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Three Steps to Take If Your Ex Stops Paying Child Support

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Three Steps to Take If Your Ex Stops Paying Child Support

If you have custody of your child or children, the court likely directed the other parent to pay child support. It can be extremely difficult to raise a child on a single income, so for many divorced custodial moms and dads, child support payments are a major lifeline. But what happens if the payments suddenly stop?

Unfortunately, this happens quite frequently, for a variety of reasons. Maybe your ex has been facing some health issues and is putting all of his or her money towards medical bills. Maybe your ex got laid off and is looking for a new job. Or maybe, sadly, he or she is just tired of paying and wants to see if he or she can get away with putting the responsibility aside. No matter their situation, you have remedies with the court!

  1. If you do not already have an order for child support because the other parent was previously paying you based on a verbal agreement or voluntarily, you can and should ask the court for an award of the child support to which you are entitled. It is difficult to enforce agreements, but easy to enforce court orders. Without a court order, technically, the other parent has no legal obligation to make payments.
  2. If you have a child support order and he or she is not paying, you can now seek the Court’s help to enforce the order.   Enforcement can mean that the parent’s paycheck is “garnished” and support is sent directly to you by his or her employer, it can mean that a government agency will monitor and collect from the other parent and then pay you, it can even mean that the other parent will be incarcerated in jail until such time that he or she pays you what you are owed.  Other remedies including seizing a parent’s property (such as an automobile or even a boat), intercepting income tax refunds, and suspending the parent’s driver’s license.
  3. There are different legal mechanisms to make #2, above, happen.  Knowing the right one, what you need to say and ask for, which court to go to, and how to get from Point A to Point B, so that the money ends up in your hands, are the questions that you need to ask an attorney.

Who can help?

If you are dealing with an ex who won’t pay child support, or any other family law matter, the attorneys at Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP can help. To get started, give us a call at (516) 352-2100. We even offer a free consultation for new clients. So don’t hesitate — call today!

5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case

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5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid In Your Child Custody Case

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

1. Denigrating or Disparaging the Other Parent

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

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

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

2. Manipulating the Child’s Preferences

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

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

3. Absence in the Child’s Life

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

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

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

5. Lack of Stability and Poor Decision Making

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

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

Three Steps to Take If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

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Three Steps to Take If You Are Experiencing Domestic Violence

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

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

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

Recognize domestic violence for what it is.

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

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

File a family offense petition seeking an order of protection.

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

Consider other resources

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

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

Top Divorce Questions: Who Pays The Legal Fees?

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Top Divorce Questions: Who Pays The Legal Fees?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the best approach?

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

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

Please contact us today with questions or comments.

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!

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.

“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

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.

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.

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.

A Brief Guide to Your Custody Options in New York

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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.

If You Are Getting a Divorce, Change Your Will

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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 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

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5 Benefits of Choosing Mediation for Your Divorce

Mediation, as opposed to traditional litigation, offers a more gentle, productive attitude to navigating divorce’s difficult legal waters and generally ends up being less stressful, less expensive, and easier for the whole family to move on. The method includes an independent, impartial third-party that meets with the divorcing couple to work out all the divorce information. Mediation seeks a friendly middle ground that serves all parties.

Choosing mediation instead of a litigated divorce has some important advantages. The five most convincing reasons for choosing mediation are:

1. Mediation is usually less expensive

Because there are no court fees involved, mediation proceedings are simplified and can be far less costly than divorce. The typical cost of mediation is in the $5,000-10,000 range, whereas litigating a divorce will typically cost that much money per person, just to get started.

Mediation costs depend on the complexity of dividing assets, schedules for child visitation, and other concerns. However, the cost should be much less expensive even in complex cases. You may be surprised at how little it costs to employ a mediator, or how expensive it can get to litigate a case to conclusion if mediation is not chosen.

2. Mediation is private and confidential

Divorce proceedings in a government courtroom provide access to intimate information for anyone who may want to find them. No one wants their laundry out in public. For individuals who value their privacy, a traditional divorce may not be the best choice. When you go to court, there are dozens of other married people there as well, listening to the details of your case.

One of mediation’s most desirable advantages is that it is entirely private and confidential. Participants may not have to appear in court at all. The mediator handles all the documentation and ensures the privacy of each person.  We can even meet with you at night so that you don’t have to miss a day of work.

3. Mediation is usually quicker and more flexible

Some mediators like to have the clients come back to mediate a dozen times. Our goal is to get the job done as quickly, amicably, and cost-effective for you as possible. Quite often, we are able to resolve issues the very first time that we meet with you. On the other hand, a lengthy, complex divorce can drag on for months or even years. Mediation is intended to be fast, effective, and flexible.

The lines of communication are kept open due to the relaxed, negotiable process and enables distinctive solutions to be brainstormed to fix any issues. This flexibility enables a swift and cooperative strategy rather than a combative commitment in which everyone feels exhausted and unhappy.

4. Mediation is less stressful

Mediation is far less stressful than going to court. The concept behind mediation is to foster mutually beneficial friendly collaboration. The task of the mediator is not only to help both sides agree on divorce terms, but also to relieve tension, remove emotion from the process, and help both parties act in a friendly manner.

5. Mediation is child-centered and peaceful

The child-friendly strategy to mediation is another important advantage. Custody battles may be harmful to kids – particularly when the Court wants to know which parent the child or children prefer to live with. These issues are all negotiated quietly in our office, while your children are at school and unaware of the process. Children are less affected and they never have to appear in court.

Contact a Lawyer

If you are interested in pursuing mediation for your divorce, call Sunshine Isaacson & Hecht, LLP at (516) 352-2100 for a confidential consultation.

Know Your Rights If You Are the Victim of an Oil Spill

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Know Your Rights If You Are the Victim of an Oil Spill

Has oil been spilled on your property, damaging your home or business? This can be an extremely stressful position to find yourself in. The first step in recovering from this event is familiarizing yourself with your rights so that you can protect them. 

New York’s Navigation Law provides that the discharger of the oil is strictly liable for the damages caused by the spill. The oil company will be required to compensate you for the following:

  • Cleanup of the spilled oil
  • Alternative housing (You may have to leave your home for a time if the spill makes it uninhabitable, whether this is because of the odor or direct damage.)
  • Damages to your home and your personal property
  • Indirect damages such as attorney’s fees
  • Loss of value of your home or business due to the spill

It is important to know about your rights so that you can be sure you get all of the compensation that you deserve. 

But what if the oil spill impacts the value of my property?

Any time a substantial oil spill occurs, it must be reported to the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and the spill becomes a matter of public record. Unfortunately, people tend to be wary of buying a home that has been the site of an oil spill, even if it was only a small one. Having a spill on the record can decrease the value of your property, often by quite a large amount. 

For this reason, you may seek Diminution of Value compensation from the oil company in addition to the compensation listed above.  You don’t even need to be in the process of selling your house – if the value of your property decreased as a result of the oil spill, then you are entitled to be compensated.

Who can help me protect my rights after an oil spill?

The attorneys at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, LLP, have great experience helping landowners and business owners navigate the legal challenges of an oil spill. We advocate for our clients zealously, while also equipping them with the knowledge and guidance they need. We understand that every oil spill case is different. We are eager to learn about your situation and to find out how we can help you. Our firm offers free case evaluations for new clients. Give us a call at (516) 352-2100 to learn more!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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