As a New
York divorce lawyer, an important part of my job involves identifying the
economic and social trends that affect divorcing couples. In this article, I will try to summarize some
of the most significant trends and factors currently affecting New York divorce
(1) The Continuing
Stagnation of the Economy Affects All Families, and is both a Cause of and
Complicating Factor in New York Divorce Cases:
In 2011, the
continued stagnation of the economy has been the dominant issue affecting
divorcing families. The stagnant economy
affects divorce on a number of different levels. Economic pressures sometimes fuel (or at
least contribute to) the pressures and tensions that lead to marital distress (and, consequently, divorce). The loss
of a job, and protracted unemployment, often cause emotional distress and
physical ailments, which, in turn, affect all family members. Sometimes, families are left without quality
medical insurance coverage. In addition,
declining income and net worth have profound impacts on how a variety of legal
and factual issues in New York matrimonial cases are resolved. Previously, it was assumed that in nearly
every case, the role of a New York divorce lawyer was to protect a client's
interest in the seemingly ever-increasing equitc`y in a marital residence. Today, many New York couples are saddled with
homes in which they have little or no equity.
Sometimes, divorce is made more difficult by the inability of the one of
the spouses to obtain medical insurance, or the parties' inability to sell
their marital residence.
Because New York law
requires a full and final resolution of financial issues prior to the issuance
of a final judgment of divorce, even the most simple New York divorce case
involves a review of the divorcing couple's financial condition. If nothing else, the assets and liabilities of
each spouse must be tallied and apportioned.
Sometimes, that process is as simple as reviewing the parties' most
recent credit card and bank statements. In other instances, valuations of
pensions, retirement accounts, and real estate must be performed, sometimes
with the involvement of outside experts.
Regardless, each case provides a window into the financial trends and
conditions affecting New Yorkers.
During the past year, the view from that window has been particularly
(2) Increasing Frequency of New York Divorce
Among Baby Boomers:
More than 25% of people who get divorced are over the age of 50. Researchers at Bowling Green State University
recently released a report that details what divorce lawyers already know from
first hand experience: the rate of divorce among older people has dramatically
increased in recent years. The report
predicts that the rate of divorce among baby boomers (people who were born
between 1946 and 1964) will continue c`to rise.
As a New York divorce lawyer, I have noticed, during the past several years,
that an increasing proportion of divorce cases involve couples whose children
have already left the home. Divorce
cases involving baby boomers present unique challenges. Because many baby boomers have been married
for the duration of their careers, their pensions and other retirement assets
are often of greater value and importance than is the case among younger
couples who get divorced. In addition,
because they are nearing retirement, baby boomers are often relying on their
retirement assets as essential - and sometimes their only - financial
resources. If you are a baby boomer
facing divorce, it is essential for you to retain a divorce lawyer who is
thoroughly familiar with the complex laws, such as ERISA, relating to the
division of retirement accounts.
Pensions and other qualified retirement accounts are distributed through
a specific type of decree, called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). Your lawyer must be familiar
with federal and state laws pertaining to QDRO's, as well as New York's
unusually complex divorce laws. The law
relating to distribution of retirement benefits is complex, and requires the
involvement of an experienced New York divorce lawyer. A lawyer who does not specialize in New York
divorce may be unaware that specific language must be included in a marital
separation agreement and QDRO to protect a client's interest in death benefits
and other aspects of retirement accounts.
(3) The Increasing Number of Pro
Se Divorce Litigants:
The financial crisis has also led many more people to file their divorces pro se (without hiring an
attorney). The dramatic increase in the
number of people handling their own divorces has led to the rise of a new
industry, do it yourself divorce forms. Particularly in cases that do not involve
distribution of valuable property or other complex financial issues, many
litigants find that they are able to avoid hiring a divorce lawyer. However, in divorce cases that do involve
contested financial or other issues, pro se litigants are oftentimes confused
about their rights and the appropriate procedures.
If you are facing the prospect of divorce, it is important
that you get advice and guidance from an experienced New York divorce attorney.
Rapaport Law Firm has assisted New York residents in divorce and family
law matters since 1995. We are located
in Manhattan's Empire State Building.