Matrimonial Law
Matrimonial Law

Experience in Contested Marital Disputes

Divorce creates significant emotional and financial challenges. At times like these, finding the right attorney who understands the personal and legal challenges you face is critical. At Hazlewood Lawrence, we understand the complexities of marriage, separation, and divorce. Our attorneys work hard to advocate for the best possible results. We take pride in our experienced ability to successfully manage these complex circumstances.

Ways We Can Help

Divorce is the final, legal ending of a marriage by court order. If you have a divorce case in court, you may hear lawyers and court staff call it a matrimonial action. The person who starts the divorce is called the plaintiff, and the other spouse is called the defendant.

Unlike a divorce that ends a valid marriage, an annulment establishes that the marriage is not legally valid, and the grounds for annulment are different from a divorce. To get an annulment, you will need to prove ONE of the following:
• Bigamy: one of the parties was still married to someone else at the time of the second marriage.
• Either spouse was incurably unable to have sexual intercourse at the time of the marriage.
• After marriage, either spouse becomes incurably insane for five (5) years or more. The Court may require the sane spouse to support the Marriage between persons under 18, if the spouse under 18 wants the annulment. The annulment will not be granted if the person under 18 freely cohabited (had sexual relations) with the other spouse after turning 18.
• Spouse is unable to understand the nature, effect and consequences of marriage because of mental incapacity.
• Spouse agreed to marry as a result of force or duress by the other.
• Fraud (most common ground): the consent to marry was obtained by fraud that would have deceived an ordinarily prudent person and was material to obtaining the other party’s consent. The fraud must go to the essence of the marriage contract. Concealment of a material fact may constitute fraud. Sexual intercourse evidencing forgiveness is an absolute defense.

New York state law requires that the defendant in a divorce action be personally served with the Summons with Notice or Summons and Verified Complaint. To have your spouse served in any other way, you must get permission from the court. You can apply for such permission by filing an application for alternate service with the Supreme Court Clerk’s Office in the county where you filed your divorce case.

UNCONTESTED: Your divorce will be uncontested if both you and your spouse:
• Want to get a divorce
• Agree about what will happen with your children, your finances, your property after the divorce If your divorce is uncontested, and you and your spouse have reached agreement on all financial and parenting issues. If you have not reached agreement, and you think you and your spouse could come to an agreement with some help, you might want to consider divorce mediation or collaborative family law.
CONTESTED: Your divorce will be contested if either you or your spouse:
• Do not want to get a divorce
• Disagree about the grounds (legal reasons) for the divorce
• Disagree about what will happen with your children, your finances, your property after the divorce. Because the judge will require detailed information to decide the issues you disagree about, your contested divorce will require you and your spouse to go to the Supreme Court numerous times. If your divorce will be contested, you should seriously consider finding a lawyer to represent you.

If you and your spouse need help to work out parenting arrangements, you might want to consider divorce mediation or collaborative family law. These out-of-court processes often save time and money, reduce stress, and even improve relationships between parents and their children after divorce. These processes may not be appropriate in cases involving domestic violence or child abuse.

Custody is a parent’s legal right to control his or her child’s upbringing. It may also be referred to as parenting. A parent who does not have custody will still likely be entitled to visitation, also known as spending time with the child(ren). Both parents have a legal right to ask for custody and visitation in a divorce proceeding.

During the divorce both spouses have to tell the judge about their income and any debts they owe. When the court grants a divorce, property will be divided equitably (though not always equally) between the spouses.

When determining custody and visitation, a judge will consider what is in the best interests of the child(ren). Some factors a judge may consider include:
● Who has been the child’s primary caretaker
● The quality of each parent’s home environment
● How “fit” the judge thinks each parent is (stable home and lifestyle, good judgment, has a job, good mental and physical health)
● Which parent the child is living with now, and for how long
● Each parent’s ability to provide emotional and intellectual support for the child
● Which parent allows the other parent into the child’s life (does not try to cut out the other parent)
● If the child is old enough, which parent the child wants to live with
● Whether your child would be separated from any siblings
● Whether either parent has been abusive

A judge must consider whether there has been domestic violence.

New York law says that children are entitled to share in the income and standard of living of both parents. Child support is the money that the non-custodial parent pays to the custodial parent if the child is under 21. Child support is based on a strict formula. See the Child Support Standards Chart. Child support may be awarded by the Supreme Court as part of a divorce, or in Family Court as part of a child support proceeding.

First, the court determines each parent’s net income. Net income is gross income minus certain deductions, such as FICA, NYC income tax, Yonkers income tax, spousal support and child support paid for other child(ren). Second, the court adds the parents’ net income together and multiplies that number by a percentage, depending on how many children they have:

17% for one child
25% for two children
29% for three children
31% for four children
no less than 35% for five or more children
That amount is then divided based on the proportion of each parent’s net income to the combined parental net income. In addition to the basic child support obligation, a spouse may also be required to pay for child care expenses, educational expenses and medical expenses.

Custody has two parts: legal and physical. Legal custody: the right to make major decisions about your child. This includes where your child goes to school, what kind of religious training a child receives, whether your child gets surgery. Physical custody: who the child lives with on a day-to-day basis. A parent with primary physical custody is sometimes called the “custodial parent” or the child’s “primary caretaker”.

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