My name is Paul Matthews. Welcome to my website. I am a top rated yet affordable NY family law attorney, child custody lawyer, and child support lawyer, conveniently located here in New York City.
I believe that attorney fees and costs in New York State, and particularly in New York City, have become way too high. Most people don’t have incomes where they can afford $375.00 or $400.00 an hour legal fees. Unlike most child custody attorneys, I charge only $200 an hour for all Family Court cases, including child support cases, child custody cases, and all Family Court appeals.
Like all reputable attorneys, I do require an up front retainer fee for all contested cases. The amount of this retainer depends on your specific situation, including the type of case, the complexity and difficulty of the case, whether the issues of law are simple or complex, and who the adversaries are.
I opened my family law practice with offices in downtown Manhattan in 1996, specializing in family law trials and appeals. To date, I have tried over 500 cases. The majority of these cases have been child custody, visitation, or child support cases. I have also prosecuted or defended over 15 appeals, and have successfully filed over a hundred uncontested divorce cases.
I consider my word, my integrity, and my reputation as my most important assets. My New York law practice enjoys a rating of “10-Superb” with AVVO, the most well known attorney rating service.
I offer an initial free consultation over the phone or over Zoom on all New York City Family Law cases . Call me today at (347) 461-0760. I also offer a totally free consultation on uncontested divorce cases. I may have solutions to your problems.
Experienced Family Law Attorney With Over 500 Custody Trials In The NY Family Court
At the present time, my practice areas focusses on Family Law Matters. My services include the following:
- Uncontested Divorce
- Child support
- Child custody
- Orders of protection (domestic violence cases)
- Family Court appeals
Child Custody And Visitation Cases In New York
If you are one of the many parents who faces a contested child custody case, you are probably in for the most important case and maybe the nastiest and most stressful case of your life. You should therefore hire a family law attorney who has done a large number of New York child custody trials.
Child custody cases are different from most other cases in that the scope of issues and facts tends to be extremely broad. Unlike most other cases which tend to be about one or more discrete incidents, in custody cases the scope of relevance is very broad, and includes the entire history between the parties, which can go back many years, any evidence pertaining to the character and fitness of each of the parties, and any evidence pertaining to the safety and well being of the child or children.
It is not unusual for custody cases to go on for more than a year, and sometimes the trial alone can take more than a year to complete. Because custody cases can go on for a year or more, it is not unusual for hearings to be held on the issue of temporary custody. Unfortunately these can also go on for many months.
Because of the multitude and complexity of child custody issues these cases require that clients have sufficient resources and income to see them through to the end. This is why I charge reasonable fees and try to handle custody cases in an effective but still cost efficient manner, saving my clients money and stress.
It is usually better to come to an agreement with the other parent, although sometimes this is not possible. There are lawyers and social workers who have divorce and custody mediation practices, and can sometimes come up with a parenting plan that resolves issues of child custody and visitation for much less than the cost of a contested divorce or a contested child custody trial.
If you choose mediation and there is a proposed agreement, you will still need your own child custody attorney to look over the paperwork for the proposed parenting agreement and advise you as to your rights under New York state law, and whether or not the agreement is fair. He or she should be able to answer any questions you may still have.
If a child custody case has to be tried, the court may appoint a neutral child psychologist to do an evaluation and report with recommendations about who should have custody, as well as what should be the access schedule for the non custodial parent.
Dealing with direct and cross examination of this kind of witness requires a high level of advocacy by experienced family law attorneys. Moreover your attorney must have a well thought out strategy in order to maximize the likelihood of a positive outcome.
New York Custody Laws (Legal Standards)
New York child custody law is relatively simple and straightforward. For initial cases between parents (whether or not there is a marriage) the standard is “best interests” of the child or children. While conceptually simple this standard is extremely broad and encompasses anything that has to do with the children’s health safety and welfare.
If the case involves a parent against a non parent, the non parent has to show the existence of so called “exceptional circumstances” in order to prevail against a parent. Examples of exceptional circumstances include a parent’s drug use, alcohol abuse, serious mental illness, abuse or neglect of the children, being the perpetrator of domestic violence in the household, or having a poor or unhealthy relationships with the child or children.
There are a few special rules that pertain to grandparents filing for custody against parents.
If the case is between parents and is a modification of a previous custody award, the party seeking to modify has the burden of proving a “substantial change of circumstances” exists since the date of the previous order. New York courts favor stability in custody arrangements and do not believe it is in the best interests of children to be “bounced around like ping pong balls”.
Custody Relocation Cases
The U.S. has been a highly mobile country for some time, and this mobility has greatly increased after COVID. While the legal standard for relocation cases is governed by the case of Tropea v. Tropea, that case and its progeny cases are really just a slight refinement of the best interest standard, in that the Court is required to take into account certain specific factors before making its decision highlighted.
The easiest cases to win for the parent seeking to relocate involve situations where the custodial parent moves out of state to get away from domestic violence and/ or the non custodial parent is not paying child support, causing economic difficulties for the custodial parent that impact the well-being of the child or children.
Cases where the mother wants to relocate and has a good reason for doing so, and the father has been uninvolved or minimally involved (visits very sporadically) also have a better outcome of success, while in other fact patterns and situations it is much more difficult to predict the outcome.
What Does “Joint Legal Custody” Mean In New York?
If you are the victim of domestic violence or other harassment or abuse by your spouse or former partner, you should think long and hard about agreeing to joint legal custody.
The term “joint legal custody” has different meanings in different states, and is often misunderstood or confused with something called “shared custody”. In New York State legal custody refers to who has the power to make decisions regarding the child or children.
Legal custody has nothing to do with which parent the child or children lives with or with the visitation schedule. It is even possible, albeit very rare, for one party to have primary physical custody of the child or children while the other party has legal custody. In NY, legal custody or Joint legal custody has nothing to do with child support.
While in most states there is a presumption in the law in favor of joint custody, in New York state there is almost a presumption against it. It is extremely rare for a judge to order joint custody over the objection of either party, although agreements for joint custody are common where the mother and father get along well. The law seems to be slowly changing, and some courts have ordered joint legal custody over the objection of one parent in a few situations.
Many custody cases are resolved with and order of “joint legal custody”, which requires both parents to consult with one another about major decisions but where the parent with physical custody has the final decision making authority on any issue where the parents cannot agree. This arrangement is very different from true joint legal custody where both parents must agree as to any major decisions.
Some courts have entered orders based upon so called “spheres of influence”. The 3 spheres of influence are commonly classified as decisions regarding health, choice of schools and education issues, and religion. A few courts have, in special circumstances, given one parent decision making on one or two of these spheres, while the other parent is given decision making in one of the other spheres.
Visitation Cases In New York
The New York courts have been replacing the term “visitation” with “parenting time” or “access time”. The law in New York is very clear that visitation is a right that each parent has, and also that the child or children also have a right to visitation. This is one of the reasons that in custody and visitation cases, “older” children are often represented by their own attorneys.
Visitation cases are sometimes as long, drawn out, and contentious as custody cases, and can involve testimony of multiple witnesses, including expert witnesses, and can sometimes even involve forensic custody evaluations.
The Importance Of Domestic Violence
While New York state has been criticized as being backwards about family law matters (It was the last state to allow no fault divorces), New York is a leader in protecting victims of domestic violence, and while divorce courts and while family courts are allowed to take any factor in consideration in deciding custody and visitation cases, by statute they are required to consider proven instances of domestic violence.
In practice, when deciding which parent will have physical or residential custody of the child or children, the court will usually give great weight to proven incidents of domestic violence, while even unproven allegations of domestic violence will almost always rule out joint legal custody.
Child Support In New York
Child Support cases in New York can be very tricky and complicated. Child support is one of the areas of family law that requires special knowledge, skill, and attention to detail.
Unless you are a w-2 wage earner with a full time job and no overtime, you likely need legal advice and legal assistance from an experienced family law attorney for your child support case. Even then, if your income is high, you may still need legal help.
After having years of family law and litigation experience, I have come to be known as an expert in all types of New York child support cases and disputes, including upward and downward modification cases, enforcement and contempt cases, interstate cases and high net worth cases. If you are looking for representation call me today at (347) 461-0760.dont have