Seven Podcasts to Listen To During Your Divorce

Getting divorced means you will inevitably have more time on your hands than you used to. Time you spent fighting with your spouse will now be spent on more productive activities like going to the gym, watching TV shows you actually like, and standing in the kitchen eating yogurt naked just because you can.

This got me thinking—as did the fact that National Radio Day is coming up this Thursday—that podcasts are an awesome way to coach yourself through this transitional period. Let’s be honest, we rarely know what to do with new freedom when it’s granted to us, it typically takes a while to figure out who we are in this new world of self-discovery. So while you’re wading around in the pool of alluvial muck that will become your new life, why not listen to some interesting and motivating podcasts? These are my recommendations.

Stuff to Blow Your Mind – “Animal Sexual Fluidity”
So, this is an amazing podcast, and I recommend listening to ALL the episodes as soon as you can. However, since you’re going through a seriously confusing time in terms of your personal life, possibly your sexuality and maybe even your family structures, I’d say start with this episode. The bizarreness of nature—and its insistence on change—will help put your current transition in perspective, while distracting you with lots of sexually diverse and crazy sex-changing animals. It will blow your mind.

This American Life – “Break-Up”
This is an old episode of this now world famous podcast (ca. 2007), but it has always stuck with me because of how cliché—and how sad—breakups actually are. And also how necessary they are. The best thing about this episode is that Phil Collins shows up to discuss possibly the best breakup song of all time, and to tell the story behind writing it. You’ll laugh, you’ll relate to Phil Collins, you might cry a little—this is just listening gold.

Stuff You Should Know – “Polyamory
Come on, you know you’re curious—and now you can look into things that titillate your curiosity without guilt! This episode of the Stuff You Should Know podcast looks into the myths and realities of what it means to be in a committed relationship with multiple people—and it’s probably not what you were expecting.

Officially, this podcast has nothing to do with your divorce, except that you are going to get so into it that you’ll forget all about your divorce for a few precious hours, and focus instead on this masterpiece of storytelling. The podcast is twelve episodes describing one reporter’s experience of re-opening the real-life 1999 murder investigation of a high school student. If you find yourself running over and over your divorce in your head, this is the podcast to break the cycle.

Berkeley’s Happiness Matters Podcast – “Is Divorce Always Bad for Kids?”
There’s a common perception—or maybe it’s just conventional wisdom gone awry—that having two parents together, no matter how unhappy they are, is better for children than having two divorced parents. This podcast episode looks at that question in detail, providing a lot of research context, in order to find out whether divorce is really always bad for kids.

Sex Nerd – “The Sex Slang of Urban Dictionary” (in 2 parts)
This podcast is genius from the folks at The Nerdist, and taps into subjects of interest and humor around human sexuality. This two-part episode is both hilarious and extremely useful (because you’re going to need to know this stuff now that you’re single). Enjoy your lesson!

RadioLab – “Who Are You?”
Let’s face it: you have no idea who you are anymore. Don’t worry—it’s totally natural to feel that way after a divorce. Even if you’re not getting divorced, it’s healthy to wonder about this question at least every few years throughout your life. (If you’re not getting divorced that means you’re just reading this post because you think I’m entertaining, and that means you are already awesome, so stop worrying.) But seriously, “Who am I?” is pretty much the most important question we can ask ourselves after “How do I get food?” and “Where’s the bathroom?” so this one really deserves your time. Plus RadioLab is funny.


Love and Radio – “Thank You, Princess.”
Did you know people buy used panties off the internet? Or that some people will literally pay good money to be harassed in a manner that possibly reminds you of your divorce? Have a listen to this crazy episode of Love and Radio, which is essentially an interview with a self-described “Humiliatrix”… and be prepared to be completely weirded out, yet completely fascinated. I want to put out a quick disclaimer that this is at times a strange podcast, and that this episode in particular is pretty out there. As such I’m not condoning the subject matter, some of which is likely to be illegal—but it is REALLY entertaining.

Happy listening, and Happy (early) National Radio Day!

James J. Sexton

What to Do if Your Spouse Goes AWOL (Inspired by Serial Season 2)

One of the big surprises of 2014 was the huge success of the Serial podcast, which is or was a spinoff of the relatively popular This American Life podcast put out by Chicago Public Radio. It was pretty much the first podcast to ever reach such a huge audience, with an average of 8 million people downloading every episode on iTunes alone.

The first season told the story of the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school student, in 1999, for which her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed has at the time of my writing been in prison for almost sixteen years. Producer Sarah Koenig interviewed witnesses, uncovered many inconsistencies in the case as presented to the courts, and opened up a proverbial can of worms that is still wide open.

I was one of the people listening avidly to the first season of Serial, so I’m pretty excited that the second season has started. Sarah Koenig promised “some time in 2015,” and she waited until just last week to debut her new story. In fact, Season Two, Episode Two premieres today!

This season’s podcast is going to pick apart the story of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was allegedly held captive by the Taliban for five years in Afghanistan—but again, this is a story with a lot of complexity, suggestive details, and inconsistencies. Well chosen, Sarah.

To prep you for Serial season 2, this post is going to mix some key background information with a bit of legal perspective on what to do if YOUR spouse goes AWOL—whether from your life, your marriage, or just from financial obligations. Enjoy!

Were there signs?

This is the age-old question that gets asked every time someone does something absolutely incomprehensible. The serial killer was “just a normal guy,” the rope bridge “looked pretty safe,” and your spouse never seemed like the kind of person to just pick up and take off.

According to other soldiers who knew Bowe Bergdahl, he was basically a normal guy before he disappeared—a disappearance that is now being looked at by many as a desertion of a very strange kind. “He was focused and well-behaved,” soldier Jason Fry has said.

But also, Bergdahl did say to Fry at one point, “If this deployment is lame, I’m just going to walk off into the mountains of Afghanistan.” So there’s that.

There was also the weird fact that, according to soldiers in his unit, on the morning he went missing, he stacked all his stuff up neatly, except for his compass, which went missing with him. Not enough for you? He also apparently mailed his computer and other possessions—inexplicably—to his parents prior to his disappearance. So … yeah. There were signs.

I think you can safely assume, if your spouse gets distant and starts mailing all of his or her possessions away, that there might be something fishy going on. What’s tougher to get a handle on are the psychological signs, and the emotional ones. Is your spouse going distant because they’re stressed about work, or because they want out?

When a spouse walks out on a marriage, it sometimes means walking out on the children of the marriage as well. Some states call this desertion and others call it abandonment. In either case it’s generally grounds for divorce.

The exact definition of abandonment varies, but usually it means the spouse has been gone for one to two years, has not made any financial contributions, and refuses to reconcile if they are in touch at all.

What should be done?

When Bergdahl went missing, a huge amount of military resource was put into trying to track him down, and there was a lot of controversy surrounding whether or not the US government should negotiate for his release (ie. “negotiate with terrorists”). For much of the time he was gone, he was the only US soldier being held as a prisoner by the Taliban, so it was fairly high-profile.

If you think your spouse is about to go AWOL (or worse, they already have), you probably lack the resources of the US military in trying to hold them accountable in your marriage. There are some things you can do, however.

If you have children, you can file for temporary custody, which is likely to turn into permanent custody once you finalize the divorce. You can also ask the court for a temporary order of child support. In extreme cases, you can ask the court to terminate parental rights of the deserting spouse, if they are seen to be an unfit parent.

Once the spouse has been gone from your marriage for two years, and one year in some states, you’re in a good position to file for divorce.

What really happened?

But getting a divorce doesn’t answer the biggest question that some spouses have after being deserted. The biggest question, of course, is “Why?” Why did the person just leave, instead of resolving the situation in some other way? How could they leave a life you created together, without a second thought? And so on.

In my experience, satisfying answers to this question are few and far between. Usually, the simple answer is “avoidance”—some people just can’t deal with having grownup conversations. In a few unfortunate scenarios, people had already started a new life with someone else. You might find out why your spouse went AWOL in time, or you might never get the answers you feel you deserve. And this can be infuriating.

In the case of Bowe Bergdahl, finding out what really happened is the whole point, or so it seems. Some people claim he left a note saying he was going to “start a new life,” but the note hasn’t been since produced. There are stories of his being kidnapped and tortured by Taliban captors, and as many stories that he walked away with them on his own free will. And there are apparently a LOT of strange little ins and outs of his story that just don’t add up.

For the Deserted

Sadly, abandonment is not that uncommon as a grounds for divorce, but luckily it’s fairly easy to resolve from a legal standpoint. Once your spouse has left you for a certain period, it’s hard for the courts to deny you a divorce—but you’ll want to have legal counsel to ensure that you get what you deserve out of the situation.

If your spouse has gone AWOL, feel free to contact me for advice on your specific situation. If you’re an abandoned military spouse, you might find this site helpful in understanding your options.

If you’re interested in listening to Serial, either the last amazing season or this coming one, you can download it here. If you’re interested and you’ve never downloaded a podcast before, here’s what to do.

Questions? Comments? Leave a comment, share on Facebook, or tweet it!

James J. Sexton

5 Tips For Co-Parenting

I saw my first Christmas commercial this morning, which can only mean one thing: summer is officially over (ok, two things: and America has a serious consumerism problem). With the back-to-school season officially upon us, a whole host of newly divorced couples are taking their maiden voyage into co-parenting. This can be a tricky transition but the following tips will help you sail along in smoother waters.

Go Hi-Tech with Your Scheduling.
The real key to a seamless schedule is lots and lots of organization. Trying to juggle everyone’s appointments is hard enough when you’re all living under one roof, so balancing activities, splitting time between homes and coordinating custody drop-offs can be a real doozy. The best thing to do is set up what I call a “living calendar.” There are tons of apps and software out there, fiddle around with a few and find which works best for your family. Then set up access for everyone in the family including step-parents or other guardians and caregivers that help with the kids (also include the kids when they’re tech literate enough). Have a color code for each person and have everyone plug in their schedules, and update changes as soon as they happen.

Once everything is set up, you can start every day knowing exactly who is picking up the kids, where they’re staying and who is getting them there. Seeing everything laid out in front of you can really aid in creating a sense of calm and consistency for everyone, especially the kids.

Check-In Regularly.
If you and your ex-spouse are on good enough terms, schedule weekly or monthly catch-up meetings to just get a lay of the land. Use this time to go over any big developments in the kids’ lives, behavioral issues, any overlapping budget concerns and any other topics you see fit. You’re already a well-oiled machine with your living calendar, but some things are better discussed in person. Plus, having consistent meetings will keep the lines of communication open. Again, this is important in creating a sense of calm and consistency for everyone, especially the kids.

Communicate Directly.
Don’t ever use your kids as the messenger or the go-between. They’re not your personal assistants and using them in that way can cause them anxiety and stress where there needn’t be any. Figure out the best method of communication for your situation. Things still a little raw and wrought with emotion? Maybe texting or emailing is best for you. Keep conversations about the kids only, and don’t let your past issues bubble up. Think of your ex-spouse as a colleague. You’re now co-CEOs of your family, so behave as you would at work, meaning keep emotion out of it. Be pleasant and everything, but keep things all business and only about the kids. It may feel odd and fake at first but you may find yourself easing into more casual and comfortable communications eventually… and even if you don’t, you’ll steer clear of the emotional meltdowns.

Now is not the time to be petty and selfish. You wanted out of that marriage, and you got it, bully for you! Now you both have to focus your energies on your children and trying to make this transition as smooth as possible. Now is not the time to squabble over 15 extra holiday minutes nor is it time to get passive aggressive about lenient “homework in front of the TV” rules. Meet in the middle and pick your battles. While the marriage ship has sailed, you’re in this parenting thing together, for the rest of your lives and I don’t have to tell you that’s the most important role you and your ex-partner will play.

Cultivate Relationsips, Don’t Compare.
A friend once gave me really great advice. He said, “Keep your eyes on your own paper.” I wasn’t cheating off him in math class at the time. What he meant was, focus on your own stuff. Don’t get wrapped up comparing yourself to others. Stay in your own lane and you do you. This is really good advice for co-parenting as well. Focus on the relationship between you and your kids. Don’t waste time comparing yourself to the other parent by questioning who is doing the better job or which parent the kids like more. The time your kids spend at home is a short season, so try to make the most of it. In a blink they’ll be heading off to school and/or into the real world so cherish every minute and know that if you’re doing right by them, none of this “popular parent” stuff matters anyway.

Do you have any co-parenting tips for your fellow parents? Share them with us and we’ll  share them!

James J. Sexton

The Best Divorce Movies to Get You Through the Dark Times

Divorce can be an isolating experience. Especially when those around you haven’t been through it themselves. They can try to comfort you and say the right things, but sometimes you need someone who knows what it’s like. Someone who’s been through it. Someone like my old pal Holly…wood.

There’s a movie out there for everyone. One that will resonate with you, no matter how unique you think your situation is. Below are my absolute favorite divorce movies. Find which one suits your needs, clear off the couch and get some snacks together.

First Wives Club
Did your husband leave you for some twenty-something? Was that twenty-something Jessie Spano? Do you like musical numbers that involve a lot of white semi-formal wear? Yes? Then First Wives Club is for you! Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler and Diane Keaton play three divorcees out for revenge. You can live vicariously through them while still taking the high road even though your ex-husband Steven is scum of the earth and his new girlfriend Tiffani doesn’t look old enough to babysit.

Mrs. Doubtfire
Did you lose your custody battle? Have you considered posing as a female nanny to spend more time with your kids? Yes? Well Mrs. Doubtfire is the film for you, friend. It’s got slapstick and hijinks galore and watching from the comfort of your couch is a heck of a lot cheaper than hiring a professional makeup artist to transform you into an older Scottish lady.  

Crazy, Stupid, Love
Did your wife leave you for some chump she works with? Do you like looking at Ryan Gosling? Are you looking for some tips to help you pick up women in bars post-separation? Look no further, all that and more awaits you in Crazy, Stupid, Love. Nothing pains me more than to tell you that you’re probably not going to meet Ryan Gosling at your local bar. And he’s not going to date you, nor is he going to teach you about pulling women like your own personal pick-up artist Mystery. But! You can watch this and pretend for two hours that those are all feasible things that can indeed happen.

Is your husband having an affair with a world renowned romance novelist? Do you want to ruin his entire life? Do you need a step-by-step guide? Well, you’ve got one in She-Devil. I don’t know why this movie isn’t more popular, it’s amazing. Just don’t get any ideas… So much of what Ruth does would land you in jail for a long time. 

Desperately Seeking Susan
Are you a bored stay-at-home wife? Do you read personal ads to get you through those monotonous days? Do you live vicariously through those ad writers? Have you ever been swept up in an ancient Egyptian jewel heist? Great! You’ll really relate to this one. So much is good here — fantastic soundtrack, very 80s New York, Madonna — you can’t lose.

Hope Floats
Did your husband cheat on you? Did you find out he cheated on you when he told you on a national talk show? Destroyed by the news, did you move back to your hometown? Yes? That is so freaky because that’s what Hope Floats is about! There is nothing like a sappy chick flick to really get you through the hard times and give you some perspective plus I hear women like this one, too. This flick is the perfect combination of preposterous and heartwarming. 

Are you ready to leave that cheating spouse and start fresh somewhere new? Have you changed your mind about that decision a bunch of times? Well, Heartburn’s for you! It’s based on Nora Ephron’s novel (and personal life!), stars Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson and takes you along on a rollercoaster of a marriage. 

Enough Said
Are you divorced and dipping your toe back into the dating pool? Are you relatively normal and understated? Yes? Then, this one’s for you. Enough Said is a sweet little film that feels real and just might make you feel less alone in the world. 

City of God
Sure…you might be getting divorced but at least you aren’t living in a Brazilian favela run by drug lords and corrupt police. Seriously…you haven’t seen City of God? Stop whatever you are doing now and go watch it. It has absolutely nothing to do with divorce but I just didn’t want to make a movie list that had the words “best” and “movies” in it that didn’t have City of God on it.  Why are you still reading this….go watch it….you can thank me later.  

James J. Sexton

Divorce All-Stars: Diandra Luker & Michael Douglas

Picture this:

It’s 1977…

Jimmy Carter has just been inaugurated…

A young couple is slow dancing on a crowded dance floor to Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night” (maybe that’s the song? I’m just taking a stab in the dark here)…

That couple? Michael Douglas and Diandra Luker. At a Jimmy Carter inauguration party. Seriously! That’s where Michael Douglas met first wife Diandra, the daughter of an Austrian diplomat. Celebrities really aren’t at all like us, are they?

The two were married six weeks later and Diandra stood by Michael’s side as his career took off. They reportedly separated sometime around 1995 and haggled over details until 2000, when the divorce was finally settled.

In recent reports, Michael has allegedly claimed the marriage went on for ten years too long. Perhaps he’s speaking about the emotional burden of ten years of strife, or perhaps it’s the $45 million payout he ended up having to fork over that’s really got him wanting to rewrite history.

Our Complicated Relationship With Social Media

While art directing my perfectly curated breakfast of avocado toast and an iced latte, complete with a blogworthy striped paper straw, I thought to myself daaamn this looks good, I’m going to get so many likes. But I also thought about a simpler time, when I ate without photographing it, when I could see the stage of a concert with my own eyes instead of through the 100 phones in front of me, and before I felt the need to micro-document every single thing I did to prove to my high school frenemies on Facebook that my life was way, way better than any of theirs. Just 10 years ago the world was very different.

With the advent of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (the holy trinity), and of course their handheld facilitator — the smart phone — our lives, our relationships and the way we interact has totally transformed. Though, with each technological triumph are we becoming a better society? A wise man named Neil Postman opined, “Technological change is always a Faustian bargain: technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure.  A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys.  Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates.”

So, which camp are we in? Are we better off now than we were 10 years ago? It’s hard to say. Sure we’re all zombies with stooped heads, growing hunchbacks, stuck in the technology loop Portlandia perfectly described:

But the world has also shrunk and we’re able to meet and bond with people all over the place. It’s now easier than ever to find and build our own tribes. Access to information, art and music has never been more democratic. And of course, how we fall in love today is different as well.

I just finished reading comedian Aziz Ansari’s new book Modern Romance, an interesting sociological study on dating in modern times, in all its glory and horror. He too grappled with the question of whether we’re better off now than we were pre-social media. In America Tinder, Grindr, OkCupid and their dozens of copycats bring people together with a few taps and swipes. But in Japan, marriage and birth rates are declining and the contemporary internet age seems to be isolating people from each other more than bringing them together. Ansari didn’t find a definitive answer to whether we’re better off, but in much of the world social media is instrumental in getting people together.

It’s so commonplace now, that more and more the answer to “So how did you two meet?” is simply “the internet.” It is so the norm that chatting someone up, human-to-human, is so weird it merits experiments like this:

Sometimes people find their soulmates online and sometimes aspiring writers turn horrible dates into great short stories. But let’s focus on the soulmate couple. They swiped their way to true love and are now married, but social media’s influence does not end there. Dating apps and sites are of course expediting the cheating process, busting up marriages left and right. Curious partners snoop their way into uncovering cheating spouses who reconnected with their high school sweethearts thanks to Facebook. Concerned fans tweet wives mariage-shattering photo discoveries. Then there are all those politicians sending crotch shots to strangers, mangling their careers and their marriages in one fell swoop.

Even once the marriage is a pile of smoking ashes, the impact of selfie sharing and status updates is not over. Shiny social media accounts can make a person the envy of all their friends but they can also get them into hot water. Custody, alimony, and all sorts of other details of a divorce can be tied to what is posted online.

It does not fare well for a custody argument when a person’s supposed to be with the kids but instead they’re tagged in Facebook pictures slamming shots in Vegas. Boasting about a new car and flashy lifestyle on Twitter does not bode well for the “I swear I’m broke. I need alimony, your Honor” stance. Even the innocuous can be detrimental. Kid not properly bucked in his carseat in that Instagram post? Does it matter that they weren’t moving and two seconds after the picture was taken the parent fixed the buckle? It certainly doesn’t to a spouse’s attorney when she argues that they’re an unfit parent who doesn’t care about a child’s safety.

So what’s a person to do? Well, use your brain. Basically, don’t be dumb. Maybe posting a link to Rihanna’s Bitch Better Have My Money (NSFW!!!) video with a “Lol” isn’t the best status update to post on the morning of your court hearing. Set your privacy settings so that you can review pictures before you’re tagged in them. Think through each thing you want to post, and when you decide it’s fine, don’t post it, take a walk around the block and think it through once more. Honestly, if possible, the best idea is unplug. Take a break from all your accounts. Commune with nature. Meet up with your friends and talk to them in person. Read a newspaper instead of a newsfeed. Let us lawyers do our jobs while you enjoy the peace and quiet of a simpler life. And hope that your soon to be ex-spouse didn’t take any of this advice and all his or her internet mistakes will prove fruitful for you.

So, have we destroyed more than we created? Are we better off in this new frontier where we can Seamless tacos, swipe right to find a date, tweet the entire world our deepest and shallowest thoughts, text our grandmas happy birthday, and share the screenshots on Instagram — all without having to move an inch off our couches? Are we better communicators now? Is all this convenience giving us better, streamlined lives?

Well, the answer is simple. Just kidding! I have no idea. And I don’t have the free time to get a PhD in sociology and anthropology and the nine hundred other fields that all have to converge to get into even the same ballpark as the answer. I know this much to be true: Neil Postman was right. Social media giveth and taketh away. Social media brings us together and tears us apart. Social media can prove helpful and totally detrimental to divorce proceedings. This is the world we live in now, we must accept it. Now who wants tacos? We don’t have to talk to anyone at all to get them delivered to our door. Hang on, I’ll grab my phone.

James Sexton

20 Excuses That Aren't Going to Fly In Light of the Ashley Madison Breach

It’s been a stressful Monday for a lot of approximately 37 million folks out there and we’re not just talking about the usual #manicmonday craziness – We’re talking about oh-god-everything-is-going-to-go-down-the-tubes stressful. It’s a whole different level.

We imagine many have been racking their brains with excuses to give if The Impact Team decides to go ahead and spill “all customer records, including profiles with all the customers’ secret sexual fantasies and matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails”.

We’re not sure what you should say if you’ve found yourself in such a predicament but here are 20 things you definitely should not say. You’re welcome.

1. I thought it was a baby names website.
2. I was undercover writing an investigative expose.
3. I was trying to get to the Ashley Madekwe fan site. I got really into the first season of Revenge while you were out of town. I just wanted to show Ashley and the whole Revenge cast my support.
4. I signed up to make sure you weren’t a member. You passed the test!
5. What is this “internet” you speak of, I am not familiar.
6. I was looking for a Billy Madison fan page – You KNOW I love Adam Sandler. I celebrate his whole catalog.
7. Wow! Sorry! The married people on the radio ad really reacted WAY cooler than you are about this.
8. I saw all the photos and thought it was a fashion blog for middle-aged people with no heads.
9. I was trying to improve my golf game. I googled “how to swing” and it just came up.
10. I felt like sleeping with our neighbor would be boorish and this seemed more considerate.
11. I was looking for a new babysitter! … Do they not offer that?
12. I thought I was doing you a favor!
13. That wasn’t me who signed up – That was drunk me.
14. Wait, you mean you’re not one of the 37 million on it?
15. … Hall pass?
16. I thought this was the sexier version of TaskRabbit.
17. So, you’re telling me we weren’t on a break?
18. But all our married friends are on here!
19. We always cheat on our taxes – Is this really so different?
20. Well, I guess they delivered – I’m screwed.

And if you need legal advice, you know who to call.

James Sexton

Ashley Madison Hack: Bad News For Cheaters, Good News For Divorce Lawyers

Did you have a good weekend? It was hot here in New York City, one of those weekends where you don’t want to move an inch. Hey, quick question. Did you use to cheat on your spouse? Oh, you did. Hey, did you see the news this morning? No? Rushing to get out of the house, huh? We’ve all had those mornings. So, about Ashley Madison, I’ve got some bad news…

Krebs on Security is reporting that Ashley Madison has been hacked and 37 million users have had their data compromised. Not good for any of you who embraced AM’s motto “Life is short. Have an affair.” Perhaps it’s time to modify that slogan to “Life is short. Have an affair. Get a good divorce lawyer. You should probably monitor your credit closely for a while.”

A hacker group called “The Impact Team” is allegedly holding the data hostage, threatening to release all sorts of details that could ruin marriages, embarrass users and lead to identity theft. According to the Krebs article, AM CEO Noel Biderman confirmed the hack. He told Krebs “We’re not denying this happened,” which incidentally might be a great way to break your affair news to your spouse.

If “The Impact Team” does release the data who knows how many hearts will be broken. But one thing’s for sure, us lawyers have a busy autumn coming up.


James Sexton

Think They're Still Together? Teen Couple Movie Edition

We had so much fun in our last installment that I thought it’d be a treat to once again use the firm’s years of experience in the world of failed romance to offer our predictions on the Romeos and Juliets of our formative years; the people who really taught us how to love — teen movie couples! Grab your popcorn and let’s go for a walk down Romance Lane…

She’s All That – Laney & Zack

Still together? NO.
Zack and Laney came from two different worlds – a cool jock one and a loser art one. In true teen movie fashion, what started out as a bet led to true love. Zack was trying to prove to his friends he could turn any girl into prom queen and while Zack thought he was teaching Laney lessons about popularity, turns out Laney was teaching Zack about the real world the whole time. They got together in the end, but I don’t think it lasted. Zack doesn’t know which way is up, he’s a ship without a sail and eventually I think that got to Laney. That and the hacky sack. They probably made it through the summer but when it was time to head off to college Laney wisened up and kicked him to the curb.

Pretty In Pink – Andie & Blane

Still together? NO.
Blane, major appliance, and Andie, poor person, were mismatched from the start. Blaine was ritzy and rich and Andi was poor and stricken with terminal Duckie disease, but they fell for each other against all odds, and against Steff’s wishes. Sure they showed a divided town that love knows no boundaries but they totally broke up like a week after prom. The thrill of their social subversion wore off pretty quick and they realized they had nothing to talk about. Andie was always going on about sewing and being destitute and Blane couldn’t focus on his Ferrari catalogs while she was yapping away. So, they broke up, Duckie came out and Steff murdered a prostitute.

Clueless – Cher & Josh

Still together? YES.
Would Cher and Josh break up? As if. (See what I did there?). After playing cupid to set up two of her teachers, Cher turned her attention to more trying charitable work by making over tragic fashion victim Tai. In the process Cher chipped through the veneer of her superficial personality, found herself and accidentally fell for her own grunge listening, save the whale protesting, college liberal stereotype of a step-brother. Woopsie.  Odds and social convention may have been stacked against them, but I think they made it. Cher grew up to be Elle Woods and probably joined her father and Josh in the family litigation business. Cher still has her ditzy side but Josh finds it endearing. And Josh’s veganism became less annoying, and more of a fad so Cher hopped on the soy wagon. They bicker and get on each other’s nerves, but there’s a solid foundation there.

Sixteen Candles – Sam & Jake

Still together? NO.
Sam and Jake got together after Sam’s whole family forgot her birthday and a lot of questionable, often racist things happened at a school dance and house party. Sam’s unrequited love was finally, um, requited thanks to Farmer Ted’s matchmaking skills. Sam and Jake shared a tender kiss over birthday cake and a million girls’ hearts exploded all at once. But did their love flourish? Maybe for the rest of Jake’s senior year, but after that, probably not. But what a year it was! Homecoming, winter formal, and prom were, I am sure, wonderful experiences. Then Jake split town for college and Sam basked in the warm glow of her hard earned popularity for another two years of high school.

Empire Records – Corey & AJ

Still together? NO.
It was hard for Corey to realize she wasn’t in love with Rex Manning and that she was in fact in love with sensitive artist AJ, but she got there in the end. And really, what better way to bounce back from total humiliation at the hands of sexy Rexy than having AJ profess his love on a record store rooftop? But did it last? Nah. Corey and AJ moved to Boston where Corey obviously developed a cocaine problem to cope with Harvard stress. AJ dropped out of art school after one semester, hitchhiked to Portland and founded a radical yarn bombing collective. Corey suffered several nervous breakdowns but eventually became a doctor and on slow nights in the ICU she gazes off into the distance and thinks of AJ and what he’s up to. He graffiti knits on lampposts, Corey. He’s happy and thinks of her often.

10 Things I Hate About You – Kat & Patrick

Still together? YES.
Bianca Stratford could only date if her uptight, ornery sister Kat did. New kid Cameron wanted to date Bianca. What’s a teen to do? Scheme of course. Cameron paid rough and tumble bad boy Patrick to woo impossible Kat, and wouldn’t you know it, it worked and along the way Patrick fell for Kat. Did they make it though? Yes. Kat and Patrick moved to New York after graduation and continued to have an on-again/off-again relationship for the rest of their lives. There are probably kids in the mix now that are raised on a steady diet of riot grrrl and unpasteurized milk. Begrudgingly they left the lower east side to move upstate to Rosendale or somewhere so Patrick could have more room to sculpt and Kat could have a proper writing room for her poetry. No one knows how the bills get paid but they do. Every six months or so there’s a big bust up and Patrick leaves for a few weeks, but he always comes back and the cycle begins anew.

Can’t Hardly Wait – Amanda & Preston

Still together? YES.
Preston loved Aman-DUH from afar for years. Finally, finally, finally he had the guts to tell her, in a letter, at movie history’s most wonderful and unrealistic high school party. The movie’s end credits told us “they are still together,” and while I find that a little questionable, who am I to argue with stone cold credits facts? They totally had a Barry Manilow cover band play at their wedding.

Drive Me Crazy – Nicole & Chase

Still together? NO.
Nicole and Chase were good friends until puberty and the cutthroat world of social climbing hit the scene. But one fateful day before the centennial dance, Nicole and Chase joined forces to trick two other students into loving them. It worked, but Nicole and Chase fell for each other during the process. Then their parents announced they were in love and moving in together. That’s odd to say the least. Girlfriend and boyfriend is hard enough, but add brother and sister on top of that, and it’s really hard to make a relationship work. They both went off to college and grew up and now make awkward eye contact over the Thanksgiving table.

Never Been Kissed – Josie & Sam

Still together? YES.
Sure Josie and Sam’s relationship was forged on a lie where the false circumstances actually made the burgeoning relationship really, really wrong. But Josie fessed up and explained she wasn’t in fact a high school senior, she was an adult woman reporter undercover, and their illegal and frankly very gross flirtation was actually totally cool. It’s hard to get past the original circumstances though isn’t it? He was a teacher; she was a high school student. It was totally and completely inappropriate no matter how ~mature~ and smart and interesting Josie was. Sam is the real grossie in this story, huh? Anywho, are they still together? Yeah. Once you get past the yuck, bleh, and ew beginning and they’re both legal adults, they are really sweet together and I think they made it.


James J. Sexton

The Five Stages of a Break-Up: The Playlist

Breakups are hard. Divorces, even the friendliest ones, can be like breakups on steroids.

That first love who broke up with you two weeks before prom – that hurt – badly. Now imagine she took your house or you have to see him every week when he picks up your kids who tell you about his new girlfriend “Kiki” who used to be their babysitter.

Luckily, there’s pop music to help guide us through the five stages of grief as defined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (the Kübler-Ross model — not just for death anymore!). Yes, that’s right. You can turn your pain into one epic musical reenactment.

This can’t possibly be happening. No Doubt’s Don’t Speak speaks to you on every level. Karen O’s pleading in the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Maps hits you in the gut. Maybe this isn’t happening. Maybe this is all a terrible dream. Maybe we can fix this if we just ignore the situation for the rest of our lives. Maybe denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, maybe it’s a coping mechanism you’re using to keep from shattering into a million pieces.

Denial gives way to anger because who do they think they are dumping you? How dare they?! You howl along to Justin Timberlake’s Cry Me A River. You pogo to The Clash’s Train in Vain and pray no one ever, ever sees you dancing like this. You drink two gallons of wine and clear an entire karaoke place with your rendition of Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know. Sullen and alone you do The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hanging On as an encore. You try to hail a cab by bellowing Fiona Apple’s Criminal. No cabs stop for you. You cannot remember how you get home.

The hangover is bad. The anger has given way to desperation. Maybe they’ll take you back. Maybe there’s some sort of deal you can work out with the universe. Please Please Please, you beg along with The Smiths. Stay, you implore along with Lisa Loeb. When Can I See You, you blubber with Babyface. You force yourself out of the house. You look terrible.

You pick up take out. You see a familiar silhouette through the window at the bar on your corner. Only, it’s not one silhouette, it’s two. It can’t be. Oh you’d rather poke out your eyes than be witness to this. I’d Rather Go Blind by Etta James carries you home the rest of the way. You unpack your dinner. They gave you two forks. Two. Welcome to depression. You’re Crying with Roy Orbison. All Saints knows you’ve Never Ever felt so low. Blur knows there’s No Distance Left to Run. You Fall to Pieces with Patsy Cline. For your own safety you steer clear of more Smiths but can’t stay away from The Cure. You cry and cry listening to Pictures of You on repeat. During the first few bars of Roxette’s It Must Have Been Love, your neighbor knocks on your door to check that you’re alright. You promise them you’re ok but Bonnie Raitt’s I Can’t Make You Love Me begs to differ. You fall asleep to Love Is A Losing Game by Amy Winehouse.

Morning has broken. A sliver of light is peaking through the blinds. A new day has begun. You’re crawling out from under the depression/duvet and you feel almost alive again. You stand up. You feel the tiniest bit lighter. You stand up a little straighter. Katy Perry starts singing Roar and you think about putting on a flower crown, but it’s a Monday and you work in a bank not a beer stand at Coachella. You walk to the office. Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive echoes in your head. Charli XCX’s Breaking Up puts a spring in your step and you realize you’re better off without them.Your head is clearer. You want a sandwich. The journey is complete.*

**The journey will take longer than a weekend. The journey has been edited and condensed to give you hope that you won’t be miserable for six months to two years.**

**You may be miserable for six months to two years. The hope may be a lie.**


James J. Sexton

Eight Things You May Not Know About Divorce Law In New York State

If you’ve begun to consider a divorce but are unsure of how to get started, or what the laws in New York regarding divorce are, I’ve put together a quick list of the basics that should help. You can also see my other post on child custody and visitation. Please feel free to contact me to discuss your situation.

You Can File for Divorce in New York If:
• You and your spouse were married in New York, and at least one of you has been a resident of New York for at least a year,
• You and your spouse resided in New York as husband and wife, and at least one of you has been a resident of New York at least a year,
• The grounds for divorce occurred in New York, and at least one of you has been a resident of New York for at least a year, or
• At least one of you has been a resident of New York for at least two years immediately before the start of the divorce.

“Fault” & “No-Fault” Divorce: 
New York recognizes both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. In a “fault” divorce, one spouse will claim that the other spouse engaged in misconduct leading to the divorce.

“Fault” grounds in New York include:
• Cruel and inhuman treatment (mental or physical abuse),
• Abandonment,
• Imprisonment for three or more years, and
• Adultery.

Grounds for a “no-fault” divorce include:
• The “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage, and
• Living apart for a period of one or more years, before or after a legal separation agreement.

 “Contested” & “Uncontested” Divorce: 
• “Contested” divorce means that there are critical issues in your divorce that you and your spouse haven’t been able to resolve, either with or without the help of lawyers and mediators.
• “Uncontested” means that you agree to all the important terms of your divorce. You’ve decided where your children will live and what the visitation schedule will be, you’ve agreed to the terms of alimony and child support, and you know how you want to divide your property.

A Few More Helpful Facts: 
• You can represent yourself in divorce proceedings, although this isn’t always a good idea, particularly if you are unsure of the law, or if you have complex financial or custody issues to consider. Divorces with concerns of child custody, property division, and spousal support can be especially complex.
• Paperwork filed in divorce court in New York is not public. This includes pleadings, affidavits, findings of fact, conclusions of law, judgments of dissolution, and written agreements of separation.
• While New York plaintiffs are entitled to a jury trial, the only issue that a jury can decide on is the grounds for the divorce.

While this covers the basics of New York divorce law, it’s highly likely that you will benefit by seeking legal counsel before you begin divorce proceedings. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please feel free to contact me.

James J. Sexton

Who Gets the Pets?

The New York law has been changing around pet issues for several years now, with courts, and pet owners, increasingly treating pets like family rather than like property in divorce proceedings. I’m in full support, as you can imagine, having my pup, Huckleberry, as a big reminder that pets are people too.

In New York and across the US, it’s mattering less and less whose name is on the dog owner’s certificate, if indeed you have one, because pets aren’t subject to the rules of property division anymore. Basically, much like custody matters work with children, decisions are going to be made based on the best interest of the pet.

This also means that the courts can and have awarded shared custody, visitation, and alimony payments relative to pet ownership in New York courts. If you love your dog or horse or snake like it’s your own baby and believe it would be better off with you, here are the things you need to be prepared to argue for in divorce proceedings.

• The major care of the pet. Which partner has been the one providing more of the day-to-day care of the pet, including managing basic needs (food, water, scooping poo, etc.) as well as emotional needs (affection)?

• Financial means to support the pet. Pets can be expensive, especially if something goes wrong, or if it’s a big pet that eats a lot, or if it’s an exotic pet or a special needs pet. (Yes, I said special needs pet.) Which partner is able to support the pet financially?

• Time to spend with the pet. Does one of you work significantly longer hours than the other? If so, it could be argued that the pet should be with the person who works less taxing hours, because they’ll have more time for the pet.

• Who brought the pet into the marriage? Even though pets aren’t considered property, it may make sense to consider who has a longer-standing relationship with the pet, because this might establish a primary bond.

• Space for the pet. Different pets need different kinds of living spaces. Is one of you better equipped to provide what the pet needs in terms of space? Be ready to defend it.

• Children’s relationship with the pet. If you have children, it’s important to consider their relationship with the pet (whether positive or negative). This, of course, could impact arrangements for children as well as pets, so be sure you think this one through carefully.

The best scenario is that you, your partner and your divorce attorneys approach the pet issue with a goal of arranging an agreement outside of court, including ownership and visitation terms. This may not hold up in court, but it is likely to influence the decision if both partners agree beforehand. However, couples often disagree over pets, and fighting this out in court is something to be prepared for.

If you can’t reach an agreement, one thing to consider is what you’re willing to give up to keep your pet. In other words, you should discuss with your lawyer the possibility of exchanging property for pet ownership.

This is all relatively new territory, but it’s an important area that needs to be considered carefully before and as you wade through the joy of divorce proceedings. It’s not just about you, after all, but about this guy:


James J. Sexton

Your Partner: The Narcissist

According to Greek myth, Narcissus was a handsome man who, upon catching a glimpse of himself in a pool of water, became obsessed with it and promptly drowned. The moral of that story–“Get over yourself”–is sure to be completely lost on narcissists, named after Narcissus for their intense and all-encompassing self-obsession; I’m sure you know one or two.

Beyond common usage, narcissism can refer to the very real, very specific Narcissistic Personality Disorder (or NPD). This is a mental disorder characterized by an overinflated sense of self-importance paired with a fragile ego. This is the person who criticizes you, but flies off the handle when you even gently suggest they have an area in which to improve. This is the person who needs constant validation and admiration. This is the person who lies to get what they want, including to gain other people’s attention and positive opinion. Sound like your partner?

Spotting a Narcissist
These are warning signs that you’re dealing with your garden-variety narcissist:

  • He has an exaggerated sense of importance and entitlement.
  • She’s abusive or patronizing to waiters, and blames it on having low blood sugar because she’s so hungry.
  • He oversells his achievements in order to impress.
  • She has unrealistic ideas about her own intelligence and/or beauty.
  • He wants to be famous.
  • He has bouts of depression, caused by feeling underappreciated or rejected by people who should respect him more.
  • Swimsuit photos or gym photos on Instagram.
  • An inordinate amount of selfies.
  • She routinely selects friends who are less attractive than she is, so she can take a starring role in those relationships.
  • She sees herself as an exception to basic rules of society, like not cutting people off in traffic, or not paying for anything.
  • He fakes cancer.
  • She fakes a pregnancy.
  • He takes advantage of other people with no remorse..
  • He can’t remember what’s happening with you. Your life events are not even on his radar.
  • Envy and gossip are a big part of her general conversation.
  • He buys you gifts on clearance and pretends he paid full price.
  • She tells you how much she spends on gifts for you and other people.
  • She gives you detailed accounts of her dreams, never clocking the look of polite boredom on your face.
  • He creates dramatic moments of which he is the centerpiece, victim or hero.
  • He has trouble enjoying and engaging in the happiness of others, for example at a wedding or when someone gets a promotion.
  • Every conversation somehow turns into a conversation about him or her: his goals, her needs, his strengths, her complaints. They struggle not to talk about themselves.
  • You find yourself rolling your eyes a lot.

Does any of this sound familiar? If this list rings a bell with you,


Why it’s horrendous to be married to this person:
Narcissistic tendencies affect a broad range of personal and interpersonal situations, including and perhaps particularly marriage. Generally people with NPD don’t seek treatment, and believe their problems–even if they continually run into the same problems over and over–are due to other people’s failings, including yours. This makes narcissists prone to cheating, conducting online affairs, and being abusive partners.

The bottom line is that narcissists don’t put the needs of others ahead of their own, making them ineffective at everything from sex to parenting. If what you’re saying can’t be reframed to be about them, they aren’t listening. They likely have unreasonable expectations of you, and they probably believe they deserve something amazing from a life partnership despite the fact that their main contribution to that partnership is bitching.

On the whole, you can expect your life to go thusly: Your narcissist will exhaust you in a cycle of emotional seduction and psychological abuse over many years, repeating the pattern until you’re so self-doubting that you can’t even consider leaving them. “I am the best you can expect to ever get,” is the relationship mode of the narcissist. “Help me, love me, admire me, need me, respect me, desire me, thank me”—these are the endless demands, voiced or unvoiced, of a narcissistic partner. Unless you’re Kimye, you don’t deserve to spend the rest of your days feeding that monster. I want to help you get the hell out, while maintaining your assets and what’s left of your dignity.

The truth is, I enjoy taking narcissists down. I’m like a superhero of sorts, with the superpower of being completely unaffected by your partner’s emotional manipulation because I have seen it all before, and I am going to help you win your divorce.


James J. Sexton


The United States of Divorce

For a change of pace, and to brighten up your Monday: Everything you never wanted to know about your nation’s relative inability to keep relationships going!

The Facts:

  1. There are 100 divorces every hour in the U.S.

  2. Slightly less than 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. This number is affected by outliers with multiple marriages, however.

  3. Like marriage, divorce in the United States is the province of state governments, and divorce laws vary from state to state.

  4. In the US, 41% of first marriages end in divorce, 60% of second marriages end in divorce, and 73 % of third marriages end in divorce.

  5. The average age for couples going through their first divorce is 30 years old.

  6. According to the 2011 United Nations’s Demographic Yearbook, the US had the sixth-highest divorce rate. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and the Cayman Islands had the top five spots in that order.

  7. 2008 voter data showed that states that tend to vote Republican have higher divorce rates than states that tend to vote Democrat.

  8. New York was the latest state to allow non-consensual no-fault divorce, in 2010.

  9. On average, it takes about a year to complete a divorce procedure in the US.

  10. A few high-profile court cases have involved children “divorcing” their parents; these are not actually divorces, but the legal emancipation of minors.

  11. In 2015, the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled that Ellanora Baidoo could serve her husband divorce papers through a Facebook message, and she became the first woman to legally serve her husband divorce papers via Facebook.

  12. As of 2011, for states with available data, the dissolution rates for same-sex couples are slightly lower on average than divorce rates of different-sex couples.

  13. Of marriages ending in divorce, the average length is 8 years.

  14. The average divorcee waits 4 years before remarrying, if they choose to remarry.

  15. Approximately 73% of people with parents still married make it to their 10th anniversary.

  16. 57% of people who grew up in homes where one or both parents were absent make it to their 10th anniversary.

  17. A third of all U.S. divorce filings in 2011 contained the word “Facebook.”

  18. According to U.S. statistics, if one partner smokes, a marriage is 75% more likely to end in divorce.

  19. Statistics have shown that approximately 75% of people who marry partners from an affair eventually divorce that person.

  20. People enduring more than a 45 minute commute are 40% more likely to divorce.

  21. Among the occupations with the lowest divorce rates are agricultural engineers, salespeople, nuclear engineers, optometrists, clergy, and podiatrists.

  22. Among the occupations with the highest divorce rates are dancers and choreographers, bartenders and massage therapists.

  23. Other occupations in the top 10 include casino workers, telephone operators, and nurses.

  24. The Air Force has the highest rate of divorce out of all the US military services.

  25. Women initiate about two-thirds of all divorces in the US.

  26. Among first marriages, 15% of men marry someone more than 6 years younger. On second marriages, this rises to 38%.

  27. Less than half of U.S. children younger than 18 are currently living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage.

  28. The divorce of a friend or close relative may increase the chances that a couple will divorce.

  29. New York has the lowest share of currently married adult men in the USA.

  30. If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently.

  31. Couples with no assets at the beginning of a three-year period are 70 percent more likely to divorce by the end of that period than couples with $10,000 in assets.

  32. If you have twins or triplets, your marriage is 17 percent more likely to end in divorce than if your children are not multiple births.

  33. If you’ve been diagnosed with cervical cancer, your likelihood of getting divorced is 40 percent higher than standard rates.

  34. Your likelihood of divorce is 20 percent higher if you’ve been diagnosed with testicular cancer.

  35. The only US President elected after a divorce was Ronald Reagan.

  36. Britney Spears and Jason Allen Alexander currently have the record for shortest US celebrity marriage, at 55 hours.

  37. Mel and Robyn Gibson’s divorce in 2009 is considered to be the largest celebrity divorce settlement, as Mel paid his ex $425 million.

  38. Among the most expensive celebrity divorces is Steven Spielberg’s settlement with Amy Irving ($100 million) and Michael Jordan’s settlement with Juanita Jordan ($168 million).

  39. In general, men tend to file for divorce in January over women at a ratio of about 2 to 1.

  40. The top 5 reasons for divorce include communication problems; infidelity or betrayal; financial problems; psychological, emotional, and physical abuse; and loss of interest.

  41. 79.6% of custodial mothers receive a support award, while only 29.6% of custodial fathers receive support.

  42. Among female respondents, those with a wedding bill higher than $20,000 divorced at 3.5 times the rate of those with a $5,000-$10,000 wedding bill.

  43. In recent studies it has been found that couple who meet online have a lower divorce rate and report higher levels of marital satisfaction.

  44. The use of Facebook and other social networking sites is linked to increased marital dissatisfaction and increased divorce rates.

  45. Among heavy social media users, 32 percent had thought about leaving their significant others, compared to 16 percent of non-social media users.

  46. Couples that use individual pronouns (“I” and “you”) more often are more likely to divorce than couples who use collective pronouns (“we” and “us”).

  47. Several studies have found that couples are more likely to fight after having a bad night’s sleep.

  48. According to a Brigham Young University study, couples reported lower marital satisfaction when one spouse’s gaming interfered with bedtime routines, with 75% of spouses of gamers desiring more marital input from their spouses.

  49. Interestingly, when both spouses gamed, a majority reported greater satisfaction in their relationships than the median.

  50. A 26-year longitudinal study found that when a husband reported having a close relationship with his wife’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce decreased by 20 percent.

  51. Conversely, when a wife reported having a close relationship with her husband’s parents, the couple’s risk of divorce increased by 20 percent.

Are you sufficiently depressed yet? 


James J. Sexton


15 Things You Might Not Know: Child Custody Law in New York State

If you’re considering a divorce in New York and you have children, it will be important for you to understand the legality around child custody. To that end, I’ve compiled an overview of the basics. For a more in-depth look at your particular situation, please feel free to contact me to discuss.

Child Custody Law in New York State

For New York courts to have jurisdiction on your case, the child must have lived in New York for the past six months. If the child is younger than six months, he or she must have been born in New York (except under extenuating circumstances).

Neither parent has a preferred right to custody of their children in New York.  If there is no custody order, either parent can keep the child with him or her. If the case goes to court, the custody decision must be made in the “best interests of the child.”

Either parent can apply for custody in Family Court. You can attempt to get custody in Supreme Court after divorce proceedings have begun, but you may only have one case ongoing at a time.

The status of “primary caretaker” of the child is likely to be important in making decisions regarding custody.

The parent who has physical custody of the child when the custody application is made to the court may have an advantage in the courts.

The court can consider where the child wants to live, but does not have to follow the child's wishes. The older a child is, the more a court will consider his or her wishes.

Parents may share joint legal custody in New York. The court usually will give custody to only one parent if parents are not able to cooperate.

Custody or visitation can be changed if there is a significant change of circumstances that affect the child’s interests.

If the parent who has custody of the child wants to move, he or she may need to get permission from the court. Alternately, the other parent can apply to the court for an order that prevents the move or changes visitation.

If the parents were never married, and the parents never signed an “Acknowledgment of Paternity,” the father has no custody or visitation rights. To apply for custody and visitation, he must first legally establish paternity.

If you have a custody order and the other parent takes the child from you or won’t return the child from a visit then the other parent could be arrested for kidnapping. He or she could also be charged with interfering with your custody.

The parent who does not have custody of the child can almost always get “frequent and meaningful” visitation. Visitation rights will only be denied if visitation is deemed to be harmful to the child in some way.

A lack of payment of child support is not sufficient means to refuse visitation. It can, however, lead to the non-paying parent to go to jail.

Court-ordered visitation cannot be refused unless it is believed that it would put your child in danger.

Half-siblings and grandparents can apply for visitation rights, although the court isn’t obligated to grant these.

While this covers the basics of New York child custody law, it’s highly likely that you will benefit by seeking legal counsel on these matters. If you’d like to discuss your particular situation, please feel free to contact me.



James J. Sexton


'Til Conscious Uncoupling Do Us Part

Around this time last year, I tuned into celebrity gossip for a brief moment when I heard about Gwyneth Paltrow’s grave announcement that she and her husband were divorcing—or to put it more Gwyneth-ly, “consciously uncoupling.” She released a statement about this, along with an explanation of conscious uncoupling from a guru, on her website Goop. This was put alongside equally realistic Goop items, like her exploration of the healing powers of “moon juice” and “spirit truffles.” (Surely those aren’t included in the “food stamp challenge” she recently attempted. Hey, at least we're talking about it... But, I digress.)

By the end of the day I received phone calls and emails from, literally, dozens of my friends and family members asking if I had heard about this “new” way of divorcing. It was difficult to suppress the combination yawn/gag inspired by Ms. Paltrow’s missive.

I’ve devoted my life’s work to helping couples, eh, “uncouple,” so absolutely no judgment from me on that front. Divorces for everyone! You will get no complaints from me. Though I did have to raise an eyebrow at the statement “We have always conducted our relationship privately”; indeed, so privately that got so much traffic after this was posted that it crashed! Well played, Gwyneth P.

April 17 2015 TWO.jpg

In all seriousness, I’m sure Gwyneth Paltrow is a perfectly likable person in real life, and probably even a regular human woman, rather than a floating ethereal aura. Her brand has done well, and maybe she really has brought happiness to many, through her outreach via expensive candles. And if renaming divorce makes us feel better, then so be it. (I should possibly add a “Conscious Uncoupling” section to my website.)

The idea of a ‘friendly divorce’ has been around for a long time. My firm gets a lot of press for our “take no prisoners” aggressive approach when the situation requires it - but we resolve countless divorces each year by simple discussions and friendly negotiations. I love a good fight (what can I say - it’s a side effect of being good at fighting) but I love a happy client more. That’s why I, and all good divorce lawyers, will always work hard to give you a divorce that looks more like a “conscious uncoupling” than a “War of the Roses”. We’ve been doing that for years. There’s nothing “new” about being friendly to someone you’re going to have to see at your children’s weddings someday. This is simply a new term for a very old concept (and GP didn’t come up with it - a therapist named Katherine Woodward Thomas did - a bunch of years earlier).

I feel I need to say, though, that one of the things I have learned in my particular line of work is that uncoupling is not generally done while anyone is unconscious. For legal reasons I think it’s important for everyone to understand this--you can’t divorce anyone who is unconscious so congratulations - You, too, have reached the G.P. level of sophistication we all previously thought was impossible.


James J. Sexton