Family Law

Family and matrimonial law includes the laws and regulations governing marriage and issues involving your family. Family and matrimonial law also include the rules governing and process of separation, annulment or divorce. This includes laws relating to marital property, separate property, equitable distribution of property, spousal support and child support, and child custody when a marriage is in the process of being, or has been, dissolved. Family and matrimonial law also includes the interpretation of certain written agreements entered into by married couples or couples engaged to be married.

The New York Domestic Relations Law, along with New York contract law, provides the basic procedural framework for New York marriages, separations, annulments and divorces.

Family and matrimonial lawyers assist with any and all of the following:

  • Marital Agreements: There are a number of contracts in addition to the basic marriage contract that spouses can enter into before, during the course of, and preliminary to dissolving, a marriage. These include a pre-nuptial agreement; post-nuptial agreement; separation agreement and a marital settlement agreement (also known as a stipulation of settlement).
  • Annulment: A legal action in which one spouse challenges the validity of the marriage on specific grounds and asks the court to declare the marriage void.
  • Legal Separation: There are two forms of legal separation: a Judgment of Separation or a Separation Agreement. A Judgment of Separation is a lawsuit in which one or both spouses seek a court ruling that they be allowed to live separate and apart. A separation agreement is a document where the parties agree in writing to live separate and apart and settle who will be responsible for paying what bills, child custody and visitation, how property will be divided and other issues.
  • Divorce: A legal action in which one or both spouses seek to have their marriage dissolved.
  • Property Rights: Spouses enter a marriage with property, and they accumulate property during the marriage, some of which might be owned individually and some of which might be owned jointly. If the marriage ends in a legal separation or divorce, there are many issues that can arise regarding how the property will be distributed.
  • Spousal Support: Also called “alimony,” “spousal support,” or “maintenance,” this is a temporary or permanent payment that a judge orders one spouse to pay to the other during a divorce proceeding and/or after a divorce is final. The payment enables the receiving spouse to maintain a standard of living; develop skills for self-sufficiency; and/or repay one spouse for the support given to the other spouse, while the latter pursues education or other career enhancing skills.
  • Child Support: Payment made by one parent to the other parent pursuant to court order to enable children to maintain the same standard of living as they enjoyed while their parents were living together.
  • Child Custody and Visitation: Often in family disputes, one or both parents will seek custody of a child or children. The court has broad discretion to order a wide variety of custody and visitation arrangements in order to meet the best interest of the child and specific needs of each family.
  • Protection Orders: Orders issued by a court that seeks to prevent harm to a person in need of protection from a spouse or parent.
  • Fee Awards: Separation and divorce proceedings can result in substantial fees for attorneys, accountants, appraisers, and other experts. Under certain circumstances, a judge can order a party to pay those fees.

What can a matrimonial or family lawyer do for me?

At any stage of a marital relationship, an experienced matrimonial or family lawyer can help with resolving disputes and setting up appropriate agreements; from pre- and post-nuptial agreements to separations, annulments and divorce. A lawyer can help with property issues, child custody and support issues, as well as domestic violence matters. Lawyers can also be helpful if court intervention is required.

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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