Prenuptial, Separation, & Postnuptial Agreements
Before or after the wedding, New York law allows a couple to enter into their own contract setting forth the financial terms of their marriage as they choose, rather than as the legislature may determine from time to time during the years following their wedding. Connecticut similarly allows for agreements entered into before the wedding.
Parents with means often encourage their children to obtain a prenuptial agreement to protect future gifts from the family or interests in family businesses from being shared in the event of divorce. Couples entering a second marriage often elect to execute a prenuptial agreement to allow each spouse to make provision for the children of a prior marriage, and to reassure all concerned that the marriage is motivated by something other than money.
Every couple—with or without substantial current assets—should consider having a prenuptial agreement. Young people, particularly, often spend more time planning their weddings than their marriages, and mature couples often are quite set in their financial ways. You cannot live happily ever after if you don’t understand each other’s attitudes toward money; negotiating a prenuptial agreement with the guidance of experienced lawyers can help you gain insight into yourself and your future spouse.
The purpose of an agreement is not to gain a financial advantage in the event of divorce, but to provide certainty, so that in the unfortunate event the marriage does not work out, a couple can part ways promptly and amicably, without costly and intrusive discovery and without the acrimony that can arise in adversarial proceedings—especially important if there are children. If you need to cooperate after your divorce in caring for your children, making decisions for them, celebrating their successes, and coping with their crises, it is best that the divorce itself not exacerbate an already difficult relationship.
Divorce Settlements & Litigation
Most divorces are resolved by agreement.
Most divorces in New York are now granted on the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship, but judgment can be entered only after financial issues have been resolved. Connecticut law similarly allowed for “no fault” divorce for many years. We are committed to working to settle a dispute, but if all settlement avenues have been run out and litigation is necessary, we provide thorough and exhaustively-prepared representation. We are skilled and experienced trial lawyers and we bring honest, able, and efficient advocacy to every case.
Equitable Distribution & Maintenance
New York and Connecticut law provide that, once a divorce is granted, the division of a couple’s assets is subject to “equitable distribution.” Equitable distribution is not necessarily the same as equal distribution.
Rather, the court in New York makes that determination based on 14 factors, the 14th of which is “any other factor the court [finds] just and proper.”
Maintenance (New York’s term for “alimony” or “spousal support”) may be awarded to a spouse unable to be self-supporting, consistent with the marital lifestyle and the parties’ financial means. Connecticut bases its determination on these same factors as well as the causes for the dissolution of the marriage, the estate and employability of each of the parties and the desirability of a parent seeking employment if he or she has custody of a minor child. In Connecticut, we note, the concept of separate property, and its tracing, does not exist.
Our cases routinely involve complex financial, valuation and tax issues, relate to the parties’ assets (which may include professional practices, licenses, degrees, enhanced earning capacity, closely-held businesses, private equity and hedge funds, limited partnership and LLC interests, stock options, restricted stocks and other derivative assets or deferred compensation, commercial and residential real estate), the tracing of separate property exempt from distribution, and arguing for or against the application of factors that might support a distribution other than a 50/50 split. In Connecticut, we note, the concept of separate property, and its tracing, does not exist.
We have unsurpassed experience in assessing likely outcomes of these financial issues, and in constructing creative solutions that are practical and just. Our reputation for integrity, skill, and candor facilitates settlement, because our adversaries know that we can support our settlement positions, and are always prepared to prove them at trial. Our attorneys have handled several of the largest equitable distribution cases ever tried, and settled many more, most without any publicity, in keeping with our clients’ wishes to maintain privacy at every turn.
Children & Their Support
New York and Connecticut courts have the power to determine custody of children and to award “access” or parenting time. Where and how and by whom will your child be raised?
What will your role be in making decisions about your child’s future? These issues are decided “in the best interest of the child,” giving broad discretion to the Court, and, therefore, to parties seeking to settle these issues.
We counsel parents through the often harrowing and emotionally exhausting process of planning how, after divorce, they will raise their children from separate homes. When good-faith negotiation has failed, we have tried many difficult custody cases, including those challenging the relocation of a parent’s residence with the child, allocation of parenting time, and the determination of each parent’s decision-making rights and responsibilities.
We discourage custody battles in court, as parents working cooperatively can almost always arrive at a better resolution for their children than a court can. When that cooperative resolution is not possible, we approach custody litigation exactly as we do a trial of other issues: with the most thorough preparation and the most realistic assessment of likely outcomes.
New York and Connecticut law make both parents responsible for the financial support of their children, through a combination of formulaic and discretionary factors that may be difficult to navigate. To each case, we bring practical knowledge of the costs of raising children in the New York metropolitan and Tri-State area, as well as intimate knowledge of the process by which the Court determines the issues concerning children.
Because of the broad discretion given to trial courts, relatively few cases warrant appeal after trial.
Nevertheless, when there is a substantial issue one party believes to be wrongly decided, an appeal may be necessary. We stand second to none in the analysis of the advisability of appeal and the likely outcome. We are confident of the quality of our legal analysis, persuasive argument, and clear writing, the underpinnings of any successful appeal.