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New City NY Family Law Blog

Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage cases this year

Now that same-sex marriage has been legal in New York State for several years, many same-sex couples have experienced the same family law issues other couples have: prenuptial agreements, separation, divorce, property division and custody of children, just to name a few. In addition to these issues, sometimes a person and their same-sex partner will move to a different state and encounter different laws. This can complicate any legal issues that may arise in the event the couple decides to divorce.

While gay marriage is now legal in 36 states, the United States may be inching closer to nationwide legality of same-sex marriage. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will review several cases on the subject. The cases in question involve gay marriage bans in four states. The cases are set to be argued this spring, with decisions expected around the end of June. One of the possible outcomes is a decision that same-sex marriage is a national right.

What does a legal separation agreement do in New York?

When married couples in New York contemplate divorce, they will often consider a separation beforehand. Legal separation can help parties transition out of a marriage and can give spouses space to breathe as they each prepare to move forward in a new phase of life. However, as with all family legal issues, legal separation can have many benefits as well as complications. Fortunately, many of the latter can be cleared up with the help of a legal separation agreement.

Interestingly, in New York a legal separation agreement is not granted by the courts. Rather, it is drawn up between spouses and is sometimes utilized as a basis for a later divorce. The document functions as a sort of contract that allows spouses to outline things such as how bills will be paid and where children will live. Additional considerations include child support and visitation, the handling of marital property and many other divorce legal issues.

Preventing alimony disputes via prenuptial agreements

Prenuptial agreements serve many purposes in New York state, from asset protection to making clear the responsibilities and rights of both spouses during a marriage. Prenups are also extremely helpful for prevent divorce disputes if the marriage should end, particularly when it comes to the oft-disputed topic of alimony.

In New York State, a prenup can be used to address alimony expectations upon divorce. Spouses can come to their own agreement on alimony, without involving the courts. However, unless this agreement is made formally - which can be via a valid prenuptial agreement - there may be disagreement later on. Before agreeing to an alimony arrangement, though, spouses can ensure their rights are protected by speaking with a family lawyer. In some instances, a spouse may agree to not request alimony should a divorce occur, but without fully realizing his or her rights or the financial realities of life post-divorce.

Prioritizing parenting time after a divorce or breakup

In years past, the expected post-divorce arrangement for a family was often the mother enjoying physical custody with the father paying child support and having visitation rights. Nowadays, that same setup may still be right for some, but there are countless other arrangements that may benefit the whole family. In New York, there are as many different types of families as there are custody arrangements, but many parents seek joint custody as their preferred objective.

First, it's important to know the true definition of joint custody. There are actually two types of joint child custody; parents may share joint legal custody or both joint legal and physical custody. In the first situation, parents have equal participation and input regarding the major decisions of the child's life, such as where he or she will attend school, what religion the child will practice and so on. If parents have joint legal and physical custody, both parents also have relatively equal physical time with the child, including living arrangements.

Fiery allegations surface in recent high-asset divorces

There are several traits of high-net worth divorces that make them more complicated in the eyes of the law, as well as in the eyes of the public. First, of course, there are the very high financial stakes involved in any New York high-asset divorce. Significant wealth is often the source of conflict and divorce is no different from other matters in that regard. In high asset divorces, though, there may also be startling allegations that complicate the overall divorce process.

In New York City, several recent high-asset divorce cases have illustrated just how heated a split can become. In the case of a 42-year-old investment banker, his former spouse has publicly accused him of abusing drugs, cavorting with prostitutes and participating in wild parties with both co-workers and clients. Recently, the man quit his high-profile job with Jefferies, a global firm; he had previously taken a leave of absence and, reportedly, his firm had lost some clients due to the negative publicity.

Do same-sex couples need a prenuptial agreement?

As with many legal issues in family law, there tend to be misconceptions surrounding prenuptial agreements. One of the most prominent of misconceptions is that "prenups" are only needed by certain types of couples. In reality, agreeing to a prenup can be a sound, beneficial decision for almost every type of couple. In New York, where same-sex marriage has been legal for several years, a same-sex couple pondering marriage may also consider the pros of a prenuptial agreement.

One of the primary benefits of a prenuptial agreement is the protection of each party's rights in the event of divorce. Through the creation of a prenup each party can outline pre-marital property, as well as any property the couple has purchased together. Commonly contested subjects, such as the family home or car, can be addressed before the marriage even begins, thus giving each party peace of mind as they enter the marriage.

Who can adopt, and be adopted, in New York State?

Bringing children into a family is a joyous event, but in the case of adoption it may be a legally-complicated one as well. In New York State, various types of families may become adoptive parents, and various types of individuals may be adopted. A family law professional is often extremely valuable to assist in making sure any type of legal adoption runs smoothly.

Both minors as well as adults may be adopted in New York State. Unlike some other states, New York has relatively few limits on who is eligible to adopt a child or adult. Same-sex married couples, unmarried couples and domestic partners may adopt. If married couples of any orientation choose to adopt, though, both spouses must adopt the child. There are two exceptions to those rule, however: couples who have been separated via a decree from the court and those who have been separated for three years or longer.

Multiple hedge-fund moguls fight over divorce legal issues

New York State is no stranger to notable divorce cases, especially ones involving celebrities or the ultra-wealthy. Recently, several divorce cases across the country have been featured in local news due to their heated nature as well as the huge amounts of money at stake.

The case of Steve Cohen, a hedge fund billionaire who heads Point72 Asset Management, may be the most unique. Interestingly, Cohen has been divorced from his ex-wife for over two decades. However, his former spouse has continued to allege that the businessman cheated her out of several million in their divorce settlement. The allegations center on SAC Capital, which later became Point72 Asset Management. The company had been involved in an insider trading scandal and had to pay over $1.5 million in both civil and criminal fines. Cohen himself wasn't charged, though, and his former wife recently received approval from the court to have Cohen answer questions regarding illicit activity at SAC.

Prenuptial agreements can help high-asset couples

The concept of a marital contract is generally not a romantic one, but there are many practical considerations that couples encounter before entering a marriage. A prenuptial agreement is one such consideration that can be of immense benefit if there is the prospect of divorce later on. For any type of couple in New York State, drafting a prenup with the help of an attorney experienced in high asset divorce can be extremely helpful.

Two of the primary purposes of prenuptial agreements are to protect assets and protect rights. Even spouses who are just starting out in their careers can have assets to protect, such as cars or homes they've purchased with their partner or potential income from a lucrative professional field. Even seemingly minor issues, such as which spouse will keep the family pet upon a divorce, can erupt into major battles if not addressed early on. A family lawyer experienced in high asset divorce understands the importance of both partners' agreeing to the contents of the prenup, regardless of the exact clauses it may contain.

Does domestic violence impact New York child custody decisions?

There are many different factors a New York court will consider in a child custody case. These factors can include, but are not limited to, both parents' physical and mental health, each parents' work schedule and commitments, which parent has previously served as the child's main caretaker, the ability of each parent to encourage a relationship with the other parent and both parents' overall relationship with children. Additional factors include the child's age and relationship with any other siblings or family members.

While there are many more considerations a court might have, one other factor is the issue of domestic violence. While not an element in all child custody cases, domestic violence -- if it has occurred -- will be considered with regards to child custody. Courts decide child custody with regards to the best interests of the child, and a single incident of domestic violence can place an entire family in danger. Thus, courts will not overlook the issue of domestic violence, even if the act did not take place in the presence of the child.

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