The Long Island Divorce Guide for Dads
Becoming a father is one of the most rewarding, fulfilling adventures for a man. Building a family can transform life in ways you never knew and shape you into an entirely new person. But what happens when the fairytale dissolves and you find yourself splitting ways with the mother of your children? How can you protect yourself — and your kids — during such a difficult time? Here’s what you fathers need to know about divorcing on Long Island and how to get help advocating for you and your family.
Divorce Basics for Dads
Men involved in a divorce face many of the same issues that women do, however, family law views men and women — and mothers and fathers — differently when dissolving a marriage. Although most states, including New York, have made significant progress in leveling the playing field between men and women during a divorce, many gaps still exist. Understanding the divorce process is critical to the success of your case. Working with an experienced legal team can help you navigate issues like property division, spousal support, the cost of divorce, child custody, support and visitation, and more. If divorce is on the horizon for you and you’re wondering what to do now, keep reading.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
When you and your ex-wife disagree on one or more aspects of the divorce, it’s considered a contested divorce. The divorce itself can be contested — if, for example, your ex-wife refuses to sign the divorce papers — or, there may be various issues of contention within the divorce, like child custody and property division. When your divorce is contested, it becomes even more important to work with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure your rights are protected and you get what you’re entitled to in your divorce.
Your attorney will guide you through your contested divorce, helping to secure evidence in your favor and fight for what is rightfully yours. When the issues that are contested involve your children, emotions can run high and it becomes more difficult to think clearly. Your lawyer can help you fully understand the matters at hand so you can make informed decisions.
Can a Divorce Be Uncontested?
Not all divorces are nasty; you and your ex-wife may be candidates for an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce means that you and your ex-wife agree on all issues, including those involving your children. Usually, it’s unnecessary to go to court. Both you and your ex will reach an agreement regarding the matters of your divorce and when the agreement is signed, it becomes legally enforceable should you and your ex-wife come to a disagreement later on. There are a few different types of uncontested divorce, and a lawyer can help you determine which will best protect your rights in your divorce.
Resolving Your Divorce Outside of Court with Divorce Mediation
If you and your ex-wife don’t agree on every aspect of your divorce but are amicable, you may be good candidates for divorce mediation. Mediation works by allowing you and your ex to meet with a divorce mediator that will help you reach a compromise. There are many benefits to mediation, including reduced cost, less time, and less emotional impact on your children.
When you have children, divorce mediation can be an excellent option to talk through what decisions would be in the best interest of your children and get answers to important questions about property division, child custody, child support, and more with an experienced divorce mediator. Divorce mediation may not be the best fit for all families though; talk to your attorney about if choosing mediation could benefit you or if traditional divorce litigation remains your best option for success.
Are You a Candidate for Collaborative Divorce?
A collaborative divorce is similar to divorce mediation but with a key difference: during mediation, either you or your ex-wife can terminate mediation and pursue litigation. In a collaborative divorce, both parties and their attorneys sign an agreement that they will not pursue litigation until the settlement has been negotiated. This type of divorce can also be beneficial for families who are looking to avoid the stress of going to court if at all possible.
Both you and your ex-wife will have separate attorneys to represent your interests. You may also work with other professionals, such as mental health providers or forensic accountants, to achieve a divorce resolution that benefits both you and your children. Litigation isn’t necessarily off the table though; if you and your spouse both agree to go to court, you can end your collaborative divorce and let a judge make a ruling on your case. Your collaborative divorce attorneys will not, however, be allowed to represent you.
How Prenuptial Agreements Impact a Divorce
If you’re getting a divorce, it’s important to account for your pre or post-nuptial agreement. Your prenuptial agreement is designed to essentially keep the divorce process on rails and can dictate the division of property, alimony, and some other important aspects of dissolving a marriage. Prenuptial agreements aren’t always enforceable on Long Island. Issues that can cause pre and post-nuptial agreements to be considered invalid if one spouse’s signature was coerced or if a spouse failed to make full financial disclosure, among others.
While prenuptial agreements have gotten a bad reputation for being “unromantic,” the reality is that they’re very effective at ensuring that your interests are protected in the event of a divorce. A prenup or postnup should be on everyone’s wedding planning checklist, even if they have few or no assets. An experienced divorce or family law attorney can help answer your questions about prenuptial agreements, including why a prenup is essential, what can and can’t be included in a prenup, and what to do with your prenup now that you’re getting a divorce.
Are Dads Always Required to Pay Alimony and Spousal Support?
Alimony, also called spousal maintenance or spousal support, is a payment made from the higher-earning spouse to the lesser-earning spouse for a short time during and after the divorce. Maintenance is designed to provide the lesser earning spouse with an income while they look for gainful employment or obtain an education. In the past, men were often ordered to pay alimony and if they had children, child support as well. Now, women are increasingly likely to be paying spousal support to men after a Long Island divorce.
Many men have questions about paying alimony, including what variations of spousal maintenance exist, how it’s taxed, and if you’re still responsible for making payments if you lose your job. On the other side of the spectrum, men who may be likely to receive support should be aware of what they’re entitled to receive if their wife was the higher-earning spouse. It’s important to speak with an experienced divorce lawyer about spousal support whether you anticipate being on the paying or receiving end.
Dividing Property Between Parents
If you and your ex-wife share property, you will need to divide that property at the time of your divorce. New York is an equitable distribution state, which is different from equal distribution. Equal distribution splits assets down the middle between spouses, without regard to each partner’s current assets or who has custody of the children. Equitable distribution, however, distributes assets between spouses fairly, accounting for the income and debts of each spouse, their premarital assets, and their child custody and support obligations. Contrary to popular belief, debts are distributed the same as property unless they were acquired by one spouse or the other before the marriage.
Common questions dads have about property division in a Long Island divorce include which spouse gets the marital residence, how retirement accounts are handled in a divorce, and if marital gifts are still subject to equitable distribution laws. An experienced divorce attorney should guide you through the process of dividing your assets with your ex-wife, especially if you have children and will have custody some or all of the time.
Divorcing with Children
When you’re a parent, divorce becomes exponentially more complex. New issues arise like child support and visitation, and issues like property division get a new twist. Here’s what you should know about your rights as a father on Long Island and how to protect your future and the future of your children.
In the past, fathers had few rights when it came to the custody of their children. Primary custody was usually given to the mother by default, without considering if such an arrangement would be in the best interests of the child. The roles of fathers have changed on Long Island and in other areas across the nation, and fathers are exercising their right to be a part of their child’s life. However, not all divorce lawyers understand or fight for father’s rights; it’s important to work with an attorney who has a strong history of working with dads going through the divorce process.
In some cases, fathers may have to establish biological paternity to secure legal rights to their child. For example, New York courts will rarely award custody to fathers without a paternity test, unless the divorcing couple was clearly married at the time the child was conceived. Even then, the importance of a paternity test cannot be stressed enough; it provides you with the documentation needed to maintain rights to your child. Not all paternity tests are admissible in court — for example, a judge generally won’t accept a home paternity test as legal proof of parentage. Your lawyer can arrange for you and your alleged child to undergo a safe and legally accepted paternity test, usually at a hospital or lab.
How Dads Can Fight for Custody and Visitation
Most often, paternity and father’s rights come into play with child custody cases. There are many types of child custody arrangements on Long Island, and as long as you and your ex-wife are in agreement about your arrangement and a judge concurs that it’s in the best interest of your child, you can get fairly creative. The most important thing to understand about child custody is the criteria that courts use to determine what living arrangements would be the most beneficial for the child. Knowing this, you can work with a child custody lawyer to negotiate a custody and visitation agreement with your ex-wife that gives you the time you want with your child.
In many cases, child custody is contested. You and your ex-wife may be in complete disagreement about what truly is best for your child. Your ex may be adamant that the children should stay with her because she’s been a stay-at-home mother, but perhaps you have evidence that she’s struggling with substance abuse. Or, say you and your ex-wife have a special needs child, and you’re a pediatrician. You may argue that while your child isn’t in any danger with your ex, you’re able to better provide for your child’s unique needs.
Once your custody agreement is finalized, it can be enforced with the help of your lawyer. One of the biggest child custody mistakes that dads can make after the fact is to fail to report when their ex-wife doesn’t meet her court-ordered obligations. For example, she may travel with the child out of the country without notifying you, or she may make decisions about their education without discussing the matter with you. In these cases, it’s important to ensure that your custody agreement is enforced and both parties abide by it.
Do Dads Have to Pay Child Support?
Child support is another critical issue for dads going through a divorce. Along with child custody often being awarded to mothers, they also frequently received child support. Even in shared custody, dads were often made to pay child support, unless they had full custody. Since this was so rare, it became a stigma that child support was always paid by “deadbeat dads.” This is, of course, a misnomer and now, child support can be paid by either mothers or fathers to whichever parent keeps the children the most.
Fathers often ask questions about how much child support they’ll need to pay and if their child custody payment can be reduced or modified in cases of need, such as if a job loss were to occur. If you do not meet your child support obligations as ordered by the court, you could face severe consequences, including wage garnishment and jail time. It’s critical that you make sure your child support is paid on time, every time. If your child support order needs to be modified, work with your lawyer to amend the formal agreement and ensure that you’re never at risk for being noncompliant.
Are You a Long Island Dad Getting a Divorce? Why You Need an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If you’re a Long Island father faced with divorce, moving forward can be extremely difficult. Strong emotions like anger, guilt and sadness complicate already challenging matters like alimony and child custody, and it can be hard to know how to navigate various aspects of the divorce. An experienced divorce lawyer can be a divorcing dad’s greatest ally. Although New York has come a long way in protecting the rights of fathers dissolving their marriages, the law still tends to favor mothers. Your attorney can help you fight for your best interests and the interests of your children. Contact our Long Island divorce law firm today for more information or to schedule your free divorce consultation at 631-923-1910.
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