Divorce & Family Law

If you are currently going through a family law matter such as a divorce or a child custody battle, you already know how difficult it can be to keep your emotions in check. You may be having a hard time making decisions or reaching resolutions with your spouse, partner, or family member.

Here to Help You

As a divorce and family law firm, Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, understands what you are going through and wants to reassure you that having such complex feelings during your legal matter is completely normal. After all, the decisions you make now will change your life, and the lives of your family members, for years to come. For this reason, Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP’s goal is to offer you compassion during this tough time as well as legal services that help you reach peaceful resolutions. Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, is equipped to handle matrimonial and family law matters such as:

Getting an experienced divorce/family law attorney involved in your legal matter does not mean that you want to start or continue a conflict, it simply means that you are ready to work towards a resolution so that you can move forward with your life. If you are ready to put conflict behind you in favor of a fresh start, contact Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, at 1-800-806-1136 for help.

BERGER, FISCHOFF, SHUMER, WEXLER & GOODMAN, LLP …EXPERIENCED LEGAL REPRESENTATION THAT YOU CAN AFFORD!!!

Learn About The Different Types of Family Law

CONTESTED DIVORCE

When a couple cannot settle their marital issues on their own, each party will usually retain separate counsel to represent their respective interests in a divorce. When negotiations outside of court break down, the matter is then considered to be a contested divorce. Taking your divorce action to court obviously raises the emotionally charged nature of the process. This process is often time consuming, emotional and requires the guidance of experienced divorce attorneys to lead a client through the many difficult issues to be addressed, such as custody, support, visitation, maintenance (formerly known as ‘alimony’), equitable distribution (property distribution), retirement account distribution, business distributions, educational issues, medical insurance, life insurance and counsel fees.

Our divorce team led by Steven E. Shumer and Heath S. Berger, have a standing philosophy that it is always in our client’s best interests to attempt to settle any divorce case outside of court. We pride ourselves in being accessible and available to our clients when needed. Your comfort level with the lawyer you choose is paramount to any potential for success. We strongly believe that our job is to help guide you through the contested divorce process and offer you advice and representation to help you obtain your goals, as quickly and with as low confrontation and cost as possible.

We do not believe it is an optimal situation to have a Justice of the Supreme Court determine your future (or that of your family) without having any personal knowledge of you, your situation or your family’s lifestyle and needs. However, when settlement is not an option, our years of experience prepare us for any situation or issue which needs to be litigated, and allows us to advocate for our clients as vigorously as necessary.

We take pride in the favorable judgments issued to our clients after trial in cases with no assets, to those with multi-million dollar assets. Similarly, we have handled and had favorable judgments issued after trial in matters of custody, child support, visitation/parenting time, maintenance and all other areas in the matrimonial law field.

UNCONTESTED DIVORCE

Most people view divorce as a mandatory fight where the courts must be actively involved. However, another option exists for parties who want a divorce but not a fight.

When a couple is able to discuss their situation in a civil manner and is able to reach settlement terms without the need for formal negotiations or court intervention, an uncontested divorce is often the best, quickest and least costly option. It is an appropriate option when both you and your spouse want to get divorced or your spouse fails to appear in Court for the divorce action.

In an uncontested divorce, one attorney serves as the drafter of the legal documents, including divorce papers and an agreement between the parties called a Stipulation of Settlement, required for submission to the court for the granting of a divorce judgment. In an uncontested divorce, the parties rarely need to go to court, as the divorce is based solely upon documents signed by the couple, reflecting the terms of their agreement to part ways.

Ultimately, an uncontested divorce is much more private and discreet. The process is usually civil, without great financial or emotional cost and often leaves the parties able to move on with their lives with a respect for one another rather than feelings of anger and hurt. Couples who go through an uncontested divorce find the process less confrontational, less scary and note that it is much better for their children than a bitterly contested divorce. The attorney’s role is to facilitate the divorce based upon the terms to which the parties agree and to process the papers as simply and painlessly as possible.

When you have marital property and children together, you and your spouse will have to reach an agreement on important financial and parenting issues including:

  • Custody and support of your children
  • Division of your finances
  • Division of your property after the divorce
  • Division of your marital home and assets
  • Spousal support

At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, our experience with uncontested divorce proceedings assures you that the process will be handled properly, the first time, and with the attention and compassion to which every client is entitled. We have over 75 years of combined experience and a dedicated family law and divorce team available to assist you.

It should be noted that in no case can one attorney represent both spouses.

SEPARATION AGREEMENT

A Separation Agreement (also known formally as a “legal separation”) can be obtained by a written agreement or by way of a judgment of the Supreme Court. Proceeding by a written agreement provides the parties the opportunity to take control of the terms of settlement rather than having decisions dictated to them through litigation.

A Separation Agreement allows the parties the opportunity to utilize the agreement as a type of “trial run” and live separate and apart, as though unmarried, prior to making the termination of the relationship a permanent one via divorce. In a Separation Agreement, issues are addressed and negotiated much the same way as they are in a divorce proceeding. Because the issues to be addressed, such as child custody, support, visitation and property distribution, are so important, it is always preferable to have the agreement drafted by a divorce attorney experienced in the area of divorce and matrimonial law.

There are many advantages to proceeding by way of separation prior to or in lieu of divorce. We would be happy to discuss with you these advantages, in detail, in a Free Consultation. A Separation Agreement is yet another mechanism which we at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, offer our clients to address their matrimonial issues.

POST DIVORCE MODIFICATIONS / ENFORCEMENTS

When unforeseeable significant changes occur after a divorce, separation or order of a court, it is possible to apply to seek changes to a previously entered into agreement, judgment or order. At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, our attorneys have years of experience handling modification proceedings in Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County and the surrounding areas. We have similar experience in opposing modification applications and seeking the specific enforcement of the terms agreed to between the parties or previously ordered by the court. Whether you are seeking to modify an agreement or court order or seeking to enforce one, our attorneys will be more than willing to share their expertise with you in a Free Consultation.

CUSTODY AND/OR VISITATION MODIFICATIONS

A variety of life changes may prompt a parent to seek a modification of a prior custody or visitation agreement or order.

Custody and visitation may be modified to afford the non-residential parent greater time with their child; it can be modified because a parent has endangered the well-being of a child; it can even be modified under a relocation application, when a party believes that moving the child’s permanent residence will serve the child’s best interests.

Obviously, opposition exists to each and every application, so that it is necessary, whether seeking the modification or opposing it, to have an attorney representing your interests with experience in this area of law.

CHILD SUPPORT MODIFICATIONS

In Nassau County, Queens County, Suffolk County and the surrounding areas, child support can be modified for varying reasons but the most common reasons are based upon involuntary job loss or demotion.

Similarly, a salary increase for the paying party of 15 percent or more from a new job or promotion can justify an upward modification of child support.

MAINTENANCE/SPOUSAL SUPPORT MODIFICATIONS

In most divorce settlement agreements, language is included which would terminate spousal support or maintenance based upon varying factors, including but not limited to a set length of time for maintenance, the spouse’s remarriage, the spouse’s cohabitation with another party, the spouse’s obtaining of employment or greater income, etc. However, just because the divorce agreement calls for the termination of maintenance or spousal support upon the occurrence of one of these “triggers”, a modification application still should be filed to formalize the termination of the spousal support or maintenance payment.

PRE-NUPTIAL & POST-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

The divorce attorneys at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP have more than 75 years of combined experience in drafting and creating matrimonial agreements ranging from stipulations in divorces, separation agreements, to pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.  The main purpose of a pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreement is not only the resolution of asset distribution in the case of a termination of the marital relationship, it also serves to minimize conflict at the time of the termination of a marriage by establishing common ground on all marital issues in advance.  We, at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, utilize and promote these agreements, as opportunities to protect or salvage the trust in the marital relationship.

PRE-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

Regretfully, in today’s society, assets and finances are often at the root of marital problems.

Execution of a pre-nuptial agreement, drafted by a qualified and experienced divorce attorney, often relieves the stress of the unknown;  how will a party’s life be affected if the marriage they are entering into should, for one reason or another, fail?  While people do not usually enter into marriage thinking that they will be divorced in the future, the execution of a properly drafted pre-nuptial agreement can often help a party’s concerns about the “what ifs?”.

A pre-nuptial agreement can address:

  • What happens to property and entitlements if the marriage does not take place?
  • What property remains a party’s separate property and what will become joint property?
  • What property will be divided in the case of a divorce or separation?
  • What will happen with property obtained during the marriage?
  • What will happen to property upon one party’s death?

The agreement can also be drafted to outline what assets, that may be legally one party’s separate property, will ultimately be agreed to be joint marital property in the future.

POST-NUPTIAL AGREEMENTS

A post-nuptial agreement is similar to a pre-nuptial agreement in its intent and content but, often, when a post-nuptial agreement is sought by one party, it is the result of some level of marital strife. The post-nuptial agreement serves as a mechanism to allow the parties to potentially trust one another as they move forward in attempts to salvage their marriage knowing that, while their marriage may be in some level of turmoil, their focus moving forward can be on mending the marriage.  The parties afford themselves the opportunity to truly focus on their relationship, possessing the knowledge that if the marital issues should result in a separation or a divorce, the issues of those legal proceedings have already been negotiated and resolved.

ORDER OF PROTECTION

In a case of alleged abuse or harassment, the aggrieved party may seek an order of protection in either the Family Court or, if a divorce is pending, in the Supreme Court. A party may file an application requesting an order of protection and, if the court believes it justified, can obtain a temporary order of protection on the day of filing. However, as in criminal cases, the court does not presume the allegations to be truthful until the claims are either admitted by the accused party or after a full hearing on the application. Until that time, no permanent order of protection will be issued.

A temporary or permanent order of protection can either be a “no harass/refrain from” or a “stay away”. In the case of a “no harass/refrain from”, the court is less concerned about violence and directs the accused party not to harass or interfere with the petitioning party. In the case of a “stay away”, the court has concerns that the accused party poses a threat to the safety and/or well-being of the petitioning party, and directs that the accused party stay away from the applying party. Because issues related to employment and even visitation may be affected by orders of protection, it is imperative that these issues be discussed with an attorney experienced in representing clients’ needs in these very case specific applications, in either divorce proceedings or in Family Court.

HIGH ASSET DIVORCE

Part of our experience and expertise is knowing that high asset divorce cases require greater expertise than attorneys alone can offer.

Divorces are rarely pleasant or easy. Is it time for an attorney? If so, there is so much for the couple to consider. You will be splitting assets, addressing family businesses, deciding who gets what, what happens to the kids, the dog, the cars and so much more. You need to make decisions concerning maintenance, the house, visitation rights, custody, support, etc. Often, divorcing couples find they agree on some things, but not on others, and neither feels they should budge.

A simple consultation with one of the experienced divorce attorneys at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, can answer important questions, and it is well worth the time. Compared with what you may lose, financially and otherwise (from making a mistake – through ignorance of the law, or through unintentional emotional reaction due to stress), the cost of good legal advice may be immeasurable and certainly can pay for itself many times over.

Consulting with an attorney skilled in high asset divorce cases may be crucial to your outcome. This is especially true of high net worth divorces/high asset divorces where a large amount of money, property, businesses, assets and other items are at stake. High net worth divorces/high asset divorces may potentially amplify the potential for mistakes with dire consequences. Divorcing parties often feel betrayed, angry, aggrieved and disappointed. Emotions run high and may prevent you from making good decisions that would otherwise result in the best long-term results.

At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, our lawyers, fully understand that not every divorce case can be handled the same. We recognize the nuances and specificity associated with high asset cases on Long Island, in Queens County and in the surrounding areas. Our divorce attorneys utilize their more than 75 years of combined experience handling high asset cases to best serve our clients. But, part of that experience is knowing that high asset divorce cases require greater expertise than attorneys alone can offer. The only way to properly represent a client in a high asset divorce case is to involve other professionals, when necessary, to address issues that go beyond the legal arena.

At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, we work alongside economists and other financial professionals to value assets and businesses as well as tax professionals to provide the details of the tax effects of any strategy or settlement. We realize that any divorce, whether the highest of asset cases or the most minimal, is about obtaining for a client the best possible resolution, either after trial or through settlement.

We place a priority on minimizing conflict and legal fees whenever possible. We understand that after a marriage is dissolved, there usually is a mandatory relationship that must continue between the parties when linked by children or assets. By minimizing conflict and confrontation during the divorce process, we hope that the relationship between the parties can remain civil in the future. In doing so, we feel that we best serve our client’s interests, not only today but for years to come.

SAME SEX / LGBT DIVORCE

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples can marry nationwide. This follows New York’s Marriage Equality Act which was signed into law by Governor Cuomo on June 24, 2011, allowing same-sex couples to marry, legally, in New York state for the first time. At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, we are proud to support these equality milestones and proud to serve the New York city and Long Island LGBT Community. We offer clients our expertise in divorce and family law. Our firm has extensive background establishing prenuptial agreements and domestic partnership agreements for same-sex couples and are proud that our agreements have been deemed proper and binding by the Courts in New York city, Long Island and the surrounding areas.

Domestic Partnership Agreements

A Domestic Partnership is a legal relationship permitted under the laws of the State and City of New York for couples that have a close and committed personal relationship but do not choose to marry. The Domestic Partnership Law recognizes the diversity of family configurations, including lesbian, gay, and other non-traditional couples. A domestic partnership agreement is a document that explains the contractual legal rights and responsibilities of each partner when a couple decides to form a long-term committed relationship.

Same Sex Divorce | LGBT Divorce

Members of the LGBT community now possess rights equal to heterosexual couples. Whether a couple is same-sex or heterosexual, very few couples enter into the vows of marriage expecting that they will, one day, be divorced. However, for some couples, divorce is an unforeseen outcome. If you meet the residency requirements of having legally married or validly entered into a same sex civil union or domestic partnership in New York (or another state) and you currently reside in New York State our dedicated family law and divorce attorneys are equipped to handle your case. We will help you navigate the life altering decisions you will face which may include: support, custody, visitation and the division of marital assets.

When contemplating or proceeding with a divorce from a non-traditional marriage, you and your spouse will have to work out the following matters:

Property and Asset Division
Property and assets acquired before the marriage are considered separate property and will not be included in the division. Property and assets acquired after the marriage are considered marital property and will be divided in accordance with New York’s equitable distribution laws. This does not necessarily mean the property will be divided 50/50.

Child Custody & Visitation
Parents will need to determine who will have custody of the children, whether sole custody or joint custody. Once custody is determined the parents will then need to determine visitation arrangements.

Child Support
Child support is determined via a calculation using a percentage of the parents’ combined income.

Spousal Support
It may be necessary for a spouse to get back on his or her feet after a divorce. Spousal support is only indicated when there is a significant disparity in incomes between the parties. Usually spousal support is awarded in cases where one spouse stayed home to care for the children and did not work for a number of years.

Prenuptial Agreements & Postnuptial Agreements

For people who are planning on getting married and who have acquired significant assets and/or debts in their life prior to marriage, a prenuptial agreement may be a good idea. A prenuptial agreement can help protect those assets that each party owned individually before the marriage while also providing certainty about the future should the marriage end. Similarly, a postnuptial agreement sets the terms regarding equitable distribution, support, custody, etc., in a case in which parties are considering divorce but want to try to salvage the marriage while knowing what their future would hold if the reconciliation should fail.  Our law firm provides prenuptial and postnuptial agreement services to help protect assets, avoid debts and solidify the marital relationship for both heterosexual and LGBT couples planning on marrying or looking to salvage their existing marriage.

MAINTENANCE (Spousal Support)

“Post-divorce maintenance”, “spousal support”, “alimony” or simply “Maintenance” is money an ex-spouse may be required to pay the other spouse after a divorce.  The issue has always been hotly contested by parties to divorce but has recently been streamlined by the creation of guidelines that set the presumptive amounts due from a supporting spouse to a financially dependent spouse.

Who Decides A Maintenance Award?

A maintenance award can be set by the court after a hearing or can be agreed upon between the parties.  After the agreement is reached, the court will then confirm the agreement as an enforceable order of the court.

Changes to the law regarding Maintenance in 2015

In 2015, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law, temporary and permanent spousal maintenance guidelines [Laws of 2015, Ch. 269; S. 5678/A. 7645] to set the parties’ financial obligations/entitlements.  The laws affect the temporary maintenance guidelines and extend these guidelines to post-divorce maintenance awards as well.

Among the changes that were instituted is a formula for determining the guideline amount for temporary maintenance which is paid while the divorce is pending in court.  The income cap (the presumed maximum amount of income used for maintenance calculations…has been lowered from $543,000 to $184,000. Now, if the payor’s annual income exceeds $184,000, the court considers…on a case by case basis, the income in excess of the $184,000. Effective January 31, 2016, the cap will be adjusted every two years by the Cost-Of-Living Adjustment (COLA).

The new law now establishes a formula to determine the amount of post-divorce maintenance; money paid by one spouse to the other as support after a divorce is granted.  The duration of the post-divorce maintenance is determined in consultation with an advisory schedule that sets the length of the maintenance payments based upon the length of the marriage.  It is up to the court whether or not it chooses to use the suggested lengths below.

  • For marriages lasting between 0 -15 years, percent of the length of the marriage for which the maintenance will be payable is 15-30%;
  • For marriages lasting between 15-20 years, percent of the length of the marriage for which the maintenance will be payable is 30-40%; and,
  • For marriages lasting more than 20 years, percent of the length of the marriage for which the maintenance will be payable is 35-50%.

Permanent Maintenance vs. Temporary Maintenance

Maintenance may be awarded on a permanent or temporary basis.  Permanent maintenance occurs if the couple is married for a significant period of time and if one spouse is substantially financially better off than the other.  Temporary Maintenance is money a spouse may be required to pay the other spouse while a divorce is pending in the court.  When the new law was passed in 2015, guidelines for both types of maintenance were altered. Online resources, including worksheets and calculators, provided by http://www.nycourts.gov/ can offer some assistance and guidelines.

Factors for the Court to Consider for Temporary Maintenance:

  • The age and health of the parties;
  • The present or future earning capacity of the parties, including a history of limited participation in the workforce;
  • The need of one party to incur education or training expenses;
  • The termination of a child support award during the pendency of the temporary maintenance award when the calculation of temporary maintenance was based upon child support being awarded and which resulted in a maintenance award lower than it would have been had child support not been awarded;
  • The wasteful dissipation of marital property, including transfers or encumbrances made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration;
  • The existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household or a pre-divorce separate household;
  • Acts by one party against another that have inhibited or continue to inhibit a party’s earning capacity or ability to obtain meaningful employment. Such acts include but are not limited to acts of domestic violence as provided in section four hundred fifty-nine-a of the social services law;
  • The availability and cost of medical insurance for the parties;
  • The care of children or stepchildren, disabled adult children or stepchildren, elderly parents or in-laws provided during the marriage that inhibits a party’s earning capacity;
  • The tax consequences to each party;
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  • The reduced or lost earning capacity of the payee as a result of having forgone or delayed education, training, employment or career opportunities during the marriage; and
  • Any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper

For additional information click Factors for the Court to Consider for Temporary Maintenance

Post-Divorce Maintenance

After the divorce is final the court can award “post-divorce maintenance”.  Similar to the temporary maintenance guidelines, the income cap off of which maintenance is calculated for post-divorce payments is also $184,000. Additionally, the court considers which formula to use based on which spouse will be the payor of the maintenance and which spouse will have custody of the children of the marriage, if custody is relevant to the particular case.

15 Factors for post-divorce maintenance or where the Payor’s income exceeds $175,000:

  • The age and health of the parties;
  • The present or future earning capacity of the parties, including a history of limited participation in the workforce;
  • The need of one party to incur education or training expenses;
  • The termination of a child support award before the termination of the maintenance award when the calculation of maintenance was based upon child support being awarded which resulted in a maintenance award lower than it would have been had child support not been awarded;
  • The wasteful dissipation of marital property, including transfers or encumbrances made in contemplation of a matrimonial action without fair consideration;
  • The existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household or a pre-divorce separate household;
  • Acts by one party against another that have inhibited or continue to inhibit a party’s earning capacity or ability to obtain meaningful employment. Such acts include but are not limited to acts of domestic violence as provided in section four hundred fifty-nine-a of the social services law;
  • The availability and cost of medical insurance for the parties;
  • The care of children or stepchildren, disabled adult children or stepchildren, elderly parents or in-laws provided during the marriage that inhibits a party’s earning capacity;
  • The tax consequences to each party;
  • The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  • The reduced or lost earning capacity of the payee as a result of having forgone or delayed education, training, employment or career opportunities during the marriage;
  • The equitable distribution of marital property and the income or imputed income on the assets so distributed;
  • The contributions and services of the payee as a spouse, parent, wage earner and homemaker and to the career or career potential of the other party; and
  • Any other factor which the court shall expressly find to be just and proper

CHILD CUSTODY

Custody is often the most sensitive of Divorce and Family Law subjects.  Two parents, often at odds over who would better serve the interests of their most prized possession; their children.

Barring a peaceful and compromised settlement, emotions often take over leaving the court to determine what is in the best interests of the children. In making this decision the court will consider various factors including:

  • The children’s ages
  • The children’s health
  • The parents’ respective health
  • The parents’ availability to the children
  • The standard of living of the family
  • The opinions of the children (if the court considers them old enough and mature enough to give their opinion)

The court can award, or the parties can agree to different types of custodial arrangements such as:

  • Joint custody, primary residence with one parent  (when the children primarily reside with one parent, subject to the visitation rights of the other parent but both parties are involved in decision making)
  • Shared physical custody  (when the children reside with each parent approximately half of the time)
  • Sole legal custody  (when the children not only reside primarily with one parent but that same parent also is empowered to make the sole decisions on major issues such as medical, religion and education)
  • Joint legal custody  (where the parties are expected to work together to make major decisions affecting the children as if they were still married with neither party having a greater say on any given issue)

In any case, child custody is an extremely sensitive, complex, important and, potentially life changing issue. Steven E. Shumer, Heath S. Berger and the legal team at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, have the ability to assist you and represent your interests with knowledge and confidence, while being sensitive and attentive to your needs and those of your children.

VISITATION / PARENTING TIME

Visitation/parenting time rights can be some of the toughest and most bitter decisions made during a divorce. Care of minor children is always of primary importance to parents and an experienced divorce attorney will help you prepare a visitation/parenting time agreement that meets the needs and best interests of the children as well as the parents. Visitation, is also commonly known to many parents as “parenting time.” The change in terminology reflects the importance placed upon the parent-child relationship for both parents, not just the parent with whom the children reside. Visitation, simply put, addresses the time children spend with the non-residential parent. Parenting time, however, promotes the parent-child relationship and validates the non-residential party as an equally important parent, not just a visitor. It promotes a stronger bond between the children and the non-residential parent.

Visitation Versus Parenting Time Rights

Visitation and Parenting Time are two separate matters. What needs to be clear is that the non-residential parent has rights. Just because you are not the residential parent does not mean that you have relinquished your rights to spend time with your children. At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP our experienced divorce team will help you preserve your rights to see and spend time with your children whether in a joint custody arrangement or in a case of one party having primary residential custody.

The safety of the children is of paramount importance and is always taken into consideration in matters of visitation and custody. Unless there is a good reason one can show the court, such as the risk to the children’s safety, both parents will be granted rights to see their children. Today, more than ever before, the courts promote each parent enjoying as much time with their children as is feasible so as to validate each parent’s role in the lives of the children. At Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP our attorneys are here to answer any questions you have and explain the difference between visitation and parenting time and unique schedules we have helped implement in the past.

Our Divorce Attorneys, located in offices throughout Long Island and Kings County, maintain safety of the children as the paramount concern. We will aggressively fight for your right to spend time with your children. If you are a parent in search of answers concerning visitation and parenting time, you can call us for a Free Consultation. Our legal team will be happy to explain your rights.

Visitation/Parenting Time Agreements

It is always preferable and usually more beneficial to the children when parents agree on a visitation/parenting access schedule. When parents work together they create a schedule that will not only take into account their respective preferences but, more importantly, the needs of the children. If parents cannot agree to visitation terms the court can decide for them after a hearing. Visitation can be arranged through Petitions which can be filed as a separate case or can be decided during the custody hearing. Through written applications, submitted as part of a divorce or in Family Court proceedings, a parent can apply for a specific parenting time schedule, or to enforce his/her rights to parenting time. When parents are unable to work together and come to an agreement the court will ultimately impose a schedule that it believes is in the best interests of the children, taking into consideration parent work schedules, children’s school and extracurricular activity schedules, and similar factors. Having the court decide how you spend time with your children is usually the less desirable outcome. As parents you ultimately want to make these choices for your child and our attorneys at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP will help you work towards an amicable agreement for visitation/parenting time with your children that is fair and equitable to everyone involved.

Changing Your Visitation Order

Based upon a variety of family and life changes, after a judge issues a visitation order, one or both parents may want to alter the order. As children grow their needs, activities, and interests change. In many cases parents move forward with their lives in new directions taking on new partners, advancements in education or new employment opportunities. This may mean changes in homes, school districts and ultimately a need to change the parenting plan set forth by the visitation order. In these cases, a parent can file a Custody/Visitation Modification Petition to be used to change the Custody/Visitation order. Having an attorney at your access with knowledge and experience to guide you in deciding if a modification would likely be successful is imperative.

CHILD SUPPORT

Child support is a mandatory payment from the non-residential parent to the parent with whom the children reside in cases of divorce, separation or out of wedlock children.

Child support is intended to be a contribution to the children’s expenses such as food, clothing and shelter. The proper amount of child support is determined by applying a mathematical calculation based upon the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”). Under the CSSA, the non-custodial parent pays a percentage of the parties’ combined gross adjusted income based upon the number of children, running from 17% to 35%. Dependent upon the amount of the parties’ combined incomes, these percentages will be strictly applied with the child support being payable until each child is emancipated (usually at the age of 21 years). There are contributions that also may be directed to be made by the court for things such as education, medical insurance, day/child care and unreimbursed medical related expenses which would be in addition to the child support payments.

Due to the often confusing nature of the CSSA and the additional required contributions, our attorneys at Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, are here to offer you guidance and advice.

PATERNITY (Filiation)

Paternity is a proceeding to establish the biological father of a children. Because of the vitally important nature of this type of proceeding, the attorneys of Berger, Fischoff, Shumer, Wexler & Goodman, LLP, stand ready to utilize their experience in this area of law, and to serve your legal needs in matters on Long Island, in Queens County and the surrounding areas.

If a party is determined by the court to be the father of the children at issue, it is merely the first of numerous legal issues that result from this finding. We stand ready to assist you with addressing the issues to follow such as the father being obligated to take on certain financial responsibilities to the children (such as child support), and determining the father’s entitlement to visitation/parenting time with the children. Paternity can be acknowledged by the parties or can be determined by scientific testing.