Family Law

Family law is a challenging and emotional area. The attorneys at The Sigal Law Firm can guide you through the legal process, lessening the stress or burden on you and your family. There are three general types of family law cases: divorce, family support, and paternity. Each of these case types may include matters about custody, support, parenting time, property, and other issues. Any of these matters or cases may be mediated.

Contact us today to learn more about your rights.  Our attorneys are fluent in English, Russian, and Polish.

CHILD CUSTODY
Family law proceedings which involve issues of residence and contact often generate the most acrimonious disputes. While many parents cooperate when it comes to sharing their children and resort to mediation to settle a dispute, not all do. For those that engage in litigation, there seem to be few limits. Court filings quickly fill with mutual accusations by one parent against the other, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse, brain-washing, parental alienation syndrome, sabotage, and manipulation. It is these infrequent yet difficult custody battles that become public via the media and sometimes distort the public’s perceptions so that the issues appear more prevalent than they are and the court’s response appear inadequate.

Contact us today to learn more about your rights.  Our attorneys are fluent in English and Russian.

CHILD SUPPORT
In family law and government policy, child support or child maintenance is the ongoing practice for a periodic payment made directly or indirectly by an (“obligor”) to an (“obligee”) for the financial care and support of children of a relationship or marriage that has been terminated, or in some cases never existed. Oftentimes, but not always, the obligor is a non-custodial parent. Oftentimes, but not always, the obligee is a custodial parent, caregiver or guardian, or the government. Depending on the jurisdiction, a custodial parent may pay child support to a non-custodial parent. Typically there is no gender requirement to child support, for example, a father may pay a mother or a mother may pay a father. Where there is joint custody, the child is considered to have two custodial parents and no non-custodial parents, thus a custodial parent (obligor) will be required to pay the other custodial parent (obligee). In family law, child support is often arranged as part of a divorce, marital separation, dissolution, annulment, determination of parentage or dissolution of a civil union and may supplement alimony (spousal support) arrangements.

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DIVORCE
Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons.

Though divorce laws vary between jurisdiction, there are two basic approaches to divorce: fault based and no-fault based. However, even in some jurisdictions that do not require a party to claim fault of their partner, a court may still take into account the behavior of the parties when dividing property, debts, evaluating custody, and support.

Laws vary as to the waiting period before a divorce is effective. Also, residency requirements vary. However, issues of division of property are typically determined by the law of the jurisdiction in which the property is located.

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HIGH NET WORTH DIVORCE
We work with high net worth, celebrity and international clients, advising on complex financial cases as well as all matters in relation to children, divorce, separation agreements and pre-nuptial contracts. Cross-border disputes, emergency procedures, injunction proceedings and problems arising from cohabitation are also specialist areas.

Contact us today to learn more about your rights.  Our attorneys are fluent in English and Russian.

PATERNITY
At common law, a child born to the wife during a marriage is the husband’s child under the “presumption of lawful paternity”, and the husband is assigned complete rights, duties and obligations as to the child. The presumption, however, can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary, at least prior to a formal court ruling involving the putative paternity (often this is a decree of divorce, annulment, or legal separation). Jurisdictions differ widely on when a judgment establishing paternity or a support obligation based on the presumption can be set aside on the grounds that the husband was not in fact the father.

In the case of an unwed mother, a man may come forward and accept the paternity of the child, the mother may petition the court for a determination, or paternity can be determined by estoppel over time.

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PROPERTY SETTLEMENT
Division of property, also known as equitable distribution, is a judicial division of property rights and obligations between spouses during divorce. It may be done by agreement, through a property settlement, or by judicial decree.

Distribution of property is the division of property, due to a death or the dissolution of a marriage, which was owned by the deceased, or acquired during the course of the marriage.
Equitable distribution is not the same as equal distribution. For example, in a family with a stay-at-home mother, the husband’s share may be less than 50 percent as compensation to the wife for having to return to the work force at a lower wage scale.

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SEPARATION
Legal separation (sometimes “judicial separation”, “separate maintenance”, “divorce a mensa et thoro”, or “divorce from bed-and-board”) is a legal process by which a married couple may formalize a de facto separation while remaining legally married. A legal separation is granted in the form of a court order, which can be in the form of a legally-binding consent decree. The most common reason for filing with the courts for a legal separation is to make interim financial arrangements for the two of them, such as deciding which one will pay which bills, possess which property, and whether one of them shall pay the other temporary financial support. These financial arrangements are actually what the term “separate maintenance” refers to, and “separate maintenance” is not a synonym for “legal separation”.

Contact us today to learn more about your rights.  Our attorneys are fluent in English and Russian.

SPOUSAL SUPPORT OR ALIMONY
Where a divorce or dissolution of marriage (civil union) is granted, either party may ask for post-marital alimony. It is not an absolute right, but may be granted, the amount and terms varying with the circumstances. If one party is already receiving support at the time of the divorce, the previous order is not automatically continued (although this can be requested), as the arguments for support during and after the marriage can be different.

Unless the parties agree on the terms of their divorce in a binding written instrument, the court will make a determination based on the legal argument and the testimony submitted by both parties. This can be modified at any future date based on a change of circumstances by either party on proper notice to the other party and application to the court. The courts are generally reluctant to modify an existing agreement unless the reasons are compelling. In some jurisdictions the court always has jurisdiction to grant maintenance should one of the former spouses become a public charge.

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UNCONTESTED DIVORCE
It is estimated that upwards of 95% of divorces in the US are “uncontested,” because the two parties are able to come to an agreement (either with or without lawyers/mediators/collaborative counsel) about the property, children and support issues. When the parties can agree and present the court with a fair and equitable agreement, approval of the divorce is almost guaranteed. If the two parties cannot come to an agreement, they may ask the court to decide how to split property and deal with the custody of their children. Though this may be necessary, the courts would prefer parties come to an agreement prior to entering court.
Where the issues are not complex and the parties are cooperative, a settlement often can be directly negotiated between them.

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VISITATION
Generally speaking, visitation is considered only a privilege granted to the non-custodial parent of any child of the family. The standard visitation awards by the family court in most U.S. states consists of alternating weekends and some holidays (usually amounting to four days a month unless the parent allows an increase in shared parenting time).

However, the child, at or around the age of 13, depending on the state, may choose in which parent’s home to live without government interference. Parents (and in some jurisdictions grandparents) frequently believe that they have a right to visitation or access; however, courts in several countries have used the subjective doctrine of the best interests of the child to deny parental or grandparental access to the child(ren). This is commonly found in cases when custody of the child(ren) is disputed and there is a history of interference with visitation. In such high conflict cases, there are often allegation of child abuse and/or domestic violence.

In high conflict cases, visitation may be supervised by a social worker, psychologist, guardian ad litem, or other third party while the noncustodial parent visits with the child. Many noncustodial parents have visitation orders that allow the child to visit with them without any supervision. These visits often take place away from the custodial residence. Often the noncustodial parent is granted overnight visitation, weekend visitation, or vacation visitation.

Parents may also share custody and may agree to allow visitation. In these situations a court order may not be needed, though sometimes it is obtained to forestall later disputes about what the parents had previously agreed to, and to allow the courts to have some oversight over the children (which they normally have under statute and under the parens patriae power).

Contact us today to learn more about your rights.  Our attorneys are fluent in English and Russian.