Divorce, due to its unavoidable financial and emotional impact on your life, is rarely a smooth or simple process, but having an experienced divorce attorney at your side can make it a great deal easier. If you live in Syracuse or elsewhere in Onondaga County or the surrounding area of Central New York, you have an advantage — the option of choosing the well-respected family law firm of Carden Dotzler Hammond to handle your divorce. Our skilled divorce attorneys all have excellent Avvo and Google ratings and reviews, and two members of our team have Super Lawyer awards. This means that when you come to us for legal counsel, you are dealing with a superior law practice, one that you can trust to guide you to a successful outcome for you and your family.
Agreed Upon Separation Can Be Grounds for Divorce
In New York, married couples can file for legal separation as an alternative or precursor to divorce. When one of our skilled attorneys helps a couple to separate legally, we are dealing with nearly all the same issues that we would be dealing with in a divorce agreement. The difference is that after a legal separation the couple remains legally married and neither party is free to marry anyone else.
There are several reasons a couple may decide upon a legal separation even when it is not a first step toward divorce:  they do not want the finality of a divorce  they have a religious or moral objection to divorce  one party wants to remain covered by the other’s healthcare plan  there is a financial advantage in terms of filing a joint tax return or  there may be future military or Social Security benefits in remaining married for at least 10 years.
In New York a Separation Agreement is a contract that spells out spousal support, child custody and visitation, and division of marital assets. In the document, the couple agrees to live separately and to abide by the terms of the contract. The Separation Agreement is filed with the clerk of the county in which either spouse resides and can be enforced by the courts. After a year from the date the agreement is signed, either spouse can petition for divorce.
“No-Fault” Divorce in New York State
Since October 12, 2010, New York has been considered a no-fault divorce state because at that time “Irretrievable Breakdown” of the relationship between spouses (for at least 6 months) became grounds for divorce. The court will only grant a divorce on these grounds once property division, child custody and support, and all other matters relating to severance of the marriage, have been agreed upon by the two spouses.
Fault Grounds for Divorce in New York State
In addition to living separately for 6 months and following the terms of a legal Separation Agreement, several other grounds for divorce remain on the books and can be used in a divorce proceeding in New York State. These include:
- Cruel and inhuman treatment in which there is a perceived danger that physical or mental abuse will present a danger to one or both parties if they continue to cohabit
- Abandonment in which one spouse leaves the other for at least a year or forces the other to leave the home for the same period of time
- Imprisonment is cause for divorce if your spouse is incarcerated for 3 years or more but only if the spouse’s imprisonment began after the marriage and did not occur more than 5 years before the divorce filing
- Adultery is grounds for divorce in New York, but must be proven through photographic evidence or a testifying witness
Division of Marital Assets in New York
In terms of the division of marital assets during a divorce, New York is an equitable distribution state. This means that the couple’s marital assets must be divided fairly, but not necessary split into equal halves. According to law, there are a number of very specific regulations that must be met in order for the division of property to be considered “equitable” by state government. Our sharp divorce attorneys always keep current with any new legislation concerning property distribution to make sure that our clients always receive a just settlement.
There are complexities involved in the process of dividing property in New York State which make it crucial to have strong, knowledgeable legal representation as you go through a divorce. In dividing marital assets, all property acquired by the couple during the marriage must be considered, including:
- Rental properties
- Vehicles purchased after marriage, even if the title is in one spouse’s name
- Retirement and pension plans
- Investment accounts
- Professional practices
- Gifts exchanged between spouses during the marriage
It is important to note that although New York’s equitable distribution laws require the division of all marital property, property owned prior to the marriage or acquired by one party during the marriage — such as an inheritance or a personal injury award — is considered separate property, owned by one spouse, and is excluded from combined marital assets.
Also, it should be remembered that marital debts are part of marital property, too, and, unless it can be proven that one spouse secretly gambled or ran up private credit card debt, both spouses are responsible for paying off all debts before dividing their communal assets.
In order for each spouse to be treated fairly during divorce negotiations, no assets of either party should be hidden from the other. Sadly, this unjust and illegal tactic may be used by one spouse to punish the other or simply out of greed. At CDH Law, our well-schooled divorce attorneys know all the tricks used to hide assets and will fully investigate to locate any funds that have been spirited away. Remember, our first priority is always your best interests. If we uncover assets your spouse has been hiding, we will not only make certain that those assets are included in the pooled resources being divided, but we will see to it that your former spouse faces any applicable liability and contempt charges.
Spousal Support, sometimes called alimony or spousal maintenance, is money paid by one spouse to the other after they separate or divorce. Laws regarding spousal support originated at a time when husbands were the primary wage earners and wives were, by and large, homemakers. Now, when most spouses both work and it is quite possible that the wife earns more money than the husband, the laws have changed to reflect the differences in the culture. Nonetheless, far more wives than husbands continue to request spousal support since women still generally earn less considerably than their husbands.
Nowadays, a great many spouses do not request spousal support at all. When they do, if the marriage was short-term (less than 7 years), the courts are most likely to award only “bridge-the-gap” alimony to allow the lower wage earner to catch up. Only if the marriage has lasted 7 or more years is “durational alimony” likely to be awarded.
Besides the duration of the marriage, the courts will consider the following factors when deciding whether, and how much, spousal support to award:
- Couple’s standard of living while married
- Income of each spouse
- Present and future earning capacity of each spouse
- Property owned by each spouse individually
- Each spouse’s portion of shared property
- Whether one spouse has stayed home to care for young children
- Where any young children will be living
- Whether one spouse has earned substantially less than the other during the marriage
- The age and health status of each spouse
- Need for further education or training to make one spouse self-supporting
- Age, health, and special needs of any children
- Whether there are other dependents (e.g. as elderly relatives) cared for by either spouse
- The tax impact of spousal support on each party
As you can see, there are a great many factors to be considered before the court decides on spousal support terms. Having an aggressive divorce attorney who will fight for your rights, whether you are seeking spousal support or your spouse is seeking funds from you, is absolutely essential. Calling on CDH Law for support and superior legal representation is a choice you will be grateful you made. Check out our outstanding credentials, enthusiastic testimonials, and reputation for integrity and compassion and give us a call or fill out the contact form.
Carden Dotzler Hammond, PLLC represents clients in Syracuse and in the following towns and villages of Onondaga County: Camillus, Cicero, Clay, Dewitt, Elbridge, Geddes, Manlius, Marcellus, Onondaga, Salina, Skaneateles, Baldwinsville, East Syracuse, Fayetteville, Liverpool, North Syracuse, and Solvay
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