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5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

Writings on Legal Matters

5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

Mediation, as opposed to traditional litigation, offers a more gentle, productive attitude to navigating divorce’s difficult legal waters and generally ends up being less stressful, less expensive, and easier for the whole family to move on. The method includes an independent, impartial third-party that meets with the divorcing couple to work out all the divorce information. Mediation seeks a friendly middle ground that serves all parties.

Choosing mediation instead of a litigated divorce has some important advantages. The five most convincing reasons for choosing mediation are:

1. Mediation is usually less expensive

Because there are no court fees involved, mediation proceedings are simplified and can be far less costly than divorce. The typical cost of mediation is in the $5,000-10,000 range, whereas litigating a divorce will typically cost that much money per person, just to get started.

Mediation costs depend on the complexity of dividing assets, schedules for child visitation, and other concerns. However, the cost should be much less expensive even in complex cases. You may be surprised at how little it costs to employ a mediator, or how expensive it can get to litigate a case to conclusion if mediation is not chosen.

2. Mediation is private and confidential

Divorce proceedings in a government courtroom provide access to intimate information for anyone who may want to find them. No one wants their laundry out in public. For individuals who value their privacy, a traditional divorce may not be the best choice. When you go to court, there are dozens of other married people there as well, listening to the details of your case.

One of mediation’s most desirable advantages is that it is entirely private and confidential. Participants may not have to appear in court at all. The mediator handles all the documentation and ensures the privacy of each person.  We can even meet with you at night so that you don’t have to miss a day of work.

3. Mediation is usually quicker and more flexible

Some mediators like to have the clients come back to mediate a dozen times. Our goal is to get the job done as quickly, amicably, and cost-effective for you as possible. Quite often, we are able to resolve issues the very first time that we meet with you. On the other hand, a lengthy, complex divorce can drag on for months or even years. Mediation is intended to be fast, effective, and flexible.

The lines of communication are kept open due to the relaxed, negotiable process and enables distinctive solutions to be brainstormed to fix any issues. This flexibility enables a swift and cooperative strategy rather than a combative commitment in which everyone feels exhausted and unhappy.

4. Mediation is less stressful

Mediation is far less stressful than going to court. The concept behind mediation is to foster mutually beneficial friendly collaboration. The task of the mediator is not only to help both sides agree on divorce terms, but also to relieve tension, remove emotion from the process, and help both parties act in a friendly manner.

5. Mediation is child-centered and peaceful

The child-friendly strategy to mediation is another important advantage. Custody battles may be harmful to kids – particularly when the Court wants to know which parent the child or children prefer to live with. These issues are all negotiated quietly in our office, while your children are at school and unaware of the process. Children are less affected and they never have to appear in court.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are interested in pursuing mediation for your divorce, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation.

Know Your Rights If You Are the Victim of an Oil Spill

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Know Your Rights If You Are the Victim of an Oil Spill

Has oil been spilled on your property, damaging your home or business? This can be an extremely stressful position to find yourself in. The first step in recovering from this event is familiarizing yourself with your rights so that you can protect them. 

New York’s Navigation Law provides that the discharger of the oil is strictly liable for the damages caused by the spill. The oil company will be required to compensate you for the following:

  • Cleanup of the spilled oil
  • Alternative housing (You may have to leave your home for a time if the spill makes it uninhabitable, whether this is because of the odor or direct damage.)
  • Damages to your home and your personal property
  • Indirect damages such as attorney’s fees
  • Loss of value of your home or business due to the spill

It is important to know about your rights so that you can be sure you get all of the compensation that you deserve. 

But what if the oil spill impacts the value of my property?

Any time a substantial oil spill occurs, it must be reported to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the spill becomes a matter of public record. Unfortunately, people tend to be wary of buying a home that has been the site of an oil spill, even if it was only a small one. Having a spill on the record can decrease the value of your property, often by quite a large amount. 

For this reason, you may seek Diminution of Value compensation from the oil company in addition to the compensation listed above.  You don’t even need to be in the process of selling your house – if the value of your property decreased as a result of the oil spill, then you are entitled to be compensated.

Who can help me protect my rights after an oil spill?

The attorneys at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, have great experience helping landowners and business owners navigate the legal challenges of an oil spill. We advocate for our clients zealously, while also equipping them with the knowledge and guidance they need. We understand that every oil spill case is different. We are eager to learn about your situation and to find out how we can help you. Our firm offers free case evaluations for new clients. Give us a call at (516) 352-2100 to learn more!

New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

Writings on Legal Matters

New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

Until 2010, it was not possible to file for a no-fault divorce in the state of New York. In fact, they were the last state in the country to begin granting no-fault divorces. Couples had to prove that they had grounds for divorce such as adultery, abandonment, cruel treatment, or prolonged separation. Sometimes this led to very long, complicated divorce cases that became very expensive for those involved.

Today, however, you only have to prove that the marriage has been irretrievably broken, not that it was anyone’s fault. That does not mean, unfortunately, that every divorce is amicable and argument-free. There are two different types of divorce in New York: contested and uncontested. 

Uncontested Divorce Explained

Your divorce is considered uncontested if you and your soon-to-be ex are able to iron out the details on your own with regards to child custody, visitation, support, and division of assets. You do not need the court to settle any disagreements between you. You must be able to come to an agreement about everything from who pays which debts to whether or not either party needs to pay spousal support to the other.

Once you have reached that agreement, you or your spouse can contact an attorney who can draft an agreement and all of the other necessary paperwork that the court requires to process an uncontested divorce.  Some people believe that they can process an uncontested divorce without an attorney – but this is a recipe for much frustration and/or a problem in the future. Not only can the paperwork process can be time consuming and frustrating for someone that is unfamiliar with it, but more importantly, if your agreement with your spouse is not properly memorialized in writing, and a dispute later arises regarding the distribution of an asset, the sale of your home, or visitation/custody of the children, then the court may not be able to effectively enforce or even modify your original agreement if it was not properly documented.

Contested Divorce Explained

If you and your spouse can not reach a decision about things like your children, you property, you assets, and your debts, your divorce is contested. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re fighting and hate each other and your divorce isn’t amicable, just that you need the court’s help to reach a fair resolution. You will need to attend court conferences, and if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement there, the case will eventually make its way to trial.  The vast majority of contested divorces are still resolved with an agreement, much like an uncontested divorce. Very few cases actually go to trial where a Judge has to declare a winner.

Who can represent your best interests during a divorce?

If you’re getting divorced in New York, whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, it is essential to hire an experienced divorce attorney. Your attorney can help you protect your best interests. If your case is litigated, they can represent you and advocate for you zealously. The attorneys at Sunshine, Isaacson, & Hecht, LLP are eager to guide you through the process of New York divorce. To get started, call us at (516) 352-2100.

6 Steps to Take to Preserve Your Property Damage Claim

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6 Steps to Take to Preserve Your Property Damage Claim

After a car accident, it’s crucial to take certain steps to ensure that you get what you deserve for your damaged vehicle. Whether you’re dealing with minor property damage or a totaled vehicle, following these steps can help you avoid costly mistakes that weaken your case.

1. Call the Police

The other party involved in the accident may want to bypass insurance and avoid reporting the accident, particularly if they are at fault or aren’t allowed to be driving. No matter how well-intentioned the other party seems, this type of arrangement often turns into a serious headache. Insist on reporting the accident to the police and exchanging insurance information.

2. Contact Your Insurance Company

Regardless of whether or not you’re at fault, you must report the crash to your insurance company. Give them a clear, concise description of what happened and the extent of your property damage. You may also need to submit a police report to them.

3. Take Pictures

Evidence is crucial in any property damage case. Your insurance adjuster may use these photos to assess the damage to your vehicle. With detailed photos highlighting the extent of the damage to your vehicle, you may be able to create a stronger case for a larger settlement, particularly if you have “before” photos of your vehicle.

4. Get a Damage Valuation

Your insurance company should be ready to present you with a damage valuation fairly quickly after your accident. Even if you also have a bodily injury claim, your insurance shouldn’t make you wait too long to get your vehicle repaired. If you disagree with the adjuster’s damage valuation, don’t fret—you can get independent replacement quotes or repair estimates.

5. Schedule Repairs

You are free to choose where you get your vehicle repaired. However, if there are any issues with your damage valuation, you may want to hold off on repairs until you speak with an attorney. If the total cost of your repairs ends up being higher than your damage valuation, you could be left footing the bill.

6. Reach Out to An Attorney

Consulting an attorney is highly recommended after a car accident. Many insurance companies delay the payment of property damage claims or offer settlements far lower than what consumers actually deserve. They know that many consumers lack the energy to fight them over a low damage valuation or do not know their rights, and they count on most consumers simply taking the first settlement offer they get. Working with an attorney is one way to speed up the process and get everything you’re entitled to after a crash.

Are you struggling to keep up with medical bills or other expenses after an injury caused by a car crash? We’re here to help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. Contact the team at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP to discuss the details of your accident and figure out your next step.

Three Common Misconceptions About Prenup Agreements

Writings on Legal Matters

Three Common Misconceptions About Prenup Agreements

The general perception of prenuptial agreements is changing. More and more people are beginning to see prenups less as a taboo and more as the useful planning tool they truly are. A prenuptial agreement is a written contract between two people who intend to get married. It lists all the assets each party has ownership of when going into the marriage, and specifies what the rights to property of each party would be if the marriage were to end in divorce. Read on to discover some of the common misconceptions about prenups.

1. They are only for the rich.

You do not need to be fabulously wealthy to benefit from a prenup. In fact, most couples would benefit from creating one. It can help for future estate planning if either of you have children from prior marriages. It can also help you both better understand your financial rights and responsibilities as you embark on the journey of your marriage.

2. Signing a prenup means you expect the marriage to fail.

Being prepared for something is not the same as expecting it or assuming it as an eventuality. We’ve heard of couples who don’t want a prenup because they think it is a sign that they don’t have faith in their relationship. No way! Installing a security system in your house doesn’t mean you don’t trust your neighbors, or you expect to get robbed. It means you understand that we cannot predict the future and you want to have protections in place in case life doesn’t go as planned!

3. They are difficult and expensive to draft.

If you partner with an experienced family law attorney to create your prenuptial agreement, the process is actually quite easy. The costs associated with  hiring a lawyer to help you are not exorbitant, and having a prenup agreement in place can save you much, much more in court fees, if a divorce eventuates, than the cost of the creation of the document.

If you are considering a prenup, the attorneys at Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht are eager to help. Our team has extensive experience with these and other family law matters. Our proactive approach helps you prioritize goals, understand what you want to achieve, and get the results you’re after. Are you ready to get started? If so, contact our firm at (516) 352-2100.

Five Tips for Driving on Icy Roads

Writings on Legal Matters

Five Tips for Driving on Icy Roads

With cold weather comes increased danger on the roads. Ice can turn otherwise perfectly good streets into extremely dangerous places. At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we have seen so many people severely injured in car accidents that were caused by or made worse by icy conditions. We don’t want you to find yourself in this awful situation, so we’ve compiled this list of helpful tips. We hope that this will enlighten those who have recently moved here from warmer places, and provide a useful refresher for those who are seasoned in the art of driving safely on icy roads.

  1. Buckle up.

This one should be obvious. It’s the law, after all. We’ve heard older people claim they can’t get in the habit because they started riding in cars long before seat belts were commonplace. That’s no excuse! According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, seat belt use in passenger vehicles saved an estimated 14,955 lives in 2017.

  1. Know how to correct when you’re sliding.

If you’re sliding, do not hit your brakes. Instead, turn into it. But don’t overcorrect. Practice makes perfect, but usually you can avoid sliding altogether by slowing down.

  1. Slow down!

Being a few minutes earlier is never worth risking your life. When roads are icy, you simply cannot go as fast as you would otherwise. If you’re worried about being late, don’t make up for it by speeding, just start leaving home earlier. 

  1. Know when conditions are too severe for driving. 

It’s important to be able to recognize when the roads are just to ice for you to safely drive. The threshold for this is different for different people. If you don’t have much experience with icy roads, following this tip may mean staying home more often than you’d like. Your safety is worth it!

  1. Don’t ride your brakes.

Brakes often lock in icy and snowy conditions, even if you have antilock brakes. You can make this less likely to happen by going easy with your brake usage as much as possible.

Injured? Contact Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht.

Did another driver fail to follow these tips? If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence on the road, the Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team is here to help. We have extensive experience with personal injury cases like yours. If you have any questions or want to get started to win the compensation you deserve, give us a call at (516) 352- 2100.

Three Steps to Take If Your Ex Stops Paying Child Support

Writings on Legal Matters

Three Steps to Take If Your Ex Stops Paying Child Support

If you have custody of your child or children, the court likely directed the other parent to pay child support. It can be extremely difficult to raise a child on a single income, so for many divorced custodial moms and dads, child support payments are a major lifeline. But what happens if the payments suddenly stop?

Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently, for a variety of reasons. Maybe your ex has been facing some health issues and is putting all of his or her money towards medical bills. Maybe your ex got laid off and is looking for a new job. Or maybe, sadly, he or she is just tired of paying and wants to see if he or she can get away with putting the responsibility aside. No matter their situation, you have remedies with the court!

  1. If you do not already have an order for child support because the other parent was previously paying you based on a verbal agreement or voluntarily, you can and should ask the court for an award of the child support to which you are entitled. It is difficult to enforce agreements, but easy to enforce court orders. Without a court order, technically, the other parent has no legal obligation to make payments.
  2. If you have a child support order and he or she is not paying, you can now seek the Court’s help to enforce the order.   Enforcement can mean that the parent’s paycheck is “garnished” and support is sent directly to you by his or her employer, it can mean that a government agency will monitor and collect from the other parent and then pay you, it can even mean that the other parent will be incarcerated in jail until such time that he or she pays you what you are owed.  Other remedies including seizing a parent’s property (such as an automobile or even a boat), intercepting income tax refunds, and suspending the parent’s driver’s license.
  3. There are different legal mechanisms to make #2, above, happen.  Knowing the right one, what you need to say and ask for, which court to go to, and how to get from Point A to Point B, so that the money ends up in your hands, are the questions that you need to ask an attorney.

Who can help?

If you are dealing with an ex who won’t pay child support, or any other family law matter, the attorneys at Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP can help. To get started, give us a call at (516) 352-2100. We even offer a free consultation for new clients. So don’t hesitate — call today!

5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case

Writings on Legal Matters

5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case

Child custody proceedings are difficult and stressful for both parents. With emotions running high, parents often unwittingly make poor choices that adversely affect both their children and their case. While not exhaustive, here are some common pitfalls to avoid in your child custody proceeding:

1. Denigrating or Disparaging the Other Parent

The courts recognize the obvious: that children thrive best when they have a healthy relationship with both parents. Nothing undermines that relationship more than when one parent one parent repeatedly denigrates or disparages the other to the child or otherwise pressures the child to choose sides.

Judges have seen it all before and are well aware of the profound and long-lasting damage that this type of behavior can have on a child’s emotional development and long-term well-being.

As such, the courts have consistently maintained that one of the primary responsibilities of the custodial parent is to foster and facilitate a relationship between the child and the other parent, so much so that a parent’s inability or failure to do so creates a presumption that that parent is unfit to have custody of the child.

2. Manipulating the Child’s Preferences

Similarly, some parents may use a variety of tactics to influence the child’s decision or preference about with whom the child wants to live. This could include spoiling or bribing the child, or more overtly, encouraging the child to express their preference to the appointed attorney.

This type of behavior is unhealthy for the child and typically backfires on the manipulating parent when it is often picked up by the child’s attorney and the Court, who, again, have seen it all before.

3. Absence in the Child’s Life

Judge’s view a parent’s past-involvement in the child’s life as the best indicator of future involvement. As such, it is important for parents in custody cases to remain active and involved in their children’s day-to-day activities and major decisions (medical, education, extracurricular, etc.).

A parent’s continued involvement is what is best for the child and what is best for their custody case.

4. Illicit Use or Abuse of Drugs
When allegations of drug and alcohol abuse are made, Judge’s will typically order that both parties be tested. Should the result come back positive, the parent found to have used drugs or alcohol must then defensively argue that his or her drug and/or alcohol use is limited in nature or controlled and does not occur when the child is in his or her care. This is a surefire way to lose your custody case.

5. Lack of Stability and Poor Decision Making

Courts do not look favorably on parents who make hasty or detrimental decisions. This could include prematurely introducing the child to a paramour or significant other, removing the children from their school or daycare program, or arbitrarily changing residences. Doing so only compounds the instability of the child’s life—making it increasingly more challenging.

Divorce and custody disputes are very difficult for families. It is important for parents to always keep their children’s best interest in mind—particularly as it pertains to actions and decisions during the transition.

Three Steps to Take If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

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Three Steps to Take If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

As many of you are already aware, in response to the growing public-health concern, the Nassau County Family Court has temporarily closed its doors.  Nonetheless, specific arrangements have been made by the judicial system for emergency situations. If you have an emergency legal situation, please do not hesitate to contact us so that we can help you through this difficult time.  We are striving to help as many people as we can, and are doing our best to be available for you in your time of need.

Despite the unprecedented territory that we are in, the judicial system has set forth procedures for those in dire need, including victims of domestic violence.  If you feel that you are in immediate danger, please contact law enforcement immediately and consider the other steps described below.   

Domestic violence can take many forms. It occurs when those we trust and share our homes with betray our trust by engaging in physically violent, sexually violent, or emotionally abusive (i.e. making threats of violence) acts against us. Whether you are facing domestic violence at the hands of a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, parent, or adult child, the family law team at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht wants you to know you’re not alone. Although your situation may feel inescapable, we are here for you and there are many other resources at your disposal as well.  After contacting local law enforcement:

Recognize domestic violence for what it is.

For many, it is easy to make excuses for our abusers because we love them. But no amount of love changes the fact that when someone behaves violently towards you, they are committing a crime. Their behavior is against the law and can be punishable with jail time. 

It is also important to recognize that you do not deserve this. You are well within your rights to demand freedom from domestic violence.

File a family offense petition seeking an order of protection.

Also known as a restraining order, an order of protection is something you can get to legally prevent your abuser from interacting with you. It may force them to vacate your home and prevent them from contacting you or coming within a certain radius of your home, your place of work, or your physical person. To obtain an order of protection, you can file a petition with family court.  Even now, with the Family Court being closed, there is a system in place so that you will have access to the judicial system. Often, you can go to Court and leave that same day with at least a Temporary Order of Protection, which would remain in place until your case can be heard by a Judge.

Consider other resources

You are not alone.  There are many groups where you can meet and speak to people that are in similar situations.  There are counselors that can offer guidance. There are many options and resources out there for you.

The Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht family law team is here to help. If you are experiencing domestic violence and want help, please please contact us.  We offer free consultations, and anything you tell us will be kept in confidence.

Top Divorce Questions: Who Pays The Legal Fees?

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Top Divorce Questions: Who Pays The Legal Fees?

{2:40 minutes to read} Almost every new client that consults with our firm for a divorce proceeding asks one of two
questions:

Does my spouse have to pay for my lawyer? OR
Do I have to pay for my spouse’s lawyer?

The answer comes as a surprise to most. The Domestic Relations Law has a rebuttable presumption that the “monied” spouse will pay the “non-monied” spouse’s attorney’s fees. The idea behind the law is to try and level the playing field when there is a big discrepancy between the incomes of the divorcing parties. After all, the law doesn’t want the person with less money to be at a disadvantage.

That being said, this is not simply a windfall for the spouse with less financial power, who at times thinks that they can litigate cost-free while their spouse pays the bill at the end. The “monied” spouse always has the opportunity to rebut the presumption that they should pay all legal fees by showing the Court that the other spouse has the ability to pay for their own attorney, or by showing that their spouse unnecessarily drove up the cost of the litigation.

Let’s say for example that the spouse earning substantially less money, or earning no income as a stay-at-home parent, has substantial assets, inheritance, or money available to him or her. He or she may have the ability to pay his or her own legal fees, and an award from the Court would not ‘level the playing field,’ but would instead provide an unfair advantage. So, while the starting point may be that a spouse without income is entitled to have his or her legal fees paid by the other spouse, equity and fairness should prevail once it is demonstrated to the Court that the same spouse is already on a level playing field because of other assets or circumstances.

On the other side, however, if one spouse truly does not have the income or assets to litigate with, the Court will level the playing field immediately at the commencement of the case, or even in the middle of the case, and the higher courts have held that it is an error when the trial court fails to “level the playing field.”

What is the best approach?

There are different strategies to use when approaching this issue, depending on which side you fall on. If there are liquid marital assets, we often get creative and try to split up one or more of those assets ahead of time. We recommend this approach to litigants on both sides, because it helps the “non-monied” spouse in that he or she will now have the funds with which to pay his or her attorney and for living expenses, and it also helps the “monied” spouse, who now may not have to pay his or her spouse’s legal fees because the other spouse has the financial ability to do so. This strategy also helps alleviate the need for one spouse to constantly ask the Court for additional money for legal fees and living expenses, and it alleviates the need for the other spouse to defend against such requests—thus reducing the cost of litigation for both sides.

Our approach actually helps both sides during the litigation, and the less that you pay in legal fees on these issues, the more money there is available for you and your spouse!

Please contact us today with questions or comments.

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