Modification of Visitation Order

On August 15, 2012, in Divorce, Family Law, by John A. Weber IV, ESQ.

Modification of Visitation Order

Has there been a sufficient change in circumstances?

Recently, we have received calls regarding the possibility of modifying a court order of visitation.   A lot of people are unclear about whether you can modify a custody order, similar to the way a custody order can be modified.  The truth of the matter is that a visitation order can be modified for the proper change in circumstances.  Uncovering whether or not the change in your own circumstances would be considered sufficient in the eyes of the court can be a difficult process.

Long Island Divorce Attorney

If you are have concerns about your visitation schedule and think that you may have a good reason to modify it, please call the Law Firm of Vaughn, Weber & Prakope, PLLC at 516-858-2620 to speak with a family law attorney today!


Child Custody and Sexual Orientation

On July 26, 2012, in Divorce, Family Law, by John A. Weber IV, ESQ.

Child Custody and Sexual Orientation

Although Same-Sex partnerships have finally gained approval by the New York State Legislature, unique family law and child custody issues still arise in this context.  The first sentence of Section 110 of the Domestic Relations Law provides that “An adult unmarried person, an adult married couple together, or any two unmarried adult intimate partners together may adopt another person.” Section 117 of the Domestic Relations Law severs all legal ties between adoptive children and their birth families, and gives them the same legal status, with regard to their adoptive families, as birth children.   This much is relatively straightforward. Homosexual couples can adopt children together. And when they do, they are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples.

But family law issues between same sex couples and children can easily become more complicated. One famous New York case is exemplary. In Matter of Alison D. v. Virginia M., 77 N.Y.2d 651, (1991), a same-sex couple decided to have a child. The child was conceived (through artificial insemination) before, but born after the couple’s Vermont marriage. The couple cared for the child as married parents for two and a half years, sharing childcare expenses, including the mortgage on the family’s house, until the relationship ended. When the couple separated, the birth mother kept physical custody of the child, and eventually ended contact with the non-birth parent. The non-birth parent petitioned the court for shared custody. Despite the fact that both parties shared the child’s expenses, and that the couple intended to treat the couple as their child, the court held that the non-birth mother did not have standing to petition for custody.

The court reached this conclusion because the Domestic Relations Law only gives parents, siblings, and grandparents standing to petition for the custody of a child. In New York, individuals do not become parents simply by marriage. In all but extraordinary circumstances, individuals must adopt their spouse’s children before they will have standing to petition the court for custody of those children. As recently as 2010, the Court of Appeals has reaffirmed its position that only the legislature can extend the the categories of people that can petition for custody. (See Debra H. v. Janice R., 14 N.Y.3d 576.)

Courts once viewed same-sex conduct as a reason to deny custody to parents. If a different-sex couple divorced, and one partner subsequently entered into a same-sex relationship, courts would tend to award custody to the other partner. (Although courts always considered a variety of factors, this factor weighed heavily toward denying custody.) However, since courts began to recognize same-sex marriages in other states, and especially now that same-sex marriage has been legalized in New York, the same-sex conduct of an individual only becomes relevant to a custody determination in situations in which different-sex conduct would be relevant – that is, where a parent’s sexual conduct threatens the well-being of a child, regardless of the sex of the partner.

Individuals in same-sex relationships – or different-sex relationships, for that matter – that want to secure custodial rights to a child should seriously consider adoption. Nevertheless, there are exceptional circumstances in which non-parents can petition for custodial rights to a child.

Long Island Divorce Attorneys

If you have any questions regarding the effect of sexual orientation on custody determinations, and would like to set up a free consultation with an attorney, call the Law Firm of Vaughn, Weber & Prakope, PLLC at 516-858-2620 today!

Child Custody Disputes: Primary Caretaker as a factor

On May 2, 2012, in Divorce, Family Law, by John A. Weber IV, ESQ.

Primary Caretaker as a Factor in Child Custody Disputes.

Often, when contemplating a child custody dispute, a parent may expect to be awarded custody of a child simply because that parent has spent more time raising or caring for the child. Depending on the circumstances, however, a court may or may not award custody to such a parent.

The New York Domestic Relations Law – which governs issues such as child custody, divorce, and other family law matters – contains the following language.

In all cases there shall be no prima facie right to the custody of the child in either parent, but the court shall determine solely what is for the best interest of the child, and what will best promote its welfare and happiness, and make award accordingly.

With this language, the New York Legislature has directed courts to award custody based on what the court believes to be in the best interests of the child. Courts consider all aspects of a child’s living arrangements and relations with parents when making custody decisions. The fact that one parent has acted as the primary caretaker of the child will certainly be taken into account. But a court will not award custody to either parent for this reason alone. This may seem unfair to some parents. But again, the court’s sole concern in custody determinations is the best interest of the child. Courts are not concerned with redressing grievances between parents, or compensating a parent for his or her investment in a child’s well-being.

If you are currently facing a child custody dispute, or are concerned that you may be facing one in the future, The Law Firm of VAUGHN & WEBER, PLLC is here to assist you.  We are conveniently located in the heart of Nassau County, Long Island, at 393 Jericho Turnpike, Suite #208, Mineola, NY 11501.  Call (516) 858-2620 to speak with a Family Law Attorney today!

*Contributions to the research and preparation of this blog were made by Jason Mays, J.D. (awaiting admission in NYS)

Separation Agreements

On December 6, 2011, in Divorce, Family Law, by John A. Weber IV, ESQ.

Separation Agreements

Separation Agreements need to be artfully drafted.  Each sentence should be carefully selected.  There are certain errors or omissions that can be fatal to the document’s survival.  It is highly recommended that these types of agreements are drafted by or at least reviewed by an attorney.  The risk of not doing so, regardless of the cost, is too great.  In the last couple of days, we have seen an increased number of clients who have attempted to draft their own agreements and have come to our firm to fix them.  This ends up costing more money in the long run.

We are aware that there are certain online programs that can assist you in drafting these agreements thru a data entry interface.  These programs are very general and not capable of adjusting to the unique intricacies of your particular situation.   Although these interfaces may be capable of pumping out a Separation Agreement in minutes, the quality is certainly declined.  The validity and effectiveness of the resulting agreement is going to be questionable at best.

I understand that the economy is currently struggling and funds are hard to come by.  We see it here just like every other type of business.   There are certain things that need to be done correctly however.   Taking shortcuts will only result in a longer and more expensive road later.  So if you feel that a Separation Agreement is important to you and you would like to feel comfortable that the terms will hold up in the event that they are ever challenged; then you should seek the assistance of an attorney to draft it for you.  As always, if you have any questions about Separation Agreements or Divorce in general please call (516) 858-2620 to speak with a Family Law Attorney!

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