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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.

5 Things To Do If You Sense a Business Dispute

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5 Things To Do If You Sense a Business Dispute

Business owners will do anything in their power to help avoid lawsuits against their business. There is a good reason for that – lawsuits can be long, expensive, damage your reputation, and take your focus away from improving your business and taking care of your clients and customers. There is plenty that can be done to help prevent lawsuits from clients or other companies, but what about inside your own business?

Although they are sometimes a surprise, sometimes you can sense that something is wrong with another employee. If you think a business dispute is headed your way, here are 5 things you can do right now to help prepare for it:

Carefully Consider Communication

If the relationship between you and another member of your business has soured, you should be very careful in how you communicate with them. If they are building a legal case against you in their head, it is important not to give them anything that might upset them or be used against you as evidence. Accordingly, you can take your time to reply to them, and try to keep the majority of communication in writing, if possible.

Try To Calm Things Down

It is much better to prevent a business dispute than to prepare for one. If there is a way you can calmly and safely de-escalate the conflict, you should take that opportunity. Remember that the other person is a human just like you, and they want to be heard and feel respected. They also probably don’t want to hire lawyers and spend time in court, so take the opportunity to lower the temperature where you can.

Get Everything in Writing

This is good business practice in general, but especially when legal issues may be on the table. Try to keep your communication in writing, where it can be verified. Collect any documentation relating to the issue at the heart of the dispute that you can find. Don’t delete or alter any communication.

Don’t Lead the Charge

The best piece of advice we can give is not to lead with aggression. If someone is coming at you in your business, don’t move to retaliate or punish them with passive aggressive behavior. Simply try to resolve the issue, and if that is impossible, ask for help.

Ask For Help

If you sense a business dispute is headed your way, it is always good to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. At Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, we are experienced in resolving tense New York business disputes. If you need help, contact Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We fight for you!

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

5 Ways Your Business Can Encourage Innovation

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5 Ways Your Business Can Encourage Innovation

At this point, it’s clear that true success in business doesn’t come from working your employees to the bone and making them as efficient as possible. It comes instead from employee innovation – finding new avenues of success that haven’t been tapped before, and boldly breaking into them. Anyone can give you more of what you have, but who can give you something new that you didn’t know you needed?

No matter what your company makes – marketing, technology, or even pizza – innovation is the best way forward. Here are 5 ways that you can create a company culture that encourages innovation and leads to success:

Reward Experimentation

Whether or not it results in anything worthwhile, reward and encourage experimentation you see within your employees. It means that they feel comfortable trying new things and sharing their ideas at work. Creating a culture where anyone feels encouraged to bring their ideas to the table leads to a richer environment and a better business.

Work Together as a Team

Find some time to collaborate between departments and individuals, whether it’s on work-related things or not. Hearing a wide variety of perspectives deepens everyone’s knowledge base. It doesn’t have to be on a massive work project – you could all play a game or watch a movie together!

Encourage Time Off

Working employees constantly without breaks tends to lead to burnout and sloppy work. Encourage your employees to actually use their time off! Odds are that they will come back feeling refreshed and with a new renewed perspective on work.

Be Honest

Leadership that hides a company’s wins and losses fails to educate its employees. Be honest with your team about what the company is doing great and where they are struggling. It earns respect and helps boost morale by keeping everyone in the loop and working towards the same goal.

Branch Out

Don’t ever feel like there is only one thing that your company can do. If you make video games, you can also sell t-shirts. If you’re a law office, you can also bake cookies and sell them. If you’re a marketing start-up, you can also make a successful YouTube channel. Boxing yourself in only makes things harder on yourself.

Get the Help You Need

If you find ways to encourage innovation, you can move your company forward in ways you haven’t even imagined. To get the help you need establishing your business, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

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.

The Best Interests of the Family Pet

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The Best Interests of the Family Pet

New Year is going to the dogs. That’s what some media websites want you to believe, at least, but here is the real question: In New York, who is the dog going to? New guidance signed by the Governor in late 2021 changed the way that family pets are treated in New York divorces. This is sure to shake things up in the courtroom.

Previously, animals were considered property in divorce legislation. When it came to dividing up the property between the divorcing spouses, pets were just another item on the list next to lamps, sofas, and vehicles. If one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage, they automatically got it in the divorce. If it was bought during the marriage, who it ended up with depended on who bought it – just like most other property.

Of course, anyone who has had a beloved pet can see the flaws in this line of thinking. For many families, pets are almost as precious as children. In some families, pets are considered children. Following the lead of states like Alaska and California, New York amended their legislation concerning family pets. Now, when determining who gets custody of the “companion animal,” the Judge must consider “the best interest of the pet.”  The legal standard is not going to be the same as it is for children – but it is far closer to a custody analysis than it was in the past when pets were treated no different than other property like a couch or a lamp.

So what does that mean? It isn’t the same as “the best interest of the child,” since there are no Pet Forensics or appointed Attorney For the Pet. Instead, the Judge considers where the animal will be better cared for, and where it will have access to more resources. It is taking a more humane approach to a very sensitive issue.

Let’s say a beloved family dog, Rover, is caught in the middle of a bitter divorce battle. On one side, the spouse is moving into a house with a big backyard, and will have the financial resources to give Rover a better life. On the other side, the spouse is moving into a small apartment, but they are free during the day to walk Rover and give him the attention he needs. What’s more, that same spouse is the one who primarily took care of Rover during the marriage – buying his food, taking him on walks, taking him to the vet. Since they have illustrated better care for the pet, most Judges would rule in their favor rather than the bigger backyard.

Divorced spouses splitting custody of a pet is not unheard of, it happens regularly. The new legislature is also hoping to curb the ugly backdoor bargaining that often involved a family pet, since before this legislation, the Courts did not have jurisdiction to determine “custody” of a pet – even though litigants tried to incorporate such terms into their agreements.  Examining the best interests of the pet helps look for the right decision for everyone involved, and also legitimizes what people have been trying to do for years.

Are you in the middle of a battle for your furry best friend? Now you may have more of a fighting chance. For help with all your family law needs in New York, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

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!

5 Business Resolutions For 2022

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5 Business Resolutions For 2022

The New Year is a great time for rest and reflection on everything that has changed in the last twelve months and where you hope to be in another twelve. For business owners, this reflection should apply to your company as well as your personal life. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that you never know what to expect. Here are our 5 Business Resolutions for 2022:

Be Ready For Change

It’s more clear than ever before that flexibility is one of the most important qualities for a business to succeed. Companies who were ready to work virtually were set up for success in 2020. Companies that didn’t depend on supply chains were set up for success in 2021. It is impossible to know what is on the horizon in 2022, but being flexible and preparing for change is the best way to be ready when it comes.

Focus On Innovation

As we’ve written about, encouraging innovation is the best way to break into new spaces with your business. Real progress doesn’t come from working everyone to the bone, but from creating a space where employees feel comfortable trying new things. It doesn’t have to mean that you open up a bakery on the side of your marketing company. It can lead to small changes that will make all the difference in the long run.

Put Effort into Marketing

What’s the point in putting so much hard work and effort into your business if you aren’t going to put that same effort into marketing it? How will potential customers and clients know about the great work you’re doing if you aren’t going to advertise it? One of the top reasons that most businesses can’t make it in the long run is that they do not put enough effort into marketing. Invest in it and it will pay off.

Improve Processes

It’s time to let go of what is holding you back. Are there steps in your systems and processes that employees get caught on every time? Are you working harder than you need to? Improving your internal processes will help you succeed in ways you didn’t even realize you could before.

Get the Help You Need

At Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, we know that every business has a different set of needs and goals. We can help you achieve yours in 2022 through strong corporate legal knowledge and assistance. For help fulfilling your company dreams this year, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

Writings on Legal Matters

New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

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

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

Uncontested Divorce Explained

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

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

Contested Divorce Explained

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

Who can represent your best interests during a divorce?

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

5 Business Resolutions For 2022

Writings on Legal Matters

5 Business Resolutions For 2022

The New Year is a great time for rest and reflection on everything that has changed in the last twelve months and where you hope to be in another twelve. For business owners, this reflection should apply to your company as well as your personal life. If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that you never know what to expect. Here are our 5 Business Resolutions for 2022:

Be Ready For Change

It’s more clear than ever before that flexibility is one of the most important qualities for a business to succeed. Companies who were ready to work virtually were set up for success in 2020. Companies that didn’t depend on supply chains were set up for success in 2021. It is impossible to know what is on the horizon in 2022, but being flexible and preparing for change is the best way to be ready when it comes.

Focus On Innovation

As we’ve written about, encouraging innovation is the best way to break into new spaces with your business. Real progress doesn’t come from working everyone to the bone, but from creating a space where employees feel comfortable trying new things. It doesn’t have to mean that you open up a bakery on the side of your marketing company. It can lead to small changes that will make all the difference in the long run.

Put Effort into Marketing

What’s the point in putting so much hard work and effort into your business if you aren’t going to put that same effort into marketing it? How will potential customers and clients know about the great work you’re doing if you aren’t going to advertise it? One of the top reasons that most businesses can’t make it in the long run is that they do not put enough effort into marketing. Invest in it and it will pay off.

Improve Processes

It’s time to let go of what is holding you back. Are there steps in your systems and processes that employees get caught on every time? Are you working harder than you need to? Improving your internal processes will help you succeed in ways you didn’t even realize you could before.

Get the Help You Need

At Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, we know that every business has a different set of needs and goals. We can help you achieve yours in 2022 through strong corporate legal knowledge and assistance. For help fulfilling your company dreams this year, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

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.

4 Ways To Help Children Adjust To Living in Two Homes

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4 Ways To Help Children Adjust To Living in Two Homes

Divorce can be a difficult adjustment for everyone involved. For children, the hardest part may not even be having separate parents or having to go to court. The hardest part may be living in two different homes. It can be very difficult for a child to adjust to a new living environment, especially when one parent still lives in the same place they consider home.

As you move into a new chapter of your life, making sure that your children are comfortable with their living situation is one of the top priorities. Here are 4 ways to help children adjust to living across two households:

Keep the Essentials

If your children brushing their teeth is dependent on them remembering to bring their toothbrush back and forth between two homes, your dentist bill is about to go up. Make sure that you have essential supplies, including clothes, available at both houses. The children can bring things like their backpack and even pillow back and forth between the two, but the essentials should be at both.

Maintain a Consistent Schedule

You should work with your co-parent to make sure that all major lifestyle decisions for your children are consistent across both households. Things such as sleep schedules, diet, and entertainment habits should be the same no matter which house the children are at. Smaller things will help differentiate the experiences, but their general lives should be the same at both homes.

Ask Them What They Want

Children are much smarter than they are given credit for. Your children probably are keenly aware of the differences between the two homes they live in, and have their own thoughts about what they would like to see in both. Make sure to check in with them and listen to what they have to say. It’s their home too, after all

Don’t Try To Impress Them

You don’t need to have “the cool house.” You don’t need to let your children do things they can’t at their other home in order to get them to like you more. Just have a loving and open household where they feel comfortable. That’s what is most important.

Get the Help That You Need

At Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, we know that family is the most important thing. As you move forward with your life, making sure that your children are comfortable and happy splitting their time across two different households is very important. For help with all of your divorce needs, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

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.

Protecting Your Finances After a House Fire

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Protecting Your Finances After a House Fire

A house fire is a life-changing event. The recovery process is a long one that includes not only financial considerations but also emotional, psychological, and (in some cases) physical recovery.

In a perfect world, we’d never need to take care of clients dealing with a fire in their homes, but it’s a reality we face often. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), New York is among the most dangerous states for house fires.

The steps after a fire will be crucial to getting you the value you’re owed for items that are damaged or lost. However, one of the biggest steps often happens before a fire.

Document your property

While every family should have a plan in the event of a fire, another aspect of that planning should include documenting the property you own. This could include having a ledger of your valuables and even pictures of various rooms and items within them.

If your insurance covers individual pieces of the property after a fire, you may need to provide some proof of the items you are claiming. The best way to ensure you don’t lose out on the value of certain items, be sure to have either receipts or pictures to prove ownership. Your insurance may provide exact replacements, full monetary replacement, or partial monetary replacement.

Work with your insurance company

Your insurance company can’t be expected to keep tabs on all the homes they insure, and there’s no guarantee anyone other than you will be responsible for contacting them. Get in touch with them quickly after the fire so you can start the official documentation, inspection, and recovery process.

This will be important because, sadly, insurance companies are going to do whatever they can to cut costs and often avoid paying you what you deserve. You should review the agreement you have with the insurance company which could include coverage of emergency shelter, daily expenses like food, and initial costs of basic necessities like clothing and transportation. Each policy is different, so you’ll need to understand what’s covered and what is not.

Reach out to assistance programs

A volunteer with the American Red Cross may show up at the scene to speak with you. They will document the number of family members who need assistance and will often offer you financial assistance to get you and your loved ones back on your feet.

There are other organizations that will help those in need recover, as well. The local chapter of Catholic Charities may have a fund for victims of house fires and can connect you with other organizations, even if you are not a Catholic.

Secure your home

One of the saddest things we’ll see with home fires is the predators who lurk in the days that follow. People will see a house damaged or totaled in a fire and look to break in to steal whatever scraps are left (this can include items that survived the fire, valuable materials like copper piping, and more).

You should attempt to secure what’s left of your home by boarding or blocking off all possible entryways. You may also consider putting cameras in place on the property around the home to deter and track possible criminals.

Contact an attorney

The right attorney can protect you from insurance fraud and get all of what you are owed after a devestating event like a house fire. At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we have unrivaled expertise and dedication to our clients. Contact us and let us help you through life’s most challenging events.

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.

Understanding Navigation Law When You’re Exposed to an Oil Spill

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Understanding Navigation Law When You’re Exposed to an Oil Spill

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we want New Yorkers to understand you’re not on your own after an oil spill. Oil spills can expose you to innumerable expenses, both financially and physically. These products can be harmful and it’s important to act quickly to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Many families don’t know where to go after an oil spill is found on their property or in their homes. The thing is, the law and the company that exposed you to the spill aren’t going to do the work for you. Whether you’re a homeowner or a business owner you’re going to need to find the right law firm to represent you and apply the law as required.

New York Navigation Law provides specific protection and recovery for victims of oil spills in New York. Many older (and even some new) New York homes and businesses use oil for heat, and it’s important to understand what Navigation Law is and how it applies when you’re exposed.

Navigation Law history

Article 12 of the New York Navigation Law is referred to as the “Oil Spill Act.” This was enacted in 1977.

The act puts strict liability on any individual or organization responsible for a petroleum spill. The environmental impact is far-reaching, so every single cost associated with the cleanup, removal, and recovery from the spill falls upon the discharger of oil. This includes direct costs such as the digging up of impacted soil as well as indirect costs such as moving costs for families forced out of their homes.

Types of spills covered

Anytime a property owner is exposed to oil because of a spill, it will likely be covered in some fashion under New York Navigation Law. Two main scenarios that impact homeowners across the state are when an oil company overfills an oil tank, leading to oil tank failure resulting in a oil spill into the ground posing an immediate risk to vital waterways. The other scenario involves non-oil tank equipment failure caused by a technician leading to oil seeping into the soil on or near your property.

When an oil company overfills an oil tank while filling a tank, there is a direct risk to your property any properties nearby. This could include a spill at a business using oil and at homes where oil is used for heat. When this happens, the protection afforded by the Navigation Law will protect you and your family but the oil company will never advise upo of this important law..

When there is equipment failure, the immediate impact is often less obvious. Unfortunately, some families are exposed for a long period of time before ever realizing it. These cases quickly rise in costs as excavation and relocation come into play when the rupture leads to oil exposure directly beneath your home. The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will get involved because of the far-reaching impact of such a spill and possible exposures to the local water supply. The financial impact in this situation can be significant, but the health impact could be even more severe as oil releases Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) which are proven to be carcinogenic. You should leave your home until the premises are fully remediated and plan to remove and replace any exposed personal items.

Call Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht

If you, your family, your home, or your business has been exposed to oil, call us. Jeffrey Sunshine with Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht has over 25 years of experience covering these cases and recovering significant costs for oil spill clients.

Understanding the law is one thing, but knowing how to apply it in court is a whole other challenge. We have the experience to make sure you can focus on recovering physically and mentally while we help you recover financially. Nobody should be exposed to the serious risks associated with oil spills. Our unrivaled expertise and dedication stand alone when it comes to this type of practice. Contact our offices and let us get to work for you.

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!

5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case

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5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case

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

1. Denigrating or Disparaging the Other Parent

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

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

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

2. Manipulating the Child’s Preferences

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

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

3. Absence in the Child’s Life

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

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

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

5. Lack of Stability and Poor Decision Making

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

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

Three Steps to Take If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

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Three Steps to Take If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

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

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

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

Recognize domestic violence for what it is.

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

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

File a family offense petition seeking an order of protection.

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

Consider other resources

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

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

Top Divorce Questions: Who Pays The Legal Fees?

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Top Divorce Questions: Who Pays The Legal Fees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the best approach?

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

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

Please contact us today with questions or comments.

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