Arnold Cribari Blog

Minimizing the Damages for the Primary Breadwinner in a New York Divorce

In most, but not all, divorces, one spouse is the primary breadwinner and earns most of the family income, and the other spouse is the primary care-giver of the children.

Assuming the spouse focusing on the children is doing a good job, that spouse has the right to receive substantial maintenance and child support when a New York divorce court applies the support guidelines formulas.

What can the New York divorce lawyer do for the primary breadwinner client?
1. Consider an out of court divorce settlement process such as divorce mediation or collaborative divorce if the facts warrant the use of such a settlement process. Such settlement processes are almost always substantially more economical than litigation and a trial, and are better for tailoring a settlement consistent with needs and interests.

2. If a substantial part of the primary breadwinner’s income is in the form of a variable annual bonus, then structure the support obligations as follows:
a. calculate the maintenance and child support based on the primary breadwinner’s salary; and
b. recommend that the primary breadwinner pay a percentage, not a fixed sum, of the variable annual bonus as supplemental maintenance. The specific percentage depends on the facts of the case.

3. Justify […]

Collaborative Divorce and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

On December 7, 2017, Pauline Tesler, Esq., a California lawyer who has been a pioneer in collaborative divorce practice, gave a presentation before the New York Association of Collaborative professionals entitled “The Art and Craft of Deep Peace.”
During that presentation, Pauline shared Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (“Maslow’s Pyramid”). In the context of a divorce, Maslow’s Pyramid breaks down the various needs that a spouse going through a divorce may have:

Maslow pyramid










At the base of Maslow’s Pyramid are basic needs. Basic needs include physiological needs (food, water, warmth, rest) and safety needs (security, safety). The “snake brain” is the part of the human brain hell-bent to satisfy those needs. When basic needs are threatened, they trump all other needs higher up on Maslow’s Pyramid. The snake brain is the most primitive part of the human brain. When something triggers the snake brain, the response is: fight, flight, or play dead, just like a snake. Nothing else matters. The snake brain has not a scintilla of compassion or empathy.

If someone is being deprived of such basic needs, there is an emergency and time is of the essence. Unless a potentially life-threatening situation […]

NY Maintenance Guidelines in High Income Cases: The Wild West

For New York divorce cases commenced since January 23, 2016, a maintenance (alimony) guidelines formula will usually be applied to determine the amount and duration of maintenance. Schedule a consultation with me and I can calculate the amount and duration of maintenance following your divorce by applying a formula in this new statute to the facts of your case.

This new law, now only 20 months old, is embryonic. To date, there has not been enough time for high income divorce cases with maintenance issues to go to trial, and for aggrieved litigants to file appeals and for such appeals to be decided by appellate courts. There are no New York appellate court decisions interpreting this new statute at this time. As one of my attorney colleagues recently told me, divorce court is like the Wild West when he makes arguments in high income maintenance cases.

What happens when a spouse earns income that exceeds the current $178,000 statutory income cap? The statute says that the NY maintenance guidelines formula should only be applied to income up to $178,000, but gives the Judge discretion to apply general “statutory factors” (like marital standard of living, […]

Divorcing Parents in Westchester County, NY: Meet Your Child’s Needs — Choose Collaborative Divorce or Mediation

With April being Autism Awareness Month, I am reminded that – for a divorcing couple who has a child with special needs – a collaborative divorce offers the best way for the parents to come to an agreement on addressing the needs of the child.

About ten years ago, I worked on a collaborative divorce in Westchester County in which the couple had two children, one of whom had been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I represented the husband, and another collaborative attorney, “Lisa,” represented the wife.

The parties were having heated arguments about parental decision-making.

The defining moment in the case occurred at a four-way settlement conference when, after a few niceties were exchanged, the wife suddenly lashed out at the husband, exclaiming how upset she was at his criticism of her decision-making with respect to their child, and the various therapies she wanted him to undergo.

Specifically, she accused her husband of telling her that – if she wants the child involved in certain programs to treat his autism and the child becomes labeled “handicapped”— then it will be “on her”(her responsibility) for “ruining the child’s life.” The husband then expressed his strong feelings in his own defense.

At this point Lisa […]

In a Collaborative Divorce, You – the Client – Have the Power

I recently participated in a Collaborative Six-Way Meeting, which comprised both spouses, their lawyers, a divorce coach and a financial specialist. During this meeting, my collaborative counterpart was very aggressive. While that tactic can work in a case being negotiated through the court system, an overly aggressive attorney in a collaborative divorce is less effective. My collaborative colleague is a well-trained collaborative attorney, and well intentioned. However, she still does a lot of divorce litigation, and that affects her collaborative practice.

im-right-1458410_640In divorce litigation (court based), being aggressive can be very effective because of where the power lies. In litigation the power rests primarily with the Judge, secondarily with the attorneys, to the extent they can persuade the Judge or intimidate or outfox the other side. The clients have virtually no power. Indeed, during a trial the clients can only speak during the limited period of time that it is their turn to testify as a witness.

In a collaborative case, there is no Judge, and the power rests primarily with the spouses, and secondarily with the collaborative attorneys and other professionals.

So here is what happened in my recent collaborative settlement conference. The […]

Westchester Collaborative Divorce Lawyer Goes to Trial

After 38 years as a divorce attorney in Westchester County, New York, I can state with absolute certainty that divorce court is toxic, sometimes comparable to descending into Dante’s “Inferno.” It was my hellish experience in divorce trials that drove me to explore collaborative divorce and mediation, and, ultimately, to become a settlement specialist. Most divorce cases can and should be done collaboratively or through mediation. Once in a while, though, a trial is necessary.

trainSuch was the case when a man crossed my threshold several months ago, having represented himself in preliminary divorce court proceedings. The trial “train had already left the station,” so to speak, and this man was going to have to face his wife’s attorney in court, with himself as his only legal representation. Three weeks before the trial, he realized that it would be wise for him to get his own attorney, and so he asked me to take on his case.

This man’s case looked like it would be relatively simple because it involved a short, five-year, childless marriage. So I agreed to take on the case.

I soon learned that both the husband and wife had a […]

Divorce, Children and Holiday Plans

For divorced parents, the holidays are often beset with conflict and stress, even many years after the divorce. We have all heard about couples who go back to court several times after their divorce to re-litigate holiday visitation issues that were supposedly settled through the adversarial process. This year, with Christmas and Hanukkah falling on the same day, interfaith co-parents face a scheduling conflict they have never faced before.

6615_Christmas-gift-boxes-golden-backgroundFor couples who choose a collaborative divorce, however, the stress of the “holiday shuffle” is eased, if not eliminated. The collaborative process allows the divorcing parents to structure a holiday plan for the children tailored to the needs of their specific situation. However, interfaith co-parents face a unique holiday scheduling challenge this year, one that probably wasn’t anticipated when their divorce settlement agreement was written.

This brings to mind an important reason to consider a collaborative divorce. The collaborative process takes couples through a healthy, respectful way of dealing with contentious issues and conflicts. Having experienced this model, the two divorced partners know that it is possible to address the reasonable needs and concerns of both parents – and their children –without “going to […]

A Westchester County, NY, Divorce: What You Need to Know

Westchester County, NY, has some unique policies and procedures for conducting a divorce through the court system. If your divorce will take place in Westchester County, it is important that you engage a divorce attorney familiar with the distinctive norms and practices in Westchester County divorce court. Moreover, avoiding the court system altogether may be advisable in your case, so consult with a Westchester divorce lawyer well-versed in non-court alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce.

The first phase of a court-based divorce is called “discovery,” meaning the exchange of documents and information. If you are doing a divorce through the Westchester courts, during the discovery phase the spouses and their attorneys meet with a Court Attorney Referee (CAR). The CAR system – unique to Westchester – has been set up to keep track of discovery information and to lighten the workload of the judges, who are inundated with cases. In Westchester County it’s likely that you may never see a judge during the discovery phase. After the discovery phase is complete the divorce case is sent to a judge for a pre-trial conference and a trial.

Another […]

Collaborative Divorce: The Advantages

A highly regarded Collaborative Divorce lawyer in California, Pauline Tesler, has written the authoritative book on Collaborative Divorce: Collaborative Law, Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce Without Litigation. The third edition of that book was published in 2016, and it includes a “Collaborative Divorce Handbook.” This handbook is a must read for anyone considering a collaborative divorce.  The information is relevant to a New York divorce, although Ms. Tesler practices in California.

The following is the first blog post in a series about the Collaborative Divorce Handbook.

For those considering either a collaborative divorce or a traditional adversarial divorce, Ms. Tesler points out eight advantages of Collaborative Law.
1. In Collaborative Law, all participate in an open, honest exchange of information. There is no “hide the ball.”
2. In Collaborative Law, neither party takes advantage of the miscalculations or mistakes of others, but instead identifies and corrects them.
3. In Collaborative Law, both parties insulate their children from the conflicts. They avoid the professional custody evaluation process, instead making use of specially trained coaches and a child-development specialist to arrive at solutions that both parties can accept, solutions that reflect the children’s needs and concerns.
4. Both parties in Collaborative Law use joint accountants, appraisers and other […]

New York Divorce: Questions Raised by the Brangelina Break-up

The most famous divorce in the news is, of course, the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie split. Needless to say, their divorce isn’t exactly typical. Moreover, Ms. Jolie filed for divorce in California, which has very different statutes and case law from New York divorce laws. This recent article from the New York Times gives some good basic information regarding divorce options for couples residing in New York State.

The article is a bid misleading in the way it describes team of “neutral” professionals who work on a collaborative divorce. Actually, each spouse in the divorce has their own attorney. But collaborative attorneys are trained in conflict resolution and interest-based negotiation, which is very different from the adversarial negotiation model that most attorneys know. So collaborative represents the best of two models. Collaborative is a form of mediation, which seeks to reduce conflict and facilitate a settlement that works well for both spouses. At the same time, in collaborative, each spouse has his/her own lawyer; this corrects power imbalances that make mediation a bad fit for a couple where one spouse has more financial assets and/or negotiating skills […]