Our Matrimonial & Family Law lawyers represent clients in contested child custody cases. In those cases, the parents’ mental health is relevant, and the court often appoints a mental health professional to perform a forensic evaluation of the parties and the children to assist the court in determining custody. The neutral forensic evaluator’s report is usually released to counsel, but, for years, courts refused to release the forensic evaluator’s underlying notes, test results and raw data unless the requesting party could show “special circumstances,” such as bias on the part of the forensic evaluator. On behalf of the plaintiff wife, Dolores Gebhardt successfully moved for the release of a forensic evaluator’s entire file without proof of “special circumstances,” arguing that the “special circumstances” test should be abandoned because it prevents the court and counsel from obtaining unquestionably relevant and material information. Dolores persuaded the court to adopt a rebuttable presumption standard in favor of disclosure of a neutral forensic evaluator’s entire file in every case. This groundbreaking decision is the first Westchester County case, and the second in New York State, to so hold.
Matrimonial & Family Law – Violation of Pendente Lite Order – Contempt Motion
Holding Husband in Contempt of Court for Violation of Pendente Lite Order on Payments to be made by Husband to or for the Benefit of Wife
During the pendency of a divorce action, the court often issues pendente lite orders directing the payment of the family’s living and other expenses so that the financial status quo can be maintained while the issues are litigated. Seeking compliance with such orders is an important part of the work of Matrimonial & Family Law lawyers. Here, after Dolores Gebhardt had obtained a court order for the benefit of her client, Dolores successfully obtained another order holding the husband in contempt of court and ordering the defendant jailed until he complies with the prior orders. The pendente lite order required the husband to pay temporary support to our client, the plaintiff wife, and for payments for a neutral forensic evaluator and camp for the parties’ child. A subsequent order required the defendant to pay counsel fees to McCarthy Fingar. A third order directed defendant to pay for a neutral forensic accountant to value defendant’s business. At a hearing on Dolores' motion to hold the husband in contempt for willful violation of these orders, Dolores introduced evidence showing that the husband paid support to the wife not from his income but from an overdraft protection line on the parties’ joint bank account. The court gave him no credit for these payments because the wife was jointly responsible for the overdraft debt. The husband also claimed he could not afford to comply with the orders, even though the evidence showed that he was living a luxurious lifestyle at his father’s home and had the use of his father’s cars and country club. The husband testified that his business was about to fold, but presented no evidence to support this claim, although he testified that he was working on two new business ventures. He also testified that, except for the marital residence and the wife’s car, he had no assets in his own name. With these facts, the court found that the husband's failure to comply with the court's order was willful, and sentenced defendant to jail for a period of three months for violating the court orders. The court also decided that jail time would be commuted if the husband makes a variety of payments, including a fine.
Collaborative Divorce - Substantial Support for Wife
In reaching settlements in a Collaborative Divorce, it is important that both sides agree on sensible financial terms. Here, Dolores Gebhardt's client was a homemaker and mother; and the husband was a business development executive. As part of the settlement, Dolores' client received substantial maintenance for 9.5 years and full ownership of the house, and the husband will continue to pay mortgage and taxes until December, 2020.
Collaborative Divorce - Matrimonial & Family Law - Interdisciplinary Team
Collaborative Divorce – Interdisciplinary Team
An important objective of Collaborative Divorce lawyers is to find solutions that satisfy both sides as they seek a divorce on amicable terms. Here, Dolores Gebhardt's client was a homemaker and mother; the husband was an investment banker. The full-team collaborative method involved retention of a neutral financial professional and a divorce coach. The matter settled in which Dolores' client received $1.2 million in equitable distribution.
Contest over Finder’s Fee for Sale of Commercial Real Estate
Our lawyers sometimes represent clients in disputes over finder's and brokerage fees on real estate and business transactions. Here, Dina M. Aversano, together with Judge Sondra M. Miller and Dolores Gebhardt, wrote and prepared the appellate brief in the Appellate Division, Second Department, to seek to overturn the Supreme Court, Nassau County’s award, following a bench trial, of a $500,000 finder’s fee on a commercial real estate transaction. We argued that no such fee was warranted because of the lack of any causal relationship in the “finder’s” role in facilitating the eventual transaction. The Appellate Division Second Department awarded a downward modification of the fee.
Legal fees in matrimonial cases are often an important economic issue for both sides. Pickens is a complex case in which, among other things, defendant husband appealed Order Appointing Receiver of marital residence on the ground that the Order empowered the receiver to encumber the property. Defendant husband also appealed the trial court’s award of counsel fees and costs to Dolores Gebhardt's client as a sanction for the defendant making a frivolous motion. Dolores, representing the wife, successfully persuaded the Appellate Division, Second Department, to uphold the lower court determination on appeal.
McCarthy Fingar's lawyers are leaders in the legal community, and our Matrimonial & Family Law lawyers have been strong proponents of no-fault divorce. In fact, Judge Sondra M. Miller was an influential voice in the passage, in 2010, of the new no-fault divorce law. In Molloy, Dolores Gebhardt’s client was denied a divorce on the ground of abandonment. The decision became the basis for Dolores Gebhardt’s article on the law of abandonment entitled, "Justice Abandoned: Forty Years of Stalemate in Actions for Divorce on the Ground of Abandonment" 27 Pace Law Review 605 (2007).