Services | Law Offices of Akram Louis

Separation Agreements

Some couples prefer to obtain a separation instead of a divorce. The two most common reasons couples prefer a separation over a divorce are: 1) they still care about their spouse and are not sure if they want to be fully divorced; or 2) they want to continue to be covered under the spouse’s medical insurance. Custody, visitation, support and equitable distribution are all worked out into the separation agreement. 

There are two ways to obtain a separation:

  1. A court ordered judgment of separation based on inhumane treatment, adultery, imprisonment and non-support of your spouse; or
  2. A separation agreement signed by both parties.

If the husband and wife sign a separation agreement, either party may choose to convert the separation agreement into a divorce by filing an uncontested divorce and incorporating the separation agreement with the divorce. 

Our office has a unique way of obtaining separation agreements that is quick and much cheaper than most lawyers. If you are interested in filing for  separation, call our office for a free in-depth legal consultation regarding your case.

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Annulment

ANNULMENT IN NEW YORK

Unlike a divorce, obtaining an annulment makes the marriage null and void as if it never happened. However, obtaining an annulment is not an easy process because the grounds are based on fault and the evidence must be corroborated. There are several grounds for annulments, such as marriages between relatives, marriage to more than one person at a time (Bigamy), or the consent was obtained by reason of force, duress or fraud.

The most common ground for annulment is fraud. For instance, if your significant other promised to raise a family with you and you married that significant other based on that promise but after the marriage, he or she told you that they do not want to have children with you. In this situation, you may be eligible to file for an annulment.

Unlike divorce, judges do not see too many annulments, so it is very important that you hire an attorney that is familiar with the procedure and the law. Obtaining an annulment does not have to be an expensive or a lengthy process. Our attorneys are familiar with the annulment process and the necessary paperwork will be completed in a timely manner so you can start the next chapter of your life as quickly as possible.

If you feel that you are eligible for an annulment, call our office for a free in-depth legal consultation so we can start helping you with this process.

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Retirement Benefits

EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION ON RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS

Retirement accounts such as 401(k) plans, pensions, IRA, deferred compensation plans or annuities are subject to equitable distribution in a divorce or legal separation. Generally, retirement accounts are divided equally starting from the date of the marriage to the date of commencement of the divorce action or legal separation. This means if you have money that accumulated into your retirement account prior to the date of the marriage or after the date of commencement of the divorce or separation, that amount is considered separate property and your spouse is not entitled to it.

If you are one of the few lucky people who also has a pension plan, there are post-retirement cost of living adjustments and death benefits that your spouse is entitled to in a divorce or separation. Pension plans are divided based on a complicated mathematical formula that was outlined in a case called Majauskas v. Majauskas, 61 N.Y.2d 481 (1984).

Many attorneys do not know the ins and outs of pension plans and do not include key language in divorce agreements that would benefit their clients. Our attorneys have reviewed many divorce and separation agreements that were drafted by other lawyers that did not mention certain benefits that would have greatly benefited their clients.

When it comes to retirement accounts rest assured that our firm is knowledgeable on the law. If you are a member of the NYPD, the FDNY or have a military pension, we know how to work certain language into your divorce agreement that would minimize the portion of equitable distribution that your spouse would otherwise be entitled to. 

Call our office to learn more about your retirement accounts and what we can do to help protect your interests.

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Uncontested Divorce

Not every divorce has to be messy, expensive and emotionally draining.  Uncontested divorces are considered to be easy on the parties and finalized quickly.  There are two different types of uncontested divorce:

  • A simple cheap divorce is recommended when the parties do not have any major assets or debts or any custody issues with the children; and
  • A stipulation divorce is recommended when the parties own only certain assets, such as real estate property or retirement accounts.

Simple cheap divorce

Parties may choose to do a simple cheap divorce if they do not own any real estate properties or are not interested in obtaining a share of their spouse’s retirement benefits.  A simple cheap divorce is also recommended if there are no real estate property or custody issues, but their spouse is refusing to sign the divorce papers.  Our office can still get the divorce even if the other spouse refuses to sign the papers.

Stipulation divorce

The stipulation divorce is recommended when both parties have a mutual agreement over the division of assets, debts, custody/visitation, child support, and retirement benefits.  In this situation, our office provides a unique type of divorce in which we go over a questionnaire with the client and a strategy session.  The stipulation divorce saves clients thousands of dollars in legal fees and it is still fairly inexpensive compared to most other firms.

We encourage you to call our office to go over the procedure on how to obtain an uncontested divorce.

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Contested Divorce

Parties go through a contested divorce when they have assets, debts, or custody issues that they cannot amicably resolve. A contested divorce can be very mentally draining on both parties as they both try to gain an advantage over what assets should be split and who will have more time with the children. Contested divorce can also be very expensive and last a long time. It is important to consult with an experienced attorney if you are going through a contested divorce. Here, at The Louis Law Firm, PLLC, we are different than most law firms because on certain types of contested divorces we offer our clients a schedule of flat fees – not hourly rates – including unlimited time with our clients and unlimited negotiation time with opposing attorneys. This allows our clients to receive a high level of representation at a much lower retainer fee than most law firms while at the same time having the peace of mind that their savings are not being drained every time their attorney meets with them or speaks with opposing counsel.

Effects of a contested divorce on the Husband and Wife 
A divorce can have a long-term effect on both parties as both parties litigate the division of assets, such as bank accounts, retirement benefits, brokerage accounts, real estate properties, spousal support, child support and even which party will keep the family pet. There can also be litigation over which property should be considered separate as opposed to marital. Long term marriages that end up in divorce can be very complex and time consuming, which will cost the litigants a lot of money in legal fees.

Our philosophy at The Louis Law Firm, PLLC is to try to reach a settlement agreement through tough negotiation tactics in order not to drag the case on for years and save our clients’ hard-earned money.  If a mutual agreement cannot be reached, we have the courtroom experience to take the case to trial and have a judge issue a decision. 

We are here to guide you through this difficult time and give you a strategy on how to protect your best interest.  If you are getting a divorce in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Bronx, Staten Island or Long Island, call our office for a free in-depth legal consultation and a strategy for your particular case.

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The Louis Law Firm,

Spousal Support

MAINTENANCE/ALIMONY

There is an obligation in New York to financially support your spouse if there is a need. On January 23, 2016, New York State passed a new law regarding maintenance/spousal support (alimony). Alimony in the Supreme Court divorce proceedings is called maintenance. Alimony now is calculated based on a mathematical formula of the parties’ income. The new law also provides Supreme Court Judges in divorce matters with guidance over the duration period of alimony. For marriages of 15 years or less the alimony obligation is 15% to 30% of the length of the marriage; for marriages of 15 years to 20 years the alimony obligation is 30% to 40% the length of the marriage; and for marriages that are over 20 years the alimony obligation is between 35% to 50% the length of the marriage. For example, alimony for a 16-year marriage is between 4 years and 10 months to 6 years and 5 months.

However, there are certain factors the court may consider instead of just blindly applying the formula for alimony. For instance, if the parties are separated for a long time the attorney for the mooned spouse may argue that the court should not order any alimony because the parties are financially independent. 

Spousal Support in Family Court

Did you know that the court can issue an order of spousal support while the parties are still married? In Family Court alimony is called spousal support. If the parties are married the less mooned spouse may file a petition in family court for spousal support. Unlike divorce court, family court orders for spousal support last indefinitely. If a spouse obtains an order of spousal support from family court, the payor should file for divorce in order to have a cutoff date on the order of support.

When the spousal support/maintenance law was enacted on January 23, 2016, it took into consideration tax deductions. Spousal support/maintenance orders were tax deductible to the payer and considered income to the payee. However, federal income tax law was changed in which orders for spousal support/maintenance made after December 31, 2018 are no longer tax deductible. Therefore, it is important to have a skilled attorney negotiate the amount of spousal support/maintenance.

Divorce can have a huge financial impact on both parties, so it is important that you work with a skilled and experienced attorney. For more information on how to obtain an order of spousal support/maintenance or how to protect yourself from paying spousal support/maintenance call our office to schedule a strategy session. 

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Orders Of Protection

Courts in New York take domestic violence very seriously. In New York, there are two ways for a domestic violence victim to obtain an order of protection. An order of protection can be procured from criminal court or family court.

If an abused spouse calls the police or makes a police report, the police may arrest the abuser and press criminal charges. In this situation the abused spouse may receive an order of protection from criminal court and the court may order the abuser to vacate the marital residence.

The abused spouse may also choose to file a family offense petition in family court and seek an order of protection. Orders of protection in family court are governed by Article 8 of the Family Court Act.

Family Court will issue an order of protection if any of the following family offenses occurred:

  1. Disorderly conduct
  2. Harassment in the first or second degree
  3. Aggravated harassment in the second degree
  4. Assault in the second degree
  5. Criminal mischief
  6. Sexual abuse in the second or third degree
  7. Strangulation
  8. Menacing in the second or third degree
  9. Reckless endangerment
  10. Stalking
  11. Attempted assault
  12. Sexual misconduct
  13. Forcible touching
  14. Criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation
  15. Identity theft in first, second or third degree
  16. Grand larceny in 3rd or 4th degree

The standard of proof to obtain an order of protection from family court is preponderance of the evidence, which means that there is a greater than 50 percent chance that the alleged incidents are true.

Defending allegations of domestic violence
Our firm understands that some alleged victims make false accusations of domestic violence in order to obtain a favorable outcome in their divorce or custody cases. If there is an order of protection filed against you in criminal court or family court, our firm is ready to aggressively represent you. We will go over a case strategy with you to ensure your rights and freedoms are protected.

For more information on orders of protection call our office to schedule a strategy session regarding your particular circumstances.

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Prenuptial/Postnuptial Agreements

Before you say, “I do”, you have to think about a marriage as an economic partnership. If the marriage does not work out and either you or your spouse decides to file for divorce or separation in the future, the assets, debts, and retirement accounts will have to be divided pursuant to New York State Law. Your spouse may even be entitled to alimony. However, you can protect yourself and your assets with a prenuptial agreement drafted and executed before you get married.

Many people assume that prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are only for the wealthy, but that is not true. Regular middle class individuals may choose to enter into a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement to protect future assets, such as purchasing a house or protecting their pension/retirement accounts that may accumulate during marriage or just protecting against the possibility of your spouse claiming significant alimony upon divorce. You may not even know or be thinking of a scenario that would become a reality if you were to get divorced. For example, things such as pension and retirement benefits may become marital property so that your spouse may claim a right to them upon divorce or separation.

A prenuptial agreement is a contract between both parties before the marriage ceremony, which dictates the outcome of the assets, debts and support if a divorce or separation is commenced. For example, a person that comes into the marriage with property may want to protect that property if his or her marriage ends in a divorce or legal separation. The couple may also choose to decide what will happen to their estate if either of them dies.

A postnuptial agreement is a contract between the parties that are already married, and it is similar to a prenuptial agreement except that it is drafted and executed after the parties are already married. After the wedding the couple may decide to protect their property and to have certainty as to how their assets and debts will be divided in the event of a divorce or separation.

Many prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are thrown out by the court and rendered null and avoid because they were not drafted correctly. Unlike divorce or separation agreements, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are complicated to draft. These agreements must be drafted by a knowledgeable attorney and executed in a manner that will be upheld by the court. Our attorneys have the experience and knowledge to draft the most iron clad prenuptial agreements.

Call our office today for a legal consultation on how to protect your assets in the event of a divorce or separation.

Custody/Visitation

Custody litigation is not easy on the parents or the children. There are mainly three types of custody: 1) sole legal custody, 2) joint legal custody, and 3) shared joint legal and/or physical custody. Legal custody means major decision making with respect to the child’s health, education and religion. Physical custody is where the child resides. For example, a joint legal custody with physical custody with mom means the parties share decisions but the child resides primarily with mom. However, a joint legal and physical custody means both parents share decision making and splits time residing with both parents.

In New York the court determines which parent gets custody by examining the best interest of the children. The court appoints an attorney for the child. Generally, this attorney’s duty is to report the child’s wishes to the court. The court takes into consideration the child’s wishes as one factor in determining which parent the child should reside. For older children (13 and up) the court tends to listen more to the child’s wishes as to which parent the child wants to live with. If one parent receives custody, the other parent gets visitation with the child. The parties also alternate holidays and each parent is entitled to summer vacation with the child.

If you are going through a custody battle, you need an attorney that will aggressively represent your interest all the way. Your attorney must prove to the court that you are an involved parent and the best interest of the children is to reside primarily with you.

Our office is highly skilled with custody litigation and the courtroom experience to advocate for your interest. Call the office to schedule a strategy session for your particular custody case.

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Child Support

Child support is calculated at a maximum cap of $148,000 combined parental income. However, the court has discretion to calculate child support above the cap. In New York, child support must be paid by parents until the child reaches the age of 21 years. Child support is calculated based on adjusted gross income (“AGI”: Gross income minus social security, Medicare and NYC or Yonkers tax).

The amount of child support that must be paid for one child is 17 percent, for two children is 25 percent, for three children is 29 percent, for four children 31 percent and for 5 or more children is 35 percent of the combined adjusted gross income.

Child support modification:
Child support orders that were made on or after October 13, 2010 can be upwardly modified in three ways:

  1. Every three years, the custodial parent is entitled to a de novo review of his or her child support calculation;
  2. If the non-custodial parent’s income increased by 15 percent or more; or
  3. A showing of substantial change in circumstances.

How can the non-custodial parent lower his or her child support obligation?
The parent that is paying child support can lower the amount of child support by showing that he/she lost his/her job with no fault of his/her own. This means that the parent that is paying child support cannot voluntarily quit or get fired from their job. If the court finds out that a parent lost his/her job intentionally, the court will deny the petition to lower the child support.

Enforcement of child support
If the non-custodial parent owes you child support and is not paying child support or not paying on time, you need to contact our office to help you enforce the child support order by filing a violation petition. There are several remedies to obtain back child support: suspension of driver’s license, passport denials, and intercept of tax refund. In addition, you can obtain a money judgment which carries  9 percent interest rate and the payer may face jail time if he or she is found at a trial in willful violation of not paying the child support order.

Call our office so we can guide you to the right path and help you with your child support issue.