When custody or child visitation issues occur between separated or divorced parents, one or both parents sometimes seek to curry favor with the child or children. The parent takes this action either to ensure that he or she will receive custody or receive child support payments. In addition to currying favor with the child, some parents seek to undermine the relationship between the child and the other parent. When the child develops a strong resistance or rejection of a parent, that is disproportionate to that parent’s behavior, and this undermines that parent’s relationship with the child, this is referred to as parental alienation syndrome(PAS).

In a Canadian study conducted between 1989 and 2008 involving claims of parental alienation, there were allegations that parental alienation syndrome was present in 175 cases. The study showed that in 106 out of 175 cases, the courts found that there was parental alienation present. In 60% of the cases the mother was the parent involved in alienating the child from the father. In 31% of the cases the father was the parent involved in alienating the child against the mother. The study found that although there were gender differences involved in the alienation of children, mothers were more likely to make unsubstantiated claims of alienation against fathers. The study also found that alienation is most commonly perpetuated by the custodial parent against the noncustodial parent.

In the Canadian study the most common judicial remedy of dealing with parental alienation was to modify the custody arrangement.

Parental alienation is being recognized by the courts in New York more readily then it has been in the past. There is still a reluctance among many judges to use changing custody as a means of addressing this issue. Parental alienation may have the impact of reducing one parents access to visitation with his or her children. The more significant affect of parental alienation is to deprive a child from having a relationship with two loving parents.

Should you have any questions or issues concerning parental alienation feel free to contact Elliot Schlissel, Esquire at Schlissellawfirm.com or 1-800-344-6431.

New York Governor David A. Patterson has recently signed a law that modified the statutory language regarding attorneys who represent children in the Family Court of the State of New York . We wrote about an attorney’s obligations to a child clint HERE. Attorneys representing children in New York Family Courts have the title “attorney for the child”. The former terminology referred to attorneys who represented children as “Law Guardians”.

The change is much greater than just a change in terminology. It is a change in philosophy. The terminology “attorney for the child” makes it clear that the court is dealing with a lawyer advocate for the child’s position. The proper role for the attorney for the child is to advocate what the child wants in delinquency proceedings, child custody proceedings, visitation proceedings, foster care proceedings and other proceedings brought before the Family Court in the State of New York.

The initial change in the statutory language from Law Guardian to an attorney for the child started in October 2007 when Chief Judge Judith Kay sighted section 7.2 of the Rules of the Chief Judge in which she adopted advocacy standards for attorneys who represented children recommended by the Milla Commission.

“In ascertaining the child’s position, the attorney for the child must consult with and advise the child to the extent of and in manner consistent with child’s capabilities and have a through understanding of the child’s circumstances” section 7.2 states.

” If the child is capable of knowing, voluntary and considered judgement, the attorney for the child should be directed by the wishes of the child, even if the attorney for the child believes that what the child wants is not in the child’s best interest”.

This rule requires an attorney to explain the options available to his or her child client. The attorney can make recommendations to the child which the attorney feels would be in child’s best interest. The attorney can only deviate from the child’s wishes if there is a “substantial risk of eminent, serious harm to the child” if the child wishes are granted.

The purpose of the change in language is to eliminate any confusion over what role the attorney for the child fills. Attorney’s for children now must vigorously and diligently advocate the child’s position. They must not present their opinion if they disagree with the child’s position. This law is designed to see that children’s wishes are clearly, concisely and diligently presented to court. Query: will this make custody litigation a popularity contest? Will the child pick the parent who gives in to the child’s wishes instead of guiding the child in what is in the child’s best interest?

Law office of Elliot Schlissel have been representing both mothers and fathers in child custody, visitation proceedings, child support matters, and other types of litigation before the family courts for more than 30 years. Call us at 1-800-344-6431 or email us for a free consultation.

Picture courtesy of warrickcasa.us.

International Custody Drama

January 20, 2010

Father, an American citizen, seeks his son’s return from Brazil:

David Goldman’s saga began in 2004. His wife took his son on a vacation to her native country, Brazil, in 2004. She then brought a divorce proceeding in Brazil. She stayed in Brazil after the divorce proceeding in what Goldman and the US Government referred to as a child abduction.

The boy’s mother eventually remarried. However she died last year. Her relatives and her second husband have been involved in legal proceedings keeping the boy in Brazil. The Family alleges that the boy, Shawn, desired to stay in Brazil. Recently the Brazilian Supreme Court said that Shawn’s own feelings should be taken into consideration regarding this matter. David Goldman had been litigating in Brazil for more than five years to try and have his son returned to him.

This litigation involving Goldman’s son impacted relations between Brazil and the United States. Earlier this year, United States Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, asked the Brazilian Government to have Shawn returned to his father’s custody in the United States. The United States House of Representatives has also passed a resolution asking Brazil’s government to return Shawn to live with his father in the United States.

The Brazilian Supreme Court has ordered that Shawn be returned to his father. David Goldman went to Brazil and picked up Shawn. Child and father are now back in the United States getting to know each other again. The child custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Elliot Schlissel are experienced in handling International custody disputes. Should you have questions about an International custody matter feel free to contact the International custody lawyers at the Law Offices of Elliot Schlissel at 1-800-344-6431 or by e-mail.

Picture of Sean and David’s reunion on 12/24/09 courtesy of Bossip.

Father’s Rights Attorneys

November 30, 2009

There is a growing feeling among fathers who deal with the Family Courts and the Supreme Courts in the State of New York on matrimonial and family law matters that they are being treated unfairly. The law in the State of New York says that fathers and mothers have equal rights to custody. There is no presumption that mothers should receive custody and fathers should pay child support. However, many fathers who have dealt with the legal system come away with a sour taste in their mouth due to bias in favor of the mother.

Father’s rights attorneys are matrimonial and family law attorneys with extensive experience in protecting the rights of fathers involved with custody, support and visitation matters. If you feel you are being treated unfairly, contact the father’s rights attorneys at the Law Office of Elliot S. Schlissel. We can help you!

-Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq.

800-344-6431

Picture Courtesy of SouthWesternDifference.info

Child support in the State of New York is paid by the non-custodial parent to the custodial parent. The amount of child support is usually set in a Judgement of Divorce, a Separation Agreement or by the Family Court. In most instances, the child support is paid by the father of the child to the mother of the child.

Daddy Loses His Job

What happens if Daddy loses his job? Unfortunately for Daddy, the answer to this question is that the child support stays the same. In a perfect world the father can call the mother and advise her about his loss of employment and the mother could stipulate to the reduction in child support. This stipulation could thereafter be submitted either to a Family Court judge or a Supreme Court judge to modify the prior order or judgmentregarding child support. In the real world, this doesn’t happen.

Downward Modification of Child Support

A parent who loses his job must bring an application either to the Family Court or the Supreme Court for a downward modification of his or her child support. After several conferences, there will be a hearing before a Support Magistrate or judge. The parent having the obligation of paying the child support will have to show that the loss of employment was not the fault of the non-custodial parent. He or she will also have to show this was an unforeseen change in circumstance and that he or she has used due diligence to obtain other employment. 

This process can take many months. In theory, the child support obligation continues to remain the same until there has been a decision by the Support Magistrate or judge after a trial. Thereafter, the child support modification is made retroactive to the date the initial petition was submitted to the court. The problem with this procedure is that the Support Collection Agency is not geared up to give the parent who pays the child support the credit for his or her overpayment during the months the downward modification was pending, unless you can bring it to the court’s attention.

Restitution for Overpayment

Due to the current economic crisis and the numerous applications by non-custodial parents to reduce their child support obligations, the procedures of support collection agencies need to be modified to provide restitution or credits to the parent who has overpaid his or her child support.

Reduce your child support! If you feel that your child support is too high, contact the child support attorneys at the Law Office of Elliot Schlissel at 800-344-6431.

-Elliot S. Schlissel, Esq.

800-344-6431

In addition to his wide-ranging experience in most major areas of law in general, and his extensive experience in Matrimonial and Family law  in particular, Mr. Schlissel has a particular expertise representing fathers in child custody matters.

Feel free to browse his Father’s Rights website for more information about that, or contact the office directly.

divorceAs an office with a large matrimonial/family law practice, we often work with both out-of-state clients, as well as in-state clients whose spouse has moved out of state, where custody of the children is an issue. There are a number of laws in New York relating to whether New York has jurisdiction to handle a couple’s divorce, the child custody issues, or both. This article will outline some of the major jurisdictional hoops parties must jump through in order for New York courts to decide a matrimonial/custody case.

Imagine that a couple lives in New York and they have two elementary school children. The couple has marital trouble for a period of time and the wife and children left New York several months ago to live in her home state of Florida. There are several jurisdictional questions to consider before a New York court could handle all aspects of this case.

First, New York’s Long-Arm statute must give it jurisdiction over the out-of-state spouse. CPLR §  302(b) gives New York jurisdiction over a spouse that has moved out of New York when the spouse that is starting the action is domiciled in or is a resident of New York when he starts the case, as long as New York was the “matrimonial domicile” of the couple before they separated.

Next, for New York to have jurisdiction over any matrimonial action,  Domestic Relations Law (“DRL”) § 230 (2) must apply. This statute, in part, requires that the parties must have resided in New York as husband and wife and that either spouse is a resident of the state for at least one year leading up to the commencement of the divorce proceedings.

But even if one is able to have a matrimonial case heard by a New York court, that fact alone does not necessarily mean that the court will have jurisdiction over matters of custody. It is possible that the jurisdictional requirements for the divorce will be met but that the requirements for custody jurisdiction will not be met, and that some other state will have jurisdiction in a custody proceeding. Vanneck v. Vanneck, 404 N.E.2d 1278, 1280, 1282 (1980).

DRL § 76, enacted to conform  to the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“UCCJA”), only grants New York jurisdiction to make initial child custody decisions when (a) New York is the “home state” of the children involved (see § 75-a(7) for definition) in the six months preceeding the legal proceeding.. Additionally, (b) no other state must have custody jurisdiction according to the definition in (a) above, or, if it does, that it must have declined jurisdiction on the grounds that New York would be a more appropriate forum.

Situations exist where a matrimonial/custody case would be bifurcated, with, for example, the New York Supreme Court handling the divorce and property distribution aspects of the case and Florida courts deciding matters of custody. As one judge put it, such cases “turn[] on the connection between divorce jurisdiction and custody jurisdiction.  At one time the two may have been inseparable; but the P.K.P.A. [Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act], in particular, has placed these issues on different jurisdiction terrain.” Foley v. Foley, 170 Misc.2d 87, 89 (Sup. Ct. Monroe Cty 1996).

Although courts will consider whether they have jurisdiction over the divorce and custody sides of a case separately, how that decision affects the best interests of the children involved will be considered. The hardship inherent in different states handling the divorce and custody issues separately will also be factored into a court’s decision about whether to bifurcate the two issues in the case. Vanneck, supra, at 1280.

If a couple finds itself in a situation where one spouse has lived outside of New York with the children for more than six months and the other spouse still lives in New York, it would seem that there are a couple of options. Based on the statutes mentioned above, the state where the children live would normally have jurisdiction over issues of custody and the couple may elect to litigate the divorce there too if that state’s jurisdictional rules would allow that. This would simplify the process by avoiding a split litigation between states and it would avoid forcing the spouses to hire two lawyers each, one for each state. 

Alternatively, the out-of-state spouse may wish to simply consent to New York’s jurisdiction over issues of custody, but this is not so simple because matters of jurisdiction cannot be waived or stipulated to. Koshetz v. Lamberti, 262 A.D.2d 611 (2d Dept. 1999). However, since a court will make jurisdictional determinations based on the particular facts of a case, the parties may stipulate to certain issues of fact, which the court will use as its basis to find that it has custody jurisdiction. Caroline B. v. Thomas A.B., 16 Misc.3d 1128(A) (N.Y. Fam. Ct., 2007).

For example, if it is somewhat ambiguous whether the wife left New York permanently or simply to get some time away from her husband, the couple may stipulate to the fact that her stay out-of-state was a mere “temporary absence” and will not be credited to establishing “home state” status for the child in that other state. See DRL § 75-a(7). The parties may therefore stipulate to facts upon which the court will make a jurisdictional determination, but they may not stipulate to, waive, or consent to jurisdiction where the facts do not warrant it.

The bottom line is that anyone contemplating divorce, especially in less-than-typical factual situations, has many factors to consider before deciding where and how to proceed. As always, if you need assistance in any matrimonial, custody, child-support, paternity or visitation matter, you are invited to contact our office.

Picture courtesy of foreclosure-support.com.

father-son-holding-handsAs an office that has a very strong Matrimonial and Family practice, it is with great interest that we read Noeleen Walder’s recent article in the New York Law Journal (“NYLJ,” subscription required). She reported that the current non-modifiable status of § 516 child support agreements for non-marital children, may soon be changing.

Child Support agreements between the parents of children who were born in the context of marriage may be modified without court approval. But child support agreements made between parents of a child born out of wedlock may only be modified by court order, and not by mutual agreement, pursuant to § 516 of  NY’s Family Court Act.

According to the NYLJ, the Appellate Division, First Department, in the unanimous decision in Barbara N. v. James H.N., 4399, invalidated a § 516  non-marital child support agreement.  While not directly ruling on the constitutional question, the panel held that “to the extent that the statute precludes attempts to reverse support agreements for non-marital children, its constitutionality is questionable.”

What is the constitutional question? Child Support compromises are valid without court order for marital children but not for non-marital children. This poses an Equal Protection problem under the 14th Amendment. The panel suggested that  § 516  does not offer equal protection under the law by treating marital children differently from non-marital children.

Based on this and other objections, some state legislators have proposed repealing § 516, and therefore A02578/S2975 is currently before the state Assembly and the Senate Codes Committee.

Picture courtesy of Gov Gab.

divorce-decreeMany non-custodial parents think that they can get the child tax exemption that they are entitled to (based on I.R.C. § 152(e)2)) pursuant to their divorce decree by simply attaching the divorce decree to their tax return. People try this use the divorce decree in lieu of IRS form 8332 because they are either hesitant or feel unable to have that form filled out and signed by the custodial parent.

Unfortunately, this does not work. As accountant Louis J. Cercone, Jr. points out, even when a non-custodial parent can take a tax exemption pursuant to a divorce decree,  the Internal Revenue Code only permits him (or her) to do so if the custodial parent fills out Form 8332 or signs a letter with the following information contained in it:

  1. The name of the child to which an exemption is released;
  2. The year for which the exemption is released to the non-custodial parent;
  3. A signature, date of signature, & social security number for the custodial parent; and
  4. the name and social security number of the non-custodial parent to whom the exemption is released.

Without either form 8332 or a letter signed by the custodial parent with the aforementioned elements, a non-custodial parent cannot get the exemption he or she is entitled to according to the divorce decree. The divorce decree, which is not signed by the custodial parent, will not suffice.

For any other legal advice on matrimonial or family law issues, please call our office for information.

Picture courtesy of cityofcyn.

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