I understand how difficult family matters can be. I will help you navigate the legal issues associated with these matters such as divorce, child and spousal support, visitation, adoption, relocation, tracing of assets, and division of assets and liabilities.
I will use my experience as a Rochester, New York, family lawyer and understanding to support you throughout the process, and help you move on with your life.
I counsel my clients on separation, divorce, custody, custodial relocation, child support, adoption, parental kidnapping, pre-marital agreements, post-marital agreements, and equitable distribution of property issues, such as business interests, stock options, professional licenses, pensions, and profit-sharing plans.
I have substantial litigation and trial experience in the Family and Supreme Courts in Rochester and and surrounding counties, and have briefed and argued appeals in the Fourth Department of the Appellate Division.
I also encourage clients to enter the Collaborative Law process to resolve their family disputes amicably. For more information about Collaborative Law, click on the link on the right menu.
The most important issues in each divorce case are briefly outlined below, and typically involve grounds for divorce, custody, child support and/or maintenance and equitable distribution.
Grounds for Divorce
There are six grounds for divorce: adultery, one year abandonment, three years’ imprisonment, cruel and inhuman treatment, living separate and apart pursuant to a valid decree of separation, and living separate and apart pursuant to a valid separation agreement.
New York is what is known as a “fault” state; that is, absent a decree of separation or a voluntary agreement, the party seeking the divorce must be able to prove the other’s “fault” pursuant to one of the four fault grounds to enable that party to obtain a decree of divorce.
Custody and Visitation
Child custody and visitation decisions affect where your children will live, how important decisions about their upbringing will be made, and how much time each parent will spend with them. I will help you evaluate arrangements such as:
Joint custody — which means both parents will have a voice in decision-making, but does not necessarily imply equal time with both parents.
Sole custody — for one parent, with the other having specific, enforceable visitation rights, but more limited decision-making input.
Shared custody — a possibility when parents can agree on how to divide time between two homes and demonstrate the ability to cooperate.
Split custody is a situation involving more than one child, where one child’s primary residence is with one parent and another child’s is with the other parent.
Once the issue of custody is resolved, the court can address the issues of child support and/or maintenance. In New York State, the non-primary residential parent is obligated, by law, to pay child support to the residential parent. Generally, pursuant to the Child Support Standards Act, the payments are 17% for one child, 25% for two, 29% for three, 31% for four and 35% for five or more children. These payments are based on the parent’s gross income less FICA and less payments being made on behalf of any other children or the payment of spousal maintenance pursuant to a valid Court Order or separation agreement. There are many other criteria which are significant in determining the exact amount of support, and in high income cases, the percentages may not always be strictly utilized. Child support typically, but not always terminates at the age of 21.
In addition to the above payments, day care, medical insurance, uninsured medical expenses and payment for education (especially post-high school education) are all issues of support which are considered by the Court.
Spousal maintenance, formerly referred to as alimony, is the payment by one spouse to another to enable that spouse to survive economically. Generally, the longer the marriage and the greater disparity of incomes between the parties, the higher the amount of spousal maintenance and the longer period of time it will be paid for. Unlike child support, there is no standard formula utilized by the Courts in determining the amount of payments.
The next most significant issue in most divorce actions is equitable distribution. Essentially, all “marital” property is subject to distribution. “Separate property” is not subject to distribution. Separate property is generally defined as inheritances, property owned prior to the marriage, gifts from non-spouses and income received in compensation for a personal injury. In addition, appreciation of separate property generally is considered separate property. However, extensive case law has abrogated this concept, so that a large portion of appreciated separate property is subject to distribution.