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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 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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Divorce for Business Owners

Writings on Legal Matters

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!

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…)

Navigating Your Parenting Plan in the Age of the Coronavirus

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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!

Counsel Fee Awards: Courts’ Vigilance in Leveling the Playing Field

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Counsel Fee Awards: Courts’ Vigilance in Leveling the Playing Field

Counsel Fee Awards: Courts' Vigilance in Leveling the Playing Field By Joshua B. Hecht of Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLPDivorce has many costs, not the least of which are the counsel fees incurred by the parties, a cost which often weighs heavily on the litigant’s mind. As such, clients often ask whether their spouse could be directed to contribute to their legal fees or, conversely, if it’s the spouse with the greater financial resources, whether they can be directed to pay their spouses legal fees. The answer is not always so cut and dry.

In New York, there is a rebuttable presumption that the wealthier or more monied spouse should pay the less monied spouse’s legal counsel fees to level the playing field and ensure that both spouses are on equal footing in terms of representation. (more…)

How to Financially Prepare for Divorce

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How to Financially Prepare for Divorce

If you believe that divorce may be on your horizon, it is ideal to take certain steps before the process begins in order to protect yourself. In today’s blog post, we’re discussing the financial side of preparing for divorce. 

Before You Meet with an Attorney

One step you need to take immediately is to gather together all of your bank statements, mortgage statements, and related documentation going back at least one year. It is wise to do this before you even meet with your attorney, as it is something they will surely ask you for, and you can save time and money by already having it on hand.   Perhaps the most important document to bring with you to your initial meeting is your most recently filed tax return.

A Line in the Sand

In the state of New York, there is a presumption that anything that occurs before the divorce is filed is marital, and anything that occurs after is separate property or debt. This means filing draws the line in the sand for “yours” vs. “mine.” This also means that you should be prepared to open new accounts once you file for divorce so that, for example, your paychecks can be deposited into your personal account and not a joint account. 

Do Not Conceal Assets or Income

Concealing assets or income during a divorce is illegal and you are likely to be caught. Your spouse’s attorney can subpoena your banks and employers easily and get all of your information.  If you conceal something, the attorney will likely find it (we certainly would!), and then you will lose all credibility with the Court.  You will also incur additional legal fees as we try to remedy the oversight or concealment.

Be Careful with Your Spending and Saving

During or just before the divorce process is not the time to make large purchases or spend exorbitantly. This is one time in your life in particular where it’s wise to be careful and measured in your spending, and save as much as possible. You can never be sure how lengthy your divorce process might be, or how property division will pan out, or how much alimony or child support you may be required to pay, so be careful not to throw money around recklessly.

Consult a Lawyer

Your attorney can provide you with advice that is more catered to your unique circumstances. If you anticipate a divorce or if you’ve already started the process, the Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team is here to help you. Contact us today to learn more about our services.

Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children – Part 1: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

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Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children – Part 1: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Divorcing Parents of Special Needs Children - Part 1: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You by Joshua B. Hecht{4:15 minutes to read}

As divorce attorneys, sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.

Our clients can sign the agreement, which has all of the traditional language. We may think we provided for each and every need of the child – their basic support, add-on activities, extra-curricular programs, perhaps a special school – but the question remains: What must we also consider when planning for a child with special needs? (more…)

Divorce Stress Management 101

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Divorce Stress Management 101

Though most people who choose divorce do so knowing it’s the best way forward for them and for their families, it can still be an extremely stressful process, especially if you’re not prepared or don’t really know what to expect. Having an experienced family law attorney by your side to offer guidance is an important safeguard against unbearable stress. You can also manage your stress with these tips!

  1. Get a good night’s sleep.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your emotions are heightened and it becomes all the more difficult to deal with the challenges you’re facing. As a general rule, adults need a minimum of eight hours of sleep a night — sometimes more. Not hitting this threshold can impact your concentration, your memory, and your mood. If your mind races at night and you’re finding it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, you may find it helpful to unplug from electronics for an hour or so before bed. Wind down with a book or meditation instead.

  1. Invest in therapy.

If you already have a relationship with a therapist, make sure you’re making appointments regularly throughout the divorce process. If you haven’t tried therapy before or don’t have a therapist currently, make moves to get started. A therapist can teach you helpful coping skills and help you see your experiences with a healthier perspective. 

  1. Take time for yourself.

It may feel indulgent when you have so many other responsibilities, but engaging in self-care is truly essential to your wellbeing. Self-care looks like different things for different people. For you, it might be taking a day off to go on a hike and enjoy some fresh air. Or maybe it looks like getting a massage. Or indulging in a favorite pastry with your coffee in the morning. Treasure the little things that make you happy, and take the time to enjoy them to the fullest. 

  1. Work with an experienced attorney.

An attorney with a strong background in family law can give you the guidance you need to approach the legal side of your divorce with confidence, taking a huge burden off of your shoulders. Make sure you connect with a lawyer as early as possible in the process. 

Contact Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP

If you’re facing divorce, contact the Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht team today. We are eager to give you the support and guidance you need as you face this challenging process. We can’t wait to hear from you!

The Grey Divorce Revolution? So Much For “‘Til Death Do Us Part”

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The Grey Divorce Revolution? So Much For “‘Til Death Do Us Part”

The Grey Divorce Revolution? So Much For "'Til Death Do Us Part" By Joshua B. Hecht{4:30 minutes to read}

The generation that transformed our social conscience and brought us the sexual revolution continues to rewrite the playbook when it comes to love, marriage and divorce in the golden years.

While divorce among older couples was almost unthinkable until fairly recently, baby boomers are increasingly divorcing in their golden years after decades-long marriages. It’s a paradigm shift from generations past. (more…)

The Differences Between Mediation and Traditional Divorce

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The Differences Between Mediation and Traditional Divorce

Going through a divorce is not only an emotionally difficult process, but it can also be confusing for many people. Unlike on television, the divorce process is not just getting in front of a judge and trying to convince them that you deserve everything you want in the divorce. In fact, many divorces never even require that the two parties battle it out in the courtroom. For most couples who are getting a divorce, many, if not all, decisions can be agreed upon before ever going to court. This is often done using a process known as mediation.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is when the divorcing parties come together with a neutral third party. This third party may be an attorney but will not be representing either party specifically. Instead, the mediator’s goal is to help facilitate the discussion so that the two parties can come to fair agreements and compromises regarding things like division of assets, child custody, child support, and more. Since the mediator will be experienced with how the divorce process works, they can provide advice and insights on how the courts will likely handle things, which can help to push both parties toward agreements.

What is Traditional Divorce?

In what is considered a traditional divorce, each party will file with the courts letting them know what they want from the divorce. In addition to the dissolution of the marriage, this would include contentious things like who gets what assets. The courts will then review the documents and hear arguments from each party. Once done, the judge will decide the outcomes and the two parties will have to obey their order.

Mediation vs Traditional Divorce?

One common misconception about mediation is that you will either use mediation or go through the traditional divorce process. In many cases, both of these methods can be used to help minimize conflict and reduce costs. For example, if the two parties can come together through mediation and agree on who will get the house, what type of child custody arrangement they want, and how child support should go, the courts will almost always accept these agreements. The parties can then use the traditional divorce process to resolve any remaining conflicts that they cannot agree on. This could include things like who gets a vacation home, how to split retirement accounts, what to do with a jointly owned business, and more.

Effective Mediation and Divorce Solutions

If you are going through a divorce and would like to use mediation, make sure you work with someone who is experienced in these types of services. Here at Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, we have worked with many couples to come up with a divorce agreement that everyone is happy with. This can save you a huge amount of time and money while still providing you with great results. If you believe that mediation will not be effective in your case, we can also represent you effectively through a traditional divorce. Whether you know which option you need, or you want to discuss your situation and get our advice, please contact us to schedule a consultation today.

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

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If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will By Joshua B. HechtWhen our firm handles a divorce, we reference the client’s Last Will and Testament in the Divorce Settlement Agreement.

During divorce, many people worry about how their property will be distributed between them and their spouse at the end of the divorce. However, few consider how their property will be distributed in the event of their death before the divorce is finalized. There are two questions that everyone going through a divorce should be considering, but rarely do:

  • “What happens if I die before my divorce is final?”
  • “How can I make sure that my share of the property goes to the people that I want it to go to, rather than my future ex-spouse?”

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How Adult Children Are Affected By Their Parent’s Divorce

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How Adult Children Are Affected By Their Parent’s Divorce

Most parent’s first thoughts when they decide on a divorce are of their children. Nearly half of all children with married parents watch their parents break up in their lifetime. As a parent, you are naturally worried about how your child will be affected by the news and what you can do to shelter them.

For adult children, the considerations seem not to be as well-considered. In truth, parents getting divorced can create major issues for seemingly well-adjusted adult children who may even have children of their own. This is no longer a rare occurrence, either. There has been a huge upward spike in couples over the age of 65 getting divorced, so much so that we are in the middle of a so-called “silver splitters” movement. So how does divorce affect adult children?

Caught in the Middle

All too often, parents put their children in an uncomfortable position by asking them to pick a side. Both parents want to feel validated in their moral position throughout the divorce, and getting their child’s approval is the ultimate confirmation that they are “doing the right thing.” This leads to implicit or explicit requests for the child to say they agree with one parent over the other. Remember that is not the child’s emotional weight to bear, and having to validate your parents is not a healthy process.

Role Reversals

Here’s the weirdest shift: a strange role reversal starts to happen with parents and adult children following a divorce. Parents may vent to their children about the divorce, casually presenting extreme and intense opinions about the other parent which the child would probably prefer not to hear. Even worse, parents may come to their children for dating advice or to share stories of their active love lives outside of the marriage. This turns adult children into their parent’s love confidants and counselors in a way that ultimately benefits no one.

Self-Doubt

The most severe consequence on adult children does not involve their relationship with their parents at all. Instead, adult children see their primary example of a successful marriage fall apart. This can cause major self-doubt on all aspects of their lives, including their own relationships. It is easy to feel like their parents were their role models and even they couldn’t make marriage work – leaving no hope for themselves. In a true tragic consequence, one divorce can easily lead to another.

Get Help When You Need It

No matter the age, it is harmful to everyone involved to “stay together for the kids.” It is simply important to remember that adult children are still children, and they don’t want to be intimately involved in their parent’s lives in certain ways. For help with your divorce and getting through it as peacefully as possible, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today. We fight for you!

The Ashley Madison Scandal: The Media Cares, But Do Judges?

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The Ashley Madison Scandal: The Media Cares, But Do Judges?

The Ashley Madison Scandal The Media Cares, But Do Judges By Jason A. Isaacson{3:05 minutes to read} When the news broke this past summer that AshleyMadison.com had been hacked, leaking the names and identifying information of approximately 37 million users, there were more than a few jittery spouses.

The scandal attracted wide media coverage and rampant speculation about the effect that the leak would have on marriages of the subscribers. However, for all of the media hype, while the revelation that one’s spouse has been cheating is reason enough to seek a divorce, a spouse’s infidelity has little, if any, bearing on the actual divorce process. (more…)

6 Questions You Need To Ask If You Are Considering Divorce

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6 Questions You Need To Ask If You Are Considering Divorce

Two of the biggest life decisions that most people have to make are deciding whether or not to get married and, later, whether or not to get a divorce. There is no shame in it: half of all adult Americans get married at some point in their life, and half of all American married couples get divorced. Having said that, divorce is still just as major of a life decision as getting married in the first place, and should be treated with the same care and consideration.

If you are considering divorce, you might not want to just jump into it on a whim. Here is our list of 6 questions that you need to ask yourself if you are thinking about getting a divorce:

Are You Being Valued in Your Relationship?

People naturally change over time: sometimes they grow closer, and sometimes they grow further apart. A good starting place is to seriously examine whether you are being valued by your spouse within your relationship. Are they meeting your emotional needs? Are they sharing your values? Are they empowering you to be the best version of yourself?

What Does Your Life Look Like Without Your Spouse?

Divorce means a significant change in your day to day life, your finances, your living situation, and your social life. Take the time to imagine what your life would be like without your spouse in it whatsoever. Are you happier? Are you lonelier? Are you more free? Are you open to another relationship in the future?

How Will Your Spouse React?

Some couples argue for decades before getting a divorce, and some never once discuss their feelings. If you have spoken to your spouse about the concerns that are leading you to consider divorce, how did they react? Did they listen to you and make you feel heard? Did they make any substantial changes? If you have not yet spoken to them, do you feel that you can? Are you afraid of how they will react?

How Will it Affect Your Children?

A parent’s first thought when they are considering divorce is often of their children. Since plenty of spouses are children of divorce themselves, they know the emotional stress it can cause. Make certain to remember that having parents in a destructive marriage is often even worse for children than having divorced parents. You know your own children better than anyone else does, so consider how they will react and how you could make things easier on them.

What Preparations Can You Make?

Certain things that are important in a divorce, such as making copies of your spouse’s financial records and legal information, are much easier before you let your spouse know that you are serious about getting divorced. Speak to your lawyer to know what will help your case, but consider doing that before you and your spouse leave each other’s lives for good.

What is the Next Step?

Once you are certain that you need to get a divorce, you have already done the hard part. Taking the journey from here is much easier after you’ve taken the first step. Contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today to speak to someone who cares and to get started on your path to freedom. It all starts with a call!

Getting Divorced? Think Before You Tweet

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Getting Divorced? Think Before You Tweet

Getting Divorced? Think Before You Tweet by Joshua B. Hecht{2:45 minutes to read} If you’re going through a divorce, it’s probably best to start with the presumption that anything you tweet, post, upload, chat about, or otherwise place in the universe of social media can and will be used against you by your spouse and their attorneys. So tread cautiously and be mindful of this problem that comes with getting divorced in the twenty-first century.

Consider the following two scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: Harry husband, who happens to be going through a divorce, lavishes expensive gifts upon, Sally, his significant other. Sally takes to social media, tweeting just how generous Harry happens to be. Somehow, Harry’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Wendy, gets ahold of these tweets, and forwards them to her attorneys to be used as evidence in their hotly contested divorce proceeding. Wendy’s and her attorneys’ intent is to demonstrate how Harry wasted marital funds on someone other than her and their children.

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4 Pieces of Bad Divorce Advice That You Should Ignore

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4 Pieces of Bad Divorce Advice That You Should Ignore

Isn’t it funny how people only ever have nice things to say about marriages, but when it comes to a divorce, everyone has their own unique opinion to share? It makes it worse that everyone seems to think they are an expert in divorce. At Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, we help people work through divorces every single day. The only expertise we know for certain is that no two divorces are alike.

We know that it can be tough to move past what other people are saying to you, especially when those people are important in your life. Sometimes it’s best just to trust your own instincts. Here are 4 pieces of bad divorce advice that we have heard before and think you should ignore completely:

Stay Together For the Kids

It has been proven that children growing up with resentful parents have much harder upbringings than children growing up with divorced parents. A divorce is an opportunity to teach your children about personal responsibility, as well as to deepen your personal relationship with them. Anyone who thinks that “staying together for the kids” is a better option than splitting up is not considering the reality of the situation.

Mom Will Get the Kids

Maybe it was true at some point that Judges always gave mothers custody over fathers unless the mother had substance abuse issues. At this point, it’s just an antiquated and irrelevant stereotype. Your gender has no real bearing on your chances to get custody of your child or how hard you should fight for that opportunity.

Don’t Feel Sorry For Yourself

Suppressing your emotions is one of the most dangerous things you can do during a divorce. Divorce is an emotionally traumatic time, and you need to feel everything in order to move on. Closing yourself off from an emotion you are naturally feeling (or “feeling bad for yourself,” as your grandfather might call it) will only make things worse for you down the line.

You Can Do It Yourself

Perhaps the most dangerous bad advice about divorce is recommending that someone be their own attorney in a family court. Going through a divorce trial without a trained attorney advocating for your side is a surefire way to lose what you are focused on. For professional help with your divorce, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today. We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success, and we fight for you!

Your Business Could Be in the Middle of Your Partner’s Messy Divorce

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Your Business Could Be in the Middle of Your Partner’s Messy Divorce

Your Business Could Be in the Middle of Your Partner’s Messy Divorce by Joshua B. Hecht{5 minutes to read} If your business partner is going through a divorce, their spouse may be entitled to compensation for direct or indirect contributions to the business.

The divorcing spouse has the right to argue that their direct and indirect contributions to the business attributed to its growth and success, if they can prove it. However, before even getting to the point where a judge determines whether the spouse made such contributions, the spouse will want to find out how much the business is worth—so that he or she knows what is at stake and whether it is worth fighting for. (more…)

“You’ve Been Served”: What to Do If You’re Served Divorce Papers

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“You’ve Been Served”: What to Do If You’re Served Divorce Papers

Being served with divorce papers can be upsetting and stressful, or may just be a welcome and practical step towards ending a relationship. However you feel about being served divorce papers, there are certain things you must now do to move the process forward. This article talks you through each step.

  1. Read the papers carefully

Reading your divorce papers may seem like a no-brainer. However, it is essential that you take time and care when doing so to ensure that you fully understand the wealth of information they contain. Signing divorce papers without thoroughly reading them first could mean you end up agreeing to something that you actually object to.

Among other things, divorce papers should contain information such as where the action has been filed, the deadline by which the spouse must respond, and whether the spouse who filed the paperwork is acting alone or with the help of an attorney. The grounds for divorce, as well as information on important matters such as child support and custody and division of property, may also be laid out in these documents.

  1. Provide your response

The required response time is typically 20 days from when you were served with the papers, so you should check your divorce papers to make sure you know the deadline and ensure you provide your response before then. If you do not provide a response within the deadline, it is possible that your spouse could be granted everything they have requested in the papers, as not responding suggests that you are amenable to these requests.  Providing a response may be difficult without an attorney who can prepare the document, called an Answer, properly. This brings us to the next important step:

  1. Hire an attorney

The next thing you should do is hire an attorney. An attorney will help guide you through the process and can assist with drafting and delivering the response to your spouse. An attorney will help you go through the papers and respond to each numbered statement, providing as much information and reasoning as possible.

Legal counsel can ensure that you understand all your rights and options and that your rights are protected, particularly if the case becomes contested at a later date. If your divorce papers indicate that your spouse has employed the services of an attorney, it is even more imperative that you retain your own counsel so that both parties’ rights and interests are protected and fought for on even ground.

  1. Gather paperwork and documents

Documents such as pay-stubs, income tax returns, and recent bank statements are useful to have on hand. Other helpful documents include financial paperwork such as credit card statements, mortgage agreements, and statements from retirement and/or brokerage accounts. These documents will help an attorney ascertain where the income comes from and how assets will be divided.

  1. Protect your assets

Some individuals need to be careful about protecting their assets. If you are concerned that your spouse may try to take money from you, your attorney can and should issue an Automatic Restraining Order, to prevent either party from making unusual transactions, withdrawals, or take other steps that may harm you financially.

  1. Next steps

From here your attorney has two choices – to try and resolve the financials and custody issues amicably, or to ask that a Judge be appointed to the case to help you and your spouse.  If proceeding amicably and outside of the court, your attorney can set up a settlement conference with your spouse and his or her attorney. If you wish to go to Court, then your attorney will schedule a Preliminary Conference with the Court, during which you will meet the Judge selected for your case, who will make recommendations for settlement and oversee the process if a resolution cannot be reached.  Further, the Judge has the power at this point to direct that certain bills must be paid while the case is pending, how income should be shared between you and yourself, and who should pay the attorneys.

If you are looking for an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation, or e-mail us at jisaacson@sihllp.com

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

Writings on Legal Matters

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

When our firm handles a divorce, we reference the client’s Last Will and Testament in the Divorce Settlement Agreement.

During divorce, many people worry about how their property will be distributed between them and their spouse at the end of the divorce. However, few consider how their property will be distributed in the event of their death before the divorce is finalized. There are two questions that everyone going through a divorce should be considering, but rarely do:

  • “What happens if I die before my divorce is final?”
  • “How can I make sure that my share of the property goes to the people that I want it to go to, rather than my future ex-spouse?”

We often tell clients that to best protect themselves, they should be meeting with Steven Adler, Esq., and planning for the remote possibility of death during or shortly after the divorce process is complete. Most people do not realize that if they die during the divorce process without properly planning for it, their future ex-spouse may simply get everything.

Failure to change your will either before or after divorce could cause serious complications.

If you don’t have a Will and you pass away during the divorce process, your future ex-spouse, still technically your spouse during the process, may inherit everything.  Additionally, if you have a Will where you named your spouse as the beneficiary, and the divorce is not finalized, then your future ex-spouse will certainly inherit everything under the Will.  Even if you disinherited your spouse after the divorce, if you failed to change the executor or executrix, there will be serious complications that will make it difficult for your children or other heirs to get the property distribution that you intended. Most people do not realize this, and fail to even consider it.

What is the spouse’s “elective share?”

Even if you do try to disinherit your future ex-spouse, he or she may still be entitled to part of your estate pursuant to New York Estate Powers and Trust Law, Section 5-1, which provides a “right of election.” The elective share is the greater of:

  • certain cash or cash equivalents up to $25,000.00;
  • one automobile up to $25,000.00 in value; and
  • the greater of one-third of the net estate and $50,000.00.

When a will is probated, the only assets under the jurisdiction of the New York Surrogate’s Court are those assets owned solely by the decedent. However, the right of election applies to jointly owned assets, probate assets, and to other assets deemed testamentary substitutes. The statutes can be complicated and difficult to understand, which is why our firm works closely with Steven Adler, Esq., and our clients to minimize the amount of property that a future ex-spouse is entitled to in the event of a death during divorce.

If you are going through a divorce and fighting over assets, it would be a shame for your future ex-spouse to get everything.

In most cases, the spouse’s elective share is considerably less than the value of your entire probate estate. Accordingly, it is worthwhile to immediately change your will, even if it is temporary, because you will be decreasing the amount of assets that your estranged spouse will receive in the event you do not live through the divorce proceedings.

We are sensitive to the fact that our clients are splitting their property and income with their spouse during the divorce and after, making it very difficult for anyone to live the same lifestyle in divorce that they did in marriage. As a result of the foregoing and our close relationship with Steven Adler, Esq., his firm offers an exclusive program to our divorcing clients at a reduced price. Steven’s firm provides a streamlined will for divorcing spouses at approximately half the cost of a regular will, and then updates the Will and creates a full estate distribution plan post-divorce. This process helps people going through divorce protect their assets during the divorce, and helps them create a post-divorce plan to minimize liabilities and problems, while ultimately making sure that an ex-spouse doesn’t benefit accidentally or unintentionally.

How much would your divorcing spouse stand to inherit if you pass away? 
Co-authored by: Jason Isaacson & Steve Adler

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