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Grandparents Seek Visitation with Grandchildren

grand-150x150In a case before Supreme Court Justice Janowitz, sitting in Nassau County, grandparents brought a proceeding seeking visitation with regard to their three grandchildren. The children’s parents asked Judge Janowitz to dismiss the case. They claimed the grandparents lacked standing to bring this proceeding.

The grandparents’ petition argued that they had enjoyed a good relationship with their grandchildren, but that the parents have cut off all visitation since January of 2010. The grandparents claim the cut off was without justification.

The parents argued that the grandparents behaved inappropriately and therefore they would not permit them to have access to their children. They claim the grandparents filed a false Child Protection Services report against them. The report was investigated and Child Protective Services found it to be unsubstantiated.

Court Finds For Grandparents

Justice Janowitz stated in his decision that where there is an established relationship between the grandparents and the grandchildren, the court would look into the basis of the parents’ decision to cut off this relationship. Justice Janowitz felt that mere animosity or bad feelings between the parties was not a valid reason, under Domestic Relations Law Section 72(1), for cutting off grandparents access to their grandchildren. Justice Janowitz ordered a forensic evaluation to determine if the parents’ allegations against the grandparents were true.

Grandparents’ Rights and Fathers’ Rights

Grandparents should have the right to develop a relationship with their grandchildren. Grandparents and fathers play important roles in children’s lives and their rights are protected by the law in New York. We litigate all types of fathers’ rights issues, including divorce, orders of protection, custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance (alimony), child abuse and child neglect proceedings. We defend fathers involved in paternity proceedings, and we also represent fathers who seek annulments.

In divorce situations, we litigate equitable distribution issues, relocation problems, parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome issues. We also negotiate pre-nuptial, post-nuptial and separation agreements.

Spousal Maintenance Award is Fair

sousal-150x150 Justice Janowitz, sitting in the Supreme Court located in Nassau County,  New York, recently made a decision in the case of Jill G. vs. Jeffery G,  202923-10 (March 18th). The wife in this case claimed that the  temporary, non-taxable maintenance payments she was receiving were  inadequate. The wife was receiving $10,783 per month. This award was  based on the presumptive amount of maintenance that has to be paid by one spouse to another, which maintains a current cap on only the first $500,000 of annual income. The wife claimed that the presumptive award was inadequate. She claimed that she had a child with physical disabilities. Her child had additional medical expenses, she claimed, due to these disabilities. Judge Janowitz carefully looked at the wife’s net worth statement (financial statement). He stated his opinion that this net worth statement did not reflect that there were extraordinary expenses that the wife was facing. He also found that the wife had received $450,000 in an infant compromise related to a personal injury award for this child.

The court stated in it’s decision that under New York Domestic Relations Law section 236B(5-a), the “pendente lite” (pending litigation) of spousal maintenance awards must comport with the new guidelines issued on October 12, 2010. To convince a court to deviate from these guidelines, the court must find that the pendente lite maintenance amount was unjust or inappropriate. In this case, Justice Janowitz felt that $10,783 per month in non-taxable pendente lite maintenance is a fair and reasonable award. Fathers’ rights were preserved in this case!

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NY Fathers’ Rights

Fathers have legal rights in matrimonial and family law proceedings. We aggressively protect fathers’ rights. We litigate all aspects of divorce proceedings. We represent fathers involving orders of protection, child custody matters, child visitation proceedings, child support proceedings, spousal maintenance proceedings (alimony), as well as child abuse and child neglect proceedings. We bring proceedings to reduce child support when fathers have had a reduction in their income or a loss of their job. We present defenses to child abuse cases. We litigation paternity related proceedings. In addition, we represent fathers concerning equitable distribution of assets, as well as negotiating separation agreements. Call us for a free consultation. We are available seven days a week. Our phone numbers are 1-800-344-6431, 516-561-6645 or 718-350-2802.

“Parenting Plan” Not A Substitute For A Separation Agreement

Handshake-150x150The State of New York has a very narrowly defined requirements regarding what needs to be in a separation agreement and how it is executed.

In late 2009 the Appellate Division for the Fourth Department (an upstate appeals court) held that a separated couple’s agreement which dealt with terms of custody and visitation for their three children did not satisfy the minium statutory requirements to constitute a Separation Agreement in New York. Therefore the parties living separate apart under the terms of this agreement for a period of one year could not use this as a basis for obtaining a divorce.

The court held that “it is a physical separation of the parties, not the written agreement, that supplies the grounds for divorce under the New York Domestic Relations Law section 170(6).”

Donald J. Scully and Carol M. Harr married in May of 1993. They separated in December of 2005. The couple executed a “parenting plan agreement” on May 11, 2007.

On May 13, 2008, one year and two days after they entered into this parenting plan agreement, Mr. Scully filed for divorce. Ms. Harr contested the matter. Her position was that the parenting agreement did not constitute a separation agreement under New York law. The Fourth Department of the Appellate Division agreed with her. They held that the agreement dealt solely with matters of custody and visitation, and even though it was signed and acknowledged by the parties, it did not constitute a separation agreement in conformity with New York State Law.

Separation agreements are complicated detailed documents. Should you and your spouse seek to enter into a separation agreement, feel free to contact the divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo to discuss this matter at 1-800-344-6431, by email or on facebook.

Ridiculous New York Divorce Law Promotes Dishonesty

constructive-abandonment-divorce-faultOn December 24, 2009, Judge Matthew F. Cooper, sitting in th Supreme Court of New York County, rendered a decision on the case of Davis v. Davis, 89 N.Y.S.2d 611, 2009 WL 3863026, 2009 NY Slip Op 08579. Mr. Davis brought an action for a non-contested divorce, claiming his wife constructively abandoned him. This means she had no sex with him for a period of one year. This is the most widely used ground for divorce in the State of New York. The reason this ground is widely used is that New York does not have a true no-fault ground for divorce. It is only state in the United States that still maintains an archaic fault based divorce system.

Constructive Abandonment – No Sex for a Year:

Mr. Davis alleged in his complaint that he had not had sex with his wife for over one year. He submitted an affidavit swearing to the validity of this information.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Davis, Mrs. Davis was pregnant with Mr. Davis’ child. Mr. Davis was successful in obtaining the divorce.

Mrs. Davis had a baby boy named Ethan. Mr. Davis, thereafter, moved for genetic marker testing to prove that he was the father of the child. He wanted a declaration of paternity and the divorce judgment to be modified to indicate he was Ethan’s father.

Mrs. Davis opposed the application by Mr. Davis. In her opposing papers, she indicates that in Mr. Davis’ divorce papers, it contained a signed sworn to affidavit that he hadn’t had sex with her for a period of one year. It, therefore, would be impossible for him to be the father of Ethan. Mrs. Davis also alleged that if Mr. Davis is recanting his sworn statement, he should be prosecuted under the NY Penal Law, §210.10 for perjury.

The Appellate Division, Second Department, in its decision on the appeal, indicated that this was the wrong venue to allege criminal conduct. The court further stated that “the sad truth is that New York’s insistence on fault based divorce ends up promoting a disregard for the truth by fostering and encouraging the embellishment of a spouse’s wrong doing as to grounds …”

The court found that there should a presumption of legitimacy of the child being a child of the marriage because it was in the child’s best interests. The court further stated that it is presumed that Mr. Davis was Ethan’s father by virtue of the fact that he had been married to Ethan’s mother when the child was born. The court stated it was in the child’s best interests that his father’s name appear on his birth certificate and that the father should be able to establish a father-son relationship.

If New York had a true no-fault divorce law with a ground such as “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility,” individuals would not be motivated to submit false affidavits in divorce lawsuits for the sole purpose of ending their marriage. Although, New York State in many respects is a very forward thinking state, this is not true when it comes to New York’s divorce laws. The court stated that the “view of marriage is more reflective of the time of the Empire of Queen Victoria than it is of the second decade of the 21st Century”. The failure of New York’s legal system to adopt a divorce law that reflects 21st Century sensibilities willl continue to impugn the integrity of the legal system in the State of New York.

The Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo has been providing legal services to individuals with marital problems for more than 30 years. Should you have an issue involving your marriage, feel free to call us at 1-800-344-6431 or email us anytime.

Picture courtesy of clemmentlaw.

Father’s Rights Attorneys

child-support-fatherThere is a growing feeling among fathers who deal with the Family Courts and the Supreme Courts in the State of New York on matrimonial and family law matters that they are being treated unfairly. The law in the State of New York says that fathers and mothers have equal rights to custody. There is no presumption that mothers should receive custody and fathers should pay child support. However, many fathers who have dealt with the legal system come away with a sour taste in their mouth due to bias in favor of the mother.

Father’s rights attorneys are matrimonial and family law attorneys with extensive experience in protecting the rights of fathers involved with custody, support and visitation matters. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, contact the father’s rights attorneys at the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo. We can help you!

Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq.

800-344-6431

Picture Courtesy of SouthWesternDifference.info

Nassau Family Court, An Embarrassment

nassau-county-family-court-new-york

Nassau County is one of the richest counties in the United States. The Family Court in Nassau County is located at 1200 Old Country Road, Westbury, New York 11590. The judges, court officers, administrators, clerks, attorneys and litigants are all presented with difficult situations.

The courthouse is totally inadequate to serve as a location for the Family Court of Nassau County. The building is old, dilapidated and too small. The air conditioning does not cool the hallways.

There is no adequate waiting room. Lawyers and their clients are often forced to wait in crowded hallways. God knows what would happen in this overcrowded building should there be a fire. During the past fifteen (15) years, Suffolk County, Kings County and Queens County have built beautiful new court facilities. Unfortunately, Nassau County has not had the foresight to provide its residents with a decent, adequate, modern facility. This is an embarrassment! The building structure is not worthy of the litigants, judges, clerks, court officers and the community it serves.

Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq.

800-344-6431

Picture courtesy of Google Maps.

Britney Spears, Annulment, and Mental Illness in New York

In an effort to discuss the laws relating to having a marriage annulled in New York, it is worthwhile to bring up Britney Spears’ petition to annul her marriage signed just hours after her Las Vegas marriage. The couple tied the knot in a Las Vegas chapel Saturday morning, January 3, 2004 at 5 AM. She signed a petition to have the marriage annulled that same day, it was filed Monday morning, and a judge granted the annulment on Tuesday, January 6th. The marriage lasted about 55 hours. Las Vegas Review Journal.

The manager of Nevada Divorce and Paralegal Services said that an annulment makes it “like [the marriage] never happened in the first place.” This is not the case in New York. Here, under NY Domestic Relations Law § 7, the marriage is only void “from the time its nullity is declared by a court of competent jurisdiction,” meaning that the marriage was legally valid from the time it began until the court declares it null and void.

A judge may annul a marriage, even where the parties have children (see §§ 7 & 24), when either one of the parties meets any one of the following criteria:

  1. If a party is under age 18, then the judge may annul the marriage at his/her discretion, taking into account all of the facts and circumstances.
  2. If either party is mentally incapable of consenting to a marriage because he or she is unable to understand the consequences and significance of a marriage.
  3. If either party is physically and permanently incapable of entering into a marriage (i.e. having sexual relations). Sterility does not count.
  4. The marriage occurred through force, duress, or fraud. Fraud may be shown where one party conceals or misrepresents some fact so material to the essence of the marriage that the other party would not have entered the marriage had it known about that fact.
  5. One party has been mentally ill for five years or more before the marriage.

Britney Spears declared that the basis for her application for annulment was NRS 125.330, which allows annulment “for want of understanding.” This statute is worded very similar to New York’s, which allows annulment when “either of the parties to a marriage for want of understanding shall be incapable of assenting thereto.” New York’s law is almost the same allowing annulment when a party is “incapable of consenting to a marriage for want of understanding.” But Britney Spears said she was “incapable” of agreeing to the marriage because she and her new husband “did not know each others likes and dislikes, each others desires to have or not have children, and each others desires as to State of residency.”

I don’t think this would work in New York. Incapacity does not mean that one simply doesn’t yet know certain information about the person she is marrying. It means she is actually incapable, due to “mental illness or retardation,” of knowing what marriage really is, its significance and its consequences. Levine v. Dumbra, 604 N.Y.S.2d 207, 208 (2nd Dept. 1993). While some might claim, tongue in cheek, that Ms. Spears does suffer from some mental defect, it is doubtful that a court would find that she suffers from any actual mental illness that deprives her of the capacity to understand what marriage is. She may not have known her new husband’s favorite color, but this hardly rises to the level of incapacity to understand the nature of marriage itself.

If you need assistance with any matrimonial or family law matter, whether it be divorce, separation, child custody, annulment, adoption, or anything else, our office has over 30 years experience in these areas. So please contact our office by e-mail or call 800-344-6431 for help.

Fathers’ Rights – Video and Website

In addition to his wide-ranging experience in most major areas of law in general, and his extensive experience in Matrimonial and Family law  in particular, Mr. Schlissel has a particular expertise representing fathers in child custody matters.

Feel free to browse his Father’s Rights website for more information about that, or contact the office directly.

N.Y. Validates License-less Religious Marriages But Not N.J., Unless…

Prof. Howard M. Friedman, at the Religion Clause blog, has posted another very interesting case relating to New York Domestic Relations Law.

He reported on the case of Matter of Farraj, decided by the Surrogate’s Court in Kings County last week. In that case, Rabaa M. Hanash, the decedent Daoud Farraj’s wife, petitioned the court for an accounting of her husband’s estate. An adult child of the decedent, Saed Farraj, claimed that Rabaa had no standing to compel the accounting because she was not legally married to the decedent.

He claimed that this was the case because the couple did not obtain a marriage licence and were married in a Muslim ceremony in New Jersey, though they actually lived in New York. And according to New Jersey law (N.J. Stat. § 37:1-10) a marriage is absolutely void if a the couple fails to obtain a marriage license before the ceremony. He argued, therefore, that Daoud and Rabaa’s marriage was void and that consequently, Rabaa was not a spouse with standing to petition to compel an accounting in her husband’s estate.

The Surrogate held that the validity of the marriage in question is governed by New York law, and not New Jersey law, because the parties maintained their domicile in New York. Under New York law, marriages performed in religious ceremonies are recognized as valid even if no marriage license is obtained. The marriage between Radaa and Daoud was therefore valid under the governing New York law, so the court held that Radaa had standing to petition for an accounting in her husband’s estate proceeding.

I would like to consider the a slight variation on these facts though, to show that even though New Jersey law invalidates marriage ceremonies performed without a license, a New Jersey court would still validate the marriage in this case.

Normally, a New Jersey court would only have jurisdiction over an estate proceeding in the above-mentioned facts, if the parties’ primary domicile was in NJ. And if they had jurisdiction, they would have invalidated the marriage because the marriage ceremony took place without a license. But let’s say the couple had a vacation home in New Jersey and therefore had to do an ancillary probate proceeding in New Jersey to dispose of the home. In such a case, their domicile would still be in New York, but a New Jersey probate court would still have jurisdiction in the ancillary probate proceeding for the NJ vacation home.

Under those facts, if someone challenged the wife’s standing, a New Jersey court ought to agree that the couple’s marriage was valid under New York law (where the couple were domiciled) and therefore that the wife has standing as a widow of the decedent. It should further consider the couple’s marriage to be valid under New Jersey law, pursuant to the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit clause (Article IV, Section 1), which obligates states to recognize the “public acts, records, and judicial rulings” of other states.

Because the couple was domiciled in New York, even a NJ court would hold that the marriage was valid under New York law, and by extension, under New Jersey law as well pursuant to the “full faith and credit” clause.

The New Jersey Supreme Court held in Heur v. Heur, 704 A 2d 913, 916 (1998), that “full faith and credit need not be accorded a judgment of another jurisdiction when the court issuing the judgment lacked the jurisdictional prerequisite of domicile.” Under our facts, the couple would have met the jurisdictional prerequisite of domicile in New York, and therefore a New Jersey court considering an ancillary probate proceeding would apply New York law to determine the validity of Radaa and Daoud’s marriage. (Is it relevant that despite the couple’s domicile in New York, no New York court every officially ruled on the validity of their marriage?)

Thus, I think that were a New Jersey court to have jurisdiction over an ancilary probate proceeding under the facts, as suggested above, it would also recognize the validity of the Muslim ceremony, even without the marriage license, to give the decedent’s wife standing to petition for an accounting.

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