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Divorce Attorney in Coram, New York
Divorce can be a tumultuous journey, filled with both emotional and legal intricacies. If you find yourself at this crossroad in Coram or anywhere in Suffolk County, New York, aligning yourself with the very best representation is not just a choice—it’s a necessity.
Even in an amicable separation and an uncontested divorce, frustration, sadness and mourning are reasonable and expected. On the other hand, contested divorce, especially, high conflict divorces, can be the most traumatic time of life. Litigating and going to trial on matters of child custody, visitation, child support, maintenance and property distribution can be stressful but you do not need to fight alone. Retaining the right divorce attorney will ease the stress and provide you an advocate to fight for your rights. A skilled and experienced family law attorney will guide you through the divorce process, explain legal jargon for family law cases, and discuss all potential outcomes at each stage of the litigation. The Law Office of Louis L. Sternberg PC is a prominent Suffolk County family law firm with years of experience advocating for our clients in New York divorce cases and other matters throughout Suffolk County and Long Island. Contact us to discuss your case.
The Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce in New York
Many states offer multiple methods for spouses to separate in a legal sense. While New York law does not recognize “legal separation,” it does allow two different kinds of divorce.
Divorce vs. Legal Separation
New York is among the states that allow a spouse to pursue a “legal separation” instead of divorce. Under the Domestic Relations Law, a divorce “dissolves” a marriage as a permanent resolution. Th divorce resolves all relevant issues including child custody, visitation, child support, spousal support, and property distribution.
New York also allows for a legal separation if the parties do not wish to pursue a divorce and dissolve their marriage. At its core, legal separation is an arrangement that allows married couples to live apart without dissolving the marriage. It’s a formal, legally-recognized arrangement that defines the rights and obligations of each spouse while they live apart.
Why Opt for Legal Separation?
There are multiple reasons a couple might consider this:
- Trial Period: Couples might use legal separation as a trial to see if living apart improves their relationship or helps them decide if divorce is the next step.
- Religious or Moral Reasons: Some people have religious or moral objections to divorce and prefer to remain married in name, even if they’re living separately.
- Financial Benefits: There can be tax advantages and healthcare-related reasons that make legal separation more appealing than divorce. Frequently, a legal separation will allow one party to maintain health insurance benefits through the spouse’s employment and insurance coverage whereas a divorce and dissolution of the marriage requires that such health insurance coverage end, except for limited instances including COBRA.
- Personal Reasons: Sometimes, couples just aren’t ready for the finality of divorce and want to keep the door open for potential reconciliation.
New York State Divorce Residency Requirements
New York allows for no fault divorce in which either spouse can simply assert that the marriage has been irretrievably broken for a period of six months or more, without either party alleging or proving wrongdoing. Unlike other states, New York does not require the parties to live separate or apart prior to pursuing a no fault divorce.
What Happens in a Divorce for New York Residents?
In the state of New York, there are specific residency requirements that must be met before a couple can file for divorce. These requirements ensure that the couple has a legitimate connection to the state before utilizing its courts for a divorce proceeding. The residency requirements for divorce in New York are as follows:
- Both Spouses are Residents: If both spouses have been living in New York as residents continuously for at least two years before they file for divorce, they meet the residency requirement.
- Marriage in New York: If the couple got married in New York, and either spouse has lived in the state continuously for at least one year before filing, they can file for divorce in New York.
- Residency with Grounds in New York: If the couple lived in New York as residents and the grounds (legal reasons) for their divorce occurred in the state, and either spouse has been living in the state continuously for at least one year before filing, they meet the requirement.
- Continuous Residency Regardless of Marriage Location: If either spouse has been living in New York continuously for at least two years before filing for divorce, irrespective of where they were married or where the grounds for divorce occurred, they meet the residency requirement.
- Both Spouses are Residents with Grounds in New York: If both spouses are residents at the time of filing and the grounds for the divorce occurred in New York, they can file for divorce, regardless of the duration of their residency.
If the residency requirements are met, either party may then commence the divorce in New York State Supreme Court.
Which Court Handles NY Divorce Cases?
In New York, divorces are not heard in Family Court. Instead, New York divorce cases are handled by the Supreme Court, and generally in county in which one or both of the parties reside. The New York Supreme Court is a trial-level court for civil matters, including matrimonial cases like divorces, in the state. It’s worth noting that the naming can be a bit confusing for those unfamiliar with New York’s court system. In many other states, the “Supreme Court” is the highest appellate court, but in New York, the highest appellate court is the Court of Appeals.
What Are the Fault-Based Grounds for Divorce in New York?
In New York, both no-fault and fault-based grounds are available for divorce. While the no-fault ground (irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for at least six months) has become more common since its introduction, fault-based grounds are still available and might be pursued for various reasons.
- Cruel and Inhuman Treatment: This ground requires that the physical or mental well-being of one spouse is endangered by the other to the extent that it’s unsafe or improper for the spouses to continue living together. Examples might include physical abuse, continuous verbal abuse, or certain patterns of behavior that create a danger to one’s physical or mental health.
- Abandonment: This refers to one spouse leaving the marital residence without justification or agreement and with the intention of not returning, for a continuous period of at least one year.
- Imprisonment: If a spouse is incarcerated for three or more consecutive years after the marriage began, the other spouse can file for divorce on this ground. Note that the divorce can be filed during the imprisonment or up to five years after the incarcerated spouse is released.
- Adultery: Engaging in a sexual relationship with someone other than one’s spouse can serve as a ground for divorce. However, there are defenses to this ground, and it can be complex to prove. Using this ground often requires tangible evidence or a third-party witness.
- Living Separate and Apart Pursuant to a Separation Agreement: While technically not a “fault” ground, if a couple lives separately and apart for more than a year pursuant to a legally recognized separation agreement and both parties fulfill the terms of that agreement, a divorce can be obtained on this ground.
- Living Separate and Apart Pursuant to a Decree of Separation: Similar to the above, this is also technically not a “fault” ground. If a couple lives separately for more than a year following a decree of separation issued by the court, it can serve as a ground for divorce.
If someone pursues a fault-based divorce, they bear the burden of proving the fault ground in court, which can sometimes complicate and lengthen the divorce process. Additionally, while fault might be a factor in decisions like property distribution or spousal support, New York is an “equitable distribution” state, meaning assets are divided in a manner deemed fair, but not necessarily equal.
How Does Contested and Uncontested Divorce Differ in New York?
In New York, as in many other jurisdictions, divorces can be classified into two main categories based on the level of agreement between the spouses: contested and uncontested. Understanding the difference between these two can be crucial in gauging the complexity, duration, and cost of the divorce process.
Often, litigants speak of filing for an uncontested divorce in order to simplify litigation. Unfortunately, the process does not work in that fashion. In New York, a divorce is uncontested if the spouses execute a written settlement agreement that resolves all issues including custody / visitation, child support, spousal support, property distributions and counsel fees.
A contested divorce is a divorce in which the spouses have not settled all of the issues. A case may be uncontested even if certain issues have been settled but others remain unresolved. Representation by a skilled and experienced divorce attorney is necessary in any contested divorce in New York.
Generally, uncontested divorces can be processed without either party ever appearing in court. Contested divorce litigation will require that a judge is assigned to the case and that the parties appear for various conferences and potentially a trial.
Who Receives Custody of Children After a Divorce in NY?
In New York, as in many other jurisdictions, child custody decisions are made based on what is in the “best interests of the child.” The court’s primary concern is ensuring the child’s welfare, and custody is determined accordingly.
Child custody can be broken down into two main categories:
- Physical Custody: This refers to where the child primarily resides. A parent with primary physical custody provides the child’s main residence. 50 / 50 custody or joint physical custody means the child spends significant time living with both parents.
- Legal Custody: This pertains to the right to make significant decisions about the child’s upbringing, including education, health care, and religious upbringing. Joint legal custody allows both parents to have a say in these decisions.
Factors the Court Considers for Custody Decisions:
- Parent’s Ability to Provide Stable Environment: The court will consider each parent’s capacity to offer a stable, loving, and nurturing environment.
- Wishes of the Child: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, the court might consider the child’s preferences. However, this is just one factor among many.
- Ability to Cooperate: The ability of parents to work together and make decisions jointly for the benefit of the child can influence custody decisions.
- Each Parent’s Past Role: The court will evaluate the role each parent played in the child’s life before the divorce.
- Work Schedules and Availability: The court might consider how much time each parent can feasibly spend with the child, considering work commitments and other responsibilities.
- Mental and Physical Health: The mental and physical health of each parent can be a factor, especially if it directly impacts their ability to care for the child.
- History of Domestic Violence or Substance Abuse: A history of abuse or substance issues can significantly influence custody decisions.
- Home Environment: The safety, stability, and overall environment of each parent’s home can be a factor.
- Sibling Relationships: The court will often try to keep siblings together.
- Financial Stability: While wealth alone won’t determine custody, the ability to provide for a child’s basic needs can be considered.
- Other Factors: The court can also consider any other factors it deems relevant to the child’s best interests.
It’s essential to remember that no single factor determines custody outcomes; instead, the court weighs all factors collectively. Additionally, New York courts generally favor solutions that allow both parents to maintain meaningful relationships with their children, unless such arrangements would not be in the children’s best interests.
Given the complexities and emotions involved in child custody decisions, parents navigating this process in New York are strongly advised to consult with a Suffolk County family law attorney. The attorney can provide guidance, advocate for the parent’s rights and wishes, and help ensure the child’s best interests are at the forefront of any decisions.
How Are Assets Distributed in a Divorce in New York?
In New York, the distribution of assets in a divorce is governed by the principle of “equitable distribution.” It’s crucial to understand that “equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal.” Instead, the goal is to distribute marital assets in a manner that is fair, considering a variety of factors.
- Identification of Assets. First and foremost, assets need to be categorized as either marital or separate:
- Marital Property: These are generally assets acquired by either spouse during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the title. This can include homes, vehicles, bank accounts, businesses, retirement accounts, pensions, and more.
- Separate Property: These are assets that one spouse owned before the marriage or acquired during the marriage via inheritance, a personal gift (not from the other spouse), or compensation for personal injuries. These typically remain the property of the original owner.
- Valuation of Assets. Once the assets have been categorized, they must be assigned a monetary value. This often involves appraisals or evaluations, especially for items like real estate, businesses, or unique assets.
- Equitable Distribution. When distributing assets equitably, the court will consider a variety of factors, including:
- The income and property of each spouse at the time of marriage and at the time of the divorce filing.
- The duration of the marriage and the age and health of both spouses.
- The need of a parent with custody to remain in the family home and to use or own its household contents.
- The loss of inheritance and pension rights upon the dissolution of the marriage.
- The loss of health insurance benefits upon dissolution of the marriage.
- Any award of maintenance (alimony).
- The contribution of each party to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital assets, including the contribution of a spouse as a homemaker.
- The liquid or non-liquid character of all marital property.
- The probable future financial circumstances of each party.
- The impossibility or difficulty of evaluating any asset.
- Tax consequences to each party.
- Whether either party has wastefully dissipated marital assets.
- Any transfer or encumbrance made in contemplation of a divorce without fair consideration.
- Any other factor the court deems relevant.
- Debts. Just as assets are distributed, so too are marital debts. The court will decide who is responsible for any debts acquired during the marriage. This can include student loans.
- Separate Property Considerations. While separate property is generally not subject to division, the appreciation of separate property can be considered marital under certain circumstances. For instance, if both spouses contributed to the increase in value (either directly or indirectly), that increase might be considered marital and thus subject to equitable distribution.
Equitable distribution aims to ensure a fair division, but it can be complex. Given the intricacies and high stakes involved, individuals navigating a divorce in New York should consult with a family law attorney to understand their rights, protect their assets, and navigate the process effectively.
Do You Have to Pay Alimony in Coram, NY?
In New York, spousal support (often referred to as “maintenance” or “alimony” in other jurisdictions) is financial support paid by one spouse to the other either during or after a divorce or both. The purpose of spousal support is to help the lower-earning spouse maintain a standard of living that is similar to what was enjoyed during the marriage, especially if they were financially dependent on the higher-earning spouse. Initially, the Court calculates certain presumptive maintenance obligations based on the disparity in the parties’ income and child support matters.
It’s essential to note that the presumptive maintenance amount is just a starting point. The court will consider several factors when determining the final amount and duration of maintenance including:
- The age and health of both parties.
- The present and future earning capacity of both parties.
- The need of one party to incur education or training expenses.
- The termination of a child support award.
- The wasteful dissipation of marital property by either spouse.
- The existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household or a pre-divorce separate household.
- Acts by one spouse against another resulting in health issues or inhibiting a party’s ability to obtain meaningful employment.
- The availability and cost of medical insurance.
- Other tax consequences.
- The contributions and services of the payee spouse.
- Any other factor the court finds relevant.
Duration of Maintenance in New York. The duration of post-divorce maintenance often depends on the length of the marriage:
- For marriages up to 15 years, maintenance might be awarded for 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage.
- For marriages more than 15 years but less than 20 years, maintenance might be awarded for 30% to 40% of the length of the marriage.
- For marriages of 20 years or more, maintenance might be awarded for 35% to 50% of the length of the marriage.
Again, the exact duration will depend on the specific circumstances and the court’s discretion.
While New York provides guidelines for determining maintenance, there’s still considerable discretion for the court and a capable New York divorce attorney will present the case in a fashion most favorable to you .
How Will Hiring a Coram Lawyer Benefit Me in a Divorce?
Divorce can be an emotionally challenging and legally complex process. Whether you’re just contemplating divorce or you’re already deep into proceedings, it might be tempting to try and navigate these uncharted waters on your own. However, hiring a Coram divorce lawyer can offer numerous advantages during this critical phase of your life.
- Objective Advice During Emotional Times. Emotions run high during a divorce. A seasoned attorney can offer an objective perspective, helping you make decisions that are in your best interest rather than being driven by heightened emotions. They can be that anchor you need during tumultuous times.
- Expert Knowledge of New York Divorce Laws. Divorce laws in New York can be intricate and multifaceted. A Coram lawyer, well-versed in the specifics of the state’s regulations, can provide clarity. They’ll ensure you understand your rights and responsibilities and guide you through legal protocols, from filing the right documents to adhering to deadlines.
- Efficient and Effective Proceedings. While DIY divorce might seem like a cost-saving measure, mistakes made during the process can be expensive to rectify. An attorney will ensure that all paperwork is accurate and timely, streamlining the process and potentially speeding up the resolution.
- Skilled Negotiator on Your Side. Negotiations are an integral part of the divorce process, especially when discussing property division, child custody, and spousal support. A Coram lawyer will advocate for your interests, ensuring you receive a fair settlement.
- Comprehensive Understanding of Financial Implications. Divorces involve more than just splitting assets. There are tax implications, potential impacts on retirement benefits, and much more. A knowledgeable lawyer will ensure you’re aware of all financial ramifications, helping you make informed decisions.
- Expertise in Handling Complex Issues. If your divorce involves complexities like high-value assets, shared businesses, or international elements, the expertise of a Coram lawyer becomes indispensable. They can navigate these challenges effectively, ensuring your rights are protected.
- Peace of Mind. Knowing that a professional is handling your case, ensuring every detail is taken care of, provides a level of peace that’s invaluable. You can focus on healing and starting anew, rather than getting bogged down by legal complexities.
- Reducing Potential for Future Conflicts. A well-drafted divorce agreement reduces ambiguities, ensuring there are clear guidelines on various aspects. This clarity can reduce the chances of future disagreements, leading to a smoother post-divorce life.
The road to finalizing a divorce can be filled with potential pitfalls. By hiring an experienced Coram divorce attorney, you’re not just getting legal representation; you’re ensuring you have a guide, advocate, and counselor by your side, making an overwhelming process more manageable. Remember, the decisions you make during the divorce will have long-lasting implications; having an expert on your side is an investment in your future well-being.
One of the Top Family Law Firms in Suffolk County at Your Service
When you have family law questions, the skilled divorce lawyers at Law Office of Louis L. Sternberg PC are here to help. We are your Coram divorce attorneys here to guide you through this stressful time with expert guidance and skilled in-court representation. We are proud to have been included in Super Lawyers and nominated in the Best of Long Island – Best Divorce Attorney. With offices in Suffolk County, we can assist clients with family court and divorce matters throughout Nassau County and Suffolk.