What’s Best for Your Children? A Guide to Help Parents Going Through a Separation or Divorce

Going through a divorce or separation can be one of the most difficult experiences in one’s life. Yet for all the pain that comes with a failed relationship, there may be a measure of hope and relief following the end of a troubled partnership. However, for the children of parents who are separating or divorcing, it’s an entirely different situation. Even if you and your partner were never married, the presence of children means that your connection never really ends. And resolving this ongoing relationship will, at some point, involve the legal system.

Therefore, there are multiple simultaneous issues you must deal with, from concerns about your children’s psychological well-being to legal and financial matters. These are complicated, emotionally charged matters, but we’ve found that knowing the issues, and understanding how to get a divorce in NY while minimizing problems, can help ease the strain. Given that, we want to provide you with a practical guide that answers questions about separation and divorce.

How to Get a Divorce in NY: Preparing for the Process

Our goal with this series is to lead you through that process, so you will be better prepared – both financially and emotionally. And with that, be confident you’re doing all you can to help your children through it, as well. We have designed this series in a question-and-answer format, because we have found this to be the most effective way to help our clients. To get started, we’re going to explain a few general concepts and legal terms. Then we’ll move on to addressing some of the pressing concerns we’ve frequently heard from our clients. Some common questions we’ll answer in coming posts include:

  • What are the different ways to get divorced in New York, and how do these affect children?
  • How do child custody laws work?
  • How is child support decided?
  • What is parental alienation?
  • How can we alleviate or even avoid harmful emotional effects on our children?
  • How do we handle the children’s extended family – including the soon-to-be ex-in-laws – and others in their lives (friends, teachers)?

By the end of this series, we aim to put your mind at ease. No doubt, you will probably still have questions at the end of this series. We encourage you to schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers. We will be honored to provide more specific answers to your unique situation. And in the meantime, please know this: You don’t have to go through this alone.

What Is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce?

In New York, both a divorce and legal separation result in determinations of your and your partner’s rights and responsibilities on matters of child custody and support, spousal support, and division of property and assets. However, a legal separation is a voluntary agreement, and you remain legally married to your spouse. Thus in a separation, some benefits – e.g., health insurance – may continue, when they would otherwise end with divorce.

By contrast, a divorce is a legal proceeding, which means that New York’s legal procedures and state law requirements must be fulfilled during the process. Therefore, absent an agreed upon settlement, the court can make its own decisions about custody, assets and so forth. However, because a judgment of divorce is a court order, the divorce judgment may be more easily enforced than a separation agreement. Although some states require a married couple to be separated before filing for divorce, since the adoption of the no-fault divorce statute, New York doesn’t have that requirement.

What Assets Should I Expect to Keep or Divide?

According to New York law, if divorcing parties can’t agree on the asset split, a court has authority to make the asset division on its own. In New York, marital property is divided according to the rule of “equitable distribution.” Rather than cutting the asset pool in half, the court makes its decision based on each partner’s personal and financial needs, earning capacity, tax issues and other relevant financial issues. The court starts with a presumption that all assets acquired during the marriage are jointly owned – and are thus “marital property.”

Marital property may include homes or other real-estate properties, investment accounts, interest in a business or professional practice and more. Assets solely owned by one spouse can be considered “separate property.” Separate property can includes assets from prior to the marriage, but may also include some assets acquired during the marriage that are exclusively the property of one spouse (e.g., an inheritance). As a general rule, the courts do not reallocate separate property; it stays with its original owner. And because of this, disputes may arise as to whether assets are truly marital or separate property.

How Does Spousal Maintenance Work?

Spousal maintenance – also known as alimony – is money paid by one spouse to the other, to prevent financial suffering. At issue in either a legal separation or divorce, the primary goal of spousal maintenance is to allow former spouses to financially sustain themselves, until they can independently provide for their needs. Thus, spousal maintenance usually ends when a receiving spouse reaches a stable financial situation. Some factors used in determining maintenance include:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Physical residence of children
  • Age and health of the spouses
  • Division of the couple’s assets
  • Career or educational sacrifices made by one spouse for the benefit of the other
  • Tax consequences of the spousal support
  • Any other factor the court deems to be relevant

When Do I Need to Deal With Child Custody and Support?

Immediately. Custody issues aren’t something addressed after a divorce; they are at issue from the first moment of separation. At the core of all child custody determinations is one goal – to provide the child with arrangements that are in the child’s best interest. While the court has guidelines to use during its determination, a judge will take into account the specific situation of every case. (Because there is a certain amount of judicial discretion, it is important to be cooperative with the court during custody proceedings.)

The court will look at many factors before rendering its verdict – especially if there are concerns relating to the mental and physical health of either parent or allegations of domestic abuse. To learn more about how to get a divorce in NY, or different ways to get divorced in New York, contact us today.

How to Get a Divorce in NY: Planning Ahead

How to Get a Divorce in NY, Albany Divorce AttorneyWhile no one anticipates their marriage to end on their wedding day, somewhere down the road you may find yourself considering divorce. It’s no surprise that separation comes with its fair share of difficulties, but you can make the process easier on yourself if you plan ahead. Minimizing emotional, financial and mental stress for yourself, your partner and your children by preparation will make the legal process quicker and easier. Before the divorce is filed, you can sit down with your spouse and develop a plan together if you are on good terms. If this isn’t the case, you can come up with your own plan.

Make a List of Your Expenses

Tracking the costs related to ending your marriage will reduce financial stress and arguments. Factors to consider include:

  • Attorney fees
  • Court fees
  • Relocation costs

Decide your budget and what accounts you will use to pay for the divorce. You may want to discuss financial responsibilities with your spouse.

Consider Your Retirement Options

Since most marriages begin with a long-term plan in mind, you have probably done some amount of retirement planning. You’ll need to figure out what to do with these assets during your divorce. It is possible that you are eligible to receive Social Security benefits from your spouse, depending on your age and the duration of your marriage.

Think About Your Housing Needs

If you are moving out or the house is going to be sold, you’ll want to determine where you will live. Your new place needs to accommodate your budget and meet the best interests of your children. If your spouse moves out instead, you need to figure out if you can make house payments on your own.

Determine Education or Job Needs

This concern is especially pertinent to the parent who has been primarily taking care of the children. You may have put your education and career dreams on the back burner while you prioritized staying at home and your spouse worked. As you figure out ways to support yourself, you may find that going to school or finding a new job is necessary. Looking into and making decisions earlier means less stress in the future.

Contact a Trusted Albany Divorce Attorney

While it’s emotionally challenging to end your marriage, you must face reality and begin making a logical plan to take care of not only yourself but your children as well. No matter your stage in life, having a plan in place before the divorce is filed can help ease your mind. A trusted family law attorney can assist you in developing a plan. We can also inform you of your options about how to get a divorce in NY while minimizing the negative impact on those involved.

Why You Shouldn’t Take Divorce Advice From Your Friends

You just filed for divorce and went to tell your siblings and parents. You met with your best friend and gave her the news as well. Of course, she has advice about what you need to do next. Friends and family members mean well, but they might not know what to do in that type of situation. Therefore, they think that you might benefit from their advice about how to get a divorce in NY. This is especially true if they’ve gone through a divorce as well.

While it’s good to lean on loved ones for emotional support, it’s not the best way to get the legal advice you need. Each divorce is different, with different circumstances and elements involved. Maybe you have kids, a seven-figure bank account, retirement funds and several properties.  This is a much more complex divorce than the one your sister went through when she was married for a year and had no kids, no retirement assets and a couple hundred dollars in the bank. Here are some more reasons why you shouldn’t take divorce advice from friends.

Your Friends Are Rooting for You Only

This can cause problems if you’re looking for an amicable divorce.  Your friends, however, may be looking for revenge and want to see you fight a nasty battle. This is not in your best interest, especially if you have kids. You may be focusing on fairness, but they want you to get as much as possible out of a divorce. While it’s great to have your friends on your side, you don’t want them to dictate how you should divorce your spouse.

Your Friends Don’t Know All the Details

You may have spilled some secrets about your marriage, but chances are, your friends don’t know every single detail about your married life. They likely don’t know about your assets, including your income. They don’t know what went on behind closed doors. Your friends may think you’re making a huge mistake. They may think you’re making a rash decision when in fact you’ve been mulling over this decision for years. They can’t give legal advice if they don’t know the whole story.

Friends Are Not Objective

You have your friends because they are always there for you. They are there for you emotionally, which makes them great pillars of support during a divorce. But at the same time, they are not objective. You need objective advice during a divorce, and that’s what a lawyer can provide for you. Divorce lawyers are able to help clients because they don’t get emotional during the divorce process. They provide clients with the facts and legal help.

Learn How to Get a Divorce in NY the Right Way

While your friends may mean well, they don’t really know the facts about how to get a divorce in NY or your unique situation. It’s best to hire a lawyer to give you the legal advice you need. Relying on friends could cost more in the long run. At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, our divorce lawyers will keep your best interests in mind as we work to dissolve your marriage. If you’re ready to file for divorce, contact our team today. Get started with a free phone consultation.

Divorce Advice From Family and Friends

At the Colwell Law Group, LLC, we have assisted numerous New York residents in and around the Albany area in their divorce proceedings. We, therefore, have a lot of experience in helping people navigate the intensity of this process — and we never discount the emotionally charged and stressful context in which divorce normally occurs.

Be Careful Who You Get Divorce Advice From

In helping our clients deal with the emotional aspects of separating from a spouse, we often encourage our clients to seek therapy and/or counseling to help them transition into single life. We also encourage them to use their support network of friends and family to help them maintain a strong sense of emotional stability in spite of the difficulty. In recommending they confide in trusted friends and family, however, we also warn them against taking legal advice from their friends too seriously.

Family and friends may have been through a divorce themselves, and they may think they know all about how to get a divorce in NY. They have heard about the divorces of other people and read about them in the news, but they have probably only had close, first-hand experience with several divorces at most. In contrast, a family law attorney who helps individuals with their divorce process has been through the experience countless times and has encountered numerous kinds of scenarios, personalities and legal strategies in representing their clients. Therefore, a divorce attorney will have the most valuable birds-eye view of his or her client’s situation.

Contact a New York Divorce Lawyer Today

Friends and family may have someone’s best interests in mind, and they are no doubt coming from a pure place of wanting to help. However, there is never any substitute for the knowledge and guidance of an experienced legal counselor who has handled numerous divorce cases. At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, we are ready to help you with your family law matter.

Can Social Media Contribute to Divorce?

How to get a divorce in NY, Albany NY AttorneyBack in the early days of the Internet, people envisioned the increase in worldwide connections as being a mechanism for a more enlightened society. Little did the tech gurus of the 90’s know, however, that social media would take over the Internet. They could not have predicted the rise of Facebook or Twitter, and how much they have shaped our relationships – and not always for the better. Still, in the early Internet days, there was online drama in the form of “flame wars,” and perhaps the more cynical prognosticators of the day might have realized that more communication didn’t necessarily mean better. But divorce? Could anyone have predicted the Internet actually causing divorce? And what if the Internet has contributed to your divorce? Don’t feel bad. You are not alone.

Social Media Can Make Marriages Harder

Now that we have seen the train wreck that social media can be, we shouldn’t be surprised to learn that social media, may, in fact, worsen marriages and be an instigator for divorce. Social “networking” isn’t just used to connect with old high school friends or colleagues – it can often be used for cheating as well. Is social media divorce a cause or an effect? Are spouses retreating into their solo online worlds because a marriage is failing, or are they contributing to the failure of the marriage by investing too much in social media? Perhaps it is a little bit of both.

Social Media Can Even Make Divorce Difficult

Once the marriage has ended, social media can make the divorce that much harder. When it comes to understanding how to get a divorce in NY while minimizing the impact of social media, a lot of questions arise. Do you still remain Facebook friends after the divorce? Can you handle it if you are? Do you want to see your ex-spouse in pictures with a new date or partner?

Some of the post-divorce challenges with social media are due to the age-old problem of gossip. Only, now, with technology, that gossip is magnified by a factor of 100. As former friends of the couple now take sides with one partner or the other, information as well as innuendo can fly back and forth through online social media channels. Some exes even use their social media connections to keep tabs on their former partner during divorce proceedings, to determine, for example, if that partner is hiding any assets.

Contact a Schenectady County Divorce Lawyer Today

While it’s good to be prudent regardless if you are unfortunately going through divorce proceedings, be extra careful with your social media. Now is not the time to brag about your new hot sweetheart, or rub salt into the wounds of your ex. Maintain some privacy, especially if you are going to court. To learn about how to get a divorce in NY and how to navigate this difficult situation, call The Colwell Law Group – we can help.

How to Get a Divorce in NY While Navigating Digital Data

When two New York residents get married, they merge their love lives and make a commitment to be faithful and honest with each other. However, in the modern digital era, many spouses are living secret financial lives and maintaining secret relationships behind their spouses’ backs — and it’s all taking place over the internet. This is one of the reasons why social media activity and internet information is playing a more and more important role as evidence in modern divorces.

Social Media and Divorce

We all watched the scandal hit the news surrounding Anthony D. Weiner and his spouse Huma Abedin. Abedin asked to separate from Weiner after his sexting scandal hit the news. When one spouse files for divorce, it is not uncommon for his or her lawyers to go through the other person’s social media profiles to look for evidence that can be used against him or her in court.

In the case of Weiner and Abadin, the situation was no different; and, in Weiner’s case, it led to serious allegations and political scandal. Divorce lawyers who look through digital data are usually searching for information that could catch the other spouse in a lie or information that could reveal hidden assets to give his or her client the upper hand in divorce proceedings. Lawyers will usually try to use this information to prove their cases regarding the division of financial assets and support their clients’ cases in child custody disputes.

Call Your Albany Divorce Attorney for Help Today

Spouses in the midst of divorce need to remember that their internet and social media activities could be subject to investigation as evidence in divorce proceedings. If your spouse has filed for divorce against you in New York, or if you are considering filing for divorce yourself, you may want to meet with a divorce attorney experienced with social media and digital assets to discuss the possible effects your internet life could have on your divorce proceedings. To learn more about how to get a divorce in NY and how social media can impact the process, contact us today.

Source: New York Times, “In a Divorce, Who Gets Custody of Electronic Data? The Lawyers,” Jonah Engel Bromwich, Oct. 31, 2016.

Using Social Media During Your Divorce

Sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are integral parts of the lives of many. Social media use has become the norm for a majority of people. Many of us check it and post on it daily, but if you’re getting divorced in New York, is this a good idea? It’s easy for those going through a divorce to go all-out on social media. After all, emotions are running high and there are likely many updates on your divorce. However, sharing all these details on social media can negatively impact your divorce. Lawyers will be combing through your social media sites to look for evidence of wrongdoing, so it’s important to know how to use Facebook wisely. It’s also crucial to know how to get a divorce in NY while avoiding the following mistakes. 

Avoid These Social Media Mistakes

Oversharing is common on social media. How many photos have you seen of your siblings’ meals or how many posts have you seen about a friend’s child or pet? People tend to share anything and everything on Facebook and Twitter, but you should avoid this during a divorce. After all, anyone can see your social media profile, and anything you post lasts on the internet forever. Emotions run high during a divorce, and couples tend to vent by bashing each other on social media.

While social media is a good form of support, it can become awkward when you start bad mouthing your wife. It causes tension and forces people to take sides. Therefore, don’t post anything that can be construed as negative toward your spouse. Social media can affect child custody and child support. If you’re supposed to be paying child support, but just posted a new sports car on social media, authorities are going to be suspicious. If you have custody of the kids but post a photo you drinking at a bar, it’s going to negatively reflect on you as a parent. Besides Facebook and Twitter, avoid online dating sites as well. They may be used to show that you were adulterous before the divorce. Plus, people tend to represent themselves in a different light, so if there’s any disconnect, you could get in trouble in court.

How to Use Social Media

Social media should be used sparingly. If you must post something, keep it short and sweet and unrelated to the divorce. The best advice for using social media during a divorce? Stop using it altogether. That way, you won’t have to worry about whether or not you are posting anything that can affect your divorce outcome. However, avoid deleting your account altogether. This may be considered obstruction of evidence and could come with serious legal consequences.

Contact a Schenectady County Divorce Lawyer Today

Many people use social media to share photos and information with friends and family members. However, it’s important to use some restraint during a divorce. What you post can be used against you. A New York family law attorney at The Colwell Law Group can help you how to get a divorce in NY while understanding the do’s and don’ts of social media use. For a confidential consultation, contact us today.

The First Thing to Do Once Your Divorce Is Final

You finally received your divorce decree. What do you do now? Should you feel sorry for yourself or bust open the champagne and celebrate? Once your divorce is finalized, there are many things that will be on your mind. You may want to change your name. Maybe finances are on your mind. Perhaps you’d like to start dating again. Are you ready to claim your post-divorce life? To learn to get a divorce in NY and handle the aftermath the right way, here are some of the most important things you should do first.

What to Do From a Legal Standpoint

Once the dust has settled, follow up with your lawyer. Check to make sure that the divorce is on the record. Go through the agreements and make sure that child custody and support is outlined in the way that was agreed upon either by both you and the other parent or the court. If you’re unsure about anything, get clarification from your lawyer. If you have decided to revert back to your former name, take care of that paperwork now.

What to Do From a Financial Standpoint

If you and your former spouse had joint accounts, get him or her removed from them. This includes credit cards, car loan, mortgages and even gym memberships. If the accounts are now the responsibility of your ex-spouse, get your name removed from them or you could be responsible for paying for them. Now is also a good time to get your finances in order. Look at your income and expenses and create a budget. Try to set aside money to put in a savings account. Think about your future as well. Take your ex-spouse off your life insurance policy. Update the beneficiaries of any retirement accounts. If you have estate planning documents such as wills and trusts, revise those as well.

What to Do From a Personal Standpoint

Now’s a good time to take care of yourself. You were likely pretty stressed and emotional from the divorce. Start a routine that focuses on healthier food and exercise. Yoga and meditation are great forms of stress relief. If you’re finding it hard to move on after a divorce, consider therapy so you can express your feelings. Many people are ready to start dating again soon after a divorce. Many want to stay single longer and get established in their new life. Don’t feel rushed. Do what feels right to you. Take time to enjoy your newfound freedom. Take up a new hobby, go see a movie, get a massage or simply enjoy a night out with friends.

Get Help With Your Divorce by Contacting Our Schenectady County Divorce Lawyers

The end of a marriage can be a scary feeling. For others, it can be exciting. In any case, a new life is ahead of you post-divorce. Be sure that you have everything in order so you can leave the stress behind. At The Colwell Law Group, LLC, our divorce lawyers will keep your best interests in mind during and after your divorce. For more information about how to get a divorce in NY, contact our team today. Get started with a free phone consultation.

Moving On: An Etiquette Guide for Newly Divorced Parents

Compromise is the best and cheapest lawyer.”—Robert Louis Stevenson

When two parents are in the middle of a separation or divorce, the last thing on their mind is compromise. Often, hard feelings and bitterness have poisoned an already broken relationship, and neither party is in the mood to make life easier on the other. But as a divorce attorney, I have seen the power of compromise — not just across the negotiation table or in court, but also in the day-to-day life after divorce.

That’s right: Life goes on after a divorce and it is in your (and your children’s) best interest to rise above feelings of anger or resentment. An important part of understanding how to get a divorce in NY involves also knowing how to handle life after the divorce is final. With that in mind, here are some areas in which compromise and good old-fashioned manners with your ex are the wiser choices.

Separate Lives, Shared Interests

Before getting to the basic etiquette suggestions, a rule of thumb should guide all of your actions: You now live a life separate from your ex, but you maintain shared interests. Studies have shown that divorced parents who try to maintain a union in front of their young children end up confusing them more than helping.

Learn to Live Separate Lives as Soon as Possible

For example, spending holidays or family vacations together tend to give the children a false sense of hope that one day you and your ex will reunite. Instead of accepting the new situation, young children will often cling to the fantasy. But eventually, the fantasy will end, causing the children to go through another round of emotional turmoil. Which is why you and your ex-spouse should learn to live separate lives as quickly as possible. This physical separation will likely be harder on one parent more than the other, but it’s important to remember that, like the children, the longer it takes to make a clean break, the worse it will be.

Learn How to Interact Peacefully

At the same time, as parents, you and your ex will likely always be in each other’s lives, because of your children. This shared interest should be the cornerstone of how you interact with your ex after the divorce, and whatever lingering connections you might have with that part of your world which is no longer bound to you by law. You and your ex should compile a list of issues and topics related to your children that require input from both of you. For example:

  • Education: Speaking with teachers, choice of schools, etc.
  • Activities: What sort of activities your children will be allowed to do.
  • Technology: When will your children be able to have a cell phone, an email or Facebook account, etc.
  • Health: The most important of these “shared interests.” Routine doctor visits naturally will fall on the custodial parent, but any decisions regarding larger health concerns should involve both parents.

Put the Children First

Whenever you have feelings of anger or resentment against your ex, think of your children before lashing out. Badmouthing an ex in front of your children is all too common, particularly if your ex deserves badmouthing! But put yourself in your children’s shoes: Is it better for them to hate your ex or to have a parent?

Also, don’t let your feelings about your ex affect your legal obligations. If you are court ordered to pay child support, do so. Falling behind on payments could lead you right back in court, which is where you don’t want to be. Otherwise, stick to all court-ordered visitation times. No matter if you’re the custodial parent or not, you shouldn’t be the parent who picks up the children early or drops them off late. Respect your ex’s time with the children and stay strictly within the bounds of your time with them. If your ex is the one who is abusing visitation rights, talk to your lawyer, rather than confront them directly.

Again, you should walk a fine line of separation with your ex: As easy as it might seem to contact your ex about his visitation failures, you should allow a mediator, preferably a lawyer, to handle those legal matters.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Of course, not all your complaints or concerns with your ex will involve court-ordered mandates. Sometimes you might dislike how much time your children spend with your ex’s ne’er-do-well brother. If there are legal reasons to be concerned — the brother is a drug addict, criminal, etc. — then contact your lawyer. If you just don’t like that he takes your children to monster-truck rallies, then ask yourself if it’s something that requires greater escalation.

The point is that as a big part of accepting your new, separate lives, you and your ex will need to pick your battles. What you’ll likely find is that the same things that annoyed you during the marriage — your brother-in-law, for instance — will continue to annoy you after the marriage. But you should also recognize that some of your family members or interests annoy your ex just as much. How would you feel if she wanted you to avoid bringing the children to your parent’s house? Fight the battles that are worth fighting, but leave the small stuff alone.

Compromise Where Possible

In some instances of disagreement with your ex, the only recourse is through a lawyer. But otherwise, you and your ex will need to resolve matters on your own. As a divorce lawyer, I’ve often seen small problems become huge legal issues, because the ex-spouses couldn’t compromise with each other. While it’s easy to let your emotions dictate your actions, often that’s not the best for you or your children.

Learn More About How to Get a Divorce in NY

To learn more about how to get a divorce in NY without intensifying the stress and drama, contact us today.