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 associated costs in New York State, particularly in New York City, are way too high. Unlike most family law attorneys and divorce lawyers, I charge only $200 an hour for all Family Court cases, including child support cases, child custody cases, and Family Court appeals.
I understand that family law issues can be very stressful, as most people are uncomfortable being in a courtroom without a skilled advocate standing beside them. I have been helping people for 25 years to resolve issues such as coming up with separation agreements, negotiating a parenting plan, or meeting the challenges of maintenance, alimony, spousal support, and property issues.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude (highest honors) from law school, 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 numerous 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 family law firm focusses on excellence and enjoys a rating of “10-Superb” with AVVO, the most well known attorney rating service. You can also find many positive google reviews about me from satisfied clients.
I offer an initial free consultation over the phone or over Zoom on all New York City Family Law cases and on uncontested divorce cases. Call me today, as I may have solutions to your problems
Experienced Family Law Lawyer With Over 500 Custody Trials In The NY Family Court
At the present time, my practice areas focuses on Family Law Matters. My services include the following:
- Uncontested Divorce
- Child support
- Child custody
- Orders of protection (domestic violence cases)
- Family Court appeals
While the majority of my cases have been in Manhattan, I have represented people in all of the counties in New York, including Brooklyn, Staten Island, Queens County, and Bronx County.
Child Custody And Visitation Cases In New York
If you are a parent facing a contested child custody case, you may be in for the most important case of your life. Therefore, when you are seeking representation, instead of just looking for a divorce attorney, you should look for a family law attorney who has done a lot of New York child custody trials.
Child custody matters are different from most other cases in that the scope child custody issues and facts tends to be extremely broad. In custody cases the scope of relevance includes the entire history between the parties, 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 usually better to come to a parenting agreement with the other parent, if possible. There are family law lawyers with divorce and custody mediation practices, who can sometimes come up with a parenting plan that resolves child custody issues and visitation issues 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 parenting agreement, you will still need your own child custody attorney to look over the paperwork for the proposed 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 written report with recommendations about who should have custody, as well as a visitation schedule for the non custodial parent.
Dealing with direct and cross examination of these experts requires a high level of advocacy by experienced family law attorneys. Moreover child custody attorneys 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 straightforward. For initial cases between parents the legal 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 child’s health, safety, needs, and welfare.
If the case involves a parent against a non parent (including grandparents and other family members) , the non parent has to show the existence of so called “exceptional circumstances” in order to prevail. 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.
If the case is between parents and involves modifications of a previous custody order, 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 so custody modifications that involve actual changes of custody are sometimes can be difficult to obtain.
Custody Relocation Cases
The U.S. has been a highly mobile country for some time. While the legal standard for relocation cases is governed by the case of Tropea v. Tropea, that case and its progeny cases really just refine the best interests standard.
The easiest relocation cases to win for the custodial parent involve situations where she 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 not had a consistent relationship with the child or children have a better likelihood of success, while in other 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.
Many custody cases are resolved with an 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.
In NY, legal custody or Joint legal custody does not have anything to do with the amount of child support.
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 with only occasional minor disputes.
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 children also have a right to visitation. This is one of the reasons why, in custody and visitation cases, “older” children often have their own attorneys. Although many visitation schedules look alike, there is no schedule that is universally used by the courts.
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
New York State is a leader in protecting victims of domestic violence, and divorce courts and family courts are required to consider proven instances of domestic violence in making custody or visitation orders.
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 without consent of the other side.
I like to do preliminary consultations (which are free) by phone or Zoom, but I have a convenient office location for in person meetings on Lexington Avenue, near public transportation. Call today at (347) 461-0760.