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New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook by Joel R. Brandes is available online in the print edition at the Bookbaby Bookstore and other bookstores. It is now available in Kindle ebook editions and epub ebook editions in our website bookstore. It is also available at Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was reviewed in the New York Law Journal. Click here to read the review.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was also reviewed in Readers Favorite Book Reviews. Click here for that review.

The New York Matrimonial Trial Handbook was written for both the attorney who has never tried a matrimonial action and for the experienced litigator. It is a “how to” book for lawyers. This 836 page handbook focuses on the procedural and substantive law, as well as the law of evidence, that an attorney must have at his or her fingertips when trying a matrimonial action. It is intended to be an aid for preparing for a trial and as a reference for the procedure in offering and objecting to evidence during a trial. The handbook deals extensively with the testimonial and documentary evidence necessary to meet the burden of proof. There are thousands of suggested questions for the examination of witnesses at trial to establish each cause of action and requests for ancillary relief, as well as for the cross-examination of difficult witnesses. Table of Contents

Monday, April 24, 2017

First Department Holds That Invoices Standing Alone May Not Be Regarded as Evidence of Title or Ownership of Property.



  In Anonymous v. Anonymous,--- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2017 WL 1234201, 2017 N.Y. Slip Op. 02613 (1st Dept., 2017)  the parties prenuptial agreement did not specifically address how the parties should divide their art collection upon dissolution of the marriage. It provided that any property owned on the date of execution of the prenuptial agreement, April 21, 1992, or "hereafter…acquired" by one party remains that party's separate property. It provided that "[n]o contribution of either party to the care, maintenance, improvement, custody or repair of… [the other's party]…shall in any way alter or convert any of such property…to marital property. The prenuptial agreement further provided that "any property acquired after the date of the marriage that is jointly held in the names of both parties" shall, upon dissolution of the marriage — which occurred on March 25, 2014 — be divided equally between the parties. Under the heading, Non-Marital Property, the agreement provided: "No property hereafter acquired by the parties or by either of them…shall constitute marital property…unless (a) pursuant to a subscribed and acknowledged written agreement, the parties expressly designate said property as marital property…or (b) title to said property is jointly held in the names of both parties." During the marriage, the parties agreed to acquire certain art as a joint collection, including pieces acquired through Art Advisory Services, Luhring Augustine, and The Kitchen. The husband moved, inter alia, for a declaratory judgment that, "consistent with the Prenuptial Agreement, the title to the art purchased during the marriage determines whether it is marital or separate property, regardless of the source of funds used to acquire it or the alleged intent behind the purchase." He argued that title should be determined based solely on the invoice or bill of sale. The motion court relied on the invoices as proof of whether the art was jointly or individually held in granting his motion. 
          The Appellate Division held to the contrary, that invoices, standing alone, may not be regarded as evidence of title or ownership of the art. An invoice is defined as "[a] list of goods sent or services provided, with a statement of the sum due for these" (Oxford Living Dictionaries [https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/invoice]). "An invoice…is not a bill of sale, nor is it evidence of a sale. It is a mere detailed statement of the nature, quantity, or cost of the goods, or price of the things invoiced, and it is as appropriate to a bailment as a sale. Hence, standing alone, it is never regarded as “evidence of title" (Sturm v. Boker, 150 US 312, 328 [1893].  An invoice cannot be said to be dispositive of ownership. The purpose of the invoice is not to identify the titled owner. The unreliability of an invoice as sole proof of title was evidenced by various invoices in the record. The Appellate Division concluded that title to personalty cannot be determined by relying solely upon an invoice. In determining title to the artwork in question, all the facts and circumstances of the acquisition and indicia of ownership must also be considered. Accordingly, the order was reversed, on the law, the declaration vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings, including discovery and an evidentiary hearing to determine the ownership of the disputed art.

Third Department Holds That Failure to Effectuate Proper Service of a Motion Deprives the Court of Jurisdiction to Entertain the Motion


In Matter of Gariel v Morse, --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2016 WL 7469484 (Mem), 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 08921 (3d Dept., 2016) the Appellate Division held that the father’s letter to the court  had to be treated as a motion for voluntary discontinuance pursuant to CPLR 3217(b) (see Family Ct Act § 165[a]) and, as such, it had to  comply with the applicable service requirements. Inasmuch as the father’s failure to effectuate proper service  “deprive[d] the court of jurisdiction to entertain the motion”(Lee v. I–Sheng Li, 129 AD3d 923, 923 [2015]; see Matter of Lydia DD., 94 AD3d at 1386; Bianco v. LiGreci, 298 A.D.2d 482, 482 [2002]; Adames v. New York City Tr. Auth., 126 A.D.2d 462, 462 [1987]; Burstin v. Public Serv. Mut. Ins. Co., 98 A.D.2d 928, 929 [1983] ), it found that  Family Court erred in dismissing the petition.

Second Department Holds That Party Seeking Counsel Fees must Demonstrate, Prima Facie, Attorney Substantially Complied with 22 NYCRR 1400.2 and 1400.3


 In Piza v Baez-Piza, --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2016 WL 7224738, 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 08384 (2d Dept.,2016) following a trial, the defendant sought additional attorney’s fees, and, the Supreme Court, inter alia, awarded the defendant the sum of $7,500 in attorney’s fees for legal services provided following the earlier award of $3,500 in attorney’s fees. The Appellate Division held that Supreme Court erred in awarding the defendant total attorney’s fees in excess of the $7,500 retainer that she paid to her attorney, as she did not demonstrate, prima facie, that her attorney substantially complied with 22 NYCRR 1400.2 and 1400.3 (see Vitale v. Vitale, 112 AD3d 614, 615). It modified the judgment to provide that the additional award of attorney’s fees for legal services provided following the prior award of $3,500 be limited to the sum of $4,000 (see Mulcahy v. Mulcahy, 285 A.D.2d 587, 588–589).

Appellate Division Considers Factor [6] “the existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household in awarding Maintenance


 In Kaprov v Stalinsky, --- N.Y.S.3d ----, 2016 WL 7380951, 2016 N.Y. Slip Op. 08509 (2d Dept., 2016) the husband argued, inter alia,  that as the Supreme Court had already ordered him to pay, pursuant to a pendente lite order, $3,000 per month in temporary maintenance retroactive to November 12, 2010, the date on which the wife filed her complaint seeking a divorce, the Court, in awarding maintenance for seven years from the date of judgment this effectively granted the wife an 11–year maintenance award, which is excessive in duration given that the marriage lasted only 12 years and the parties had no children together. The Appellate Division rejected this argument observing that a  party’s maintenance obligation is retroactive to the date the application for maintenance was first made (see Domestic Relations Law § 236[B][6][a] ). However, the party is also entitled to a credit for any amount of temporary maintenance ... already paid” (Huffman v. Huffman, 84 AD3d 875, 876). In arguing that the maintenance award was out of proportion to the duration of the marriage, the husband failed to recognize that, pursuant to the version of Domestic Relations Law § 236(B)(6)(a) in effect at the time of the commencement of this action, one of the factors a court should take into account in deciding the amount and duration of a maintenance award is “the existence and duration of a pre-marital joint household” (Domestic Relations Law § 236[B][6][a][6] ). The wife testified that the couple lived together from 1984 to 2010, approximately 26 years. Thus, an 11–year award of maintenance was not out of proportion with the duration of the joint household. The maintenance award was appropriate for the wife to become self-supporting given the factors involved, including the duration of the pre-marital joint household, as well as the wife’s age, absence from the workforce, reduced earning capacity, and limited education (see Domestic Relations Law § 236[B][6][a] ).

2017 Child Support Standards Chart Released



The 2017 combined parental income amount (“statutory cap”) is $143,000. The 2017 self-support reserve is $16,281 and the poverty income guidelines amount for a single person is $12,060.
See https://www.childsupport.ny.gov/child_support_standards.html
The child support standards chart, released March 17, 2017 is available at https://www.childsupport.ny.gov/dcse/pdfs/CSSA.pdf

Since January 31, 2016 the income cap of the maintenance payor for temporary and final (post-divorce) maintenance increased from $175,000 to $178,000 per year. By Administrative Order A/O 12/16, Revised Instructions and Forms for Use in Matrimonial Actions in Supreme Court were adopted effective January 31, 2016. The revised forms reflect the increase in the annual income cap of the maintenance payor for temporary and final (post-divorce) maintenance from $175,000 to $178,000 per year based on CPI increases as required by the 2015 Maintenance Guidelines Law (L. 2015, ch. 269), and clarify instructions regarding use of the UD-Packet forms. See http://www.nycourts.gov/divorce/legislationandcourtrules.shtml (last accessed April 1, 2017)