Adjournment Requests in Divorce Litigation: Be Kind

New York Law Journal, July 17, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

Founded by a Marine in 2017, the “Til Valhalla Project” has donated over $1 million to #Mission22 as part of the fight against veteran suicide. This year, the project rolled out a simple message: “Be Kind.” The foundation of the message is straightforward: “With each kind act, we make the world a little bit better.”

On the subject of kindness, we turn to requests for adjournments in matrimonial practice. Requests for adjournments from your opposing counsel (also known as your adversary) are a routine occurrence. Sometimes you may have double-booked. Other times, you might find yourself overwhelmed on one matter and in need of an adjournment on another matter. Or, you might request an adjournment so that you do not miss a milestone involving a family member. And then, there are those times that a request for an adjournment is made for personal reasons, be it due to issues of physical, or mental health.

The question becomes whether and under what circumstances do you, as the recipient of the request for an adjournment, say “yes” or “no.” Once again, no training was provided to us in law school on how to answer this question.

Read more on our website.

Love Hurts When You Ignore Your Prenup

New York Law Journal, June 21, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

Summer is, or should be, a time for all things beautiful. Part of that beauty is encapsulated in the joy of summer, non-professional reading. But if there was ever a case to be made that professional reading should be added to your summer reading list, look no further than Judge Jeffrey A. Goodstein’s page turning decision in LSS v. MS, Sup. Ct. Nassau Cty. (NYLJ May 19, 2023).

The decision, which is factually intricate, and replete with poignant legal analysis, reads like a short story—a marriage story, in fact, although without the suffocating cliches that permeate Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.”

Indeed, this marriage story involved a 47-month marriage with two parties who entered the marriage with “significant assets,” and, among other things, a dispute over $1,230 worth of electronics purchased from Best Buy. But that is not the subject of this article, although that aspect of the litigation is, believe it or not, addressed in the decision.

The decision reminds divorce lawyers that we cannot control what happens after a prenuptial agreement is signed. Life happens after a prenuptial agreement is signed, and LSS v. MS shows what can happen as a consequence of disregarding the mandate of a prenuptial agreement.

Read more on our website.

Forensic Custody Evaluations: A Fundamental Human Right?

New York Law Journal, May 31, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

What comes to your mind when you find yourself passing through the cereal aisle at your local Target or Wal-Mart? One cannot help but notice the overwhelming number of choices Americans are given in the cereal aisle. There is a cereal for seemingly each and every palate known to humankind.

For this author, I cannot help but associate the ocean of cereal choices with the plethora of diagnoses that make up the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM is considered, or has been considered, the bible, or guide, to diagnosing mental disorders.

It can be difficult to pinpoint which version of the DSM is the most recent; it appears to be the “text revision” released in 2022, known as the DSM-5-TR. The DSM-5-TR includes certain disorders that beg the question whether and to what extent we are entering (or have entered) a point in time where, to some degree, we all have a disorder.

It is with that in mind that I urge you to consider the Appellate Division, Third Department’s decision in Matter of Virginia OO v. Alan PP, 2023 N.Y. Slip Op. 1120 (NYLJ March 3, 2023). Matter of Virginia concerned an appeal from an order of the Family Court of Tompkins County granting an application to modify a prior order of custody.

Read more on our website.

Embrace the Monotony of Boilerplate Legalese in Prenups

New York Law Journal, May 8, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

In The Pale King, the novelist David Foster Wallace wrote the following: “To be, in a word, unborable…It is the key to modern life. If you are immune to boredom, there is literally nothing you cannot accomplish.”

As a matrimonial lawyer, nowhere does this wisdom apply more than in the context of reading and reviewing the “boilerplate” provisions in the separation, prenuptial, postnuptial and other agreements that we regularly draft as part of our practice.

Indeed, there is potentially enormous value in establishing a Teflon-like immunity to the understandable boredom that can come with reviewing boilerplate legal language in matrimonial agreements.

A recent decision of the Surrogate’s Court, Kings County, presents an excellent example of how boilerplate legal language can, in some instances, prove more important than the substantive provisions themselves.

Stated differently, the substantive provisions—while instinctively more interesting and engaging to draft, analyze, etc.—can interplay with the boilerplate provisions to such an extent that without intact boilerplate provisions, the substantive provisions may be at risk of dying on the vine.

With that in mind, in Estate of Kevelson (Surrogate’s Court, Kings County, NYLJ, March 8, 2023), Judge Rosemarie Montalbano adjudicated a motion in limine filed by Terri Kevelson nee Bienfeld to preclude admission of a prenuptial agreement from 1992 between her and Stephen Kevelson (deceased) prior to their marriage. The motion was filed in the context of a hearing to determine the validity of the prenuptial agreement.

Read more on our website.

In the News

Below is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, media, and other accomplishments of our attorneys from around the country.

April 19, 2023
Brett S. Ward was interviewed in this Variety article discussing the difficulties with public litigation cases of celebrity divorces.

April 19, 2023
Marilyn B. Chinitz, Kristina Royce and Brett S. Ward have been recognized in Variety’s Legal Impact Report 2023.

April 17, 2023
In this LinkedIn article, Stacy D. Phillips answers questions and discusses the Netflix reality show “Love is Blind.”
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Attorney Spotlight: New York

Stacy D. Phillips ●

This edition of Attorney Spotlight highlights one of my honored New York City colleagues in Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law group—Marilyn B. Chinitz.

Marilyn B. Chinitz

A graduate of New York University and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law of Yeshiva University, Marilyn has more than 35 years of experience in family law and arrived at Blank Rome in 2007. Marilyn focuses her skills as a lawyer to empower her clients to rise above the personal difficulty that they face in matrimonial disputes, and to gain their own perspectives on what is important in their lives. 

Marilyn is my reliable “bookend” at the firm. We are both naturally very driven professionally but we both also care deeply about community and giving back. Ironically, even though we are on opposite ends of the country, we have occasionally been referred the same client with different matters at the same time or even the same client for one matter. Marilyn finds that she can sometimes represent clients who are the kings and queens of their world, be they hedge fund managers or founders of global businesses. Nevertheless, no matter their accomplishments, divorce and emotional pain are something else entirely, and Marilyn is prepared to guide them through the difficulties in life that may be alien to them. 

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A Court Rightfully Protects Spouses of WTC Firefighters

New York Law Journal, April 14, 2023 ●

Alan R. Feigenbaum ●

When I was in grade school, each day began with the same ritual: stand at attention facing our nation’s flag, place your right hand over your heart, and state, in unison with your classmates: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

An argument can be made—a convincing argument, in fact—that lawyers should begin their workday as follows: stand at attention, place their right hand over their heart, and state, in unison with their fellow colleagues: “As a lawyer, just because I can make an argument, does not mean that I should make an argument.”

That backdrop leads us to a discussion of Justice Karen B. Rothenberg’s recent and, in my strong view, exceedingly praiseworthy decision in McClean v. The Bd. of Trustees of the Fire Dep’t of the NYC Pension Fund (NYLJ 3/21/2023, Sup. Ct., Kings Cty.).

In McClean, the petitioner, Kathleen McClean, moved for an order annulling the determination of the Board of Trustees of the Fire Department of the City of New York and the New York City Fire Pension Fund which denied her application for a Line-of-Duty Death Benefit pursuant to what is known as the World Trade Center (WTC) Legislation arising from the death of her husband, retired firefighter Dennis B. McClean (“Firefighter McClean”).

Kathleen McClean married Firefighter McClean on July 25, 2000. On 9/11, Firefighter McClean responded to the WTC attack and worked at the site for several months thereafter. In April 2002, Firefighter McClean was injured at the WTC site when a metal beam struck his leg and fractured it in several places. Firefighter McClean thereafter obtained a disability pension in 2002. In 2009, Firefighter McClean was diagnosed with prostate cancer; in 2014, the Pension Medical Board linked his cancer to his WTC exposure (to toxins while working at the site) and his pension was reclassified to that of a WTC accidental disability pension. In September 2021, Firefighter McClean died of prostate cancer.

Read more on our website.

In the News

Below is a roundup of the recent awards, recognitions, media, and other accomplishments of our attorneys from around the country.

January 17, 2023
Stacy D. Phillips has been named one of the Top Ten Super Lawyers of Southern California.

January 11, 2023
Stacy D. Phillips answers questions from her readers and podcast listeners, and shares her “hot takes” and insights on the issues.

January 10, 2023
Alan R. Feigenbaum authored this article published in the New York Law Journal discussing Gary G. v. Elena A.G.

January 4, 2023 
Morgan Fraser Mouchette was interviewed by Stacy Francis for the Financially Ever After podcast, which provides tips and advice on how an individual can secure their financial future before, during, and after divorce.

December 21, 2022
Morgan Fraser Mouchette and Kristina Royce authored this Forbes article discussing how one can tackle their divorce like Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen did in 2022.
December 20, 2022
Ashley M. Silberfeld and David A. Thomas have been named 2022 Leaders of Influence: Thriving in Their 40s by the Los Angeles Business Journal.

December 19, 2022
Authority Magazine interviewed Morgan Fraser Mouchette in November, where she discusses how social media comes into play when couples are going through a divorce.

December 14, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this LinkedIn article discussing ways to keep family traditions going after separation.

December 9, 2022 
Alan R. Feigenbaum authored this article published in the New York Law Journal discussing the profuse backlog in the New York judicial system that has built up since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

December 6, 2022
Marilyn B. Chinitz authored this article published in Fatherly, in which she discusses your chances of a satisfying holiday for all parties when separated or divorced
December 2, 2022
Brett S. Ward served as a panelist at the New York State Bar Association International Section’s 2022 London Global Conference.

November 29, 2022
Marilyn B. Chinitz was named one of Hollywood’s Troubleshooters: Top 35 Lawyers for Death, Divorce and Other Disasters by The Hollywood Reporter.

November 21, 2022
Alan R. Feigenbaum and Sean R. Weissbart authored this New York Law Journal article discussing whether children of divorcing parents are recognized as third-party beneficiaries of their parents’ separation agreements, divorce decrees, etc.

November 15, 2022
Authority Magazine interviewed Stacy D. Phillips in November, where she discusses how social media comes into play when couples are going through a divorce.  
November 2, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this article giving advice for those who are in a relationship where one party suffers from addiction and/or alcoholism, the last of a three-part series.

November 1, 2022
Sophie Jacobi-Parisi authored this Authority Magazine article discussing New York’s law that extends child support until the age of 26 for kids who are the product of a divorce and have been diagnosed as having developmental special needs.

October 28, 2022
Sean R. Weissbart and Alan R. Feigenbaum and associate Kyle G. Durante presented “Cohabitation Agreements, Property Rights, Property Division, Custody, and Economic Rights of Unmarried Cohabitants Act,” a myLawCLE program in October.  
October 28, 2022
Michelle M. Gervais was named to The Florida 500 for the fourth year in a row, honoring her as one of the 44 attorneys recognized in this year’s “Law” category.

October 27, 2022
Sophie Jacobi-Parisi was interviewed by Ilyssa Panitz for The Divorce Hour podcast, which addresses issues that individuals may face when going through a divorce.  
October 26, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this article giving advice for those who are in a relationship where one party suffers from addiction and/or alcoholism, the second of a three-part series.  

October 24, 2022
Shondaland featured Morgan Fraser Mouchette in this article about having difficult financial discussions in a relationship. 

October 19, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips authored this article giving advice for those who are in a relationship where one party suffers from addiction and/or alcoholism, the first of a three-part series.

October 19, 2022
Stacy D. Phillips was featured on JAM.AI, a new mini-podcast platform, where she shares her perspective on relationships, family law, and divorce in her series “Exes and Ohs with Stacy D. Phillips, Esq.”    

Attorney Spotlight: Los Angeles

Stacy D. Phillips ●

This edition of Attorney Spotlight highlights one of my Los Angeles colleagues in Blank Rome’s Matrimonial & Family Law Group—Erica Swensson.

Erica Swensson
Of Counsel

Recently promoted to of counsel at the firm, Erica and I first met in 2007 when we found ourselves on opposing sides of a number of cases.

She impressed me so much that she later became my first hire at Blank Rome. It has been a delightful experience seeing my relationship with Erica transform from a worthy adversary to an amazing coworker and friend. Please enjoy learning more about her.

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Navigating Financial Anxiety in Challenging Economic Times

Stacy D. Phillips ●

Recessions can take anyone by surprise. Many different economists have been predicting a recession for months now, though whether it is for a long or a short downturn, and when exactly it may fall upon us, is entirely up for debate. This is the cyclical nature of the economy. Although 2023 may be a challenging in various ways, your main challenge could be controlling your fear.

In my book, Divorce: It’s All About Control. How to Win the Emotional, Psychological and Legal Wars, I underscore just that: control. A spouse who can control their anxiety, even in financially stressful times, can control the outcome of their divorce. This mindset is key to avoiding long-term emotional damage and will help you (ideally sooner rather than later) move on in a positive light.

The Many Effects of an Economic Downturn on Divorce

If any spouse is considering a divorce in a potentially harsh economy, they must look at their specific situation to determine if they should proceed with a divorce or wait until better economic times return. 2020 was the last significant economic downturn we experienced. Many Americans became unemployed or underemployed. However, divorcing in a weak economy could mean fewer assets for couples to divide. It could also mean you could pay less in spousal support, also known as alimony, or child support because your income has diminished. You could also buy out your spouse’s interest in an asset for a small fraction of what that asset would be worth in a healthier economy. The flipside is also true – you could receive lower spousal and child support than you otherwise would, and you could receive far less in an asset buyout than you would in a healthier economy. There is certainly no definitive circumstance. How the economy affects your potential divorce is entirely unique to you. There is no model template to know when the best time is to file for divorce. The wisest thing you can do is to talk with an experienced attorney.

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