Searching On-Line For Top Divorce Attorneys in Dutchess County- Buyers Beware!

February 22, 2018 by Kathryn Lazar

By:  Kathryn S. Lazar, Esq. and Brett E. Jones, Esq.

We recently ran a number of on-line searches for divorce attorneys in Dutchess County, New York using a number of different word searches.   The results were frightening!  These searches lead uninformed people seeking divorce lawyers to some of the worst divorce attorneys in our community.


Why did we take the time to search?  Partially because we were examining our own marketing practices, but mostly because we see that these irresponsible attorneys are getting lots of clients.  We are concerned by the number of clients we have whose spouse ends up with one of these bad attorneys and because some of our clients start off with one of these bad attorneys and then realize after spending some time with these lawyers that something is definitely not right about the attorney they hired, and then they are referred to us.  The involvement of these bad attorneys in our cases are detrimental and at times completely destructive in so many ways to present and future of the parties and their family.


When we characterize these attorneys as “bad” or “the worst attorneys,” what does that mean?  It includes:

– attorneys who do not educate their clients on the various options to get divorced including all of the process options to stay out of court;

– attorneys who just take people’s money but do not do any work for their client, and then won’t give any of the money back to the client when requested;

– attorneys who do not pay attention to their client or the client’s case;

– attorneys who do not return telephone calls to their client or to the opposing attorney;

– attorneys who either do not show up at court appearances or who show up late;

– attorneys who are unwilling to settle the case in an efficient, cost-effective, and productive manner;

– attorneys who want to bill their clients for as much money as they can without doing any work;

– attorneys who give their clients completely false and unrealistic expectations,  which makes it very difficult to settle a case and causes substantial unnecessary expense; and

– attorneys who violate the rules of professional responsibility and the professional ethics code in how they treat their clients and opposing counsel.


Unfortunately, what many people do not realize is that attorneys pay a lot of money in order to show up on the first few pages of these on-line searches, to repeatedly run television and radio advertising spots, and to be “rated” by on-line legal service providers/marketers.  The fact that they can pay the money to advertise in any of these mediums means nothing about their competence – it just means they are willing to pay to advertise.   Showing up in an online search or on the radio should not be considered as any indicator of their reputation, experience,  or ability to effectively practice matrimonial and family law.   In fact, highly experienced attorneys with very good reputations, including our firm, get most of their clients from a referral network of professionals, including accountants, financial advisors, medical professionals, mental health professionals, other attorneys, business owners, and religious leaders,  as well as from former and current clients.  These referral sources know and have experience with how a particular attorney or firm manages their cases, works with their clients, helps their clients, and gets good results for their clients. Recommendations from experienced professionals and satisfied clients are the main sources people should use when searching for an experienced and competent divorce attorney.


We understand the circumstances that people must be going through when they are searching for a divorce attorney- they are either considering divorce or are thrust into a divorce situation by their spouse.  Emotions run wild during that time in a person’s life – and the tornado of feelings can interfere with making good choices.  But we want to strongly caution people against hiring any attorney they find in an on-line search that only exists because the attorney paid money for it.  We encourage people to find out more about an attorney and a person’s actual experience with that attorney before consulting with them and retaining them.


What Happens When I File a Divorce Action?

February 20, 2018 by Melissa Rutkoske

Court Procedure in Divorce Cases


We hear a lot about the emotional aspects of divorce; feelings are not just a salient feature, but for many are the dominant feature of the process. But what, exactly, is the process? It may feel like a mess while it’s happening, but in procedural terms it’s actually pretty orderly.


In New York, the case (called an “action”) is commenced by giving legal papers named the Summons and Complaint to the other party, to let them know an action is pending against them and they must respond. This is called service of process. If you initiate the case, you are the Plaintiff and serve the other party; if the other party initiates the case, you are the Defendant and they serve you. The papers are also filed with the court, and the date of filing is called the “Commencement Date.”


The Commencement Date is an important date. Certain things change on that date:

  • Items acquired after that are, not always but often, each party’s separate property rather than being part of the aggregate “marital estate.” This can be important because the marital estate is subject to equitable distribution between the parties, but separate property is not.
  • Money earned by each party after the Commencement Date is each party’s separate property.
  • The Commencement Date is the date of valuation for most marital assets.
  • Future court orders, such as those determining spousal support and child support, may be retroactive to this date.
  • From the Commencement Date, neither spouse may obligate the other monetarily.

No judge is assigned when the action is filed; that happens later.


Service of process does not mean you have to appear in court right away. Instead, at this stage both parties prepare statements of net worth and other information about the case. If a net worth statement is inconsistent with what the other party knows or thinks they know, the party whose net worth is being questioned may be asked to produce documents to demonstrate the accuracy of the statement.


Also at this stage there can be exchanges of information and maybe negotiations to resolve the case on terms satisfactory to both parties, rather than letting the case be decided by a judge. This type of negotiated resolution is called “settlement.” If settlement negotiations are undertaken and then break down, either party may file a Request for Judicial Intervention (“RJI”), at which time a judge will be assigned. You will have to appear in court within 45 days of filing of the RJI.


Once at court, the parties complete and sign a Preliminary Conference Order, which sets dates for exchange of all financial information. The court will want to know which issues have been resolved and which still remain, such as child support, custody, retirement assets, marital home, etc. If children are involved, the children will be assigned an attorney.


During the weeks of implementation of the Conference Order, settlement negotiations may continue if the parties wish. If the case is not consensually settled, the court will schedule a trial, during which settlement negotiations may still continue. In fact, among cases that reach the trial stage, most are settled during trial.


The above is general and true in most cases, but there are still instances where a party commences an action for divorce and files the RJI at the same time, along with a motion for temporary relief, such as child support, attorneys fees, or spousal support.  If this happens, the other party must respond and appear in court on the date specified in the motion papers.


When you file an action for divorce, you have 120 days to serve the other party.  There are sometimes reasons to file the action and not immediately serve the Summons and Complaint.  In this and other strategic aspects of your case, consultation with an experienced attorney such as those at Lazar & Schwartz can add real value in deciding how to proceed.