One of the first and most common questions we hear as Long Island Divorce Attorneys is, “What Am I Entitled To?” While every case is unique, there are certain standards New York State law provides for divorcing couples. One important caveat however, is that that you and your spouse are free to make an agreement outside of these minimum standards. Below, we will outline the minimum standards courts on Long Island use to determine to what you’re entitled.
Contested Divorce Does Not Mean Financial Ruin
It is a common misconception that a Contested Divorce will lead you and your family to financial ruin. While Contested Divorces, by their nature, can be expensive if the parties involved are unwilling to compromise, this is certainly not true for everyone. Legal fees and expenses are, in reality, controlled by you and your spouse. For example, if the two of you can resolve your divorce without having to go to trial, that will save you both a significant expense.
New York State Law Protects You
Additionally, the law in New York State protects you and ensures that you and your children have the resources to move on to a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life. While no two couples are the same, there are basic guidelines offered by New York State law that can provide a bottom line when it comes to your settlement. These guidelines will typically apply to Child Support, Spousal Maintenance (or alimony) and Equitable Distribution (the division of marital property). Keep in mind, however, that you and your spouse are free to make your own agreement outside of these guidelines if you wish.
Child Support is the monthly financial obligation for which each parent is responsible. Pursuant to New York State Law, the non-custodial parent, or the parent the children do not live with, is responsible to provide financial support to the custodial parent (the parent the child or children do live with) each month. Child Support is determined by a statutory formula set forth in the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA). In addition to the basic Child Support obligation set forth in the CSSA, some non-custodial parents will also be responsible for a percentage of medical, educational and child-care expenses. Again, if you and your spouse can reach an agreement on Child Support without Court intervention and outside the Child Support Standards formula, you are free to do so.
Spousal maintenance, which may be paid during the pendency of your divorce and/or after the final resolution of your divorce, are payments made by the higher income earning spouse to the lower income earning spouse. If you are directed to make temporary spousal maintenance payments while your case is progressing, your obligation to make these payments will terminate upon a final resolution of your matter whether by Stipulation of Settlement or Trial Order. However, if you are also directed to make post-divorce spousal maintenance payments, that obligation will likely commence upon execution of the Stipulation of Settlement or the receipt of a Trial Order. There is, just like Child Support, a formula the Court will use to determine the amount of the obligation, as well as the duration of the obligation. Notwithstanding, the Court may deviate from the formula if it determines the award is too high or too low given the totality of circumstances of your case. However, you and your spouse are still free to reach an agreement without Court intervention if you so choose.
Equitable Distribution is a term used when discussing the division of marital property. Boiled down to its simplest form, Equitable Distribution ensures that each spouse receives his or her equitable share of the marital property. Martial property can range from bank accounts to retirement accounts to the marital residence to furniture and cars. There are certain exceptions to what is considered marital property, which is one reason it’s so important to have an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney by your side. It is also important to note that distribution is based on a principle of equity, not equality, meaning the split of marital property may not be 50/50. Rather, Long Island courts will consider many factors and examine the totality of circumstances surrounding your case to determine the most fair and evenhanded distribution of all marital property. In order to effectively argue your case, it is critical to be aware of the factors the Court will consider. This is yet another reason to have an experienced Divorce Attorney on your side.
While going through your divorce, it is important to understand what you are entitled to. In order to effectively plan for your post-divorce life, having realistic expectations about what you are entitled to is very important. Having an experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney by your side will ease your mind and help you devise a strategy to help meet your goals. He or she will be able to effectively argue your case to the judge, or, to effectively negotiate your case with your spouse or spouse’s attorney.
Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Attorney to Learn What You Are Entitled To In Your Case
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See this page for Your Guide to Preparing for a Contested Divorce.
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