Primarily servicing the greater New York City metropolitan area



LEONARD M.WEINER, ESQ, Ph.D.
DIVORCE SOLUTIONS
206 East 38th Street
New York, N.Y. 10016
(212) 370-1660

FINANCIAL ISSUES - MARITAL PROPERTY V. SEPARATE PROPERTY

Question #215:
I was hoping you could help me out with a serious problem I'm having. I live in NY State and I am engaged to a man that has been separated from his ex for about 5 years. When he decided it was time to start divorce proceedings, he hired a layer. His layer went to the court house to get a copy of the separation agreement only to find out that it had never actually been filed with the court although both my fiance and his ex had lawyers at the time. So, our lawyer decided he would base the divorce on abandonment, which was fine for both parties.
So, here's the kicker.. my fiance (Jim) and his ex have 2 children together. Jim pays $126.32/wk in child support out of a $300/wk income as so ordered by the family court judge, so obviously money is tight in our home. Anyway, when Jim's lawyer contacted his ex about the divorce, she wrote him an e-mail stating that she would only sign the papers if he agreed to the following terms.. 1) He must take out at least a $100,000 per kid life insurance policy on himself making his kids sole beneficiaries. 2) He must pay for half of the medical care, dental care, etc. until they are 21 or have completed college. 3) He must pay for half of all the kids extracurricular activities. Including books, sports equipment, tennis lessons, piano lessons, swimming lessons, summer camp, dance lessons, etc. 4) He must pay for half of the kids' college tuition and any bills they may incur for college.
Right now the kids are covered by CDPHP for their doctors bills and such and will obviously be covered by Jim's employment's insurance should he have that available in the future. Jim pays for the kids to play little league and soccer and the things kids do around here. We live in a small town in upstate NY and make modest incomes, but Jim's ex is living a dream. She complains about money problems, but puts the kids in piano and karate lessons, which they don't even like, just to keep up with the Jones'. We could only imagine, if Jim is forced to pay half of these things, she would be enrolling the kids in everything she could find. As far as paying the college goes.. there is no doubt that Jim will help his kids in any way he can to put them through college if he has the resources to do it, but it sounds unreasonable to ask him to pay half the expenses. With all the legal aid and such out there, he doesn't feel he should be written into something like that. And there is no way that on Jim's salary he can afford 2 life insurance policies. Jim is an only child who takes care of his wheelchair-bound father for $300 a week and $126.32 comes out of that every week. He just can't afford any of this.
So, it seems that neither Jim nor is ex is willing to budge on this matter. She is a very spiteful woman and there is no way she will change her mind about this. We are about ready to cut our loses and see if we can get back any of our money from the lawyer. But what I really want to know is how long this can go on for. Can she just hold out on these demands and never sign the divorce papers? Will Jim have to give in and let her have what she wants just to get this divorce finalized? Is there ever going to be a point where a judge says "enough is enough" and grants my fiance a reasonable divorce?
I'm sorry this letter turned out to be so long, but I just don't know where else to turn. Jim's lawyer doesn't specialize in divorce and he isn't much help on this matter. I would really appreciate it if you could please give me some advise. Thank you so much.

Answer:

You need to change lawyers! You need an attorney experienced in matrimonial matters who can assist you.
What his spouse is asking for does not sound unreasonable, but I do not have all the relevant facts to offer an serious opinion.
Life style, disparity in incomes, needs of the child, etc. are all relevant issues. Also, it is important that the agreement between the parties is written by an experienced attorney to limit your friend's exposure, like specifying that the child only attend a State run university where the tuition is more reasonable, or setting a maximum amount for all items such as tuition, housing, extracurricilar activities per year,etc. to make sure he is not overwhelmed with bills.

I can help if they need an attorney to work out the deal and draft the agreement.

My fee is $375 per hour.

Leonard Weiner, Esq./Divorce Solutions
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