Blog | Law Offices of Akram Louis

It’s no surprise that the coronavirus pandemic is causing divorce rates to rise as quarantine has placed additional strain on relationships.

The combination of couples stuck in the house, homeschooling children, working remotely, dealing with unemployment and financial strain, worrying about their health and the health of loved ones, and maybe even experiencing the death of a loved one has put a significant strain on relationships causing many marriages to reach their breaking point.

The Pandemic and Divorce Rates

When the pandemic began in March there was already an uptick in divorce rates. The New York Post reported that people filing for separation during quarantine peaked nationally on April 13, 2020, which was about three weeks after most states began lockdowns. https://nypost.com/2020/09/01/divorce-rates-skyrocket-in-u-s-amid-covid-19/

Furthermore, data collected by Legal Templates, a company that provides legal documents, reported the number of people seeking a divorce in the United States was 34 percent higher in this year from March through June compared to 2019. https://legaltemplates.net/resources/personal-family/divorce-rates-covid-19/#divorces-increase-in-couples-with-children.

The pandemic has caused couples to deal with things they have never dealt with before. It’s a lot to manage. And for some couples, it’s too much. The National Law Review reported that newer couples have been reported as being the most likely to file for divorce. It also reported 20 percent of couples who had been married for five months or less sought divorce during the months of March, April, May, and June compared with 11 percent in 2019. The number of life insurance policies and payouts required in divorce settlements also increased this year as opposed to previous years. https://www.natlawreview.com/article/divorce-rates-and-covid-19

How Do We Make Sense of COVID-19 Impacting Divorce Rates?

If a couple already struggled with communication and support or had other serious marital problems, the added stress brought about by the pandemic likely emphasized pre-existing issues.

Unhappy pre-pandemic couples might have remained stable by spending considerable time apart before quarantining in March 2020. Between work hours, commuting to/from work, and kids’ after school activities, married couples could function day-to-day without spending much time together. Many couples had distractions to prevent their attention from focusing on their unhappy marriage, but quarantine changed that and suddenly couples couldn’t ignore their relationship anymore, resulting in more people filing for divorce.

Hire a Divorce Attorney to Help With Your Divorce During COVID-19

Divorce is extremely stressful even in a less chaotic world. Deciding to end a marriage is never easy, and with the pandemic adding additional stress, it may feel particularly daunting. However, there are different options to start the divorce process, and finding which path is best for you and your family is essential. It’s important for people who are considering a divorce to seek support from an experienced divorce attorney to help them navigate this major life event during an unprecedented and stressful time.

If you need a New York divorce attorney, The Louis Law Firm, PLLC have the knowledge and experience to helping those who are looking to file for divorce.  If you need a divorce lawyer in Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island or Manhattan, call The Louis Law Firm at (347) 926-3388 to schedule a free consultation.  My office also files for divorces in Nassau County and provide affordable retainers.

 

Divorce law is supposed to be applied equally towards any person, irrespective of gender and or identity preference. Why, then, would divorce affect women differently than men? Simply put, the reason is the reality of most circumstances encountered by our community. Our practice has demonstrated that, generally, women are more emotionally invested in the marriage than men, and women tend to be the primary caretakers of the children. Of course, these circumstances alone cannot lead to a generalized conclusion that men are apathetic about the marital relationship or their children. However, what these circumstances do reflect is that women more often than men sacrifice their careers; work part-time; or stay at home full-time to raise the children.

Another reality that our society confronts is that of domestic violence. Divorce can also mean freedom for women that are victims of domestic violence. It is not uncommon to encounter brave women who have endured years of verbal, mental or physical abuse from their spouse. For many of my female clients, for example, they have endured and tolerated years of living in an abusive marriage to raise the children and keep the family intact.

How, then, does these realties affect how issues of child custody are determined in the court system?

Which Parent is Awarded Custody of the Children in a Divorce?
New York law determines the issue of custody based on the “best interest of the children” principal. As such, while the court considers the circumstances endured by the parents, the court is the parens patriae of the children – or the children’s legal protectors. So, what does that mean for women who sacrificed their careers to raise the children in order for their husbands to become the bread winners? In deciding who is awarded custody, the court will analyze several factors to determine which parent is more involved in raising the children. For example, some of these factors include which parent takes the children to their doctors’ appointments, attend school meetings, cook for the children, helps the children with their homework, or takes the children on playdates. Thus, if you are a stay-at-home mother or a mother who works part-time because you decided to make your children your priority, you may have the upper hand in having the court grant you custody of the children.

If you want custody of your children, it is your burden to convince the judge that it is in the best interest of the children that they reside with you. In other words, you must be able to show the court that you are a “super parent” that is capable of meeting your children’s everyday needs.

Does it Matter That My Husband Earns More Money Than I Do For Purposes Of Custody?
Not every family is a two-income family and courts understand that spouses are not always on equal financial footing. Custody is not determined by which parent makes more money. Instead, the law provides for financial support to the less-monied spouse in order to level the playing field in a custody proceeding or a divorce action.

Therefore, stay-at-home mothers should not be worried that they will lose custody because their husbands are in a better financial situation. If the court determines that the mother was the primary caretaker of the children during the marriage, she likely will be awarded custody. In addition, the mother will receive child support as the custodial parent and may be eligible for spousal support as well.

Fighting for custody of your children is not an easy task and you will need an experienced attorney on your side. For more advice on how to obtain custody in New York, contact The Louis Law Firm at (347) 689-7562 to schedule a free consultation. As a New York child custody lawyer, I will develop a case strategy with you so you can fight for your rights as a parent.

According to the New York Times, domestic violence is on the rise during the COVID-19 lockdown. Generally, divorce rates and domestic violence goes up whenever couples spend more time together, such as during Christmas and summer vacation. However, given our new reality that requires us to remain at home, it is natural for victims of domestic violence to feel trapped in their home with no other place to flee. The natural question one must ask is, what remedy is available for victims of domestic violence during these trying times?

Victims of domestic violence during the Coronavirus lockdown can visit the NYC Family Justice Center’s website for information and calling NYC’s 24-hour hotline. However, he or she will find that the best solution is to seek an order of protection from family court to prevent further abuse and harassment.

Who Can Apply for an Order of Protection in Family Court and What Must You Demonstrate?
Unlike in criminal court, in order for you to obtain an order of protection in family court, you must first demonstrate that you have a specific relationship with the aggressor as defined in the Family Court Act. More specifically, there must be an intimate relationship with the other person. For example, you can be current or former spouses, have a child together, or related by blood or marriage.

Secondly, you must prove that the other person committed at least one of the many family offense crimes as outlined in Article 8 of the Family Court Act. For example, some of the family offense crimes include, but not limited to, harassment, assault, attempted assault, menacing, stalking, strangulation, and forcible touching.

How to Obtain an Order of Protection in Family Court?
The victim of domestic violence must commence this process in family court by filing a family offense petition. To be successful in obtaining an order of protection, the victim must articulate within the petition specific allegations of the domestic violence and when and where those allegations occurred – in other words, the specific answers to “Who”; “What”; “Where”; “Why”; and “When”.

Also, you must prove that the other person committed certain crimes against you, such as harassment, assault, or menacing.

What Happens Next?
After the family offense petition is filed, the victim may request a temporary order of protection even if there is no proof yet that the Respondent committed any crimes. If the allegations stated in the petition are serious enough, you can request the court to exclude the aggressor from the home. For example, if an aggressor-spouse hits you or destroys personal property, the family court has the discretion to issue an order of protection to remove your spouse from the house.

You can also protect your children from your spouse by including them in the order of protection. To convince the family court to issue an order of protection on behalf of your children, the family offense petition must include allegations of domestic violence that transpired in the presence of the children. Even if your spouse did not physically abuse the children directly, domestic violence that occurs in front of the children causes anxiety and mental stress on the children.

Can I File a Petition in the Family Court During the COVID-19 Lockdown?
Although the family courts are operating on a virtual basis and only accepting emergency cases, victims of domestic violence can still file for orders of protection in family court during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the family court is conducting appearances on skype or over the phone. This includes hearings to determine if your spouse should be excluded from the home.

Contact My Office For a Free Consultation Regarding Obtaining an Order of Protection
The home should be a place of refuge. No one should have to suffer from domestic violence in their place of refuge, especially during the Coronavirus lockdown.

The Louis Law Firm, PLLC is committed to help those who are victims of domestic violence. If you wish to file for an order of protection in family court, or to discuss the possibility of obtaining an order of protection, call the Louis Law Firm at (347) 689-7562 to schedule a free in-depth telephone consultation.

Many New York couples are feeling the pressure right now. Whether it is because they are laid off, or are struggling to keep their small business alive, they are staying home with their significant other during the COVID-19 pandemic. And during this time, they realize that their partner is not right for them anymore. I recently received a call from a wife who is married for six years asking me for information about how to file for a divorce during the Coronavirus lockdown. I asked her why she wants a divorce, and she said “I can’t be in this stressful relationship anymore. We both agree that we are not meant for each other.”

As Governor Andrew Cuomo continues to extend the closure of businesses for non-essential workers, divorce courts are operating only on an emergency basis and are not accepting new divorce filings. But that does not mean that couples have to wait until the lockdown is lifted to start the divorce process. Right now is the time to move towards developing a divorce strategy because the stock market is down and therefore you can lock in the low value of your assets and protect yourself for the future. For example, if you own a business, stock portfolio or retirement accounts, your spouse is entitled to 50 % of what has accumulated from the date of the marriage until the date of the filing of the divorce. But what can you do if divorce courts are not accepting new cases?

Separation Agreement as An Alternative Option to a Divorce

Separation agreements will also lock in the date of the accumulation of marital assets, which can save you money in the long run. I have successfully provided couples that are unable to file for a divorce because of the Coronavirus lockdown in signing a separation agreement and stopping the accumulation of marital assets. When courts eventually reopen, those couples can convert their separation agreement into a divorce and the terms of the separation agreement are incorporated into the judgment of divorce. Couples should consider this option because a separation agreement does not have to be filed with the court and can be drafted in one day.

The Louis Law Firm is open and ready to help you during the COVID-19 lockdown. If you are thinking about a divorce or just want to know the different options you have, do not wait until the courts reopen. Waiting until the lockdown is over to start the divorce process could cost you thousands of dollars. Don’t wait and call The Louis Law Firm at (347) 689-7562 right now to schedule a free strategy session.

Many of my current clients are complaining that their significant other is preventing them from seeing their children. As the country is in lockdown and staying home, many custodial parents are afraid that their children will contract the Coronavirus if they visit the other parent at their home. Thus, family courts are receiving many applications for violations of court ordered visitation.

Non-custodial parents who have court orders of visitation are prevented by the other parent from seeing their children. Thus, non-custodial parents feel helpless because family courts are only accepting emergency cases. Whether the custodial parent is in contempt for violating a court order of visitation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Court orders of visitation are still valid during the coronavirus pandemic and should be followed by the custodial parent. Even though family court is only accepting limited cases, a non-custodial parent can still be heard to enforce the order of visitation by filing an emergency motion for violation and enforcement of the visitation order. Custodial parents do not call the shots. Every parent should have some sort of visitation with their children during the Coronavirus lockdown. At a minimum noncustodial parents should be able to freely video chat with their children.

Custodial Parents

Custodial parents are worried about their children contracting the virus if they leave the home. The question becomes are they required under the order of visitation to take a risk and send the children to visit the other parent, or can they keep their children safely inside with them until this pandemic is over? The answer is it depends. Some children suffer from asthma, weak immune system, low white blood cells, and the non-custodial parent may be exercising poor social distancing. However, the custodial parent should consider taking a legal action to temporarily suspend the visitation order instead of violating the order.

The Louis Law Firm is open and ready to help you during the Coronavirus lockdown. If you need to file an emergency application for visitation or if you just have a question regarding a custody and visitation court order during the COVID-19 pandemic, call The Louis Law Firm at (347) 689-7562 today.

Almost all of us are used to seeing ads and billboards for $299 quick divorce.  However, does these types of divorces protect the average client in the future? 

  There is no question we all want to save money, and no one wants to spend their hard-earned savings unnecessarily.  These advertisements almost never mention whether there are more fees if the parties have children or properties. Also, to the surprise of many clients, they later learn that they have to pay an additional $335 for New York State mandatory court filing fees.

In addition, many of the “cheap divorce” advertisements are completed by paralegals and lawyers not specializing in matrimonial law.  Professionals without the correct expertise can often overlook important aspects in a divorce. For example, if one spouse owns properties, such as a house or condo, a stipulation of the settlement must be filed with the divorce papers.  Also, if there are children in the marriage the divorce must indicate which parent will have custody and the amount of child support to be paid. Many divorces I see are done incorrectly because there is no mention of the children of the marriage or a stipulation of settlement outlining the division of the properties.  For example, if a person owns a house and a stipulation of settlement is not included with the divorce papers, the other spouse can reopen the divorce years later and claim an interest in the house. Also, if there are children born during the marriage, but child support and custody are not discussed in the divorce, the court will reject the divorce papers.  

If divorce papers are drafted incorrectly and the court rejects the papers due to errors, the client takes the risk of his or her divorce being dismissed if the paralegal or lawyer they hired is unable to correct the mistakes.  Unfortunately, there are many lawyers that do not specialize in divorces and make crucial mistakes in final divorce papers, which results in the papers getting rejected by the court. Almost 50 percent of divorces are rejected by the court because the lawyer or the paralegal that drafted the divorce failed to file mandatory documents.

Recently, my office submitted to the court corrections on a divorce that was filed by a paralegal back in 2011.  The paralegal never included the issues of custody and child support in the divorce papers and almost every single document was done incorrectly.  As such, the court rejected the divorce. Furthermore, if your spouse hires a lawyer to contest the divorce, you will need an attorney to negotiate a settlement and draft a divorce agreement in order for the court to accept the divorce.  

My office charges only $600 to negotiate a settlement and try to resolve all the issues. At the Louis Law Firm, PLLC all the divorce papers are drafted on the day of your appointment by an experienced divorce attorney and you will receive the divorce papers the same day.  If you need a quick divorce at a low price, call The Louis Law Firm, PLLC at (347) 689-7562.

Most couples believe that after getting a divorce all their problems will end. This concept is not necessarily true especially when the divorced couples have children in common.

Child Support
The non-custodial parents, which is usually the father, faces a challenge when he cannot afford to pay child support. I always tell my male clients that it is easier to increase child support than decrease it. However, it is possible to decrease court ordered child support payments if the non-custodial parent is laid off from their job, their salary decreases, or if they have another child from another marriage that they are supporting.

The mistake that most fathers make is that they ignore their child support orders and let themselves fall deep into arrears simply because they cannot afford to pay the child support amount. If the mother then files for a violation of child support, the father might go to jail if the court finds that he is willfully not paying his child support order. The mother will also receive a money judgment on the child support owed, at a nine percent interest rate.

I tell fathers that it is better to pay what they can afford until we go to court to decrease the court ordered child support amount. If your child support order is too high, it is important to contact a qualified attorney to discuss how to lower it. If you need a child support lawyer in Brooklyn, call The Louis Law Firm today to discuss the steps necessary to lower your child amount and prevent falling further behind in payments.

Custody and Domestic Violence
As for custody, the law is gender neutral as to which parent should be awarded physical custody of the children. However, in reality most mothers are granted custody of the children and fathers are awarded visitation and parenting time. The problems arise after the divorce if the mother alienates the children from the father or seeks an of protection to prevent the father from seeing the children. The father then must put on a defense to disprove any alleged false allegations. Also, if the mother is deliberately alienating the children, the father has grounds to
modify the custody order.

If the custodial parent is alienating your children from you or makes false domestic violence allegations, call Akram Louis at (347) 689-7562 to have aggressive representation. To modify custody and visitation in Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens, Manhattan, Bronx or Nassau County, call today to schedule a strategy session.

At The Louis Law Firm, PLLC, we understand that people have concerns regarding what will happen to the marital home when they go through a divorce.  Some people want to protect the marital home and their spouse’s share of the home, but others want to keep living in the home and not be forced to sell it. Let The Louis Law Firm explain what could happen to your home should you go through a divorce.

New York is an equitable distribution State.  The term “equitable distribution” does not necessarily mean equal.  Generally, real estate property that is acquired during the marriage is split equally between the Husband and Wife.  In a Brooklyn divorce, the issue of dividing real estate property can get complicated.  For example, what happens when one party purchases real estate property while the parties are physically separated?  Also, what if one party enters the marriage owning a real estate property and then adds his or her spouse’s name on the deed – the question then becomes will that property be considered marital or separate? And who will get it if you go through a divorce?  At The Louis Law Firm we can help answer all these tough questions and develop a legal strategy regarding division of real estate property.

What happens to a home that was purchased before the marriage?

 If a real estate property is purchased prior to the marriage, that property is generally considered separate property and is not subject to equitable distribution.  However, separate real estate property purchased prior to the marriage can be classified as marital property in three ways: 1) if the non-titled spouse is added to the deed; 2) if the separate property is sold and another property is purchased during the marriage using the funds from the sale; or 3) when the separate property appreciates in value during the marriage.

Adding your spouse to the deed.

If you buy real estate prior to the marriage and then add your spouse’s name to the deed after the marriage, the courts will view the property as marital property that will be subject to equitable distribution.  The question then becomes what happens to the down payment that you paid on the property prior to the marriage?  A knowledgeable attorney can argue to the judge that the spouse that purchased the property and paid a down payment on it prior to the marriage should receive a credit of that down payment.  Therefore, it is important to trace the down payment that was made prior to the marriage in order to claim this separate property credit. It could save you hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Selling the home that was purchased prior to the marriage and buying another property during the marriage.

 Many of our clients entered the marriage owning a real estate property, but during the marriage they sold the property and bought another one.  In this situation, New York State law presumes the real estate property that was purchased during the marriage is marital property subject to equitable distribution.  However, the presumption of marital property can be rebutted by tracing the funds that was used to purchase the property.

In other words, in order to prove a separate property credit on the property purchased during the marriage, a knowledgeable attorney should work with the client to trace the funds used to purchase the marital property.  However, if the person is unable to trace the money from the sale, the court will not award a separate property credit on the marital home.  At The Louis Law Firm we work with our clients on these issues to try to save them thousands of dollars.

Is my spouse entitled to a share of a home that was purchased before the marriage but went up in value during the marriage?

 Under New York law, an increase in value on a home that was purchased before the marriage is considered separate property.  However, the non-titled spouse may be entitled to a share of the appreciation value if the increase in value happened because of the contributions or efforts of the non-titled spouse.  The contributions to the increase in value of a home that was purchased before the marriage can be in the form of monetary and tangible contributions or intangible non-monetary contributions.  For example, if the parties paid down the mortgage, or made major renovations on the property during the marriage that increased the value of the property, the non-titled spouse may have a claim for a share of the appreciation value.

If you are considering getting a divorce and concerned about what will happen to your home, call The Louis Law Firm today to schedule a free in depth strategy session. Call us at (347) 689-7562.

Clients often ask about the difference between uncontested divorce and no-fault divorce. Although the terms sound very similar, they refer to two different aspects of divorce law. Generally speaking there are two types of divorce: contested and uncontested. Contested divorce is exactly what it sounds like. The parties cannot agree on the division of property and/or assets or there are custody issues, so the divorce is contested.  In a contested divorce, it is important to find an attorney who specializes primarily in the field of matrimonial law. Your lawyer should be able to break down your case so that you understand its possible weaknesses. The attorney that you choose should also develop a strategy for you in order to help overcome the weaknesses on your case.

In a situation where the parties have no property and/or children or can agree on all essential terms of the divorce in a “stipulation”, the divorce is considered uncontested.

Either way, a divorce when filed (be that contested or uncontested) must indicate on what grounds the parties wish to dissolve the marriage. In New York, there are seven grounds upon which a party may file for divorce:

  1. Irretrievable breakdown in relationship for a period of at least 6 months
  2. Cruel and inhuman treatment
  3. Abandonment
  4. Imprisonment of one party
  5. Adultery
  6. Divorce after a legal separation for at least one year
  7. Divorce after a judgment of separation

The first ground – irretrievable breakdown in a relationship for a period of at least 6 months – is what is commonly referred to as a NO-FAULT DIVORCE. To use this ground, the marriage must have broken down for period of at least 6 months, and all economic issues, including debt, how the marital property will be divided, and custody and support of the children have been settled.  New York State did not permit a “no fault divorce” until 2010 when the law was amended to add these additional grounds for people who wanted to get divorced but not claim any fault on behalf of either party.

In summary, whereas the term “uncontested divorce” refers to the type of divorce where the parties are not contesting any issues, the term “no-fault divorce” refers to the grounds upon which the divorce is being sought, i.e. irretrievable breakdown of the relationship for at least 6 months.

Divorces are never easy on the couples, especially if they have children.  We are all used to hearing about celebrities splitting up after five minutes of marriage!  For example, in 2014 when Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got hitched many believed the couple would be the exception because they have six children together.

The couple was formally known in the media as “Brangelina”, until Angelina Jolie filed for a divorce in 2016.  Pitt responded to Jolie’s divorce petition by requesting sole legal and physical custody of all six children.  The Pitt/Jolie case reports indicate that Pitt’s request, however, did not go very well with the court because he was under investigation for child abuse.  As a result, the academy award winner was only awarded a temporary schedule of therapeutic supervised visits.

In January 2017, the couple agreed to seal their divorce papers after the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services cleared Brad Pitt of child abuse accusations.  In June 2018, the estranged couple entered into a temporary custody arrangement of joint legal and physical custody.

In New York State there are three different custody arrangements, sole legal custody, joint legal custody and joint legal and physical custody (a.k.a 50/50 shared custody).  The first type of custody is sole legal and physical custody, which means the children reside primarily with one parent and that parent makes all the major decisions without having to consult or co-parent with the other spouse.  The court is more inclined to grant this type of custody arrangement when parents cannot communicate with each other for the sake of raising the children.

The second type of custody arrangement is joint legal custody with one parent having physical custody (the custodial parent).  In this type of custody arrangement, the parties consult with each other regarding major decisions but the children reside primarily with one parent.  Joint legal custody allows couples to co-parent together and put their differences aside in an effort to raise the children.  Parents that have joint legal custody have to make major decisions regarding medical/health, education and religion together.  For example, if the children reside primarily with mom and the parties have joint decision making, mom cannot unilaterally decide to enroll the children into a private school or change the children’s doctor without first consulting with dad.  Some parents that have joint legal custody that do not wish to speak to one another choose to co-parent with each other using another form of communication such as text messaging.

The third type of custody is joint legal and physical custody (shared 50/50 custody).  In this type of custody arrangement, both parents share decision making regarding the children and the children reside with them on equal time.  The 50/50 custody arrangement was not preferred by the courts for a long time because many judges believed that it created an unstable home environment for the children.  In other words, the children have two homes and the parties have to do a lot of back and forth shuffling the kids around.  For example, parents may choose to have the children on alternating weekly basis.  Some parents that cannot go a full week without seeing their children agree to exchange the children every two days and alternate the weekends – this of course leads to more back and forth exchanges of the children between the parties.

The joint legal and physical custody is still not the most preferred type of custody arrangement for judges.  In my experience, only Queens County Supreme Court judges started recommending joint legal and physical custody in the last few years and only if the parties reside in close proximity with one another.  Judges in other counties view shared custody as burdensome on the children and not in their best interest.

There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to the question of whether equal shared custody is in the best interest of the children.  For instance, some parents feel that they should have equal parenting time with their children because prior to the divorce the children lived with both parents under one roof.  However, other parents feel that it creates instability for the children because they have to transport the children’s clothes and their school books/supplies back and forth between two residences.

Every family is different and there should not be a standard custody arrangement.  Parents who are both involved with their children’s upbringing, such as attending school meetings, taking the children to doctor’s appointments and helping their children with their homework should be allowed to have equal shared custody.