Westchester Divorce

The Most Affordable Divorce

Unbeknownst to many divorcing couples, it is possible to have a one-attorney no-court divorce, which is the most affordable divorce.

If done properly, such one-attorney divorces are also fair and reasonable, and enforceable.

Kitchen Table Divorce Utilizing a Neutral Mediator
A “kitchen table divorce,” or “Starbucks divorce,” happens when a couple negotiates their own settlement terms for divorce (over the kitchen table or at Starbucks) without any attorney involved, and then an attorney is retained to draft the separation agreement or marital settlement agreement.

In my opinion, the best way to do such a kitchen table divorce is for the couple, after their private negotiations, to go together and retain a divorce attorney to serve as a neutral mediator, who will then draft the settlement agreement. Each spouse is likely to trust the attorney if they meet and retain the attorney together, and then discuss with the attorney the agreed upon settlement terms.

When the attorney serves as a neutral mediator, he/she represents neither party, but rather remains neutral to facilitate a dialogue between the couple to help them finalize a settlement. The neutral mediator is in a position to share his/her thoughts about the settlement terms, so as to best meet the […]

Divorce Mediation and Saving the Marriage

Within the past year I served as the divorce mediator for a couple in which the wife was broken-hearted. Her husband had cheated on her and she confronted him with her proof: a shareholder certificate showing that the husband jointly owned a co-operative apartment with another woman who was unrelated to him.
The husband denied having any romantic relationship with the other woman. His explanation for the shareholder’s certificate, which he had tried to conceal from the wife, was the following:

1. he needed to make more money than he earned at his salaried job in order to pay for college for the couple’s two children and maintain the family’s middle-class lifestyle;
2. the other woman was a real estate broker who showed him the co-operative apartment, they jointly invested in it because it was such a golden opportunity, they never had sex or lived together, and she now lives in the mid-west;
3. the husband never told the wife about the broker and the co-operative apartment because he knew the wife would object to him making such an investment;

The Husband’s above explanation made the wife furious. She believed it was a total lie, and that […]

Support Guidelines: New York Divorce Mediator’s Best Friend

Why are the New York maintenance (alimony) and child support guidelines of the State of New York a divorce mediator’s best friend?

The New York State legislature created the maintenance and child support guidelines in order to make the amounts of support more uniform throughout New York State. This is a very good thing for a divorcing couple, their children, and society.

Many of my divorce lawyer colleagues are critical of these support guidelines. At a cocktail party they might tell me that such guidelines result in simple minded calculations that are unjust or unfair to one or both parties. The real reason they are so critical is that the guidelines help reduce divorce litigation and attorneys’ fees.

Another very good thing about the support guidelines is that in order to make a binding maintenance and child support agreement in New York, the guidelines calculations must be set forth in the agreement. Then the parties agree to either follow the guidelines calculations, or deviate from them, and if so, state the reasons for such deviation. This makes the divorcing couple think twice about agreeing to such a deviation.

My goal as a New York divorce mediator or collaborative divorce lawyer is to help […]

New York Divorce: Choose Your Divorce Lawyer Carefully

Are you a New York State resident considering a divorce? Buyer beware! As mentioned in my last blog, if your divorce is not a genuine emergency, avoid the Charon-like* divorce lawyer who will unnecessarily subject you to the tortures of the damned at your great expense.

The good news is that there are other New York divorce lawyers who take a different approach. At the initial consultation, they will explain all of the divorce process choices including mediation and collaborative law.

Instead of unnecessarily rushing off to divorce court, these peacemakers will help you make an out of court divorce settlement consistent with your reasonable needs and interests, and those of your children and spouse. Not only will such a divorce settlement save you tons of money, it will also greatly increase your chances of having a good aftermath to your divorce, which could be a priceless benefit. Think about this: how important is it for your children to know their parents do not hate each other when they attend graduations, weddings and births of grandchildren in the decades to come? How important is this for you?

Besides settling your divorce, a mediator or collaborative […]

New York Divorce: Don’t Start by Filing in Court

In New York State, only divorces involving genuine emergencies should start by filing in Court.

In Greek mythology “Charon” is a mercenary ferryman who takes deceased souls across the river Styx through the gates of Hell. Charon also happens to be the larger of the two moons orbiting the planet Pluto. Being both a New York divorce lawyer and an astronomy buff, I have wondered: does my occupation make me similar to Charon? Indeed, many people will tell you that going through a divorce in the New York State court system is Hell.

That said, whether a divorce lawyer is Charon-incarnate hinges on how he or she practices their profession!

A Charon-like divorce lawyer will try to capitalize on the client’s matrimonial misfortune by unnecessarily and immediately filing the case in Court. This is done to justify payment of a five-figure retainer. Such a lawyer will say this filing in Court is how all divorces begin.

The truth is that only divorces involving genuine emergencies require immediate court intervention. Such emergencies include serious domestic violence or the threat of it, willful refusal to pay for the vital financial needs of a spouse or children, or some […]

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 […]