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Why pay a lawyer? Simply Go to Small Claims Court.

By Cary Greenberg

If you are over 18 years old and are owed money, sustained property damage, did not receive the merchandise or service you paid for, and your claim is under $5,000, then you can go to Small Claims Court in your Judicial District to recoup your money. You do not need a lawyer! All you have to do is go to the District Court in your area, fill out the required forms, pay a nominal fee, and your case has begun. In fact, the Court will serve the person you are suing with the requisite papers.

Furthermore, many districts have night Court. So, if you’re unable to appear in Court during the day, then inquire whether Night Court is a viable option for you. In completing the requisite forms, please be aware that you can only sue for verifiable monetary damages. You cannot claim for speculative damages, such as pain, and suffering or the cost of your aggravation. If you are unsure how to complete the paperwork or what damages to claim, then a clerk in the Court will gladly guide you through the process.

Once in Court be ready to possibly discuss the case with a mediator in an attempt to settle your claim. If you refuse this option or are simply unable to settle your claim, then you will proceed to trial. At the time of trial, you will be sworn to tell the truth. You will be asked to tell your side of the story. It is strongly recommended that you present evidence to support your claim. For example: submit any contracts, leases, invoices, repair bills, photographs, emails, texts or anything else that will help prove your case. Similarly, bring any witnesses or experts with you to court to testify on your behalf. In most cases, an Affidavit from that witness will not be accepted so that live testimony will be required. This is especially relevant when an expert is needed to testify as to what was done improperly and the amount of damages that were sustained as a result of the defendant’s actions. Once you are finished presenting your case, then the defendant will be heard to present a defense. Often a judge will ask questions of both parties, so be prepared, know the facts and be respectful to the judge and your adversary.

Once the entire case is heard, the judge will usually reserve their decision, and within a few weeks, you will receive a decision in the mail. The bottom line, Small Claims Court, if available to you, is cheaper, quicker and more convenient than going to District or Supreme Court with a lawyer. If you have any questions regarding the Small Claims Court process please contact me. Good luck!

 

To Mediate or Not . . . That Seems to Be the Question?

By Allison Davis, Esq.

Things are not going well on the home front and you and your spouse decide that the marriage is over. What is next? Where do you go? What do you do?  These are normal questions which have varied answers depending on your circumstances. Basically, there are two roads to travel; litigation or mediation. More and more people today are choosing the mediation route as an effective means to reach a good result. Why?

Mediation allows you to work out the issues of your divorce in an amicable, affordable, non-confrontational, and non-adversarial manner. Mediation is done with a neutral 3rd party mediator, who can help you in identifying the issues that need to be resolved and then help you in reaching a realistic result that works for both of you.

Mediation allows you both to put your heads together to work out solutions that fit your needs and lifestyles. What works for some families will not necessarily work for yours. Who knows what will be the best way to handle these issues better than you?  When Courts are involved, the wants of the parties are not taken into consideration nearly as much. The Court has to divide things up in an objective fashion, doing what they think is best. The reality is that if both you and your spouse are willing to be honest and forthright, you know what is best and can broker the best deal of all.

Mediation generally moves much faster than litigation because you have more control.  You are not waiting on attorneys or the court’s calendar.  The matter will move as quick or as slow as you allow. Your responsiveness in providing documents and your willingness to work on reaching an agreement that is fair to both of you will set the pace.

Mediation will only work however, if both parties are willing to give and take.  Reaching a settlement agreement is about S E T T L I N G. Both of you have to give up something to get something that you want more in return. If you are not willing to give up anything, then mediation is not the option for you.

The truth of the matter is that nobody gets everything they want in a divorce, but Mediation will likely get you something you can be happy with, faster and for far less money. Call me to schedule an appointment to discuss if mediation is right for you.

How to Handle the Holidays When Faced with Divorce or Separation

By Allison Davis, Esq.

The holiday time of the year can be very difficult for families that are facing separation or divorce…especially for your children. How you choose to
deal with it can have an impact on the wellness of your children and the future negotiations between you and your spouse.

Children generally take their lead based on the actions of their parents. Remember, it is not what you say, but what you do. . . and what you do could wind up backfiring on you if you are not careful. The most important thing that you and your spouse can do is to put your children first and do what is in their best interest. Things to think about:

  • How have you always celebrated this holiday? Whose family have you traditionally spent it with? For instance, is Christmas Day always with Mom’s family and Christmas Eve always with Dad’s family? Is the first night of Chanukah the most important to your family? This might be the way to start things off. However, as great as old traditions are, it is great to start new traditions as well. Just because you may have always celebrated one way, doesn’t mean it isn’t time for a change.
  • Do either you or your spouse place importance on a specific part of the holiday? Some families do morning or afternoons celebrations where others meet around dinner time. Is it possible for you both to enjoy different parts of the same holiday? Always try to be flexible.
  • Do you and your spouse practice the same religion and celebrate the same holidays? This can certainly make it easier and allow your children to have the best of both worlds.
  • What do you think the children really want to do? While they should not be able to make this decision for you, if you know they only get to see certain extended family members during a particular holiday, will they feel cheated or upset if they don’t get to celebrate with them? How can you create new memories and traditions for them to cherish and look forward to?
  • How would you feel if you only received the holiday schedule you offered to your spouse? Often times when one spouse wants all of the holidays and doesn’t want to share them, it is useful to ask them how they would feel if they were offered that very thing. Your children will thrive if given the opportunity to spend quality times with both parents. You are both transitioning from having all the holidays spent with your children (and each other), to something less. You are not the only one feeling the loss.
  • Be encouraging to your children and tell them it is okay that they will not see you for this holiday, but that you will see them the next day, or the next year they will celebrate that same holiday with you. If your children know you are supportive, they will be happier.
  • Can you and your spouse discuss parameters regarding holiday gift spending? The holidays can put a financial strain on any family, but it is even more difficult when you are going through a separation or divorce. Can you each work within a budget? Can you agree to contribute equally to big ticket items? You both have to remember that there was likely a budget before and it will be tighter now. Try to find ways to work together so you don’t duplicate gifts. They don’t really need an iPad for each of your homes.

The most important thing to remember is that you are BOTH parents to these children forever.  You are both going to have to work together in raising your children. That starts with sharing holidays, and will continue to sharing many future special events in your children’s lives, including sporting events, graduations, birthdays and weddings. How you behave now will have an impact on your future.

If you and your spouse need help getting through the holiday times, please feel free to call my office to schedule an appointment.

Thinking About Filing for Divorce? Think about the finances.

By Sean P. Lenihan, Esq.

If you are contemplating filing for divorce, one of the most difficult tasks can be gathering together all of your financial documentation and account information.  In most marriages, usually one person is in charge of the finances. This can leave the other party clueless about what the parties own and how much they owe. The only way for you, or your attorney, to be sure you are getting a equitable arrangement is to educate yourself as to the status of your financial situation. Here are a few things you can do to help you prepare for your divorce:

First, run a credit report on yourself.  You can get a copy of your free credit report online using websites like CreditKarma.com. Your credit report will list all of your open joint bank accounts, savings accounts, any joint accounts with outstanding balances or debts.  Then contact your accountant and financial adviser about getting copies of any records they have such as tax returns and investment statements.

Start gathering statements from any bank accounts you may have, including checking, savings and money market accounts. You may be asked to provide 3 years of back statements during the discovery phase of your divorce, although many attorneys don’t require it.  Most of this can be obtained online through your bank’s website.

Also look for life insurance policies that you may have.  Your final divorce agreement may require you to provide life insurance, so be aware of what you have. It’s also important to find out whether your life insurance policies have a cash value. If your life insurance is through your employer, you can normally get a copy from your human resource department.

If you own a house, try to obtain any records pertaining to your home. Mortgage statements, home equity loan statements, and tax records can all be helpful in determining how much equity is in your home. While a property evaluation by a real estate agent is free and can be helpful, it is not generally accepted in Court.  However, don’t pay to have an appraisal done just yet.  That will need to be done by a person agreed to by both parties or as ordered by the Court, with the cost being split equally by both parties.

Gather retirement account statements and, if any of your retirement account was accumulated pre-marriage, locate a statement of that account as of the date of your marriage. Often, pre-marriage contributions can be excluded from the asset division. Know what the value of your retirement plan is now and what it was on the day you were married. If you have a pension that started before the marriage, that can be valued professionally to make sure you’re getting a fair deal.

The better informed you are about your financial situation going into a divorce, the more your lawyer can help you in arriving at an equitable settlement.

Are You a Victim of Sexual Harassment?

By Ian M. Sack

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

Every employee in the State of New York is entitled to a work environment
free from sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment in the form of a “hostile environment” may and can include words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation or violence which are of a sexual nature, or which are directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex. Sexual harassment also consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances, sexually explicit derogatory statements, or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone in the workplace which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient, which cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation, or which interfere with the recipient’s job/performance.

Sexual harassment can occur between members of any sex or lack of sexual orientation.

Sexual harassment that occurs because the victim is transgender is also unlawful.

A single incident of inappropriate sexual behavior may be enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment, depending on the severity of such incident. The law requires that the behavior be severe or pervasive, so that one or even several jokes or comments may not meet the standard. However, the courts have held that a single incident could be considered sexual harassment, depending on the circumstances.

If you feel that you have been a victim of sexual harassment and have questions, please call me today, 631-543-2900.