Ten years ago, when I was the Quote of the Day in the New York Times, “No one cares more about the things you do than the person that used to be married to you”, on the rising use of EZ Pass records and other electronic evidence in divorce proceedings, I was challenged as being incredibly cynical. Time, however, has shown I was merely being prescient. While there are countless, priceless advantages to the internet and social media, such as accessibility of medical research globally, the possibility of medical treatment being given remotely, the ability to have visual and auditory communication with loved ones irrespective of distance, there is a minefield of hazards at every keystroke or movement. Ironically, when potential clients come into my office about the possibility of a divorce or custody dispute, almost all of them underestimate the digital footprint they have been leaving every moment of every day. Nothing can really ever be hidden anymore. Electronic communications, texts, emails and postings are introduced as evidence in courts of law everywhere. For divorce and family lawyers, these communications are a treasure trove to document where an individual was at a specific time and day, proof of improper parenting or lifestyle issues. We are not unlike defense lawyers in a personal injury case where a claimant’s social media pages are scrutinized to discover evidence to disprove his or her claims. For example, there was an 18 year old high school student, Fotini Lourtesis, who indisputably was hit […]
As the season of Hallmark celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day envelops us, it is important to acknowledge the sacred role so many grandparents play in their grandchildren’s lives. As a child, I was lucky enough to go to elementary school a block away from my maternal grandmother, who provided us with scrumptious lunches doled out daily with hugs and kisses to recharge us for the second half of the school day. In the decades since, the role of grandparents and their image have undergone a dramatic makeover. According to census data in the United States 2.7 million grandparents are raising grandchildren. Unfortunately, the reason is not thoughtful, delayed parenting, but rather the consequence of parents who are unable or unwilling to care for their children due to substance abuse, disease, incarceration, death or abandonment. Twenty-nine years ago a lovely couple, “C” and “L”, in their early 60’s came to my office desperate to protect their precious ten year old granddaughter, “M”, who had been left in their care five years earlier, when their older daughter, “D”, and son-in-law’s lives were overwhelmed with addiction issues. Their granddaughter M had flourished in their loving care, coupled with the deep connections they had fostered between M and their other grandchildren, daughter, son and son-in-law. Suddenly, M’s entire world was threatened by the intervention of Social Services, who wanted to remove the little girl from the only real home she had ever known and reunite her with her mother and half-siblings, […]
As a matrimonial lawyer for almost 40 years, I have been an eyewitness to the seasonality of divorce filings. There is always a flurry of new matters walking into divorce lawyers’ offices after New Year’s Day and Labor Day. Why? Because January 1st or a new school year seems to be time when people implement their New Year’s resolutions. But recently, as I was thinking about this pattern, I wondered when the Tipping Point really occurred. I think it is the month of May. The month of May is overflowing with Milestone Events. Teens are getting ready for proms and high school graduations. Young adults are finishing college, graduate school or planning their own weddings. But this city girl thinks the seeds of discontent are being planted permanently in the ground in May, as couples negotiate the emotional minefield that Milestone Events can be for them and realize that their fantasies about these moments did not happen. When couples get married, they each seem to have different inner visions of the movie of their future life together. As Albert Einstein opined, “Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably, they’re both disappointed.” I see the same problem of unrealistic expectations when a couple has a child and when that child is about to leave the nest. When a couple plans to have a child, most parents imagine that somehow they will have the Gerber baby. Unfortunately, the […]
They say April showers bring May flowers, but in my world it seems instead to bring invites to bridal showers, weddings and prenuptial agreement meetings. While most people see bridal showers and wedding celebrations as a couple’s public proclamations and confirmations of real romance, especially when elaborately done for all to see and relive on social media, I totally disagree. I think I have the best front row seat to seeing authentic proclamations of real romance. As a matrimonial lawyer, I am privileged to watch how a couple actually deals with one another and their respective families when they are crafting their prenuptial agreement – the roadmap they personally have designed for their Happily Ever After. What is truly more romantic than saying what you mean and meaning what you say? That’s what a prenuptial agreement essentially is – blessed by a notary instead of another licensed official. How much more meaningful is a wedding ceremony when each party honestly understands in their innermost soul the significance of the words they are exchanging? How much more likely is a person to live up to his or her word when they signed a piece of paper agreeing to those terms? Without fully comprehending the legal consequences of entering into a marriage, or even recognizing it to be a legal event, I think participating in a wedding ceremony, no matter how fabulous the dress and shoes are, is akin to being cast to sing mindlessly in an opera in a foreign language […]
Just when Spring Fever is about to burst out, the reality that there is no romance without finance has to be addressed. Marriage is taxing – I don’t just mean that it is a lot of work emotionally or physically – rather there are financial tax consequences if you are married as of December 31st. Your tax status is synonymous with your marital status. If you are married at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, then you are considered married for tax purposes for the entire year. It does not matter what your heart says or what your Facebook status lists, New Year’s Eve is the bright line test. Since money is so often the focus of marital disputes, you owe it to yourself and to your marriage to analyze the consequences of saying “I Do” to Uncle Sam in March of each year before you start the annual walk down the aisle of joint returns. You also owe it to yourself to understand the actual financial facts of your relationship. While in general most married couples save money if they file jointly, each couple still should have a professional calculate the actual amount of taxes that have to be paid if they were to file jointly or separately for the past tax year. Ideally, this determination should be made before estimated tax payments are made using both parties’ Social Security numbers. Combining spouses’ incomes can result in more taxes being paid than if each party had filed separately. […]
With Mary Tyler Moore’s recent passing, we all had the opportunity to revisit the final scene of the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Do you remember how Mary, Lou, Murray, Ted, Sue Ann and Georgia were clutching each another tearfully, as they prepared to leave the newsroom together for the last time? Mary suddenly burst out in tears with the revelation that after seven years of sharing and caring, her newsroom coworkers had become her family.