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Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children – Part 2: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Writings on Legal Matters

Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children – Part 2: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children By Joshua B. Hecht{5:01 minutes to read} In our first article we discussed: 1) what divorcing parents of a child with special needs should know about structuring a settlement agreement; 2) how a Supplemental Needs Trust needs to be addressed in the Agreement to ensure that the child with special needs maintains eligibility for government benefits; and 3) how child support needs to be earmarked, allocated and ordered into the Supplemental Needs Trust to ensure continued government benefits.

In Part 2, we examine the effects of decision making within the agreement, maximizing medical benefits and planning for the transition from school into adulthood. (more…)

A Brief Guide to Your Custody Options in New York

Writings on Legal Matters

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.

Coronavirus and Child Support

Writings on Legal Matters

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!

Three Reasons Unwed Fathers Should Establish Legal Paternity

Writings on Legal Matters

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.

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