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New York court expands definition of parent

On Aug. 30, a New York state court ruled that non-biological and non-adoptive parents may be granted visitation and custody rights if a couple ends their relationship. The latest ruling overturns a ruling in 1991 made by the same court that defined a parent as someone who was the child's biological parent or who had a connection to the child through adoption.

The ruling acknowledged that the 1991 decision came before same-sex marriages were legal in the state, and the evolving nature of family relationships makes that standard unworkable today. To be granted custody or visitation rights today, an individual must show that there was clear intent to conceive or raise a child with his or her partner. Furthermore, custody and visitation rights will only be granted if it is considered to be in the best interest of the child.

Co-parenting and screen time rules after a divorce

New York parents might differ in their opinions about how much game time is acceptable for their children. When they divorce and one parent has concerns about the other parent allowing a child to play video or smartphone games all of the time, tensions can rise. Family therapists believe that consistent rules across both households benefit children the most, but resolving differences in parenting styles can be difficult.

If one parent ignores the other's requests to apply screen time rules consistently, then the parent can either let the issue go or ask a family court to intervene. Acceptance of the other parent's behavior presents the easiest option. The concerned parent can enforce the rules when the children are home and disregard what goes on elsewhere.

Paying for a child's sports dream as a divorced couple

Caring for children and ensuring that they get the chance to pursue their big dreams can be difficult for many single New York parents. However, there are often ways that allow custodial parents to put a certain amount of child support towards their offspring's school or competitive activities.

Most states have child support guidelines that allow for a certain amount of the child support award to go to sports and other activities. This amount usually comes out of a portion that has been earmarked for "entertainment" by the court. This money is expected to cover not only portions of the cost of the sport but can also be used for things like going to a movie theater or a concert.

Judge rules for Chris Brown in custody hearing

New York residents may have heard that the mother of singer Chris Brown's daughter asked a judge for full custody of the child. She also asked for limited visitation for the singer and no visitation for the child's grandmother. The woman also asked that Chris Brown be drug tested. However, during a hearing on Aug. 12, all of her requests were denied. In fact, she was ordered to reimburse Brown for money he gave her for her attorney.

As a result of the ruling, Brown will be able to have 12 days of unsupervised visitation with the child each month. He is also paying $2,500 a month in child support plus the cost of her daughter's nannies, her education and health care costs. It was reported that the mother had sought an increase in child support to $16,000 a month, but that request was later withdrawn.

Tallying income for child support purposes in New York

One of the factors used to determine child support payments are the incomes of both parents. While many people may consider what their employer's pay them to be their annual income, this is not always the case. For instance, money received from a pension or the sale of stock could be considered income for child support purposes. Social Security or military benefits may also be included in this total.

Essentially, anything that could reduce the expenses of a parent may factor into what is considered income. Therefore, perks such as expenses that are reimbursed or even the income of a new spouse or partner could be taken into account. Parents should be aware that unrealized income may also be part of the income equation. There have been conflicting opinions in various states as to whether or not proceeds from stock options or interest from an IRA should be counted as income.

Jeremy Renner's ex-wife claims he owes her child support

New York residents may be interested to learn that actor Jeremy Renner was accused of lagging on child support payments. It is alleged by Sonni Pacheco, the Mission: Impossible star's ex, that the actor owes nearly $50,000 in back child support. In addition to payment for back child support, Pacheco is seeking payment for their daughter's preschool tuition.

Despite the claims that have been made by Pacheco, Renner has adamantly denied owing any back child support. A representative for Renner told media outlets that Renner has never missed a child support payment, and Pacheco has received many thousands of dollars from him. The representative also said that the $1,600 per month preschool tuition that Pacheco is seeking from Renner was not agreed upon in the divorce.

How family law judges resolve child custody disputes

Reaching decisions in child custody or visitation disputes can be a delicate and challenging process for family law judges in New York and around the country, and their primary concern in these situations is to determine what would be in the child's best interests. While the best interest doctrine is widely used, it is also somewhat nebulous and can be difficult to apply when both parents make impassioned claims. When contending with highly charged emotional arguments, judges may look first to see which parent has been the child's primary caregiver.

Psychologists place great importance on the role of primary caregiver, and studies have found that children may develop emotional problems when they are separated from the parent that has provided them with their major source of solace and support. When both parents claim that they have adopted the mantle of primary caregiver, judges may ask which of them helped the child with their school homework, prepared their meals or accompanied them to appointments with doctors or dentists.

Claiming an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits

Social Security benefits extend to spouses, and that benefit does not necessarily end with divorce. New York residents who are divorced may be entitled to benefits from an ex-spouse's Social Security, but this depends on various factors, and the rules are somewhat complicated.

Someone who is divorced cannot claim the Social Security benefits of his or her ex-partner if the marriage lasted less than 10 years. Ex-spouse benefits can also not be claimed if the claiming spouse remarries, except under certain circumstances. If someone remarries at the age of 60 or older and their ex-spouse has died, they may claim their ex-spouse's benefit. The rules become more complicated when there are multiple divorces, or if two divorced people marry. Generally, if someone is already claiming ex-spousal benefits and they remarry, they can continue to claim the ex-spousal benefits.

Child support and its effect on credit ratings

Parents in New York who fall behind on their child support could then find themselves struggling to get a loan or facing higher interest rates. This is because child support collection agencies report missed child support payments to credit bureaus, and therefore this missed disbursements may appear on credit reports and lower a person's score. In fact, these types of missed payments can be regarded as seriously as missed mortgage payments.

Some experts suggest that a parent who must pay child support should arrange to do so directly in order to make arrangements privately. However, sometimes, the other parent prefers that the support go through an agency so that there will be repercussions in the case of missed payments.

Scriveners Beware: The General Rule That An Income Tax Refund On A Joint Return Gets Evenly Split Does Not Apply Unless The Terms Of The Divorce Settlement Expressly Preserve That Right.

The general rule in a New York divorce case is that each spouse has a right to 50% of the marital portion of an income tax refund, because such portion of the income tax refund constitutes marital property.  Cohen v. Cohen, 132 A.D.3d 627;  Hymowitz v. Hymowitz, 119 A.D.3d 736.