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New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

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New York Divorce: Contested vs. Uncontested

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

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

Uncontested Divorce Explained

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

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

Contested Divorce Explained

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

Who can represent your best interests during a divorce?

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

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.

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!

Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht Secures Major Victory for Victims of Oil Spills

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Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht Secures Major Victory for Victims of Oil Spills

In the past, victims of oil spills had limited options for recouping certain costs that come with recovering from a spill. This led to unfair situations where plaintiffs had to not only take the time out of their busy lives to focus on their case but also spend money out of pocket for certain legal fees.

Now, thanks to a recent appellate court ruling for our client, victims of spills will no longer be on the hook for these fees. It’s important for other victims to know about this case and how it further defines the plaintiff’s rights under navigation law.

The initial case

In the initial case in 2017, our client was forced from their New York home after the discovery of oil that was channeling under the home. The oil was found directly under their living room – which meant remediation was only possible by drilling directly through the middle of the home.

After admitting to a navigation law claim, Petro Home Services ended up on the hook for the full value of the home (above market value), buying back the property that had been rendered unlivable for our client. This allowed our client to be made whole from the damage and subsequent move away from the home.

However, one issue still remained for our client: legal fees. In navigation law cases, clients often can’t afford to pay hefty legal fees and instead use a “contingency fee” to cover these costs. Contingency fees are an agreement by the client to provide a percentage of any final judgments or settlements to their attorneys instead of paying money upfront.

The latest case

The resulting legal fees from the initial case ended up being $90,000. If a plaintiff in an oil spill case recovers the entire value of their home but is left to pay sums such as this, there’s still a major loss to no fault of their own.

Thankfully, the appellate court further defined the plaintiff’s rights under navigation law, rewarding just over $90,000 to be paid by Petro Home Services. This sum covers the legal fees, illustrating that not only are defendants in these cases responsible for damages but also legal fees.

The court cited Navigation Law § 181(1) which states “[a]ny person who has discharged petroleum shall be strictly liable, without regard to fault, for all cleanup and removal costs and all direct and indirect damages, no matter by whom sustained.” The court identified two previous cases, Starnella v Heat and Fuchs & Bergh, Inc. v Lance Enters., in which “indirect damages” included attorney’s fees incurred by the property owner against the “discharger in such an action.”

Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht is further expanding a plaintiff’s recovery with this recent decision from the appellate division, providing a better illustration of what plaintiffs are entitled to under the statute. Whether you’re a homeowner or a small business owner, we will stand by you and get you the recovery you’re owed when faced with an oil spill. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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.

Don’t Want To Go To Court? Mediation Is Your Solution

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Don’t Want To Go To Court? Mediation Is Your Solution

In an ideal world, the only time the courts have to get involved in your marriage is when you head to the courthouse for your marriage license. Unfortunately, some marriages don’t follow the path we hoped for and result in irreconcilable differences that leave one or both spouses ready to move on.

We hear from family law clients who have nowhere else to go but don’t want to go to court. The court process can be expensive, exhausting, and expose your personal business to far too many outsiders. The answer in this situation isn’t to just skip the divorce and either force yourselves to stay together or just go through life as a married but separated couple – the answer is mediation. So, what can mediation actually do for you?

Provide a neutral view

Mediation provides an opportunity to find a middle ground and dispel any unreasonable demands and expectations that are getting in the way of both sides moving on amicably. The mediator in your case should be a neutral third party with no prior engagement with either spouse. This means they’re likely to have a clearer view of your situation than either of you have as the separation likely stems from and results in biases towards each other.

Our mediators are trained and certified to take a thorough neutral approach to each situation. They will hear from both sides of the dispute and use their training to spot any clear biases or unreasonable demands. It’s highly unlikely that the mediator will look at your situation and insist that one side is responsible for the situation. Instead, both parties will likely have to participate in the give and take of divorce.

Save money and time

One of the most obvious benefits of mediation is that you don’t have to drag each other through court. When you get divorced and are not making progress on resolving disputes like child custody, child support, asset division, and other important matters, the attorney fees will stack up quickly. Both parties will need to retain their own attorney whereas the fee for a mediator will be split between both parties.

On top of that, “time is money” as the saying goes. You will save a significant amount of time going through mediation instead of going to court. Courts are often backed up which could make it challenging for you to get in front of a judge. This means your divorce could take months to resolve. Mediators are generally more accessible and won’t take as many hearings or meetings to conclude your case.

Maintain control

What’s important to know is that you are not locked into any of the conclusions and recommendations reached by the mediator. Both parties have to make the decision to move toward an amicable split on their own. The same can’t be said for the court process where a judge who has taken a short amount of time on your case in between dozens of other cases and make a final decision.

A mediator allows couples to maintain control over their split without the overbearing pressure to definitively resolve every dispute. It’s important to go into mediation understanding your work continues even when you’re sitting in the room with them.

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we provide matrimonial mediation. Our team of experienced, trained, and certified mediators have extensive experience bringing exes to an amicable middle ground. We know the importance of peace of mind as well as saving you time and money. Contact us for a firm with unrivaled expertise and dedication.

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.

Our Top Three Tips for Moving On After Divorce

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Our Top Three Tips for Moving On After Divorce

 


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

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

  1. Allow yourself to feel your feelings.

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

  1. Utilize your support system.

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

  1. Try something new.

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

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

Preparing For A Weather-Related Property Damage Claim

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Preparing For A Weather-Related Property Damage Claim

In a perfect world, this blog wouldn’t be necessary. New York isn’t a common target of major weather damage – but it does happen.

We’re coming up on ten years since Hurricane Sandy hit New York. It’s important to take some of those lessons learned and make sure you, your home, and your business are prepared should you need to file a claim. We want to make sure you take the necessary steps before and after severe weather hits.

Document all property

One of the most important aspects of a claim will be knowing what property and value you’re actually claiming. Insurance companies are going to be stingy and won’t let you slip in a claim that you don’t have proof of.

Before you even know a hurricane could possibly be coming your way, you should document all your valuables and the condition of your home or business. This includes making a list of those valuables and their estimated value (if you have receipts then keep them when possible).

Take pictures

More important than listing out those valuables is actually taking pictures of them. Take a few minutes to walk around your home or business and take pictures in all the rooms. If you have items that are of high value that could be at risk during a weather event then take closeup pictures, as well.

The combination of receipts, documentation, and pictures of your property will go a long way towards securing your claim. Pictures of the condition of your home also help – especially if you’ve taken specific steps to secure your home against severe weather. If you’ve boarded up windows or moved outdoor furniture indoors to prepare for a hurricane then this will further solidify your claim.

Review your insurance policies

Unfortunately, we often hear from home and business owners who are surprised to find out certain claims aren’t covered by their insurance policies. It’s best to familiarize yourself with your coverages BEFORE an event, not after.

Review all policies you have and make sure what you need is actually covered under the policy. If you find out that certain damages from a weather event aren’t covered then you may need to consider taking steps to mitigate those risks or find a new insurance policy.

Contact an attorney before filing a claim

When you have a significant loss, it’s imperative to file a claim as soon as possible. However, you should talk to your attorney first. You’ll need to understand your rights and make sure you don’t slip up and make a mistake during the claims process. Everything you say in writing and verbally to your insurance company could end up being used against you.

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht we are always here to help New Yorkers with property damage claims. Contact our team if you are about to file a claim or have filed a claim and feel like you’re being shorted what you’re owed.

A Brief Introduction to New York Navigation Law 181

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A Brief Introduction to New York Navigation Law 181

“If your property has been damaged due to the spilling of petroleum/oil products, and if your life has been turned upside down as a result of the spill, we are here for you.”

The state of New York takes environmental safety very seriously, and has many laws on the books to help protect the Long Island Sound, lakes, rivers, and land in the area. New York Navigation Law 181 is an especially important law because it protects New Yorkers who become victims to an oil or petroleum spill that affects their home, business, or land. According to the law, a company that causes the spill will be heavily responsible for the spill. The law is quite severe to reflect the extensive and potentially long-lasting damage that these products can cause to the environment – and to the victims and their families.

Responsible Party

One of the most important things to be aware of when it comes to this law is that it applies to the responsible party/parties regardless of fault. This means that even when the oil company accidentally spills oil when delivering it to a home, the company is nonetheless responsible for cleaning it up and compensating the victim.

Overview of Potential Fines

The potential penalties associated with this law can be quite severe and must be taken very seriously. The specific amount will depend on many factors including the amount of petroleum products released into the environment, the amount of damage done, and the effect of the entire process on the property owner. There are various categories of damages that can be charged and recovered under this law, including:

  • Damage to Property – Any costs associated with restoring, repairing, and replacing damaged or destroyed real property in or around the home or business.
  • Diminished Value of Real Property – If the property has a diminished value as a result of the environmental disaster, the homeowner or property owner can be compensated for the decrease in value compared to the value as if the event had not occurred.
  • Natural Resources – Any costs associated with restoring or replacing any natural resources.
  • Loss of Income – If the damage resulted in the loss of income or earning potential for the owner of impacted property, the responsible party must repay this money.
  • Loss of Personal Property – This can include clothes, furniture, etc. that has been damaged as a result of the event must be replaced
  • And more…

Offering Aggressive Representation

If your property has been damaged due to the spilling of petroleum products, and if your life has been turned upside down as a result of the spill, we are here for you. Our legal team has the experience needed to handle these often very complex cases, and we understand the importance of getting it right. Please contact us at 516-352-2100 to schedule a free consultation today.

How is Spousal Maintenance or Alimony Calculated in NY?

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How is Spousal Maintenance or Alimony Calculated in NY?

Not too long ago, alimony (now known as spousal maintenance or spousal support) was entirely discretionary.  This caused a lot of litigation as there was no real expectation as to how much the Court might award.  If one attorney told the client to expect to receive $2,500.00 per month, while the other attorney told the opposing client to expect to pay $500.00 per month, both parties would end up spending thousands of dollars litigating the issue, each thinking that he or she was “right” and that the other was unreasonable.

Today, it’s different.  Now, New York has a formula for the presumptively correct amount of spousal maintenance or alimony, which takes a lot of the guess-work out of equation.

When maintenance is awarded, the support is rarely permanent, as the expectation is that the receiving spouse will find a job or receive the education and training they require to become financially self-sufficient. The spouse requesting it will have to demonstrate a need for short or long-term financial assistance and a financial disparity between the parties.

Typically, New York judges use the following formula to calculate maintenance:

  • Subtract 20% of the requesting spouse’s income from 30% of the other spouse’s income
  • Multiply the combined spouse’s total income by 40% and subtract the the requesting spouse’s income 

The lesser amount of these two calculations will be used to determine the support award on an annual basis. The Court might “deviate” and make the award larger or smaller based on the circumstances, but the calculation at least gives everyone an approximate idea of what the number should be.  Additional factors that impact the amount awarded include:

  • Whether there is also a child support award. 
  • If the Payor’s income exceeds $192,000, in which case the court may award additional alimony, and base the amount on other factors that include the age and health of each spouse, their respective present and future earning capacities, and the need of one spouse (usually the recipient) to incur education or training expenses.

The Court will also calculate the duration (or length of time) of the award pursuant to a formula.  The duration calculation is based on brackets of time and approximate number of years.  For marriages between 15 years and 20 years, the duration of maintenance may be between 30% and 40% of the total time you were married. For longer term marriages, the duration of maintenance may be between 35% and 50% of the total time you were married.  For example, if you were married for 30 years, the duration of maintenance could be anywhere from 10+ years to 15 years.  

Except in rare instances, spousal support is only paid for a fixed amount of time specified in the court order. The expectation is that at some point in the future, the receiving spouse will become financially independent. If permanent alimony is awarded, it typically ends when one of the spouses passes away or the recipient remarries.

Contact us

Proving the need for alimony involves some complex calculations as well as consideration of the recipient spouse’s lifestyle, age, health, and need to care for minor children. At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we understand how worrying it can be to think about your post-divorce financial outlook, especially if you left the workforce to care for your family, and will fight for an award that ensures stability while you prepare to become financially independent. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (516) 352-2100.

Review Your Insurance Policy Before It’s Too Late

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Review Your Insurance Policy Before It’s Too Late

When is the last time you looked at what your insurance plan covers? Americans are required to have insurance policies for several scenarios – many simply find the cheapest option and buy it. We aren’t here to tell you to buy more expensive insurance, but we are here to make sure you understand what you’re actually paying for.

In an ideal world, homeowners insurance, car insurance, and other property-related insurance policies would never be necessary. Unfortunately, we know too well that accidents and weather events happen – putting our insurance policies into action. You need to know which situations are covered and which are not covered today, not after you’ve already had an incident.

We’re going to explore some situations where reviewing your insurance policy beforehand would be necessary.

Weather Events

Let’s talk about this first because, frankly, it’s unpredictable. We are able to plan for many life events, but weather events often come quickly with little to no warning. Unfortunately, you can’t change your policy once a storm is imminent. Otherwise, everybody would opt for the cheapest plan and then increase coverages solely for the period in which the storm is coming through.

Instead of waiting until it’s too late, you should review your plan today. Consider questions like:

  • Do I live in an area with frequent storms or flooding?
  • Do I live in an area with frequent earthquakes?
  • If a catastrophic storm destroys my property today, what will my insurance pay for tomorrow?
  • Have I made significant changes to my property since buying this policy?

Renovations or Additions

You should review your policy before you make renovations or additions to your home or vehicle to understand what coverages you have in case something goes wrong. Would you be held liable and not be covered? Does your insurance cover cars that have been modified?

Then, once your work is done, you may want to review your coverages once again to make sure the new value of your property is reflected. A renovation or addition to most homes or vehicles will increase its value, meaning you may need to increase coverages.

It’s Been a While Since Your Last Review

Even if you don’t have any big life events on the horizon, we want to stress the importance of simply giving your insurance another look. There are numerous scenarios that you may not have considered that could impact your policy.

For instance, you may be eligible for loyalty rewards for being a long-time customer. You also may have made a job change that requires you to travel less with your vehicle, lowering your mileage and insurance costs.

Knowledge is power in all circumstances, including when it comes to insurance. The more you know about your coverages the better protected you are when you need to file a claim. At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we constantly work with clients to make sure they’re getting the most out of their insurance when it comes time to make a claim. Contact our firm today for unrivaled expertise and dedication.

“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

Need help today? Get in touch for a free case evaluation.

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