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September 2011 Archives

Beware of Fast Divorce Promises

There are services advertised on the Internet that offer a fast divorce, sometimes at very low cost, if you agree to obtain it in another jurisdiction outside of New York State. Unfortunately, the courts of many states and countries, including New York, may not recognize these divorces as legal. This can lead to serious complications. Let's say you have obtained what amounts to an invalid divorce, and subsequently remarry. If you swear on official documents you are divorced to get a marriage license, you may have committed a crime without realizing it. If New York State does not recognize the divorce as legal and binding, you may be charged with the crime of bigamy, which is being married to more than one person simultaneously. It is also possible to be accused of adultery, still a crime in New York. The lesson is this: the quick cheap way can be the most costly, and may be dangerous. If you want to divorce, do things the safer way - hire an experienced New York matrimonial lawyer, and follow his or her advice. 

Appeal without Appealing

If you don't win against the landlord at trial, you can appeal the judge's decision. Appeals are generally a costly proposition. However, sometimes a judge refuses to sign or crosses language off a document that would put a hold on your eviction. In this instance, there is an option that offers benefits similar to an appeal, which your attorney may be able to handle for you more economically. Specifically, it is possible to take a copy of the disputed document to an Appellate Judge, and to ask for the lower court judge's decision on your papers to be reversed or modified if there are reasons that clearly show it was made in error. The Appellate Judge may adjust all or part of the lower court's decision, or may leave it intact. The advantage though is that you have avoided the expense of a full appeal. 

Get a Receipt

A significant number of tenants pay their rent with money orders or cash, as opposed to a personal check. If you do this, under New York State law you are legally entitled to a receipt from the landlord, and should ask for one whenever you make a payment in this manner.

If You Snoop, You May End Up In the Coop

It's relatively common in divorces for one spouse to look through the other's private property, especially when infidelity is suspected. While it may seem that there is little that can be considered private property in the context of a marriage relationship, a legal distinction can be made.

If You Agree To Move, Negotiate For Time and Money

If it looks like you're going to be evicted anyway, it may be a good idea to agree to move. If you do this you may avoid additional legal expenses and be able to negotiate for some advantages that make the whole process smoother and more convenient. It also might be possible to avoid blacklisting, which means you may save yourself the cost of a larger security deposit on your next rental, and avoid difficulty in finding another apartment. In attempting to reach a settlement with the landlord on terms, two variables to negotiate concessions on are time and money. You'll want enough time to find a new place to live. You can also ask the landlord to reduce or waive claims for outstanding rent. Landlords sometimes forfeit rent because they're happy to be rid of tenants they want to evict, without paying extra legal costs and risking further trouble. In addition, if your defenses are solid and the landlord thinks you'd be willing to move, you might even get moving costs. 

Do-It-Yourself Can Be a Recipe for Disaster

With any legal matter, especially one as complex as a divorce, it's never a good idea to try and be your own lawyer. Hard economic times have led many people to attempt to handle their own divorces by downloading forms from one-stop-shopping sites that offer a do-it-yourself solution. However, there isn't any realistic way for untrained individuals to be aware of all the intricacies of matrimonial law that may apply to their specific cases. Frequently, serious mistake are made that are difficult or impossible to rectify. The adverse, long-term financial consequence will usually far exceed what it would have cost to hire a lawyer. So be smart: even if you have to borrow the money for your legal fees, it's a superior option to damaging yourself legally, monetarily, and in others ways, which you might have to live with for the rest of your life. 

Never Miss a Court Date

When you're in litigation with a landlord, you must be prompt and precise in adhering to the schedule for all court dates. Be on time with deadlines for responding to papers and making payments. When a court date is assigned, you must be there to ask for an adjournment for a valid reason. If you're late or don't appear it's far more likely you'll be evicted, regardless of the merits of your case. In your absence, the landlord will ask the court for a final judgment. When no one answers for you, a warrant of eviction will usually go out authorizing the City Marshal to evict you. To avoid these calamities, you'll have to provide an explanation for not appearing, and show that you have defenses against the landlord's claims, to get a judge to give you another chance. Similarly, you must respond to any notices or documents you get from the Court, the marshal and the landlord's lawyer in a timely manner. Generally, in New York City, every effort is made to assist litigants in moving through the court system. For example, if you have small children, Housing Court in your borough may offer free day care. Call your local court to inquire. Keep in mind there are legal complexities to deal with if you're not on time, and you'd be wise to speak with a tenants' lawyer if you're tardy. See strategy # 3, # 8 and # 15 in How to Protect Yourself Against a Ruthless, Greedy Landlord for additional information.

Men Are Also Victims of Domestic Violence

Although men avoid talking about it because of embarrassment, they too are victims of domestic violence more frequently than most people realize. Some wives are physically abusive, and will kick, punch, or strike a husband with a weapon when tempers flare. This occurs more often when a woman has a substance abuse problem or is mentally ill. If you are a male and have been victimized in this way, don't let shame stop you from pursuing your legal rights to protections under the law. If you have children, allowing the abuse to continue without addressing it damages them, not only from the dangerous environment, but also by setting an example which can have a lifetime's destructive impact. Seek help. Call a matrimonial lawyer, and tell your story. An attorney can document the effects and help bring the trauma to a halt. 

Absence of Documents or Witnesses Can Adjourn a Case

If you need extra time to collect critical documents or to arrange for certain witnesses to appear, the Court may give you an adjournment. Judges are more likely to adjourn the matter if you subpoenaed the documents and witnesses - you've shown you tried to collect your evidence, and the delay isn't your fault. The necessary forms and instructions for subpoenas are available at the Clerk's office at Housing Court. Taking these steps might even buy you time to get together rent money you may owe. However, if you are having witnesses summoned and going to trial, your case has now become a more complex affair, and it would be in your best interests to consider retaining a Tenants' lawyer to represent you. When you're dealing with witnesses, too many things can go wrong that can sink your case. An attorney knows how to handle witnesses and use their testimony to your advantage. 

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