $18 billion, sent his ex-wife a check in January for $974,790,317.77 to settle their separation. She is appealing the divorce decision to get more, and he is appealing to pay less.

Mr. Hamm claims he should not need to pay as much money as his ex-wife seeks because he was only responsible for a fraction of his great wealth. According to him, the monetary success largely came from forces beyond his control, such as global oil prices, the efforts of his employees and other people’s technology. During a nine week divorce trial, Hamm’s attorneys stated that though Hamm founded Continental Resources and led it to its multibillion-dollar size, ultimately he was only responsible for less than 10 percent of his personal and Continental’s corporate success. His ex-wife and her attorneys have a much higher opinion of Hamm’s abilities. They say he and his business success are more than 90 percent his responsibility.

Why does it matter? In certain jurisdictions, if a spouse owns an asset prior to the marriage, any increase in its value during the marriage is not subject to division if that increase was due to “passive” appreciation (its value grows by itself due to reasons beyond either spouse’s control, like undeveloped land or passively held stocks that increase in price). If the value is not “passive,” it is considered “active” (the increased value came about due to the efforts, skills or funding by a spouse) and can be subject to division in a divorce. The judge in this case sided with Hamm, but he is not happy with the settlement amount the judge calculated.

Whether an asset’s appreciation is “passive” or “active” is just one of many legal and financial issues for a divorcing couple with a family business. If you are going through a divorce and want the help of an experienced divorce attorney who is knowledgeable about equitable distribution and other key issues, contact Howard B. Leff today at (516)739-7500. He serves clients on Long Island and in all five boroughs of New York City.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Court Finds Spouse Does Not Meet Requirements in New York's No-Fault Divorce Law

What is the residency requirement for a New York divorce?

To obtain a divorce in New York, the parties must meet residency requirements. Their purpose is to ensure that a plaintiff does not simply look for the state with the most favorable laws, relocate, and commence divorce proceedings there. In New York, either the plaintiff or defendant must have lived in the state continuously for two years.

There are exceptions, however, if certain conditions are met. According to New York's No-Fault Divorce Law, if "the cause occurred in the state," the parties need only be in New York for one year.

In Stancil v. Stancil, the plaintiff had lived in New York for only 14 months before seeking a New York divorce from her husband, a resident of Virginia. He objected, citing her lack of two years residency in New York. In response, the plaintiff claimed that the ground for her divorce was the breakdown of the marriage, which was a "cause" that occurred "in the state." If her theory were accepted, she would only need to have been in the state for one year, a requirement she could satisfy.

The court had to determine whether, in passing the no-fault divorce legislation, the New York State legislature meant for the grounds of a no-fault divorce to serve as a "cause" triggering a shorter residency requirement. Unfortunately for the plaintiff, the court found that this was not the legislative intent. The court also noted that the plaintiff's ties to New York were weak, as she had moved to the state to enter a graduate school program of short-term duration. Her husband, meanwhile, had no connection to New York at all.

Howard B. Leff has more than 35 years of family law experience, including cases involving divorce. Call him today at (516)739-7500 for a free initial consultation.

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.

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.

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