Articles Posted in Divorce

funeral

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A New York appellate court in Brooklyn recently ruled that a woman could substitute the estate of her deceased ex-husband in a post-divorce proceeding to determine an equitable distribution of property. The executor of the estate objected, claiming that the court actions ended with the husband’s death. The trial court disagreed and granted the wife’s motion. The appellate court affirmed that order in May 2015 in Charasz v. Rozenblum.

The unusual case essentially began when the husband filed for divorce in July 2010. The wife counterclaimed for divorce soon afterwards. The parties had three children, who were approximately 13, 10, and seven at the time the divorce case started. While the case was pending, the husband was diagnosed with advanced stage brain cancer in May 2012. The court granted a divorce for the husband on the ground of constructive abandonment several months later, but it reserved the division of property and other economic issues. A lengthy trial followed, beginning in late 2012 and ending in about February 2013.

After the trial ended, the husband removed the wife and children as beneficiaries on a life insurance policy and several investment accounts, reportedly worth a total of about $5 million. He designated his mother, sister, and the executor of his estate as beneficiaries, in violation of the court’s order. On March 21, 2013, before the court entered a judgment in the case, the husband committed suicide.

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financial dispute

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A New York appellate court recently considered three appeals brought by the husband/plaintiff while his divorce case, Trbovich v. Trbovich, was still pending in the Supreme Court of Erie County. Each appeal arose from a different order, and the appellate court dealt with each one in separate orders (“Trbovich I,” “Trbovich II,” and “Trbovich III”). The court vacated an order awarding temporary maintenance to the wife because of a pre-nuptial agreement, but it affirmed an order denying summary judgment on the divorce itself. The husband had filed a sworn statement establishing the basis for a “no-fault” divorce, but the court held that state law requires the parties to address additional issues before a divorce may be granted.

The husband initiated the divorce proceeding, and filed a sworn statement that his relationship with the wife had “broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months,” as required by § 170(7) of the New York Domestic Relations Law. In a preliminary order, the Supreme Court ordered the husband to pay temporary maintenance to the wife in the form of weekly payments for general support and to cover housing expenses.

The husband filed motions seeking summary judgment on the divorce and asking the court to vacate the temporary maintenance award. The court denied these motions, but granted the wife’s motion for over $56,000 in attorney’s fees. It also directed the husband to comply with various discovery requests from the wife.

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financial calculations

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A New York appellate court considered the appeal of a wife in a divorce case, who objected in part to the trial court’s distribution of marital property. This included interests in several business entities. The wife challenged the characterization of two of the business interests as separate property, as well as the amount of the distributions awarded to her. The Appellate Division agreed with some of her arguments and adjusted the lower court’s judgment based on factors like the wife’s contributions as the primary caretaker of the couple’s children.

The couple got married in 1988 and had two children, both of whom were over the age of 21 when the court issued its order. The husband filed for divorce and ancillary relief several years ago, and the case went to trial in the Supreme Court, Nassau County in early 2012. The wife appealed on multiple issues, including the distribution of interests in three business entities:  a one-third interest in a family-owned corporation that operated a hardware store, a one-third interest in a limited liability company (LLC) that acted as a holding company for a piece of real estate in Manhattan, and a 12.9% interest in an LLC that operates an MRI facility located in Westchester County.

The trial court ruled that the interests in the hardware store and the holding company were the husband’s separate property, while the parties stipulated before trial that the interest in the MRI business was marital property. With regard to the hardware store, the trial court awarded the wife $69,900, which represented 15 percent of the increase in value of the husband’s interest in the business. It also awarded her 15 percent of the value of the husband’s interest in the holding company, a total sum of $184,950. Finally, the court awarded the wife 50 percent of the net profit distributions received by the husband from the MRI business until her 66th birthday.
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marriage dissolution

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A New York divorce proceeding can be a difficult and stressful process. While many resources are available to assist the parties with finding an amicable resolution, and to help deal with the emotional difficulties of divorce, the courtroom is not one of those places. Most divorce cases result in some sort of settlement, but if the parties cannot agree, the matter goes to trial for the court to decide. Bringing too much emotion into the courtroom usually only makes judges annoyed or angry. As one party in a proceeding before the Suffolk County Supreme Court, G.T. v. A.T., learned last year, it can also impact the outcome of the case. An experienced family law attorney with knowledge of New York’s laws and legal system can help identify the important issues in a divorce case.

Under New York law, a court may not grant a divorce until the parties have resolved multiple issues, including the “equitable distribution of marital property,” or the court orders a resolution. In G.T. v. A.T., the wife filed for divorce in 2011 with the assistance of counsel, and the husband represented himself as defendant. The court criticized the husband for using his “self-represented status as both a sword and shield” throughout the proceeding.

The case ultimately went to trial over twelve days spread out over a period of several months, from June until September 2013. The court described the evidence presented at trial by the husband as “minimal,” “fueled by his own emotional agenda,” and “oftentimes…devoid of probative value.” His 39-page posttrial memorandum, according to the court, contained only three or four pages’ worth of issues addressed at trial. This caused significant delay in the court’s ability to make a ruling. The only issues addressed by the court in its order were the division of debt and personal property and the apportionment of legal fees.

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