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What the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Has to Do with Divorce

Stressed man listening psychologist's analysis. Male patient lying on sofa during psychotherapy session.

NY & NJ divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner at the NY & NJ law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Mr. Goldhamer was named by the prestigious as a “Super Lawyer” in 2014 for his work in matrimonial and estate law. Paul keeps busy with teaching, lecturing, charity work and as a guest on a wide range of media outlets.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as DSM-5,  is a published book describing mental disorders. It has been used as the “bible” for recognizing mental disorders. But it has been subject to severe criticism in the last 25 years, sometimes for excluding disorders and sometimes for including what may be in the normal range of human conduct. “Normal” cuts a wide swath.

Published first in 1953, it has gone through 8 reiterations, starting from a small pamphlet and growing to a 1000 page tome. Some diseases do not make it into the book and some work their way in over the years.

Big pharmaceutical  companies sell drugs that are cures to diagnosed illnesses. Insurance reimbursement is often contingent on conditions having a recognized diagnosis. Many psychological professionals disagree on the value of some of the diagnoses. The DSM always rears its head in custody cases. Let’s face it…no 2 adults parent the same way and often one parent objects to the other’s parenting style. Sometimes the objector is too rigid and imagines issues. Sometimes, a parent’s conduct is actually unsafe.

We at KGG help parents work out custody arrangements. Sometimes we must fight in court for our clients with skills acquired over 4½ decades.

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What Not to Do During Your Divorce

Woman divorcing and taking off wedding band

The Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale ranks the stress of divorce second only to the death of a spouse or child. Divorce stresses people out more than imprisonment, death of another family member, personal injury or illness, or losing employment.

High levels of cortisol stress hormone can alter the brain’s ability to function properly, including:

  • Disrupting synapse regulation
  • Causing a decline in sociability
  • Killing brain cells
  • Making it harder to make decisions
  • Shrinking the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for memory and learning
  • Increasing the size of the amygdala, which can make the brain more sensitive to stress
  • Putting you in constant fight-or-flight mode

So, the best step you can take is to assemble a team of trusted counselors who can help you navigate this troubled time. A New Jersey or New York divorce attorney at KGG Law brings decades of experience in divorce law. Here we discuss common mistakes people make during divorce proceedings that can spell financial ruin and lasting regret.

Failing to Adjust Your Lifestyle and Mind Your Finances

Once the divorce seed has been planted, you will need to immediately set money aside for all the expenses that will arise and for the change of lifestyle you may encounter. If you’re used to living in a $200,000-a-year household, you will not be able to maintain the same standard of living on a $100,000-a-year salary. Downgrade your expenses, wherever possible, and prepare for the inevitable. The average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000.

Don’t think you can hide money in a new bank account, “gift” thousands of dollars to your best friend, or sell off your assets quickly and pocket the cash. A lot of times, nefarious activities can be traced back, and it leaves a bad taste in the judge’s mouth.

Instead, make copies of all your financial records – bank and investment statements, tax returns, property deeds, insurance policies, vehicle titles, wills, and trusts. Don’t rely on electronic copies, as a vindictive ex could block your access. Keep these copies in a secure, private location. Hire a trusted financial advisor you connect with – one who can explain the situation in a way you understand.

Reacting Dramatically, Erratically, and Impulsively

While experiencing a flood of emotions may be inevitable, how you react is under your control. You may feel blamed, shamed, or manipulated, and crave revenge to regain the power you feel you have lost. Fear causes some people to spread salacious rumors about an ex. They send angry emails, leave hate-filled voicemail messages, and dish their personal business all over social media. They scream, cry, and fight in front of the kids. Some people medicate with drugs and alcohol, or flee to the arms of a lover. All these hasty actions could result in big losses. As one financial planner put it: “If you go to war, you’re basically giving away your money.”

The best you can do in this situation is nothing. Recognize that anger and sadness are natural parts of the grief cycle – and, in due time, they will subside, as acceptance moves in. Instead of projecting outward, turn inward. Journal and seek counseling from an experienced divorce therapist to help you keep an even keel and take reasonable action toward healing. If you have children, focus on taking care of them during the process.

There is no amount of “talking it out” that will resolve the heartache at this point. It’s over. Now you must look at the relationship as a business deal. Divorce court cares little about photo-documented evidence of infidelity or “he said / she said” accounts of the events leading up to divorce. The judge is going to care about the financial statements above all else. The stress of divorce makes it difficult for the smartest people to make good decisions, which is why working with a team of advisors is so crucial. 

Trying to Represent Yourself in Divorce Court

You may be able to represent yourself in small claims court, but it is not recommended that you attempt to proceed through divorce without legal representation. Even if the divorce seems amicable enough, as if you agree on all fronts, unexpected twists and turns often arise. Pro se litigation is much more time-consuming and often more expensive.

Instead, hire an experienced divorce or family law attorney, rather than relying on a friend who happens to be a lawyer or calling a “Jack of All Trades” firm you saw online. Divorce law is complex and varies from state to state. The process can last months or even years, so finding a lawyer you feel comfortable with is key. The best divorce lawyer is someone who:

  • Gives you the confidence to speak candidly
  • Listens to what you say
  • Assuages your fears about the divorce process
  • Answers your questions
  • Outlines the costs in a transparent manner

The attorney you seek will provide an informed, honest opinion of what you can expect in divorce proceedings. You will receive assistance filing paperwork, assembling documents, and dividing assets in an equitable way. If you’re still on the fence about the divorce, a marriage counselor may be a better bet.

Looking for more direct help with a divorce in Bergen County, NJ or Rockland County, NY? Contact KGG Law.

Additional resources:

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Can Alimony Payments Be Terminated When You Retire?

NY and NJ divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, with office locations in Bergen County, New Jersey and Rockland County, New York.  Among many other awards and citations Mr. Goldhamer has accrued over the years, honored Paul with its prestigious “Super Lawyer” designation in 2014. When not practicing law, Mr. Goldhamer keeps busy with speaking engagements, media outreach and charitable services.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

RETIREMENT: Do you wonder if your support obligations can cease upon retirement?

Another good job by KGG:

“The motion judge considered that defendant was seventy-five. He also considered defendant’s health, and noted he had cardiac problems, a pacemaker, was hospitalized for cardiac arrhythmia, and required thirteen different medications. Plaintiff did not rebut this evidence. In her certifications, plaintiff provided the judge a description of her recurring health conditions. She stated she had a “decreased level of energy which accompanies the age of [seventy,]” suffered from arthritis for the past forty-five years, had been hard of hearing since the age of five, and suffered from depression since her forties. Plaintiff also certified she had other long lasting issues, including sleep apnea, diabetes, a thyroid-condition, and memory loss….The decision to terminate alimony on the basis of defendant’s retirement was supported by sufficient credible evidence in the record. The motion judge’s application of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j)(3) was not an abuse of discretion….Affirmed.”

Frangipani v. Frangipani, New Jersey App. Div., February 19, 2019

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In-Flight Injuries on Airplanes: Who Is Responsible?

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats waiting to taik offPeople are injured every year due to events that happen during their flight. One of the most common causes of injury, for example, is a passenger being hurt by an overhead bin opening and the contents falling out. As airline travelers know, the contents of bins can be heavy luggage. Another frequent cause of injury is caused by food carts. Turbulence also causes injuries every year.

Who is responsible for these injuries? The answer can be complex.

Airlines Have a Duty of Care

Airlines are called “common carriers,” which means they have a duty to carry the public. They are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Federal Aviation Act, which requires airlines to have a very high standard of care toward their passengers. They need to ensure that all aspects of air travel under their care is safe, including maintenance, inspection, operation, loading, and boarding of an airplane.

In practice, this means that the airline boarding and exit procedures must be safe for passengers. It means that all facilities, from restrooms to coffee cups, should be safe to use.

Airline employees should be well-trained and able to fulfill their duties.

Given their duty of care, it is possible to conclude that an airline could be responsible for an injury sustained in the middle of a flight. If an attendant does not fasten a bin properly, for example, and it springs open, the airline could be responsible if inadequate training could be proven.

But Manufacturers and Other Parties Can Also Be Responsible

However, it is also possible that manufacturers are to blame. If an airline’s toilet malfunctions and causes injury, for example, an investigation may be necessary to determine whether the toilet itself was faulty, or whether inadequate maintenance was to blame.

If defects in the airplane itself cause an accident, the manufacturer or the sales agent may be held responsible, unless the defect should have been discovered by routine airline maintenance. If an airplane has been repaired in such a way that didn’t cure defects or introduced defects, the repair company can be responsible.

Acts of God

Finally, passengers can sustain injuries due to what insurance companies call “Acts of God.” The term generally applies to an act that couldn’t have been anticipated or planned for. Unexpected turbulence from say, geese running into a plane may fall under the “Act of God” definition, because the pilots could not reasonably have forecast such an event.

Turbulence caused by weather may also be an Act of God if it’s unexpected. But most weather is forecast, and the airline can be responsible if they didn’t plan for the forecast and urge people to stay in their seats.

Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney in New York or New Jersey?

If you or a loved one has been injured or even killed in an in-flight accident, please contact our law firm to discuss your case. The causes of an in-flight injury can be complex, and an experienced personal injury lawyer can be of invaluable assistance in determining whether you have a case, and against whom.

The NY & NJ personal injury lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have years of experience fighting for the rights of victims of negligence. Call us at (800) 711-5258 or fill out the form on our website. We will be happy to meet you at our Rockland County, NY or Bergen County, NJ offices. The personal injury consultation is free, and there is never any obligation.

Additional Resources:

  1. U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Aviation Administration. A Brief History of the FAA.
  2. U.S. Department of Transportation. Federal Aviation Administration. Safety: The Foundation of Everything We Do.
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Toyota Rav 4 Headlight Class Action Litigation

The firm is currently litigating a putative class action concerning the projector-beam headlights on 2016 Toyota Rav 4 vehicles. Toyota’s brochures provided that 2016 Rav 4 XLE and XLE Hybrid models were equipped with halogen projector-beam headlights with an “auto on/off feature,” and that 2016 Rav 4 SE models were equipped with LED projector-beam headlights with an “auto on/off feature.” The “auto on/off feature” is a mechanism by which the vehicles’ headlights automatically turn on and off and adjust to ensure proper lighting while being driving through changing light conditions (e.g. tunnel, dusk, etc.). This suit asserts that standard 2016 Rav 4 XLE, XLE Hybrid, and SE models, in fact, did not come equipped with the “auto on/off feature.” The suit seeks coverage for the remedial work necessary to correct and install the missing “auto on/off” feature as well as other damages.

If you have purchased a Rav 4 and wish to speak with the attorney at the firm about this matter, please contact class action attorney Gary S. Graifman, Esq., Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C., 747 Chestnut Ridge Road – Suite 200, Chestnut Ridge, NY 10977 via telephone: (888) 608-9232, fax: (845) 356-4335, or email:

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2019 Estate Tax Exemptions: See the Numbers

New York and New Jersey estate lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman in Rockland County and Bergen County. Mr. Goldhamer is proud to have been honored as a “Super Lawyer” by the legal site When not practicing family and matrimonial law, Paul keeps busy with charitable efforts, lectures, public talks and appearances on radio and television programs. 

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

2019 Estate Tax Exemptions:


Single:   $ 11.4 M

Married:  $22.8 M

The Federal Tax Estate rate ranges from 11% to 40%.

New York:

Single-     $  5.49M

Married-  $10.98M

The estate tax rate in New York ranges from 3.06% to 16%.

New Jersey:

Estate tax $0, but,

New Jersey Inheritance Tax:

$0 for spouse, children, grandchildren & charities.

Some close relatives taxed only after $25,00;
Most others – no exemption.

Tax rate – 11 to 16%

All of the above are subject to change. At KGG, we plan estates of all sizes, prepare Wills, Trusts, Powers of Attorneys, Healthcare proxies & help with Eldercare planning.

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Brandon Rothstein, Esq. Named a 2018 Hudson Valley Parent Favorite Lawyer

Brandon Rothstein, Esq. from Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman has been recognized for exceptional legal care.

All year, lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman go above and beyond to provide clients with exceptional legal care. This service has been recognized and appreciated by their clients this year with the coveted title of 2018 Hudson Valley Parent Favorite Lawyer.

The lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman, PC strive each day to provide expert advice, representation and care.

Their clients nominated and reviewed their services to Hudson Valley Parent to help create a guide of the best of the best in the Hudson Valley’s only Family Law Guide.

All year, those who visit can read reviews about superior legal professionals that other parents love.

2019 Favorite Lawyer nominations are coming this spring!


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How Will Divorce Impact My Social Security Benefits?

Social security benefitsSocial Security can be an important benefit for older people because it supplies income once one has retired. In general, people become eligible at the age of 62, although benefits taken then are lower than they will be at full retirement age (FRA). FRA is reached between 65 and 67, depending on the year of their birth. (For people born between 1943 and 1954, for example, the FRA is 66.) The Social Security benefit amount rises roughly 8% per year if you work and contribute longer, up to the age of 70. There is no increase past the age of 70.

Will a divorce impact your Social Security benefits? Yes, there are multiple impacts, depending on your situation. Length of the marriage, whether you have worked, how much you made vis-à-vis your spouse, and remarriage are all factors that can affect your benefits.

If Your Spouse Is Eligible for a Higher Benefit

In general, the higher-earning spouse is eligible for a higher benefit, as Social Security benefits are on a sliding scale based on one’s earnings.

If you are divorced, you may be able to collect Social Security benefits based on the work record of a higher-earning spouse, provided that you 1) are not currently married; 2) were married to the spouse for a minimum of 10 years; 3) both of you are at least 62 years old; 4) they are eligible for Social Security; and 5) you have been divorced for a minimum of two years.

The spouse doesn’t have to have taken Social Security for you to be eligible. If your spouse has remarried, there is no effect on your Social Security benefit rights, or that of the spouse and their new spouse.

Bear in mind that you may receive only half of your divorced spouse’s Social Security benefit if you take benefits before your FRA.

If You Are Eligible for a Higher Benefit

If you are eligible for a higher benefit, you will receive your own Social Security benefit rather than your spouse’s. No one can receive both their own Social Security benefit payments and that of a spouse. You will automatically receive the higher of the benefits.

If You Remarry

If you have remarried since you divorced, you are not eligible for a divorced spouse’s benefit unless your remarriage ends as well. If it does, and both marriages lasted over a decade, you will can receive the larger of the two ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit.

If Your Divorced Spouse Dies

If your divorced spouse dies, you are eligible for survivor benefits as long as your marriage lasted 10 years. If it did not, you are not eligible for survivor benefits.

Survivor benefits are equal to what your ex-spouse would have received had they lived.

If you marry again before the age of 60, you will lose your eligibility unless that marriage ends. Remarriage after you’re 60 has no effect on survivor benefits.

If You Need a Divorce Attorney in New York or New Jersey

Because all these factors are complex and variable, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer to make sure you know what Social Security benefits you are entitled to.

At Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, divorce lawyers have been helping clients in New York and New Jersey for over four decades. Call us today to schedule a consultation.

Additional Resources:

  1. Miller, Jim T. How Divorce Can Affect Your Social Security. Huffington Post. January 23, 2014.
  2. Thornton, Russ. How Divorced Women Can Get More From Social Security. Wealthcare for Women. December 4, 2012.
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New Jersey Landowner Liability in Slip and Fall Accidents

Risk of slipping when climbing stairs in winter.Nationwide, more than 800,000 people per year are injured severely enough to be hospitalized by slip and fall accidents. Twenty percent of these are due to injuries to the head or a broken hip. Tragically, deaths from falls have increased 30% in recent years.

If you or a loved one has slipped or fallen and injured yourself on a landowner’s property in New Jersey, you may be injured. You may be wondering if you can bring a legal case against the landowner. What is the liability of a landowner in New Jersey if you slip, fall, and injure yourself on the landowner’s property? Could you bring a case?

Liability of a Landowner in New Jersey

For a landowner to be liable in New Jersey, several things must be true. First, the landowner must own the property on which you slipped and fell. If you fell on adjacent property owned by someone else, you could not sue the property owner of an adjacent property.

Second, the landowner must have a duty of care to keep the property safe, so that either invited people or people doing business on the landowner’s property do not slip due to unsafe conditions. The classic example of this is a store owner who owns the store. If a carton of milk is spilled on the floor, the landowner must clean up the spill and make the floor safe again.

The landowner must have known that there was an unsafe situation as well, or had sufficient time and opportunity to know.

Plus, the landowner with the duty of care must also have had what a reasonable person would consider a reasonable amount of time to make the area safe again. If you slip on un-shoveled snow on a homeowner’s driveway and fall, for example, during the middle of a snowstorm, a court may find that the landowner did not have a reasonable time or opportunity to make the driveway safe, as snow was still coming down.

You must have had access to the landowner’s property, either because you had business at a place of business or because you were invited in. Note that if you are trespassing on a landowner’s property, or have entered illegally, there is no duty of care under New Jersey law. In fact, you are classified as a trespasser. The only legal requirement a landowner has is to avoid explicitly harming you if you have no intent to commit a crime.

Comparative Negligence in New Jersey

You should know, too, that New Jersey slip and fall cases operate under comparative negligence. That means any financial compensation you receive in court can be reduced by the percentage that the court finds you liable for your own slip and fall. Defendants in a slip and fall therefore often argue that the injured party was responsible.

They may claim that the dangerous area was marked as such, with signs or with tape blocking the area off. They may argue that the danger should have been obvious to you, so proceeding was your responsibility. They can also argue that you were not paying attention to your surroundings or that your shoes caused you to slip – or at least did not prevent a slip.

If You Need a Slip and Fall Lawyer in New York or New Jersey

The seasoned attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman have four decades of experience in slip and fall cases in New Jersey. We will fight for fair and just compensation for our clients.

For a complimentary case review with a NJ slip and fall lawyer, call us today toll free!

Additional Information:

  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Important Facts About Fall.
  2. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Older Adults Fall.
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What You Need To Know About Towing Reimbursement from Insurance

Rockland County & Bergen County divorce lawyer Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a co-founding partner at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. When not practicing family law in NY & NJ, Mr. Goldhamer maintains a busy schedule with supporting charities, giving lectures, and appearing on radio & TV. Paul was named a “Super Lawyer” by in 2014.

From Paul Goldhamer, Esq.:

If you have a towing benefit from your credit card company, it usually is limited to a 10 mile tow. If you are off road by more than 10 feet (not from skidding) most credit card companies will not cover any portion of the tow.

If you call for a tow truck, most tows are covered by your automobile insurance policy. If a tow company uses their winch to pull you out, the charge will be higher.

The reimbursement from your insurance company will also be higher as a result of the fact that the tow truck needed to use a winch. But you must tell them; make sure it is written on the tow bill.

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