Preparing for a Consultation
What should I bring with me to a consultation?
During a consultation with our office, we will provide you with a lot of information. One of our goals is to educate our clients right away. It is necessary to have as full an understanding of your options as possible, regardless of whether you are consulting us for a divorce, family court, a pre-nuptial agreement, post-Judgment of Divorce or post-court order modification or enforcement, or any other matrimonial or family law related issue. All legal papers or letters from other attorneys that have been served or sent to you should be brought to the consultation, as well as any previously signed Judgment of Divorce or Family Court Order. If finances are an issue and you have a copy of the most recently filed income tax return, or other financial records, you may also bring in those records.
We also suggest that you prepare a list of questions that you may have ahead of time so that you can be sure to have those questions answered during the consultation.
General Questions & Litigation
What should I wear to Court?
While a suit is not required, we do ask that our clients dress neatly, in nice pants and a nice shirt, or dress. We would not suggest shorts and/or a t-shirt. While different judges may have differing opinions on dress code, we believe it is better to dress as neatly and professionally as possible at all times.
What should I expect if we have a Court appearance?
Before any Court appearance, your lawyer will prepare you for what to expect. Each Court appearance is different, so there isn’t a general rule about what will happen. You should expect that your case will be one of many before the same Judge (unless you are scheduled for trial, and even then, there are sometimes other matters scheduled as well), so you should expect that you may have to wait your turn.
All of the Courthouses have a security system; expect essentially “airport-like” security checks. Please be sure you leave anything like a penknife or something that may look like a weapon in your car before coming in to the Courthouse. If you forget, they will hold the item and not permit it into the building.
Where are the Supreme and Family Courts located?
Supreme Court – Depends on which Judge is assigned to your case: 10 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, New York, 12601 50 Market Street, Poughkeepsie New York, 12601.
Family Court: 50 Market Street, Poughkeepsie, New York, 12601.
Supreme Court: 285 Wall Street, Kingston, New York Family Court: Lucas Avenue, Kingston, New York.
Supreme Court and Family Court are both located at 285 Main Street, Goshen, New York.
Supreme Court and Family Court all both located at 20 County Center, just behind Gleneida Avenue, Carmel, New York.
A member of our staff generally calls the week prior to a court appearance to remind you of the date and time of your appearance, as well as the location. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact our office.
How do I obtain a divorce after a separation agreement has been signed?
Since 2010, in New York State, people can obtain a no fault divorce once they have a signed separation agreement, based upon irreconcilable differences for six months or more. If you enter into an agreement as a consequence of mediation, or after being represented by a lawyer, that agreement will provide the basis for a no fault divorce. Either party can have the necessary papers drawn up to submit to the Court to have a divorce granted. Only a Court has the power to grant a divorce in the State of New York.
At the present time, the Court requires the submission of quite a few documents before it will grant an uncontested divorce. Lazar & Schwartz can prepare these documents for submission to the Court. You may also prepare them yourself, if you wish. See nycourts.gov if you want to try to prepare them yourself. At any time after the agreement is signed, whichever party wishes to proceed should obtain an attorney for the purpose of preparing these documents. Because you have a signed separation agreement, the cost of obtaining such a divorce is generally quite low.
What should I do if I cannot make up my mind whether to end my marriage or not?
- Have a consultation with us to review your situation.
- Have a consultation with a divorce/family counselor to assist you. We can suggest particular people if we have met with you, or you can meet with one of the collaborative divorce coaches. Visit collabdivorce-ny.com
- There are several books that people sometimes find helpful.
Recommended Reading: Too Good to Leave Too Bad to Stay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Help You Decide Whether to Stay In or Get Out of Your Relationship by Mira Kirshenbaum Relationship Rescue; A Seven Step Strategy for Reconnecting with Your Partner by Phil C McGraw, PhD Until Death Do We Part (unless I kill you first); A Step By Step Guide To Resolving Relationship Conflicts by Dr. Jamie Turndorf
What can I do to protect my children while I’m divorcing?
1. Never put your children in the middle 2. Follow the Children’s Bill of Rights 3. Get professional parenting advice. 4. Meet jointly with a Child Specialist. Visit collabdivorce-ny.com 5. Read this: Preparing Children for Divorce by Marsha L. Shelov, Ph. D. and Maria Alba-Fish, Ph. D. For the past 10 years, we have been working with parents to help their children through divorce. Divorce is a psychologically disorganizing experience for families. Parents themselves often feel bereft, powerless and angry. The adults often need validation and support to reorganize their own lives to enable them to parent their children. During and following the divorce children need their parents to distinguish between the parenting relationship and the marital relationship. The marital relationship is ending, but the parenting relationship continues. The needs of children in a divorce are different in at least one important way from the needs of each parent. While parents may be antagonistic and yearn to have nothing to do with each other, it is better for the youngsters if both parents can collaborate in parenting their children. The following guidelines are based on our clinical work and the professional literature on the effects of divorce. We have developed them so parents can help their children during the divorcing process.
- Parents can help prepare their children for the separation. Children should be told about the separation after the decision is definite. Although families have different constraints regarding their initial steps and time tables, it is better for the children to be told between several days to a few weeks before a parent moves out. Parents should tell the children together.. This joint announcement communicates that even though the parents are separating, they are prepared to work together to take care of the children. Telling their children at the same time also mobilizes the sibling support network. Later, each parent can speak separately to each child and address individual needs and questions. There are, of course, exceptions to the guiding principle of parents together telling the children. For example, if this is a remarried family, it might be more appropriate for each parent to tell his/her own children first before sitting down in the larger blended group.
- Children should be given a clear, age appropriate and truthful explanation that is endorsed by both parents and that is sensible according to the children’s concrete experience. A sense of further unspoken secrets can serve to increase the already anxious home environment. Each couple has distinct reasons for divorce, but the following examples could be a helpful guide. If parents have been arguing frequently one explanation might be: “You have heard Mom and me fighting a lot. We have tried but have been unable to agree on issues or to stop fighting.” Another example for parents who have grown distant: “You may have noticed Dad and I don’t talk or laugh much together, we are no longer able to feel close to each other, and we can not make it better.” A difficult issue can arise if one parent has entered a new relationship before leaving the marriage. Parents may think children don’t know, but, often, children are aware of more than parents think, and secrecy increases anxiety. How to handle this issue is complex. A useful guiding principle is that the parents agree on what and when to tell their children.
- Parents need to attend to their children’s feelings about the, news. Parents can and should express their own sadness, disappointment, failure and anger simply and honestly. Nonetheless, it is important for parents not to break down into an uncontrolled expression of feeling. If parents state their feelings honestly, it can permit the children to express their feelings. The focus of the discussion should be the children’s feelings. Once feelings are voiced directly, children may be more likely to turn to their parents with questions, and for support and comfort.
- Reassure the youngsters that the parents are separating from each other and not from the children. Many children are fearful of abandonment and the earlier this reassurance begins the better.
- Children worry about how the divorce will affect them. They are concerned about the details of daily life. As soon as the living arrangements are settled, they should be shared with the youngsters. Who is living where and with whom? What changes will there be in childcare, school routines, schedules, etc.? Input from the children regarding their wishes should be considered when possible. They feel powerless about what is happening to their lives and incorporating their wishes about details can help. If the details have not been worked out, then children should be assured that they will be told as soon as things are clear.
- Assure youngsters specifically that they will be told of all future major decisions.
- It is natural for divorcing parents to argue. However, children feel they are to blame if they are the focus of the conflict. It is important to avoid arguments in front of the children, especially when they are about arrangements for the children. When fights do occur, parents can acknowledge that they do argue about the children, but it is not the children’s fault and it is not what caused the separation. They can restate that they (the parents) have trouble agreeing on how to handle homework, curfew, T.V. time, etc. However, it is best if such conflict can be handled without fighting and, especially, not in earshot of the children.
- As life goes on, divorcing parents tend to feel the other parent is not doing the right thing. Focus on what you need to do with and for your children and try not be distracted by your former spouse’s behavior. Further, it is very distressing to children to have one parent devalue, sneer and grumble about the other. Children hope that they will be able to maintain a relationship with each parent, and “bad mouthing” often makes them feel they will have to pick one or the other.
- We encourage parents to mobilize their own support networks and not to rely on their children for support. Their emotional well being is important to the long term adjustment of their children and themselves; finding their own sources of support is essential.
Recommended Reading: Kids are Worth It: Giving Your Child the Gift of Inner Discipline, Barbara Coloroso, Avon Books, New York, 1995. This is a book that thinks through the parenting of children in ways that foster mutual respect, give children a sense of power in their own lives, help them to make decisions, to take responsibility for their actions, and to learn from their own successes and mistakes. Rejecting the ‘quick fix” solutions of punishment and reward, Barbara Coloroso uses everyday family situations — from sibling rivalry to teenage rebellion — to demonstrate sound strategies for giving children the inner discipline and self-confidence that will help them grow into responsible, resourceful, and resilient adults.
What is the process for getting divorced? What happens if I hire you to go ahead?
STEP ONE: The first step is deciding what process you want to use. For more information about this, see (insert link).
STEP TWO: If you decide to proceed with a lawsuit, then the next step is the filing of an action. If you decide to use collaboration or you think an agreement can be negotiated, then you would not file the lawsuit until the agreement is completed. We would then reach out to the other side to try to start a negotiation or collaborative process.
STEP THREE: Regardless of which process you use, the next and longest step is the financial information gathering. It is necessary to collect the last three years tax returns, fill out a financial Statement of Net Worth prescribed by the county, and provide back up for all the assets and liabilities.
STEP FOUR: After all the information is gathered, the next step is trying to negotiate a Settlement Agreement. If we are unable to negotiate an agreement, then the court will hold a hearing necessary for the court to make the final determination on the marital issues.
STEP FIVE: The final step is the paperwork, which ends with the Judge signing of the Judgment of Divorce. If a pension is to be divided, a separate court order has to be prepared for that purpose.
What if I’ve already been served with divorce papers?
When you hire us to represent you in a divorce action, if your spouse has already commenced the action, we will prepare an answer and immediately contact the other attorney to see if we can agree on the next steps.If a divorce action has not yet been filed, we will discuss the benefits of difference possible approaches, and assist you in deciding whether we should commence a divorce action immediately or utilize one of the other options (collaboration, negotiation, wait).
Is it always necessary to go to Court for a divorce?
No, it is not always necessary to go to Court in person for a divorce.If you and your spouse can enter into an agreement about the terms of your divorce, no court appearances are necessary.Once a divorce action is filed, we do not have to go to court unless the circumstances require the involvement of a Judge to oversee the case.If we do not believe that a Judge is needed to oversee the case, we can conduct the divorce process out of court, taking the same steps as we would in court, which in summary are financial information gathering, negotiating a settlement agreement, and then submitting the divorce papers to the Court for signature.
What’s the difference between a Separation Agreement and a Divorce?
A Separation Agreement is a contract in which the two of you agree on all the terms of your separation and divorce. You and your spouse must sign the agreement in front of a notary, who must sign the document in a required form.
A Divorce Judgment actually divorces you and has to be signed by a Judge.
Some people remain separated after signing an agreement for a period of time for various reasons — to maintain health insurance, because they do not yet wish to be divorced, for tax filing reasons, for religious reasons.
The two main consequential differences are that you must be divorced to remarry, and you cannot maintain family health insurance once you divorce.
Once I have a Separation Agreement that is signed, what is the procedure for finishing the divorce, how long does it take and what does it cost?
What is the formula for Spousal Support (or alimony) in New York?
Orders of Protection: Family Court
If I think I am in danger or my children are in danger, what should I do?
If I bring a criminal charge against my spouse for domestic violence or other safety concerns, what happens next?
If I have an Order of Protection and the other person violates it, what should I do?
Custody Cases: Family Court
What is the test for deciding custody cases?
What is the difference between joint custody and sole custody?
Will my children have to go to Court if I bring a custody case?
Child Support Cases: Family Court
How long does it take to get support through the Family Court?
What is the process for getting child support?
What is the formula for child support?
Does it (“Mediation”) work?
What if one spouse has already seen a lawyer?
How can we prepare for mediation?
How long does it (“Mediation”) take?
How much does it (“Mediation”) cost?
Who pays for mediation?
Who are suitable candidates to participate in the mediation process?
Can we mediate if the dispute involves a privately owned business, rental property or complicated financial assets?
Is mediation appropriate if there are few assets to distribute?
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce, a new approach to divorce, offers couples an opportunity to separate and finalize a divorce with a minimum of bitterness and animosity. Instead of going in front of a judge, the two parties and their attorneys sit down together to work out the details of the dissolution of their marriage, with the help of mental health professionals and financial advisors. Each party has a lawyer and the couple has a financial advisor and a divorce coach to assist them. The team works collaboratively with the couple so that divorcing spouses can reach agreement about the following:
- Division of property
- Spousal support
- Child support
- Children’s living arrangement
- Marital status
Both parties are represented by an attorney throughout the process. No court appearances are required, and all necessary paperwork can be completed by the attorneys. The primary objective is to ensure that agreements are enduring and better for the children, and take both parties’ future concerns into consideration.
What is the Collaborative Divorce Team of the Hudson Valley?
Is Collaborative Divorce Right For Me?
It may be if:
- You want emotional, financial and legal help to guide you through your divorce.
- You have children and want to make sure their needs are addressed.
- You are concerned about containing the costs of divorce.
- You want to contain the conflict that often accompanies divorce.
- You wish a confidential process without adversarial attorneys and without going to trial.
The Collaborative Divorce team typically consists of:
- A Collaborative Law attorney for each individual
- A divorce coach, who is a mental health professional
- A child specialist (if there are children)
- A financial planner specially trained in pre-divorce financial planning
Collaborative Divorce Attorneys: Each spouse has his or her own attorney. These attorneys are pledged to help you throughout your divorce by working cooperatively with you and your Collaborative Divorce “team”. They are committed to protecting your rights, but serve as true “legal counselors” – educating, mediating, and facilitating your legal process. Your Collaborative Divorce attorney will meet with you individually as well as in four-way meetings with you and your partner and your partner’s Collaborative Divorce attorney.
Collaborative Divorce Coaches: These mental health professionals support you through the process and work with you to help reduce the stress and strain of divorce. They meet with you individually and together to develop communication skills that will help you during and after your divorce. They also assist with developing parenting strategies and plans to protect your children.
Generally one mental health professional, either a social worker or a psychologist, will serve as a neutral divorce coach for the couple. The coach is the case coordinator, insuring that the process runs smoothly. Occasionally each party has their own coach, when additional individual support is desired.
Child Specialist: Because children are affected in different ways by a divorce, the child specialist meets with each of your children to see the divorce through their eyes, and assesses for you how your child is doing. The specialist then meets with both of you and your coach to give you feedback, answer any questions you may have, and give you input to help you design a parenting plan that fits your unique needs. If necessary, the specialist can provide direct help for your children throughout the divorce process.
Financial Planners: These Financial Specialists help you gather and organize all your financial information needed for the divorce process. They also help you determine your immediate and long-term cash flow needs. As a neutral facilitator and educator, the planner will help you fully understand your financial resources, and help determine what your financial future will hold, depending on the settlement options possible. Depending on your preferences, the planner will meet with you jointly or separately. Your attorneys and coaches will help you decide which specialists are best suited to your individual needs.
All team members work together to make the divorce process as easy as possible. Each is a specialist in their own field and thus can maximize your resources and minimize the time and money spent. Each hour is spent working directly on your case. There are no “billable hours” wasted on extraneous paperwork or sitting in court.
What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce focuses on all involved parties reaching a mutually agreed upon settlement of their disputes. The process results in valuable benefits. It creates a cooperative environment where communication remains open, and provides a setting where you can work with your spouse to meet your children’s needs—regardless of their ages. That helps set a tone for open communication and reduced conflict in the future. It establishes a team, instead of starting a fight. Your lawyer advises and supports you; your spouse’s lawyer advises and supports your spouse. Your divorce coach, financial specialist, and child specialist work with you and your lawyers. By all working together you retain control of the process.
In matters requiring expert opinions, both parties can jointly hire one independent consultant. That helps shorten the duration of the case and reduce the overall expense.
You and your spouse shape the agreements together, which means you both are more likely to stick to the agreement. That diminishes the parental conflict the adversarial system generates and helps protect children from facing the anguish and divided loyalties that result, both during and after the divorce.
You can schedule meetings without waiting for court dates. That means you generally spend less time and, as a result, less money to reach closure. It also means you reduce the fear and anxiety associated with court proceedings.
Your issues stay within the Collaborative Divorce setting. That gives you more privacy and greater confidentiality—and less stress during an already stressful time.
How does Collaborative Divorce compare to Litigation?
I’m so angry right now, I don’t think I can talk with my spouse.
I feel I am clearly in the right and that in trial the judge will take my side. Why then should I opt for Collaborative Divorce?
What is the end result of a Collaborative Divorce case? How are interests, rights, and agreements secured?
How expensive is Collaborative Divorce?
How do I get started?
Share this information with your spouse. If both of you want to try Collaborative Divorce, here are the steps to follow as you begin the process:
Each of you selects an attorney from the list of Collaborative Divorce lawyers, or jointly meet with a Divorce Coach to learn about the process.
An informational meeting with either an attorney or a coach can help you decide whether the Collaborative Divorce Process is for you.
Both spouses and your attorneys attend the first collaborative meeting to sign the Participation Agreement that governs the process. If temporary measures are required to maintain stability during the negotiation process, these will be included in the participation agreement. Each of you meets individually and jointly with your respective attorneys and/or Divorce Coach to identify and discuss the issues in your particular situation.
Both spouses, your attorneys and the divorce coach attend subsequent collaborative negotiations until you reach agreement. Divorce coaches help each spouse prepare for effective participation in the negotiations.
Can a lawyer represent a client zealously if it is agreed in advance not to go to court?
Can a party quit during the process?
How does a lawyer’s assessment of the likely outcome of the client’s case were it to be litigated affect the way the lawyer approaches a Collaborative Divorce case?
Why must a lawyer resign if the other side decides to go to court?
How is a lawyer’s relationship with a client different in the Collaborative Divorce process, and how do lawyers prepare clients for it?
First, the lawyer never ceases to be the client’s advocate and the client is so assured. By entering into the participation agreement, the client has already decided and declared the intent to neither threaten nor pursue litigation (an entitlement, however, which the client never waives). Now the objective is to discern and attempt to satisfy the interests of all parties. To that end, all parties and counsel must cooperate. Counsel will encourage their clients to speak candidly about their own needs and desires, and to listen carefully to those expressed by others.Collaborative Divorce lawyers remind and reassure their clients that by treating the other side’s interests with respect, they are serving their client’s goals and interests. Collaborative Divorce lawyers are trained in collaborative communication skills and will assist the parties in this endeavor. Divorce Coaches provide training in communication skills for each client.
Can one lawyer practice Collaborative Divorce if the other side has not signed a participation agreement?
How do you deal with case management deadlines?
How do you deal with Statutes of Limitation?
How does the practice of Collaborative Divorce affect attorney fees?
What can Collaborative Divorce lawyers do if negotiations reach an impasse?
Is the Collaborative Divorce lawyer required to divulge even non-discoverable information during the Collaborative Divorce process?
If information is requested in good faith but is otherwise protected from disclosure by a privilege, must a Collaborative Divorce lawyer disclose it?
Is a collaborative lawyer required to disclose information that the other side has not requested, but which may be important to the case?
What happens if a party doesn’t fulfill its disclosure obligation under the participation agreement?
What if, sometime after entering into a settlement as a result of a Collaborative Divorce process, a Collaborative Divorce lawyer discovers that the other party failed to disclose information that should have been disclosed?
Will my lawyer tell me to give up on the Collaborative Divorce process, if appropriate?
What if the settlement is not achieved cooperatively?
Pre and Post Nuptual Agreements and Remarriage Planning
What is a Pre-Nuptial Agreement?
How can a Pre-Nuptial Agreement benefit me?