Robert G. Smith, PLLC

New York High-Stakes Family Law Blog

Getting divorced from your spouse -- and your business partner

A traditional divorce is complicated enough, but what about when that spouse is also your business partner?

After all, many businesses in the United States are family-owned and operated. Maybe you and your spouse launched your company a decade ago, after just a year of marriage. You felt happy and secure in the relationship back then, so you didn't even think about what you would do if you got divorced.

Work toward a respectful co-parenting relationship

Divorcing when you have children means that you can't cut yourself off completely from your ex. Instead, you are still going to have to see them and communicate with them when you have things to discuss about the children. Going into the situation with the expectation that you will be agreeable co-parents can minimize your stress and boost your child's ability to cope with the situation.

When you are working with your ex about child custody, you must remember that the sole focus has to be the child's best interests. Both parents have to think about what the kids need and make decisions based on that.

How can people protect their assets during divorce?

Marriage changes everything for two people, and divorce often does the same. Assets that were joined together have to be separated between individuals, and financial plans are irrevocably altered for both people. Divorce when people are young often gives them more of a chance to rebuild lives on their own. This changes as people age.

How may divorce affect retirement?

Divorce involving valuable art collection causes New York stir

Divorce can be an ugly business. Anything charged with the emotions of ending a marriage has the potential to do more damage. Even when partners have come to terms with their emotional issues, many of the lingering problems with divorce come with sharing out the assets that were combined in the marriage.

If people do not disagree on what they brought to the marriage, which is often codified in prenuptial agreements, one part of the problem is solved by people simply leaving with what they came with. Most arguments stem from assets that have been gained or increased during the marriage because there are often more disputes about who is entitled to them.

Do spousal support and maintenance differ?

As you prepare for your divorce proceedings in New York, the issue of alimony will almost certainly come up. You may mention the word "alimony" only to hear terms such as "spousal support" or "spousal maintenance" in response. That is because many view both terms to be synonymous with alimony. While they are indeed similar in many aspects, there are actually differences between spousal support and maintenance. 

Both are meant to provide you with financial support to help maintain the same standard of living that you enjoyed while you were married. New York's Family Court Act places the responsibility on married couples to financially support each other. Thus, if you are unable to support yourself after leaving your spouse, then you may seek spousal support. This is support paid to you while you are still technically married (including during the period of time that you work through your divorce proceedings). 

How to keep a high profile divorce private

When people get divorced, the last thing they want is to feel that their lives are an open book to the public. High profile professionals who wish to shield their family and personal issues from the public may be motivated to keep the divorce confidential. Many divorces in New York have public records, which means that others may be able to gain information that you likely do not want them to have.

Records of divorce proceedings remain public unless a judge agrees to seal them. To protect divorce documents from being open to the public, you will need to file a motion with the court and provide an affidavit that explains how you or family members would suffer if the records were open to public scrutiny. Courts are often hesitant to seal entire cases. Sometimes judges decide on narrowly tailored seals that do not privatize more than the judge deems necessary.

Dealing with the division of a 401k

When significant assets must be dealt with in a divorce case, it is important for people in New York to ensure that every resource is thoroughly researched so that final ruling leaves neither side disadvantaged. One such resource is a 401k. Many go into divorce proceedings failing to realize that 401k contributions made during a marriage are considered to be marital property. Given the earning potential that funds in a retirement account have, the money to be divided from a 401k can ultimately be among quite high.

Yet many often wonder how can a 401k be divided prior to its holder reaching the age of retirement. During property division proceedings, the court can issue a Qualified Domestic Relations Order which authorizes retirement plan providers to make payments to alternate payees. This means that the spouse who was not contributing to a 401k can take the portion of the marital contributions owed to them and use it how they see fit. Most would think that they would be limited in how they can use that money given that early withdrawals from a retirement account invoke a tax penalty. Yet according to information shared by, a QDRO allows a lump-sum withdrawal to be made without any penalties.

Does reporting abuse hurt custody chances?

If you and/or your children experience domestic violence in New York, the most advisable course of action is to protect yourself and them by leaving the home. During the child custody hearing that will likely follow your escape, you may think that if you report the abuse to the court, you will receive custody of your children over your former partner. Unfortunately, the opposite may be true. The Washington Post reports the results of a recent study at George Washington University that found that reporting abusive behavior by a past partner may actually hurt your chances of obtaining custody. 

According to the study, the courts may interpret a report of abusive behavior against a former partner as an attempt at parental alienation. In other words, the perception is that by reporting domestic violence, you may be trying to turn the child against the other parent so that he or she will side with you instead. The study also found that reports of domestic violence tended to disadvantage mothers reporting domestic violence against fathers more often than fathers making reports against mothers, suggesting a gender bias.

Divorcing your partner from an inheritance

Losing a close member of your family can be difficult, but often they leave something behind as an ode to their time in your life. The gift can be very personal, and the last thing you want is to lose any bit of it in a divorce

Inheritance can be a complicated process that is rooted in strong emotional ties. When considering divorce, you don’t want to part with what is rightfully yours, and you may not have to if your inheritance qualifies as separate property.

Paying for college after a divorce

The desire for one's children to go to college is a normal thing for many New York parents. When a couple gets divorced, the potential for a child to get a college education could be at risk unless the costs for this are addressed during the divorce negotiations. Whether a child is five or 15, parents should outline basic provisions and terms for how they will fund a higher education for their child when the time comes.

Forbes explains that parents review a variety of options in their terms, such as preferences for a student to apply only to institutions that are in their home state and that are publicly funded versus privately funded in an effort to keep the costs down. Some families choose to have one parent provide an up-front payment designed to cover their portion of all college costs. This money can be put in a trust fund or other account for safe keeping until it is needed.

Get The Help You need

If you would like to talk with me, call my office in Manhattan at 212-499-0940 or contact me online.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us Today

Robert G. Smith, PLLC
950 Third Ave., 11th Floor
New York, NY 10022

Phone: 212-499-0940
Fax: 212-499-9091
New York Law Office Map