FAQ: Divorce & Family Law

New York’s family and divorce laws can be confusing, and if you are in the midst of a dispute or are considering taking legal action, you likely have a number of questions about your situation. Our talented team at The Law Offices of Andrew J. Spinnell, LLC has assisted countless individuals and families in their family court proceedings, and we would be proud to advocate on your behalf during this difficult time. Our firm has represented the rights and interests of the people of New York City in family law and divorce cases since 1993, and we can provide the knowledgeable legal counsel you deserve. If you would like to discuss your case and options, please contact our offices at your earliest convenience. For helpful information, read answers to some of the questions most commonly asked by our clients.

Will my wife automatically be awarded custody of our kids?
The court’s main concern is the wellbeing of the children, which means mothers do not have an advantage over fathers in custody cases. The family judge will consider a number of factors before making a decision, including such things as the age and gender of the children, their mental and physical health, the parents’ lifestyles and each’s ability to provide for the child emotionally and financially. After evaluating various aspects of the family’s situation, the judge will rule on which parent they believe will make a more beneficial custodian of the children.

How do I establish legal paternity if I was never married to my child’s mother?
The law provides for a number of fathers’ rights, but it can be difficult to exercise these if you have not established legal paternity. If your child’s mother agrees that you are the father, you can sign and file and acknowledgement of paternity form with the family court. If your child’s mother challenges your claim to paternity, you can file a petition with the court to have paternity testing done to prove that you are the child’s father.

How does the court determine if spousal support will be awarded?
In some divorces, the court may decide to order one spouse to make support payments, also known as alimony, to the other spouse. The order can be temporary or permanent, or it may serve a distinct purpose to enable the supported spouse to get back on their feet after the divorce. In determining whether spousal support will be awarded and what amount will be paid each month, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • Each spouse’s age and health
  • Each spouse’s needs, including existing financial obligations
  • The spouses’ standard of living during the marriage
  • The spouses’ ability to support themselves

Do I have any legal rights to my grandchildren?
Custody disputes can be especially hard on grandparents, as the contention between their child and their child’s former partner can cause them to be kept away from their grandchildren out of bitterness. If your grandchild’s parent will not allow you to spend adequate time with the child, you can take legal action. A knowledgeable attorney can help you exercise your grandparent rights and file a petition for visitation. If the court awards you visitation with your grandchildren, you will have legally enforceable rights that prevent their parent from hurting your relationship with your beloved little ones.

What are the benefits of using mediation?
Mediation allows couples to address the various issues of the divorce outside of the court. The divorcing couple will work with a trained mediator to negotiate the terms of their divorce. There are a number of benefits to be gained from using mediation, including:

  • Proceedings are private
  • Less expensive than the traditional divorce method
  • You do not have to go to court
  • You can focus on the best interests of your family
  • The process is completed faster
  • Your divorce settlement will need fewer modifications in the future

It is important to note that mediation is not right for every couple, as you and your spouse must be able to work together and respect each other throughout the process. Speak with a lawyer from our firm to discuss whether mediation is a good choice for your situation.

What is no-fault divorce?
In prior times, the state used to require a spouse to have a reason for wishing to end their marriage; this meant they had to prove why the dissolution of their marriage was their spouse’s fault. Recently, New York passed a no-fault method for divorce, which allows spouses to end their marriage if their relationship has been irretrievably for six months or longer. No-fault divorce enables couples to amicably end their marriages without blaming the each other for the breakdown of their union.

What is considered to be marital property?
Marital property includes the assets and properties you and your spouse acquired during the course of your marriage. This can include your home, cars, wages, and other items and earnings obtained while you were married, with a few exceptions. In most cases, inheritance, gifts given to only one spouse, and items purchased with funds from an inheritance or gift are not considered to be marital property. Discuss your situation with a knowledgeable lawyer if you would like to know which of your assets fall under the category of marital property.

I have custody of our kids; can I move away with them?
If you would like to relocate with your children, you must first obtain permission from the family court. You will need to file a relocation petition with the court, and your former partner will be given notice of your request and have the opportunity to contest the move. In deciding whether or not to grant your petition, the court will consider various factors, including the children’s relationship with the other parent, the impact the move would have upon their quality of life, the children’s ability to maintain a relationship and visitation with the noncustodial parent if they moved, and the effects relocation would have upon the children’s relationships with other family members.

Why do I need a lawyer for my divorce?
Divorce is a legal process, and as such, it can be very complicated and confusing. Additionally, family law issues are often emotional and the proceedings can quickly become heated, which is why it is important to ensure your rights and interests are protected. An experienced New York City family attorney can help you understand your options and help you decide upon the best method to dissolve your marriage and guide you through the often complex process. By enlisting an experienced law firm for your divorce, you can be confident that you will receive a powerful legal voice to help you pursue the most beneficial outcome for your situation. To learn more about the benefits of retaining The Law Offices of Andrew J. Spinnell, LLC for your divorce, contact the firm to discuss your unique case!