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August 2011 Archives

Does overtime count towards child support?

Child support calculations include all income sources. If your spouse's job has overtime payment, it will be figured into the equation used to determine the amount of support. The same is true for any type of sideline income, whether it's part-time employment, moonlighting of some sort, or a small side business in addition to a regular job. So, if your ex gets a new job in which overtime is available, and he or she begins to accumulate a significant amount of additional income, it may be possible to make a claim for upward modification of the amount of child support you receive. If you are the payor, then of course you might become subject to these obligations. 

No C of O, No Rent

Let's say you rent an apartment in a building or house where three or more families live. If the owner/landlord doesn't have a Certificate of Occupancy that describes or permits your living quarters, he or she can be restricted from collecting rent in a law suit. However, applying the rules governing these situations is a complex Landlord Tenant matter. As always, there's no guarantee a judge will rule in your favor, even if the landlord hasn't abided by New York State and NYC building laws. Consequently, implementing this defense successfully generally requires you to retain a tenants' attorney, rather than attempting to go it alone. 

The "Stale Rent" Defense: A Strategy to Avoid Eviction When You Owe A Lot

When landlords want to evict tenants, one of their nastier tactics is to wait until rent in arrears builds up to a level that would be difficult or impossible to pay all at once. This method can allow unscrupulous property owners to evict while leases are still in effect, possibly sidestepping rent-regulation protections.

Don't Be Pressured To Settle

There is often a great deal of pressure in Housing Court to settle matters rather then proceed to trial. Frequently, settling is in fact the best option, as it saves the expense of trial and exposure to paying your adversary's attorneys fees. However, when a landlord is unwilling to acknowledge fundamental tenant rights, then a trial is required to assert them. If you feel this is the situation in your case, do not be intimidated into settling. If you have to go to trial, it's to your advantage to discuss options with a tenants' lawyer, who can advise on what the probable outcome will be for each available course of action. The point is that it's just not always possible to avoid a court battle if you want to safeguard your rights. 

Watch Your Language

You may think that the language you use in your home will have no impact on your case. With the proliferation of mannerlessness and vulgarity these days, people tend to take how they say things for granted, and ignore the impact of what they say. The judge won't. If you regularly curse, yell at your kids, make inappropriate remarks of a sexual nature, or speak disparagingly of your spouse, you can expect it to be revealed in court. It is one among many factors that are considered in awarding custody, but in a close decision, may just be the reason that sways the court against you. If this sounds like you and you want custody of your kids, tone it down. 

Get Relief from the Costs of an Appeal

Since appealing a case can be very expensive, the Court has procedures to assist those who cannot sustain the costs of filing documents and printing the transcript of the trial. A judge can waive certain court costs if you can prove that they're beyond your means. This is referred to as "Poor Person's Relief," which can also waive the requirement that the person appealing pay money to put an eviction on hold while the appeal goes forward. If the appeal wins and reverses the lower court's decision, there is a chance that the landlord will have to pay attorneys fees.

No Alterations Without a Work Permit

For structural work and construction that changes occupancy, landlords need permits from the New York City Department of Buildings. The law requires permits and inspections to protect against work that is not up to standards set by city codes. If your landlord tries to get around this, there are several ways you can use it to your advantage.

If You Don't Get Treatment, You Don't Get Custody

When mental illness of a parent is involved in a divorce, it is a critical factor in determining who gets custody of children. The court will carefully examine the facts surrounding a parent's history of instability. If you suffer from extremes of anxiety, depression or other mental disease, and are not getting treatment, the judge is unlikely to consider you fit enough to be awarded custody. If you suspect you might need it, seek medical help or counseling before getting involved in litigation about custody arrangements. Alternatively, if you are well and your spouse is sick, and has not acknowledged the severity of the condition or sought adequate treatment, it will go a long way towards persuading the court you should become the custodial parent. Keep in mind that it reflects poorly on your own fitness for custody if you don't intervene with your spouse for the sake of your children. It supports your suitability if you can show that, in a non-confrontational way, you encouraged your spouse to seek treatment or monitoring. 

Pay Utility Bills To Get Service Restored and Deduct It From The Rent

Under the law, if the landlord doesn't pay utility bills in a multiple dwelling building and service is shut off, tenants can cover the expense to restore it. You can then deduct the cost of money paid to the utility provider from your rent. This applies to electric, gas and water services. The landlord is liable for these costs and may also be subject to a claim for punitive damages, which are intended to punish severely negligent conduct.

Think Twice About an Appeal

When a litigant loses a divorce case, the question of whether to appeal arises. Very few appeals succeed, and money consumed at trial and on appeal can often be put to much better use. Just as settlement is generally preferable to litigation, avoiding an appeal by reaching agreement has major advantages. For many divorcing couples, the combined attorney's fees exceed tens of thousands of dollars. Moving past bitterness and pursuing productive negotiation can result in saving a significant amount on your legal representation. The money can then be more advantageously devoted to providing a higher quality of life for all concerned, especially the children. 

Send a Letter From the Tenants' Association

You don't always need a full-blown rent strike to get the landlord to take appropriate action in providing building services or making repairs. Organizing a tenants' association has the advantage of putting the landlord on notice that you intend to act as a unified group in pursing your rights. A letter from a group of tenants that has taken this position is likely to be much more effective than individual letters. The landlord will realize that there is now the potential for a major legal problem that can greatly affect cash flow and profits. Sometimes this is enough to exact compliance. So if multiple tenants are affected by substandard condition, it can pay to organize even if you never actually pursue a rent strike.

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