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Broome County Family Law Blog

New York gives grandparents sought-after rights

Divorce divides families and may result in a total severance of some of the ties with extended family and friends. When it comes to dealing with former in-laws, however, the trend is much more disheartening.

Grandparents, who once may have played an integral part in the now-defunct family unit, may suffer loss, as well. If the bonds between grandparents and their grandchildren suffer as a result of the divorce, many older adults may wonder if they can do anything to repair it. Under New York statutes, grandparents may petition for legal visitation with their grandchildren. See how this law may work in your situation.

Student loans are sometimes dischargeable in a bankruptcy

New York is home to some of the nation's finest universities, and the students who attend them often take on tens of thousands of dollars of debt to pay their tuition and living expenses. Individuals who are struggling to make student loan payments often believe that this type of debt cannot be discharged in a personal bankruptcy, but this is not always true. While the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act does make student loans exempt from discharge most of the time, the 2005 law does allow relief to be granted to prevent undue hardship.

The problem facing bankruptcy filers is that the lawmakers who drafted the bill were not clear about what 'undue hardship" actually means. The Department of Education is working to create a definition to clear up the ambiguity, but determining what is and what is not an undue hardship is currently the job of the courts. Most courts use the Brunner test to evaluate hardship. The test is named after the plaintiff in a 1987 New York bankruptcy case.

The many reasons younger couples are opting for prenups

In the past, prenups were usually associated with very wealthy or famous people. The word itself seemed to be a taboo, but millennial couples seem to be changing that, causing a significant increase in the number of prenups requested. For many New York couples, a prenup might be an option to consider as they plan their wedding and married life.

According to a study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers that polled lawyers on prenups requested, 62% of lawyers responded that they had experienced an increase in clients seeking prenups. Of those, 51% also indicated that they had seen an increase in millennial couples wanting to sign prenups. The reasons for seeking a prenup vary, and millennials have reasons that go hand in hand with their generational trends.

Losing health insurance doubles the chances of bankruptcy

Most of the people in New York and around the country who file personal bankruptcy do so because of overwhelming medical debt, and many of them find themselves in an unsustainable financial situation after losing their health insurance coverage. Individuals often lose their health insurance after leaving a job or going through a divorce, and a coverage gap of only two years makes bankruptcy twice as likely according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Denver and the University of Missouri discovered the link between health insurance coverage gaps and personal bankruptcy filings after examining 12,500 Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 cases using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study worries experts because about 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage if the Affordable Care Act is ruled unconstitutional. The matter is currently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Gray divorce rates on the rise as seniors live longer

In New York and across the country, life expectancy has reached new heights, but for married couples, this also means a longer life together. For some older couples, this extra time together means experiencing new things and growing closer, but for others, it means growing apart. As a result, so-called 'gray divorces" have become more common among seniors, and the challenges these types of separations pose to high-asset couples can be unique.

Gray divorce rates have more than doubled in recent years, and today, approximately one quarter of all marriages among couples over the age of 50 end in divorce. In many cases, these divorces involve shared assets and financial accounts, potentially raising questions about issues surrounding spousal maintenance, divesting interest in shared business ventures and the distribution of funds from investment accounts.

Child visitation and concerns about safety

In some cases, a separated or divorced parent may be worried about the safety of their kid with the other parent. While New York courts usually take these concerns seriously, they also want to be certain that the allegations are true. Therefore, they will generally conduct an investigation.

A parent should collect any documentation, including police reports or medical information, that support the claims. Documentation may also come in the form of testimony from family members, friends, neighbors or even the child's teacher. Child protective services might get involved in the investigation and interview some of these individuals. If the child has a therapist, this professional may be able to present an opinion. However, a judge might also order an evaluation from a different therapist.

Tips for stay-at-home moms living in a post-divorce world

During your marriage, you and your ex-spouse chose to split responsibilities. While your husband went to work to support the family financially, you stayed home to raise good kids. Following your divorce, though, you likely must fulfill both obligations. 

About 25% of recent marriages end in divorce. While you are not alone in choosing to end your marriage, as a stay-at-home mom, you may face some unique challenges in your post-divorce life. While focusing on yourself and your family likely makes sense, you also probably need to begin to build the foundations of your new life. Here are some tips: 

How retirement is affected by divorce

According to statistics gathered by the Pew Research Center, the rate of divorce for people age 50 and over has doubled since 1990. While divorce at any age can be very difficult, couples who separate after turning 50 face a more immediate challenge regarding their retirement. For some people in New York, there is little risk, but others may face a more difficult path ahead if they don't meet certain criteria.

Social Security is the largest source of retirement income for Americans. That's why spouses who never worked may be worried that they'll lose these benefits after a separation. However, an ex-spouse could be entitled to 50% of their former partner's full Social Security benefits even after divorce. This only remains true if the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the recipient remains unmarried. Furthermore, these benefits will only be granted if the person's own Social Security income is not worth more than 50% of the ex-spouse's.

Responding to a debt collector's lawsuit

For many people in New York dealing with insurmountable debt, a lawsuit from a debt collector may be a very serious concern. Of course, legal action is only one of the pressure tools used by collection agencies. People may deal with phone calls, letters and other attempts to collect a debt. Over 70 million people across the country have dealt with collectors at some point or another, and one-quarter of those felt threatened during those encounters. In order to handle a legal threat or a lawsuit over an unpaid debt, it is important for people to understand their rights.

First, if a lawsuit is filed in court, it is important to respond. Many borrowers fail to respond because they do not see a way out of the situation and are also unable to pay the bill in question. However, this could lead to a default judgment being entered against the person and even more difficulties with credit and debt. A lawsuit requires that an answer be officially filed with the court clerk rather than responding directly to the plaintiff that filed the case. It is important to make sure that the answer is filed correctly prior to the deadline specified.

Americans aren't always sure about their credit card debt

A survey from U.S. News & World Report found that 21% of Americans don't know if they have credit card debt. It also found that Americans don't always know the interest rate on the debt that they do have. Of those who were surveyed, 37% said that they had just one credit card while 12% said that they had five or more credit cards. There are many ways that debtors can get a handle on their balances such as transferring them to new cards.

These cards generally come with a lower interest rate or no interest at all for a certain period of time. However, 45% of those surveyed said that they didn't know if they would be charged a fee for transferring a balance to a new card. Of those who actually transferred a balance, 12% were able to pay down their debt before the introductory offer expired.

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