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“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

6 Tips for Being a Great Single Parent

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6 Tips for Being a Great Single Parent

Being a parent is not easy – especially when you are a single parent – especially when you did not used to be a single parent. Adjusting to being the only one taking (at least primary) care of your children can be a difficult thing. However, it is wonderful! Being a single parent is something to take pride in and find joy with, not to feel ashamed of. All parents know how difficult the child-raising process is and are blown away by those who do it alone.

Especially in the winter months, being a single parent can take some work. Here are our 6 tips for being the best single parent you can be:

Keep up with a budget. Set it up and keep it up! Making a budget is one of the best things any parent can do. Having a clear picture of all of your expenses and income allows you to set budget levels for things like entertainment and ordering food, which you can easily track over the course of the month. There are lots of helpful apps you can now integrate into this process instead of cracking open Excel spreadsheets!

Set routines in motion. Establishing a sense of normalcy is great for you and your children. Set up some healthy habits and make sure they keep happening every day. Waking up and going to bed at a usual time improves productivity and attitude, both of which allow you to do more in a day. Whether it’s Taco Tuesday or Movie Night, setting up routines is wonderful.

Don’t say yes every single time. Just because your child asks for it does not mean they need it. Your child will love you whether or not you buy them that toy, no matter what it may feel like in the moment. You don’t get everything you want every single time – and you’re doing pretty well – so they can get used to it too!

Find a support system. Being a single parent does not have to mean doing everything by yourself. Find a support system around you, whether it is composed of trusted friends, community members, or fellow single parents. Look at options for carpooling and after school care. Research any groups of single parents in your area – there are different ones that meet in every city in the nation. You don’t have to find a group that is already perfect – you can create or improve one!

Use tax breaks and financial resources. There are financial resources available to single parents that are not in place for couples. Research the tax breaks and funds that you can take advantage of to help your single parent budget.

Make time for yourself. It’s not all about your child. You need to make time for yourself too, even if it’s just taking a bath or keeping up with a show after you put them to bed. Consider finding a babysitter once a month to take yourself out for a date. Find some times, even if they may be few and far between, to put yourself first.

Being a single parent can be difficult, but it is rewarding. For any help with family law or dealing with life as a single parent, contact Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLC today! We can help fight for you and get you the support you deserve.

Getting Your Heating System Tuned Up? Be Aware of Potential Spills

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Getting Your Heating System Tuned Up? Be Aware of Potential Spills

It’s oil-heating season. Homes and businesses in New York and across the northeast U.S. are already dealing with the cold, and this calls for a tuneup of our heating systems. We absolutely advocate for a tuneup of your system to make sure there aren’t any unexpected disasters waiting for you when you turn on that heat for the first time in nearly a year or continue to crank it up in the days, weeks, and months to come.

What this generally looks like is having a technician come into your home or place of business to replace the filter and ensure the system is ready to go without issue. These are professionals who have done this hundreds of times (maybe even this year alone). Of course, this doesn’t mean mistakes don’t happen and you could end up dealing with a serious oil spill when you kick the system on if the new filter system fails or was installed incorrectly.

If you end up with a spill on your hands, it could set back your business or force you to move out of your home temporarily (or, in a worst-case scenario, permanently). Oil spills are serious situations, but you should know it’s not your job to pay the thousands and thousands of dollars it may take to clean it all up. Remember, under New York’s Navigation Law, the discharger of oil will be responsible for the spill, the cleanup, and all remediation necessary to remedy the situation (along with additional fees down line, if necessary).

Attorney Jeffrey Sunshine is Chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the Nassau County Bar Association and remains dedicated to handling oil spill cases. The attorney has extensive experience in winning cases for homeowners and business owners who need to protect their livelihoods from careless or even accidental mistakes that result in major oil spillage.

If your home or business is getting a system tuneup this winter, make sure you are hiring a technician or company you can trust. You should consider talking to others about who they hired and look extensively through reviews to make sure there’s a history of properly replacing filters and tuning up oil heating systems. In the end, if you still end up being exposed to a spill you should contact Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht for unrivaled expertise and dedication to this area of law.

3 Tips for Dealing with an Insurance Adjuster Following an Accident

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3 Tips for Dealing with an Insurance Adjuster Following an Accident

For most drivers, car owners, and property owners who were unlucky enough to be involved in a car accident or have their home damaged, claims adjusters can be their best friend or their worst enemy. But it’s probably more than just that because dealing with the claims adjuster after a car crash can be a huge pain, especially if you aren’t acquainted with your legal rights. Insurance adjusters are the insurance company’s representatives, so they are the people who will largely determine whether or not or you will be compensated for any costs or losses following a car accident.

Since the claim adjuster is responsible for interviewing the claimant and other parties, what you tell him can make or break your claim. It is therefore important to be careful about any statements you make before the claims adjuster. If you admit fault, your insurance policy may even prevent the recovery of damages. Here are 5 tips to follow when dealing with an insurance adjuster after an accident to ensure you get paid the settlement offer you deserve:

1. Avoid giving a recorded statement.

If you think you may need a lawyer — you probably do.  When an insurance adjuster calls you, they may be recording your conversation and anything that you say can be used against you.

2. Avoid discussing your damages.

The insurance company can ask you about the injuries you suffered in the immediate aftermath of a car accident or the damage to your home.   All of the facts about your damages or injuries may not be realized yet. If hurt, you may not realize how badly until you’ve consulted with multiple doctors. If it is your home that is damaged, you may not realize that you not only need a plumber to fix the leak but also a painter to repair the wall after the plumber has finished.   By discussing your damages with the insurance company you may be limiting your ability to fully recover or recoup all of your damages simply because they have not yet been realized.

Additionally, if you accidentally miss important information or provide information that is not 100% accurate, you may lose your right to financial recovery.

3. Meet with a lawyer before agreeing to a settlement offer.

The insurer will almost always try to settle with you. However, until you talk to a lawyer, you should never accept a settlement offer.  Insurance companies are a business and they make money by paying as little as possible to their customers. They are trained to handle your claim — you should have someone on your side who is trained too.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are looking for an experienced lawyer to help you with your personal injury or property damage claim, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation, or e-mail us at jisaacson@sihllp.com.

6 Tips for Driving More Safely

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6 Tips for Driving More Safely

New York is in the middle of one of the harshest winters in recent memory, which is saying something. As a firm that practices personal injury law, we know just how dangerous getting behind the wheel of a vehicle can be. In the middle of winter, that danger increases tenfold.

The tough reality is that your safety is entrusted to drivers around you as much as it is to yourself. You cannot control the actions of others, however, so the most important thing you can do is to stay safe in your own car. The more cautiously you drive, the safer the roads will be for everyone else.

Safety starts with you. Here are our 6 tips for driving more safely:

Buckle Up! This is the first step and the most important one. It should go without saying, but the best thing that you can do to protect yourself and others is to buckle your seatbelt every time you get into a car. Whether you are driving across the country or just across a parking lot, buckling up can and will save your life.

Keep Your Eyes on the Road. On the road, distractions can come from anywhere – your phone, people in your car, people in other cars, accidents you pass along the way, trying to get the radio to work. Keeping your eyes forward and on the horizon is the best practice to make sure you are aware of what is around you and where you are headed.

Know Your Limits. It is hard to drive safely when you are not functioning properly and when the conditions outside are intense. Either of them can be deadly – the combination is miserable. If you are too tired, too emotional, or have been partaking of any substances, check yourself before you attempt to drive. Likewise, if you feel that you have to go somewhere but the weather seems too intense to travel, don’t risk it.

Forgive and Forget. Road rage is real. It is easy to get mad at other drivers, which in turn worsens your driving ability and perception of those around you. The best option is to forgive or ignore other drivers who cut you off or honk or zoom past you at a million miles an hour. Focusing on your own driving is far more rewarding.

Don’t Trust Anyone. Driving defensively and cautiously is the best practice at all times. Drive slower rather than faster, and don’t make any assumptions about what those around you are planning to do. You can only control yourself, and you cannot expect anyone else around you to behave in a rational manner.

Call for Help When You Need It. If you have been injured in a car accident, make sure to seek medical help if needed, document the scene, and obtain the insurance information of the other parties involved. If you need help with a personal injury case, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today. We fight for you, and we have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

It’s Time To Take a Look at Your Insurance Policy

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It’s Time To Take a Look at Your Insurance Policy

Just about every adult has insurance policies for a wide variety of reasons – health insurance, dental insurance, car insurance, life insurance, pet insurance, renters insurance, and homeowners insurance. Our team wants to make sure you’re bringing that last one, homeowners insurance, into focus in the new year.

People tend to take out insurance policies without ever really understanding what they’re paying for. It’s easy to just take the cheapest policy required by your mortgage lender or that you feel comfortable paying for. Whether you’re taking your first real look at your homeowners insurance coverages or are taking this opportunity to review what you’re paying for, it’s important to understand what you need to look out for.

Weather and Natural Disaster Coverage

Weather events aren’t going away. A lot of New Yorkers think they’re protected in this corner of the U.S., but Hurricane Sandy sent a tough reminder that it’s always possible. Other events like severe snow and wind storms knock out power and leave damage to homes and businesses across the region every year. So, what does your insurance policy cover?

Most homeowners insurance policies include coverage for wind and hail damage, but you might be surprised to learn that flooding and hurricane damage often require separate policies. This means you may need to consider increasing coverage for the weather events that are covered by your policy while also obtaining other forms of insurance for the events that are not covered by your policy.

Coverage Should Reflect the Home You’re Living In

As you take a look at your policy, consider the home you live in today. You may not be covering the totality of your home which could mean you’ll be paying significantly more out of pocket should something happen to your home down the line, especially if you’ve made significant upgrades since purchasing the policy.

Do you live in a large home valued at $800,000 but are realizing your insurance policy only covers property damage up to half that amount? Is your home full of priceless possessions but your policy doesn’t have itemized coverage for any of those items? You will end up paying for any gaps in coverage should something happen to your home or the property within it.

A fact you need to understand is that your insurance company will likely tell you if you have too much coverage but will never tell you if you don’t have enough coverage. Lower coverage totals are assumed to be a choice.

Are You Exposed to Significant Personal Liability?

Whether you live in your own home or own a home that you’re renting out, your insurance policy should address the personal liability you would face if something happens on your property. If a renter or visitor is hurt and comes after you with a lawsuit, what does your insurance company cover for you? Natural disasters aren’t the only events that could hit your checkbook hard if your insurance policy doesn’t cover you.

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we work with New Yorkers and insurance companies every day. Whether you’re facing personal liability from a renter at one of your properties or need to go after your insurance company for failing to pay out your claim, we can help. Contact our team for unrivaled expertise and dedication.

3 Benefits of Having a Prenuptial Agreement

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3 Benefits of Having a Prenuptial Agreement

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

What is a Prenuptial Agreement?

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

  1. Transparency of Ownership

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

  1. Better Communication

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

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

  1. Future Benefits

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

Final Note

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

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

Contact a Lawyer

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

How to Create an Oil Spill Expenses List

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How to Create an Oil Spill Expenses List

If your property has been damaged as a result of an oil spill, getting your life back to normal can be a very lengthy and costly process. While the entirety of your personal expenses should be covered by the responsible party, you will often have to shoulder a portion of the upfront costs of the damages. For all the money which you spend as the result of an oil spill, we recommend creating your own Oil Spill Expenses List.

Documenting your expenses leads to get them reimbursed much more quickly. Here is our list of expenses which you should include on your Oil Spill Expenses List:

  • Any money spent on clean-up, including major removal and small spots that require different attention
  • Any other money spent on remediation
  • Any money spent on supplies that were needed for dealing with the spill, such as protective clothing or equipment
  • Any money spent on hotel and travel expenses if you could not stay in your home
  • Any money spent on food if you could not cook at home during the spill
  • Any loss of profits if you were unable to work for some time following the spill
  • Any clothes that needs to be replaced after absorbing the smell of the oil
  • Any furniture that needs to be replaced after absorbing the smell of the oil
  • Any money spent on nature or landscaping if the land surrounding your home was damaged by the spill
  • Any value that your home property lost as a result of the spill
  • Any money spent on transportation if your vehicle was damaged as a result of the spill
  • Any money spent on any and all personal property that needs to be replaced after being damaged by the spill
  • Any money spent on attorney’s fees in your attempt to seek damages
  • And much more – if you can think of it, and you have spent money on it because of the oil spill, add it to the list

For all of these expenses, you should be creating a list with specific costs of each and everything involved. You should also be documenting the expenses. This can include holding on to receipts and taking photographs of damaged property that needs to be replaced. You can also hold on to rental agreements or hotel fees for your substitute property and any invoices you can create or receive. The more you document your expenses, the quicker and easier it is to get them reimbursed.

If your property in New York has been damaged by an oil spill, the discharger of the oil is responsible for all damages incurred. We know that the process of holding them responsible is not always easy, but it is their legal obligation under the Navigation Act. If you are dealing with an oil spill on your property, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success, and we fight for you!

Be Careful Who You Talk to About Your Personal Injury Case

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Be Careful Who You Talk to About Your Personal Injury Case

Personal injury cases can disrupt your entire life. The injury, the stress, the recovery – all of it will take time and careful consideration. Your physical and mental health take priority in any personal injury case, but preserving your case will be important to secure any financial compensation for what you are going through.

One of the risks to your case that often goes unnoticed is what you say about your case and who you say it to. Anything you say can ultimately be relevant to your case, regardless of who you tell it to (excluding those who are legally bound by confidentiality).

Talk to Your Lawyer Before Anyone Else

The most important aspect of this is keeping all details to yourself until you are able to talk to your lawyer. They will have the legal expertise to get an understanding of your situation and advise on what should happen next.

If you want to talk to someone about the incident but aren’t sure how that could impact your case, talk to your attorney first. We understand that talking to your loved ones about this will help you through this, so we’re not entirely worried about those conversations. We’re more concerned about conversations with others that could add risk to your case.

Keep Medical Conversations About Medical Information

It’s important to trust the advice of medical professionals in your recovery. Their expertise will be critical in physical and mental recovery during your personal injury case. With that said, your conversations with your doctor should be kept about relevant medical information.

Small talk is a part of the job for medical professionals. They need to make their patients feel comfortable, but questions about what exactly happened in your case and about the circumstances that led up to your injury generally aren’t necessary. Questions that allow them to get a better understanding of your injury are fair, but questions about what color the light was when you entered the intersection or whether you were checking your phone or anything similar are unnecessary and create risk.

Be Careful In Speaking With Potential Witnesses

Gathering the contact information of potential witnesses at the scene could help your case significantly if you or others are able to do so. However, the conversations you have with those witnesses could be crucial to your case.

Witnesses will only know what they have seen, but they may question what they’ve seen if you accidentally give them information that changes their impression of what just happened. They might think you were observing the speed limit but a comment such as “I can’t believe this happened to me, I was barely going over the speed limit” can completely flip a witness against you.

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we take pride in preserving our clients’ cases and securing victories for those who have been wronged. We will help you navigate your case from the very beginning. You can talk to us.

5 Signs Your Dispute May End Up in Court

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5 Signs Your Dispute May End Up in Court

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

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

1. They cut off all communication with you

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

2. The other party refuses to compromise

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

3. You are reported to an external regulator

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

4. They tell you they hired an attorney

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

5. You are served with a complaint and summons

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

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

8 Tips for Starting Your Business On the Right Foot

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8 Tips for Starting Your Business On the Right Foot

At Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, one of the commercial litigation services we offer is advising new businesses. The market is tough, especially in New York, and the business decisions that define you most may be the ones you make before you even open your doors. Here are our 8 tips for starting your new business off on the right foot:

  1. Research Your Competitors

You can’t innovate without knowing what is already being offered by your competitors. Similarly, you won’t know what services or products you absolutely have to offer until you see what is most popular on the market.

  1. Choose the Right Structure For You

Choosing the legal structure of your new business is a very important decision, not least of all because it is difficult to change after the fact. Make sure you fully understand all the options and have the help of a good attorney to cover all the requirements for your chosen structure.

  1. Create a Business Plan

What separates good ideas from successful businesses is starting with a concrete Business Plan. Create an outline with realistic, if not overly cautious, figures of how much money you are planning to spend and earn getting your business from an idea to a functioning place. Plan for the unexpected.

  1. Secure More Money Than You Think You Need

Here’s a secret: starting a business often takes a lot more money than it should. When securing funds for your business, know that the bare minimum isn’t even going to come close to cutting it. Set your initial goal well above what you calculate it should be.

  1. Make Time For Life, Too

Maintaining a proper work/life balance is the secret to happiness. It is difficult even at the best of times, and sometimes it feels impossible when you are starting up a business. Remember to take time for your life. You don’t want to lose your business and then realize you have nothing else left.

  1. Look For Solutions

As your business gets started, you are going to run into a lot of issues. Become the sort of person who is perennially looking for solutions, rather than being frustrated by the issues. This mindset will pay off dividends in the long run.

  1. Tell the People What You’re Doing

What is the point of having the best business around if no one knows about it? If you are willing to spend money to get your business where it needs to be, then you should be willing to spend money on effective marketing to make sure that people know about it. People have to know what you’re doing to care about what you’re doing!

  1. Get Good Legal Help

Your business formation sets the tone for everything that comes after. If you want to start on the right foot, make sure you have a good attorney helping you choose your structure, close on a location, draft your contracts, and much more. For help with your new business, contact Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP today! We have the knowledge and experience that breeds success.

You Have Rights as the Victim of an Oil Spill in New York

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You Have Rights as the Victim of an Oil Spill in New York

Oil spills are a detriment to our communities and anyone who lives in them. The damage to personal health, homes, and the environment will be significant – prompting expensive and urgent cleanup efforts.

When your home or your business is the location of an oil spill, your livelihood is at stake. What you do in the immediate aftermath is crucial, but you need to understand your rights under New York’s Oil Spill Act before you can make any decisions.

New York’s Navigation Law

The rights of oil spill victims in New York State are provided and protected through the Oil Spill Act which is Article 12 of the New York Navigation Law. We have previously covered Navigation Law in-depth, but what is imperative to understand is that the act, implemented in 1977, holds the “discharger of oil” strictly liable for an oil spill.

The “discharger” will be any individual or organization that was dispensing oil at the location where a spill occurred. This can be a tanker delivering oil to a business or home with an oil heating system. This can be a technician coming to service your system and failing to properly tighten up the equipment before leaving the property. It can also be a company providing faulty oil tanks or other equipment that results in a spill.

Covering Costs of Cleanup

What matters to you is that, even if you have to pay upfront to get the cleanup and remediation process started, you have a right to be compensated for your losses. As noted above, the discharger of oil or the supplier of defective equipment that causes a spill will be held financially responsible for a spill.

If you are unable to pay for the cost upfront, the New York Environmental Protection and Spill Compensation Fund will handle the initial costs and pursue reimbursement from the responsible party or parties.

Loss of Property Value

The costs associated with an oil spill don’t stop at just the cleanup efforts. You may lose significant value in your home or business when the property is exposed to an oil spill. This loss of value in your property can also be covered through a Diminution of Value compensation from the responsible party.

The same can be said for situations where you are forced out of your home and must seek alternative housing. Essentially, any reasonable financial losses you incur that can be directly attributed to the oil spill on your property must be documented and returned to you by the discharger of oil or supplier of faulty equipment. This includes the recovery of legal fees.

Get Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht Involved Immediately

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, our team proudly supports New Yorkers and protects their rights when exposed to an oil spill at their home or business. The sooner you get us involved the better as the toxic fumes you are being exposed to create a significant health risk to you, your family, and anyone else who spends time around the spill.

We have qualified professionals with experience in environmental law who will handle your case and get you the compensation you are owed under New York’s Navigation Law. Contact our firm if you are ever exposed to an oil spill in New York.

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

Writings on Legal Matters

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!

What are the Types of Illegal Oil Spills in New York?

Writings on Legal Matters

What are the Types of Illegal Oil Spills in New York?

Oil spills produce dangerous conditions for not only the impacted home or business, but often the surrounding community. The numerous health hazards anyone exposed to an oil spill face present an immediate cause for concern.

Understanding the circumstances that lead to New York oil spills allows home and business owners to be better prepared. You may not be able to prevent a spill, but being aware of these potential spills allows you to spot them earlier and mitigate the damage.

Overfill of a Tank

One of the most common spills occurs when a tanker puts more in an oil tank than the tank can handle. When a delivery driver hooks up to your unit, a whistle will sound to indicate that air is flowing out of the vent pipe as the tank fills. When this whistle stops, there is no automatic stop like there is when you are fueling your car’s gas tank. Instead, the driver will have to stop the delivery of oil and safely detach from your tank.

These spills commonly happen when drivers become careless and fail to closely monitor the equipment. Listening to music, getting lost in conversation, or simply not being able to hear the whistle can put everyone at risk.

Delivery Error

On top of just overfilling a tank, the delivery driver must also understand the equipment they are working with. Some tanks can look different from others and use different mechanics to deliver the oil. The driver will be responsible for ensuring the equipment is all properly attached and tightened.

If a driver hooks up to something that isn’t the fill pipe or even hooks up to a fill pipe that isn’t directly connected to a tank, the oil being delivered will create a massive spill. If you understand your own equipment or are working with a new driver, it’s worth double-checking all steps before the delivery takes place.

Equipment Malfunction

An oil tank is a solid structure. These steel vessels are generally about 275 gallons and weigh roughly 2,500 pounds when filled with oil. When a tank is filled, oil is delivered at a rate of about 80 gallons a minute, putting significant pressure on the tank.

As these tanks age, they become more prone to leakage or even blowing under the pressure. When this happens, the oil can often shoot back up the vent pipe and out onto the ground where the tanker is sitting. They can also leak into the soil where the tank is sitting.

The delivery equipment itself can sometimes malfunction, as well. Technology isn’t perfect and hoses can break, causing oil to spill everywhere. Paying attention to the equipment as it does the intended job can protect you and your property.

Any of these spills create an urgent need for not only remediation but also legal action. You have rights in the event of an oil spill in New York. The team at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht can help you navigate the legal challenges to come.

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

Writings on Legal Matters

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.

Do Not Try to Stay in Your Home After an Oil Spill – It’s Not Safe!

Writings on Legal Matters

Do Not Try to Stay in Your Home After an Oil Spill – It’s Not Safe!

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we have put a heavy focus in recent months on oil spills in New York. From the types of oil spills and causes to the rights New Yorkers have when exposed to a spill, we want to prepare our clients for the aftermath of an oil spill in their homes or businesses.

Whenever we talk to clients about these subjects, one of the items we frequently discuss is actually leaving your home or business after an oil spill. We fully understand how difficult it can be to leave home. Clients express how difficult it can be to uproot their lives and live with a friend, family member, neighbor, or in a hotel/motel – but it’s the right choice for your health (along with the health of your family and/or customers).

Oil Spills Expose You to High Levels of Carcinogens

Staying in your home or business may seem like a convenient choice, but you are putting yourself and others at risk due to the continued exposure to toxins from the spill. Oil is full of toxic chemicals like benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

The United Nations indicated that prolonged exposure to petroleum, which is used in some home heating systems, increases the risk of cancer. While the study was done on people living near plants, occupying a building that has directly been exposed to a spill could include similar risks of mesothelioma, skin cancer, lung cancer, and other types of cancer.

People who have stayed behind after an oil spill have reported experiencing difficulty breathing due to inhaling these fumes. Until total remediation has been done, your home will not be a totally safe place to live.

What Should I Do, and Where Should I Go?

When exposed to an oil spill, contact law enforcement or a local environmental agency immediately. After that, let them do their jobs while you avoid any direct contact with the oil, stay away from areas exposed to the oil (you will often be able to smell or see it), do not drink, bathe, or enter waters near the spill, and get out.

You may be able to find a loved one to stay with, but you also should not be afraid to seek out housing at a hotel or motel if you can afford it in the interim.

How Will I Afford Alternative Housing?

As noted in our previous post on the rights of New Yorkers exposed to oil spills, you have the right under New York’s Navigation Law to recover any reasonable costs associated with the oil spill as long as you weren’t responsible. If you are forced to pay for alternative housing then the discharger of the oil will be required to reimburse you for those costs at a reasonable rate. Reasonable just means any costs associated with the necessary housing.

Our team at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht knows environmental law in New York. Attorney Jeffrey Sunshine serves as the Chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the Nassau County Bar Association. Our expertise guides us to serve and protect New Yorkers in the event of an oil spill. Contact us, and we will help you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family while we fight for every penny you are owed.

5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

Writings on Legal Matters

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

Writings on Legal Matters

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.

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