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Divorce Perspectives: A Proactive and Personalized Approach

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Divorce Perspectives: A Proactive and Personalized Approach

Divorce Perspectives: A Proactive and Personalized Approach By Joshua HechtIt’s a cliché, admittedly. But the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” rings particularly true when it comes to divorce. Even if an individual has the best of intentions, with emotions running high, one misstep, and what otherwise could have been a very simple matter, spirals out of control.

It is for this very reason that our firm views the initial consultation as an essential part of the process. We firmly believe that if we get to know our clients and what they hope to achieve, we can avoid many of the pitfalls that often hold parting spouses captive to litigation.

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A Brief Guide to Your Custody Options in New York

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A Brief Guide to Your Custody Options in New York

One of the more complicated and contested parts of the divorce process is often child custody. When this comes up during divorce proceedings, the court follows the overarching principle of doing what is in “the best interest of the child.” The following is an overview of the laws on child custody in New York to help you better understand how the process works.

New York Child Custody Arrangements

New York Law uses a few terms to describe these arrangements. These terms are important for parents to understand:

  1. Legal custody – the right of a parent to make decisions on the general welfare of a child, such as education, medical care, and religion
  2. Sole legal custody – the exclusive right to make decisions on the general welfare of the child
  3. Joint legal custody – a situation in which both parents contribute to the decision making process for the general welfare of the child, provided that the parents have demonstrated their ability to cooperate.
  4. Residential custody – a parent’s right to receive basic child support to support the primary residence of the child.
  5. Access time – another term used to describe a child’s time with the parent instead of visitation or custody

How Custody Decisions Are Made

While both parents have legitimate interests in a child custody battle, they come after the interests of the child, which include:

  • The child’s wishes (the amount of weight that the court will give to the wishes of the child will depend on the age and maturity of the child)
  • Every parent’s parenting ability
  • A parent’s history as the primary caretaker for the child
  • Any history of domestic abuse
  • Any substance abuse history
  • Which parent is more likely to foster and facilitate a relationship between the child and the non-custodial parent
  • Each parent’s physical and mental health
  • A parent’s availability to care for the child (i.e. work schedule)

If parents can agree on a custody arrangement, the court will not need to make a decision for them. On the other hand, if the parents cannot come to an agreement, a custody order will be issued only after a trial or hearing.  One important thing to keep in mind is that once there is an agreement, it cannot be undone without new unexpected circumstances or incidents – meaning that you should consult with an attorney before agreeing to anything inside or outside of the courthouse.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are looking for an experienced lawyer to help you with your custody case, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation.

5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

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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!

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.

New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

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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.

Three Common Misconceptions About Prenup Agreements

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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

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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

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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!

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.

Our Top Three Tips for Moving On After Divorce

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Our Top Three Tips for Moving On After Divorce

 


When your divorce ends, what will you do with your newfound freedom? It’s exciting to think about all the opportunities that await you, but many find it a bit intimidating as well. If you were married for a long time, you might feel like you’ve forgotten how to be alone, as if it were a skill that you need to relearn. 

The Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team has worked with countless people as they undergo divorces, both highly contested and amicable. There’s one commonality we have noticed: While moving on is exciting, it is also scary and a little confusing. That’s why we want to share our tips for making your transition into post-divorce life as seamless as possible.

  1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.

There are going to be a lot of emotions to feel in the coming weeks, months, and even years. It’s a bad idea to ignore your feelings because you think you should be “over it” or because it’s easier to ignore tough things. If you beat down the bad feelings, you’ll find that you unintentionally ward off the good ones as well. We highly recommend working with a therapist to better understand and process your emotions. They can teach you coping mechanisms that will help you deal with your feelings in the healthiest way possible.

  1. Utilize your support system.

Friends and family will want to be there for you — let them. Don’t turn down a coffee date with your best friend because you think he or she is tired of hearing you talk about your situation. Accept the invitation. Let your friends and family distract you when you need to be distracted, offer advice when you need advice, and listen to you vent when you need to vent. It’s not an imposition and it shouldn’t make you feel guilty. When you’re not sure about it, think about how much you would want to be there for them if they were going through something similar. 

  1. Try something new.

After a divorce, you get to rediscover your identity as a person who is not tied down by an unhappy marriage. Who are you when you’re independent? You get to decide! It’s a great time to try a new hobby, whether it’s meditation or yoga or cooking or ballroom dancing. Experiment! Have fun! There’s no one to stop you from splurging on a pottery-spinning class anymore, so why not go for it?

If you are facing divorce or another family law matter, the Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team is here to help. We have extensive experience helping clients navigate every aspect of a divorce. Contact us today!

Coronavirus and Child Support

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Coronavirus and Child Support

Today we are living in a world that just a few weeks to a month or two ago, most of us never would have imagined. As we face our new reality, we rush to put systems in place that will allow us a semblance of normalcy and keep us closer to our routines and order from before. For parents who rely on child support payments from their formal partners, there’s a big question looming: How will coronavirus impact child support? While things are still somewhat up in the air and some particularities may depend on how long our present situation lasts, we are doing our best to answer this question today.

Your former partner may not be able to afford to pay you.

Across the nation, people are losing their jobs. Whether it’s because they closely interacted with the public in their job and can no longer work due to shelter-in-place orders or because their company decided to make cuts to deal with the dip in the economy, the financial repercussions of job loss mean that a lot of people who owe child support may be struggling to pay it. If your former partner, like so many, has suffered from a layoff, he or she may not currently be able to pay you the money you are owed.

A variety of new obstacles to overcome.  

If your former spouse made in-person payments at a Support office location, or even in-person to you, he or she may not be able to do so.  Moreover, if he or she lost employment, the entire family is going to be affected whether you are happily together, separated, divorced, or otherwise.  Normally there are legal mechanisms for both sides of the equation – the payor can request that support be modified downward in accordance with their job loss and the other can request enforcement remedies – but right now, the courts are not open to either type of request.  The best that you can do is to contact an attorney who can take steps to preserve your rights, now, even if those rights cannot be enforced until later.

What you should do: don’t wait!

If you are on either side of this problem, you may be feeling stuck.  Whether you are a parent who needs to pay child support or one who relies on payments to care for your children — our team is here to help. Give us a call today to discuss your options!  The options may not be perfect, or exactly what you want, but it is better to be proactive and take steps to protect yourself than to do nothing!

Debts & Divorce FAQ

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Debts & Divorce FAQ

The Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP has extensive experience representing clients in divorce cases. Our team understands that when you’re getting a divorce, you have a variety of major issues on your mind. One big question you’re asking is likely, “What will my financial situation look like when this is all over?”

This can be an even more serious question when there are major debts involved. That’s why we’re focusing today’s blog post on answering our clients’ biggest questions about debts and divorce.

How are debts typically divided in a New York divorce?

Essentially, this will all come down to what the judge thinks is fair. However, we can say that the vast majority of the time, the judge is going to split your debts 50/50 unless there’s a good reason not to.  If your spouse accumulated debt prior to commencing a divorce, it is likely that you will be sharing it.

What would qualify as a major reason not to split our debts 50/50?

A judge would be much less likely to split your debts 50/50 if the debts came about in a way that clearly only benefitted one of the pair. For example, if a spouse got deep into debt by gambling in Atlantic City, that person would most likely have to bear more of that burden of the debt that resulted from that.  Even if there is other debt not associated with the gambling, the argument could be made that you wouldn’t have a large credit card balance had all of that other money not been lost on gambling.  Judges do their best to be fair and equitable, but your attorney needs to make the right argument.

What about student loans?

If your student loans were taken out before your marriage, they will likely remain the responsibility of the party who took them out. However, if you took out student loans during your marriage, the judge may look at you furthering your education as an endeavor for the betterment of the entire family and that could possibly be divided 50/50.  Typically we are able to negotiate that each party keeps their own student debt by arguing that our client should benefit from the debt if they have to pay for it post-divorce; i.e. the debt created more income not just for the spouse, but for them both – it was an investment for the family.

Can my spouse and I decide how to divide our debts outside of court?

Absolutely.  If you, your spouse, and your attorneys can come to a mutual agreement about how to divide your debts outside of court, that is acceptable and can save you the time and effort of litigating another matter in the courtroom. However, many couples find that they simply cannot reach an agreement on their own.  Debt is one of the most difficult things to resolve.  In our experience, people are much more likely to agree to take fewer assets, than to take extra debt.

Who can represent me in my divorce?

If you need help with divorce, property and debt division, or any other family law matter, the Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht team would be happy to help. Contact us through our website to get started.

Three Reasons Unwed Fathers Should Establish Legal Paternity

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Three Reasons Unwed Fathers Should Establish Legal Paternity

There’s a common misconception about unwed fathers and legally establishing paternity — Many people believe that if you don’t establish your paternity, you can dodge the responsibility of paying for child support if you later discover that the child is not your biological child. However, the fact of the matter is that this is decidedly not the case.  In fact, sometimes judges rule that a man who has lived with a mother and child should have to pay child support if he separates from them even if genetic testing shows that he is not the biological father!

So you see, failing to establish legal paternity won’t spare you from child support obligations if you and the mother break up down the road. However, lacking legal paternity will cause you and your child to miss out on several benefits of the father and child bond. Read on to discover the top reasons that legally establishing paternity is a good idea.

  1. You get a say in important decisions that affect the child.

It is a parent’s responsibility to make educational and medical decisions on behalf of their child. Where will your child go to school? Are they allowed to join their classmates on a field trip? What happens if they get hurt? What happens if they get sick? As a father, it is your right to have a say in these decisions. However, you need to legally establish your paternity in order to be able to assert these rights.

  1. Your child can take part in your benefits.

Do you get health insurance through your employer? Your child can only be on your insurance policy if you have legal paternity? Do you want your child to benefit from your life insurance policy if anything happens to you? Again, you need to legally establish paternity in order for this to happen. Your legally established paternity also makes it possible for your child to inherit your assets after your death if you do not have an estate plan in place.

  1. Your child can access important genetic information.

Doctors use a family’s genetic history to understand a patient’s risk for certain health issues. Genetic history can also give them insight into what treatment and preventative measures will help your child most. If you want your child’s doctor to be able to access genetic information for your side of the family, you will need to establish legal paternity.

  1. Once you support a child, you have to continue supporting a child, sometimes without the benefits that come with being a father.

Courts have held time and time again that if you learn later on that you are not the biological father, but you have spent months or years supporting the child financially in your home, you still have an obligation to the child despite the results of the paternity test.  Sadly, we have seen situations where a father learned that the child was not his biological child, was directed to pay child support, but had no rights to see the child!  Don’t let this happen to you!

If you haven’t legally established your paternity yet, don’t wait any longer. The Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team is here to help you. Contact us today to get started.

Divorce for Business Owners

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Divorce for Business Owners

Divorce touches every aspect of your life, including, unfortunately, your professional life. For some it may be as straightforward as carrying an emotional burden into the office every day, but for business owners, it’s a little more complicated. If you’re a business owner considering divorce, do you know how the process will impact your business?

A big part of any divorce is the division of assets. In the eyes of the law, your business ownership may be considered marital property, especially if you started it during the marriage and your spouse contributed to making it a possibility. For instance, maybe your spouse took care of the household so you could focus on your business endeavor. Or maybe he or she contributed financially in the early stages when you were trying to get your feet off the ground. There are lots of ways a spouse can contribute to your business’s creation and success without being a co-owner or employed by the business in any capacity.

So if your business is considered marital assets, and marital assets have to be divided, what does that mean? Is your soon-to-be-ex going to get half of the business you’ve worked so hard to build?

You might be able to convince family court that your business is separate property. If this isn’t possible or if your spouse is in fact your co-owner, you still have some options for resolving this issue. Let’s take a look.

Option 1: You can buy out your spouse’s share.

If you have enough liquid assets outside of your business, you may be able to buy out your spouse’s interest in the company. This can be expensive and isn’t an option everyone can afford, but it’s a good path when possible because your spouse will feel that they are getting their fair share while you will be able to continue on leading your business as usual in your post-divorce life.

Option 2: You can remain co-owners post-divorce.

It is also possible to amicably remain co-owners. If your spouse plays an active role in the company, he or she will likely want to continue to do so. If not, he or she may comfortably settle into a role as a shareholder. How feasible either of these scenarios is will depend on the dynamics of your relationship as a divorce couple.

Option 3: You can sell the business and split the profit.

This option isn’t for everyone, but sometimes a divorce is the right time to move on in more ways than one. Some business owners choose to sell their businesses all together, let their spouse have their fair share, and use the money they make to start building a new dream. 

If you are a business owner and you’re facing a divorce, the Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team can help you determine which path is right for you. We can guide you through the difficult process of negotiating and determining marital vs. separate property. If you have any questions about these matters or if you are ready to make moves to protect your business, contact us today. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Navigating Your Parenting Plan in the Age of the Coronavirus

Writings on Legal Matters

Navigating Your Parenting Plan in the Age of the Coronavirus

 

From the way we shop to the way we communicate, coronavirus has impacted every aspect of our daily lives. If you’re a divorced parent, you likely have questions about how it will impact your plans this summer. Many parenting plans change up by the season – especially for the summer when kids are out of school. 

In the spring when school switched to virtual, many parents wondered if that meant they needed to switch to their summer parenting plan arrangements. While everyone was forced to improvise as the pandemic is unprecedented, the prevalent advice was to stick with your original parenting plan as much as possible, and to treat it as if school were still in session as usual.

As it was in the spring, our advice is to treat your parenting plan as you would at this time of year under regular circumstances. If the kids are usually with mom in July, they should be with mom. If they usually spend weekdays in July with dad and weekends in July with mom, stick with that. As much as possible, follow the schedule that was in place before things shut down.

Of course, there are special circumstances. If one parent works on the frontlines treating coronavirus patients, both parents may agree they don’t want to expose their child to this risk and have the child stay with the other parent even if this is not what the schedule said.

Co-parents two greatest tools in navigating this situation will be flexibility and cooperation. Remember, you both have the same goal at the end of the day – to keep your child healthy and happy. For this to happen, both parties need to communicate. Follow your schedule as much as possible but be reasonable about changes that are necessary for practical reasons related to the pandemic or for keeping your child safe.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your co-parent on your own, contact your attorney and ask for help.  We can help you navigate these difficult times and may be able to use our experience from other cases to help you resolve the issue without needing to go to court. Everyone is having summer parenting issues as a result of COVID-19 and we are here to help you with the knowledge that we have gained, and the creative resolutions that we have crafted, from other cases which may very well help you too.

If you have any questions relating to child custody during coronavirus or if you are interested in working with us, the Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team would love to hear from you. Please contact us today!

5 Signs Your Dispute May End Up in Court

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5 Signs Your Dispute May End Up in Court

It can be professional and financially rewarding to run a business, but it also involves some risk. Millions of lawsuits are filed annually in US courts, with a significant percentage involving business disputes. In particular, contract disagreements are a frequent source of corporate litigation, accounting for approximately 60% of the annual civil cases filed.

Not all business disputes end up in court, but it’s time to call your attorney if you encounter any of these scenarios below.

1. They cut off all communication with you

Even if the other person makes unreasonable demands, there is a chance of talking things out and reaching an agreement as long as they respond to your calls and emails. When they stop answering but you know they didn’t give up, you can be reasonably sure they’re talking to a lawyer instead.

2. The other party refuses to compromise

The logical first step is to try to settle it out of court when a business dispute arises. For example, a customer is angry because you delivered your order late. You point out that your own supplier had a factory fire setting back production, but the customer doesn’t seem to care about it and even rejects a substantial discount on your offer. Instead, he is asking you to compensate him for the business loss caused by the order’s late arrival. If the customer refuses to compromise, it’s a sign they’re going to sue to get what they want.

3. You are reported to an external regulator

If you are reported to an entity that governs your profession, the other party will question your professional competence as well as your ability to resolve the dispute problem. Litigation is the next logical step in resolving the situation.

4. They tell you they hired an attorney

“You’re going to hear from my lawyer” is a frequent threat, but it’s not always announcing a lawsuit. It could just be an intimidation tactic. Nevertheless, such a warning should always be taken seriously. If they say they have actually retained counsel, contact your own lawyer.

5. You are served with a complaint and summons

You are no longer headed for litigation once you receive the paperwork – you are already there. While there’s always a chance to settle the matter out of court, if you haven’t already, you want to retain counsel now.

The best way to avoid an expensive and stressful lawsuit is to seek advice from an experienced attorney. Call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation.

3 Benefits of Having a Prenuptial Agreement

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3 Benefits of Having a Prenuptial Agreement

Many people believe that you can drain the happy anticipation right out of your wedding plans by suggesting a prenuptial agreement with your intended spouse. However, by having one in place, you enjoy a level of protection that some spouses do not have as a result of your prenup. If you have not yet married and are afraid to raise the topic, consider another advantage: a properly drafted prenuptial agreement can also be a great tool for estate planning.

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

A prenuptial agreement (“prenup” for short) is a written contract created by two people before they are married. A prenup typically lists all property owned by each individual (as well as any debts) and specifies what the property rights of each individual will be after the marriage. There are several benefits to having one in place, and we have outlined three below.

  1. Transparency of Ownership

It doesn’t have to mean that getting married or entering a de facto relationship will automatically share everything you own. An idea of what is shared between you and what remains solely your property is vital for you. A prenuptial agreement will clarify your property ownership, which can help set the rules and structure for your marriage, which will help avoid fighting over money! Talking about this can help you prepare your life together with your partner.  Every good marriage has transparency and honesty and this is a step towards that.

  1. Better Communication

While you may not perceive a prenuptial agreement as the best way to talk about things, talking about property and assets can actually benefit your relationship. Speaking and setting rules will force you to discuss topics that might otherwise be neglected.

In doing so, when you enter your marriage, you and your partner will benefit from having a clearer idea of each other’s mindset and beliefs. Therefore, writing a prenuptial agreement can be a strong start that helps open your relationship and ensures that you are on the same page as your partner. This can reinforce your relationship and increase the chances of a successful marriage.

  1. Future Benefits

Having this financial document at your disposal can save you and your partner a lot of stress in the future. A prenuptial agreement can ensure you leave friendly and stay civil in the case of separation because it can help avoid disputes over assets and property.  In our firm’s experience, the quickest and most amicable divorces are the result of a prenuptial agreement. It will ensure that you are protected individually and can secure important family heirlooms or assets.

Final Note

Many spouses keep separate bank accounts, thinking “this is mine and that is my spouse’s”. It’s common, and often allows one spouse to buy that expensive item that they might otherwise not want to purchase with the other spouse’s income.   The problem is that people do not realize that everything acquired during the marriage gets split up in the event of a divorce, even the money in “my” or “your” bank accounts.  If you want to keep any of your money separate from each other, for whatever reason, then you must have a prenup — otherwise, you are not actually effectuating what you set out to accomplish by separating some of your income or assets.

Our firm drafts prenuptial agreements regularly, and we make it a priority to keep everything light and amicable.  Just because attorneys are getting involved, it can be mutually beneficial to both spouses with the right team working for you.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are looking for an experienced lawyer to help you with your prenuptial agreement, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation.

7 Tips for a Successful Settlement Conference

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7 Tips for a Successful Settlement Conference

7 Tips for Successful Settlement Conference  By Josh Hecht, Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP The settlement conference presents an important opportunity for you and your spouse to settle your differences, financial and otherwise, without the need to set foot in a courtroom.

The following are 7 tips for a successful settlement conference:

  1. Make sure you know your rights. (more…)

Prenuptial Agreements Part 1: Benefits and Advantages

Writings on Legal Matters

Prenuptial Agreements Part 1: Benefits and Advantages

Prenuptial Agreements Part 1: Benefits and Advantages By Joshua HechtNo longer reserved for the rich, prenuptial agreements are becoming common place as long-standing taboos fall by the wayside. Increasingly, the happily engaged and newly wed understand the importance of having a road map should their marriage dissolve, based not necessarily on what the happy couple has at the time of the marriage, but what they may acquire during the marriage.

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