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The Law Offices of
Francine Pickett Cohen, LLC
1110 South Avenue
Suite 302
Staten Island, NY 10314

(347) 273-1283
Helping You Through One Of The Most Difficult Times Of Your Life

Our Services

Divorce

Annulments

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Separation

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A divorce is legally the end of a marriage contract.  The law takes the end of a marriage contract very seriously, and the process tends to be a bit more complicated than one might expect.
Annulments are the legal equivalent of an eraser - it creates a legal fiction that says your marriage never happened.
Sometimes there may be issues that convince parties to separate rather than divorce.  In this instance, New York allows a party to seek a legal separation.

Agreements

Equitable
Distribution

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Post Divorce
Proceedings

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A Settlement Agreement is the written contract that contains all of the terms of your agreement with a spouse (or soon to be former spouse) once an action for divorce or annulment has been started. 


In New York the act of dividing marital property and marital debt is called Equitable Distribution.  Marital property and marital debt is, in its simplest form and with some exceptions, the assets and liabilities you and your spouse acquired while you were married to each other. 
Children get older, circumstances change, and sometimes, people do not comply with their obligations.  In these cases, it may be necessary to return to court to modify or enforce a previously existing Judgment of Divorce, Court Order, Separation Agreement and/or a Settlement Agreement.

Spousal
Maintenance

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Domestic Violence

Pre-Nuptial
Agreements

Where one spouse is unable to support him or herself without financial assistance from the other, maintenance (formerly known as alimony) may be needed. 
Incidences of domestic violence are either on the rise throughout the country, or possibly, are simply being reported more frequently. New York is no exception.  
If you are planning to marry and would like to protect your assets in case of a divorce, separation, or death, then a pre-nuptial agreement may be right for you.
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Child Support

Child Custody

Abuse and Neglect

Child support in New York is paid by the "non-custodial parent" to the "custodial parent."  In other words, the parent with whom the children reside most of the time is entitled to financial support on behalf of the children.
A parenting plan is an agreement which may ultimately be ordered by a court and which details the parents' agreement on how they will raise their children in two different households.
Child abuse and neglect cases in New York are heard in Family Court.  If you have been wrongfully accused of child abuse or neglect, or if you intend to work towards being reunited with your children, you should be represented by a qualified attorney experienced in this area of law.  

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Divorce

Grounds for Divorce

Whether contested or uncontested, New York State requires that to end a marriage, one of the parties must provide a reason, or a "ground" for divorce. There are seven possible grounds for divorce in New York.  The most recent is the No Fault divorce ground, which is the most common of all seven grounds.  The No Fault divorce law became effective on October 12, 2010, and is codified as Domestic Relations Law 170(7). It permits a court to grant a divorce where one of the parties states, under oath, that the marriage has "broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months." 

The other six grounds for divorce are still available, though they are used far less frequently now that No Fault is available.  Among those additional grounds are cruel and inhuman treatment, abandonment, constructive (or sexual) abandonment, adultery, and living separate and apart pursuant to a separation agreement or judgment of separation for a period of one or more years.

No matter which ground is claimed, the divorce itself is only one part of the process, since issues of dividing property, support, and parenting all have to be addressed.  

Uncontested Divorce

Contested Divorce

An uncontested divorce means either that someone has filed for divorce, and the other spouse does not answer the complaint for a divorce (a default), or that the parties have agreed on how to resolve all the issues between them, have or will put that agreement in writing, and will be submitting that writing to the court along with a joint request for a divorce.   For the latter method, typically a Settlement Agreement will be negotiated, prepared and signed by the parties. That written agreement will control how marital assets and debts are divided, as well as issues of support and parenting time. The divorce is then granted based upon the documents submitted to the court and the agreement is incorporated into the Judgment of Divorce  This method typically will not require any party to appear in court, and it is usually the most cost effective and fastest way to divorce in New York.
A contested divorce is one where the parties do not agree on one or more of the issues involved in their case.  Divorces can be fully contested, where all the issues are in dispute, or partially contested, where the parties agree on some issues but not others.  For instance, parties may agree on how to settle the financial issues between them, but custody and parenting issues remain contested.  Where there are one or more unresolved issues, the divorce is contested.  

Even when a divorce begins as "contested," with the assistance of skilled attorneys and two parties willing to engage is realistic negotiations, consensus can usually be reached.  Even the most contentious divorces are frequently resolved by an agreement. If an agreement is not reached, a contested divorce will end with a trial or hearing.  In those cases, a judge, judicial hearing officer,  or  a referee will hear testimony from the parties and experts on their behalf in order to make a decision on the issues in dispute. 

Same Sex Marriage

New York has joined several of its sister states in recognizing that same sex couples may marry and enjoy the same rights and privileges as heterosexual couples. So what does that mean for same sex couples who decide to end their marriage?  In that realm not much has changed. Even before sanctifying same-sex marriages, New York State allowed its residents who married elsewhere to divorce in this state if their marriage was legally recognized in the jurisdiction in which they were wed.  That meant that if a New York couple married in Vermont, and later decided to divorce, they could file for divorce under New York law.  That is still true.  If you are legally married, no matter where you were married and no matter what your gender, and New York has jurisdiction to hear your case (which typically means you have lived here for the required length of time), then you can file for divorce in New York and be protected under its laws.  The laws are the same for everyone.  Every legally married couple is entitled to the same rights, privileges, and protections as long as they are entitled to divorce within this state.
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Anullments

Annulments are the legal equivalent of an eraser - it creates a legal fiction that says your marriage never happened.  Grounds for an annulment are limited, and generally one has to be able to prove that he or she was induced into a marriage unfairly, such as by the use of fraud.  Parties to an annulment may still be entitled to a financial settlement, so if there are assets to be divided, seeking an annulment does not mean that you have to give up your financial rights.  
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Legal Separation

A Separation Agreement is the written contract that contains all of the terms of your agreement to live apart from your spouse.  These are prepared when the parties have agreed to live separate and apart from one another, but neither is planning to go forward with a divorce in the immediate future.  However, either party may file for divorce at any time, but neither party is required to do so.  

Whether your agreement is called a Separation Agreement or a Settlement Agreement, the document will usually address issues that may include all or some of the following:  the division of property including real estate, stocks, bank accounts and other assets; pensions; child support; spousal support; custody and parenting agreements; payment of private school and/or college expenses for children; estate and inheritance rights; liability and responsibility for marital debts; and health and life insurance provisions for spouses and children.  These agreements can be quite detailed and they are difficult to modify once agreed upon.  You need a qualified attorney to represent you in these matters.
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Agreements

A Settlement Agreement is the written contract that contains all of the terms of your agreement with a spouse (or soon to be former spouse) once an action for divorce or annulment has been started.  In the end, the agreement usually becomes incorporated into your Judgment of Divorce, while still continuing as a separate contract.

A Separation Agreement is the written contract that contains all of the terms of your agreement to live apart from your spouse.  These are prepared when the parties have agreed to live separate and apart from one another, but neither is planning to go forward with a divorce in the immediate future. 

Whether your agreement is called a Separation Agreement or a Settlement Agreement, the document will usually address issues that may include all or some of the following:  the division of property including real estate, stocks, bank accounts and other assets; pensions; child support; spousal support; custody and parenting agreements; payment of private school and/or college expenses for children; estate and inheritance rights; liability and responsibility for marital debts; and health and life insurance provisions for spouses and children.  These agreements can be quite detailed and they are difficult to modify once agreed upon.  You need a qualified attorney to represent you in these matters.
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Equitable Distribution

In New York State, the act of dividing marital property and marital debt is called Equitable Distribution.  Marital property and marital debt is, in its simplest form and with some exceptions, the assets and liabilities you and your spouse acquired together while you were married to each other. 

Equitable is not necessarily the same as equal.  In most cases, the parties will negotiate and eventually agree on how to divide their assets and liabilities, and will enter into a Separation or Settlement Agreement with the help of their attorneys.  If an Agreement cannot be reached, a trial will be held, and the court will decide what it believes is most equitable for the parties.

Some people are surprised by what can be considered marital assets. Homes and other real estate, cash, bank, and brokerage accounts are marital assets if earned during the marriage.  So are pensions and retirement plans earned during the marriage, valuable collections, stock options, and in some cases, the appreciation of separate property. Even pets are considered marital property! 

Some of these assets may require the services of an expert to place a value on the asset so that it can be properly divided.   Where necessary, your attorney, in consultation with you, will engage the services of experts to assist you in the division and valuation of more complex assets.
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Post Divorce Proceeding

Children get older, circumstances change, and sometimes, people do not comply with their obligations.  In these cases, it may be necessary to return to court to modify or enforce a previously existing Judgment of Divorce, Court Order, Separation Agreement and/or a Settlement Agreement. Modification is not always easy, since the law prefers to view these Judgments and Agreements as final when signed or entered by the court. Enforcement can also be difficult.

You need a skilled attorney on your side whenever you need to return to court to modify or enforce your rights. Contact us to schedule an appointment if you are considering a modification or enforcement proceeding.
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Spousal Maintenance

Where one spouse is unable to adequately support him or herself without financial assistance from the other, maintenance (formerly known as alimony) may be needed.  In New York, the court views this issue in two steps.    First, the court addresses interim maintenance, which is paid while the case is pending in court and ends at or before the final divorce judgment is issued. The second step is the  final award of maintenance, which sets the amount and duration of maintenance after the divorce is final.  In both instances the New York State legislature has provided the court with a formula and guidelines to use to determine the amount and duration of maintenance.

Contact us to discuss how these formulas might effect you if you decide to proceed with a divorce from your spouse. 
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Domestic Violence

Incidences of domestic violence are either on the rise throughout the country or simply being reported more frequently. New York is no exception.  

New York allows a victim of domestic violence to be protected in both the criminal justice system and in civil courts.  Ultimately, victims of domestic violence are entitled to be protected by the law, while perpetrators may see the results of their action impact upon their time with their children, or may even result in jail sentences.  

If you are a victim of domestic violence, or if you have been accused of committing an act of domestic violence, then you have the right to have an attorney represent you.  Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss these issues and what we can do to help you. 
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Pre-Nuptial Agreements

If you are planning to marry and would like to protect your assets in case of a divorce, separation, or death, then a pre-nuptial agreement may be right for you. These are agreements which detail how you want your assets to be handled in the event you and your future spouse choose not to remain together, or if one of you passes away. These agreements are often used by couples who wish to ensure that their children from prior relationships receive all or a portion of their assets in the event they pass away.
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Child Support

Child support in New York is paid by the "non-custodial parent" to the "custodial parent."  In other words, the parent with whom the children reside most of the time is entitled to financial support on behalf of the children.  Child support is largely a mathematical calculation determined by the Child Support Standards Act.  While parties can agree to deviate from the formula to meet their family’s needs, most cases rely, in large part, on that formula.

Additional child support may be required for major expenses that are not considered to be included in regular child support, such as private school or college tuition, uncovered health care expenses, and child care expenses.

Contact our office  to discuss whether these changes can help you modify a prior child support order or agreement.
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Child Custody and Visitation

Parenting Plans

A parenting plan is an agreement which may ultimately be ordered by a court, and which details the parents' agreement on how they will raise their children in two different households.  The typical parenting plan addresses how major decisions will be made, including educational, medical, and general welfare decisions.  It will also contain a schedule to direct the days of the week the children will be with each parent, and where the children will spend holidays and vacation time.

CUSTODY AND VISITATION LITIGATION


Where parents cannot agree on the terms of a parenting plan, then custody litigation usually results.  Litigating parenting issues is costly and extremely difficult for every member of the family, especially the children.  Efforts should always be made to avoid custody litigation if at all possible, giving due consideration, first and foremost, to what is best for the children involved.  If custody litigation is inevitable, then we can help guide you through the process.

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Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect cases in New York are heard in Family Court.  If you have been wrongfully accused of child abuse or neglect, or if you intend to work towards being reunited with your children, you should be represented by a qualified attorney experienced in this area of law.  

Contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your rights and options if you are facing a child abuse or neglect allegation.