Family Law Attorney

When you need an attorney to advise you in a matter of family law, contact Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. in Rockland County, NY and Bergen County, NJ.

Interesting Estate Issue on Joint Accounts

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.:

Recently a new client stuck in a family argument as to distribution of a parent’s assets asked me a question, to which I did not have a definitive answer. His current estate lawyer was ready to throw in the towel on the issue. His siblings’ estate lawyer had put forth the position that assets ($800,000. In this case) passed by a bank account with joint survivorship benefits to the brother we’re not properly excluded from the distribution by the will. They wanted ½ or $400,000. This was because the decedent signed the authorization on a different page, than the page which recited  it was a joint account. The argument was, because the signature was on the front of the card and not on the back of the card the decedent might not have realized what they signed.

This is an issue that really has to do with bank forms and the “intent of the decedent”. There are cases that find both ways. Intent of someone who is already dead is sometimes difficult to prove. Banks often require their forms and sometimes do it on the front and back of small cards or different sheets of paper. They do not thinking about the results, but rather what the bank requires from their point of view.

The court should decide this based on the “intent“ of the decedent. One way to assure the outcome is that when you open up a joint account, over your signature print the words “with right of survivorship to X”. In the alternative, initial the front of the card where it says that it’s a joint survivor account.

Arguments can evolve from almost any action. We at KGG are here to help you with your Estate, Will & Trust issues.

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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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Statute of Limitations for Paying Back Child Support

The parent holds the hand of a small childUnder state laws, parents must financially support their child until they reach the “age of maturity,” which is 19 in New Jersey and 21 in New York. Once a child support order has been established in a court of law, or through a written agreement, the non-custodial parent is under legal obligation to pay a certain amount until the child is emancipated. When these payments are missed, this is known as child support arrears or back child support.

All states have policies and legislation that define statutes of limitations regarding the collection of back child support. Some states like California do not have a prescribed deadline, meaning that child support arrears remain payable indefinitely. The laws on statute of limitations for collecting unpaid child support vary greatly from state to state. Each has its own set of requirements and procedures when it comes to implementing back child support – a process that is enforced by the state’s Child Support Department.

Statute of Limitations for collecting back child support

For residents of New Jersey, the statute of limitations on collecting back child support is 5 years after the child reaches the legal age of emancipation. For years, this was set at 18, but recent changes in child support laws have amended this to 19. Child support obligations in the state are stopped completely once the child turns 23, with exceptions made in only extreme circumstances.

In the state of New York, the statute of limitations allows parents to collect unpaid child support for 20 years from the date of default.

Consequences for unpaid support payments

Numerous states, including New Jersey, have strict policies when it comes to child support arrears. The state may employ various tactics for collecting past due amounts, such as:

  • Income withholding
  • Credit bureau reporting
  • Tax refund offsets
  • Lottery prize intercepts
  • Seizure of assets
  • Intercept of monies awarded in lawsuit settlements
  • Revocation of driver’s license
  • Denial of passport application or renewal
  • Possible warrants and incarceration

Whether it is worth the time, effort and money to sue for back child support payments is largely determined by the financial status of the debtor and best discussed with an experienced family law attorney. If the debtor does not have wages to garnish, or assets of value, the likelihood of recovering what is owed not very high.

KGG family lawyers in New York and New Jersey

If you live in Northern New Jersey or New York and need expert legal assistance with matters relating to divorce proceedings, child custody or child support payments, contact the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. Our team of skilled family lawyers in Bergen County and Rockland County has been helping clients navigate the complex legal terrain of divorce since 1975. Schedule a private consultation by calling (888) 624-4916.

Additional Resources on Statute of Limitations for Child Support Arrears:

  1. National Legal Research Group, NJ Statutes of Limitation
  2. Sapling, What Is the Statute of Limitations on Back Child Support?
  3. NY, Child Support
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3 Ways of Helping Children Through a Divorce

Photo of childDivorce can be difficult and stressful for everyone concerned. While it affects a wide circle of people, children are often impacted the most. Children, especially if they are very young, may worry that they caused the divorce or that they will be losing one parent. They may feel intense anxiety about what will happen after the divorce occurs.

Fortunately, there are multiple ways of helping children through divorce.

Parents should explain the divorce jointly

Pick a quiet time with no distractions. Parents should sit down with their children and explain that a divorce is occurring. You can keep the explanation very simple, but children need to know that a divorce will be happening, so as not have the dissolution of a household sprung upon them. You can simply say that you are unhappy together and that it is best to live apart. Emphasize that love and concern for the children from both parents will continue after the divorce.

Be sure to state that the child has nothing to do with the divorce. It is best to reassure on this score consistently throughout the process and after. It is very natural, and common, for children to worry that they have done something to cause a parent to leave.

Avoid blame and anger

Never, ever use your children as a sounding board for your anger towards your spouse. It is quite natural and understandable to have these feelings. But you need to talk to friends, family, and counselors about them, not your children.

Expressing blame and anger may place the child in a position of either having to take sides, or feeling that they should take sides. Children have two parents, and need to work out a harmonious relationship to the largest degree possible.

Remember to put the needs of the child first

Children are dependent upon adults for their care, including their housing, their food, their education, their transportation, their clothing, and their healthcare, among others.

All of the factors that make up parental care need to be considered very carefully as you face divorce. While the needs of both spouses are highly important, of course, the needs of the child in basic care must be considered first. In the best case scenario, you and your spouse may be able to arrive at a mutually agreeable plan for all facets of a child’s care. In other cases, litigation may be needed.

Choose a Trusted Family Law Firm in Bergen County, NJ

Choose a family law firm Bergen County, NJ residents trust to handle even the most difficult divorce cases. Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman has been successfully working on issues of divorce and child custody since 1975. We are committed to long-lasting, fair, and reliable solutions that benefit you and, most crucially, your children.

If negotiation and settlement are ultimately not possible, we will fight for your rights at trial.

Our expertise includes child custody and visitation rights, child support, alimony and spousal support, division of marital assets, post-divorce modification, parental relocation, and conservatorships.

Call us today toll free at (800) 711-5258 to schedule your initial consultation.

Additional Resources:

  1. Mayo Clinic. Children and divorce: Helping kids after a breakup.
  2. Wallace, Meri. “8 Strategies for Helping Kids Adjust to a Divorce.” Psychology Today. February 2, 2013.
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4 Things No One Tells You About Divorce

Statistically, half of the married population will end their marriages, and many will go through it more than once. Despite how often divorce takes place, the average couple is unaware of both the process and its aftermath.

Since knowledge equips participants, here are some things to know about divorce that likely no one has ever told you.

1. The divorce proceedings can be very long

Sometimes the process is quick but in other cases, it can last a year or more. Division of major assets can slow down a divorce significantly. Whether you have a complicated or a simple case, the more you and your spouse can work out ahead of time, the faster the process will likely be.

2. The process can last far beyond the date the divorce decree is issued

This is especially true if you have children, since you will potentially see your former spouse in the same courtroom until your youngest child turns 18. Even without children, you may find yourself back in court for things like a modification to a spousal support order.

3. Even collaborative divorces need court involvement

You and your spouse could agree on everything, but it will still take time for judges to approve certain issues. One example is QDROs – qualified domestic relations orders, which is a judicial order splitting a retirement or pension plan. Under a federal law,these need state court approval even if you and your spouse do not dispute the division.

4. States have residency requirements to file for divorce

Both New York and New Jersey have a residency requirement. In New Jersey, either spouse must have been a resident for at least one year except in the case of adultery, in which one spouse needs only to be a current resident.

In New York, the requirement is more complicated. Either spouse must have resided in the state for at least two years before filing OR have lived in the state continuously for one year AND meet one of the following criteria: (1) gotten married there, (2) lived there as a married couple, or (3) cite grounds for divorce that took place there.

If, as happens often, spouses separate long-term and one moves to another state, more than one state could be a viable location to file. In these situations, it is imperative to understand the effects of filing in each state because the differences in state law could have a drastic effect on the case.

Experienced family law firm serving Bergen County, NJ

The divorce you are about to go through may be your first but it is not ours. Each divorce, separation, dissolution, or child custody dispute will have its own circumstances that will direct its course, but experienced divorce attorneys understand how to spot and respond to the issues.

The lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are here to guide you through the entire process. We have walked through this process as advocates and confidantes countless times so we understand what you are going through and take the time to explain each step.

If you are headed toward a divorce in New York or New Jersey, put your trust in KGG, a trustworthy Rockland County and Bergen County family law firm.

Additional Resources on Divorce in NJ and NY:

  1. New York Courts, Residency and Grounds,
  2. Findlaw, New Jersey Divorce Laws,
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Mediation vs. Arbitration in Family Law: What’s the Difference?

Photo of couple speaking

There is no doubt the divorce process can be emotionally, financially, and even physically draining. To minimize these effects, many families turn to alternative dispute resolution to work out an agreement. In family law, as in other types of civil law, mediation and arbitration can reduce litigation costs – and friction – in what can often be a contentious process. Here are some of the differences between the processes.

ADR versus litigation in New Jersey family law cases

Couples facing family law disputes typically need to resolve two major areas: division of finances and parenting time. Both topics are hot-button and the litigation process heightens the stress. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods like mediation and arbitration offer parties the chance to resolve these areas outside of court.

ADR is less formal that court proceedings and is overall less expensive. The parties can feel like more active participants since they are not bound to strict procedural rules, which in turn can reduce the adversarial tone of the process. However, ADR is not suitable for all cases. For example, when domestic violence is a factor, the courtroom is a more appropriate setting.

Using mediation in family law

Many divorcing couples opt into mediation rather than court but New Jersey judges also have the option of referring family court cases to mediation, which operates like guided negotiation. The family court mediators are highly trained to help the parties work through those contentious issues like child custody so they can reach an agreement.

Mediation is non-binding so the parties work toward a voluntary agreement on key matters which is then drawn up into a contract which is enforceable. Parties participating in mediation have an incentive to reach an agreement because proceeding to a trial essentially takes the matter out of their hands; they will be bound to the judge’s order instead.

Family arbitration for family disputes

Arbitration is similar to a court proceeding in that each party presents its case before a neutral decision-maker. The decision-maker may be a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators chosen with the parties’ input. The arbitrators act like a judge, hearing both sides present their cases and then issuing a decision.

Arbitration may be non-binding but it is usually binding. Parties in binding arbitration do give up some rights. A very important one to consider is that, unlike in court, parties to an arbitration do not have the right to appeal except in extreme circumstances. With such a great disadvantage, it is important for consult with a NJ family lawyer before consenting to arbitrate.

Consult an experienced NJ divorce lawyer

What happens in a family law proceeding now can impact your rights for decades to come. If you are facing a divorce in New Jersey, be prepared by consulting with an expert family law firm Bergen County has put its trust in for many decades. Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman has spent the past four decades helping families in NJ and NY navigate through the matrimonial law process. We understand what you are going through and can help you through with knowledgeable legal advice and compassionate personal attention.

Additional family law mediation and arbitration resources:

  1. New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators, Family and Divorce Mediation,
  2. New Jersey Courts, Rule 1:40-1 Complementary Dispute Resolution Programs,
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What is Considered Marital Property in New York?

matrimonial law, divorce lawNew York and New Jersey are equitable distribution states. This means part of final divorce proceedings will be a fair splitting of property. While married parties and their legal representatives will negotiate, the court may decide what is fair based on a series of criteria.

Not surprisingly, these negotiations can be tense. Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman is in the business of keeping a cool head but diligently fighting for its clients. Our goal will be to negotiate a settlement that minimizes the court’s interaction, ensuring at the end of the day our clients have received the best deal possible.

What counts as marital property in NY?

Marital property is considered any property – personal or professional – acquired by either spouse during the union. The court helps establish a compromise between spouses when necessary.

Marital property can include anything: art, a pet, vehicles, savings, retirement accounts and investments, stamp collections, real estate, a business, clothing.

The first thing to determine is what property belongs to the marriage, as opposed to the individual. Property that may not be included can be an asset acquired before the union and, in some instances, property received during the marriage. The latter may include an inheritance, a gift, or a legal award belonging to one of the spouses alone.

Property a spouse may have owned before the marriage, but which increased in value during the marriage, can be included. This may be a business, an investment, or a remodeled vacation home. Again, there can be exceptions. A property received before the marriage that goes up in value due to market conditions as opposed to effort to increase its value during the marriage can potentially be excluded.

For fair distribution of assets, the court will look at:

  • Health and age of spouses
  • Income of spouses
  • Length of marriage
  • Potential alimony
  • Present and future financial needs of each party

If there are minor children (under 18), the court will review the custodial parent’s domestic requirements.

Tackling Marital Property Distribution in New York

Fair distribution of marital property is a complicated matter. KGG knows how to navigate these murky waters. From New York’s Rockland County to New Jersey’s Bergen County, and all points in between, we use our expertise in family law to ensure our clients get what is rightfully theirs.

If you are in need of a divorce lawyer in the Tri-State area, give KGG a call to schedule a consultation.

Additional resources

  1., What’s New in Matrimonial Legislation, Court Rules, and Forms,
  2., Domestic Relations Law §§ 170, 236, 237, 238,
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In Family Law, Winning Is Not Always Getting the Largest Amount of Money

Bergen County, New Jersey family law attorney Paul Goldhamer, Esq. is a founding partner at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman. In addition to practicing matrimonial law, Mr. Goldhamer maintains a full schedule of radio and television appearances, teaching, and giving talks to professional organizations. He was a pioneer in providing no-cost public seminars on legal matters in New York and New Jersey. Mr. Goldhamer was chosen as a “Super Lawyer” by in 2014.

by Paul Goldhamer, Esq.

October 5, 2017:

43 years ago on this day, I was admitted and sworn in as an attorney & counselor at law in New York.  I suspect that I have supervised and handled more than 10,000 matters in my career.

I have spent my entire career helping regular people solve often difficult and sometimes ordinary problems. My experience has been that most problems are caused by the intractability of individuals, usually driven by strong emotions or their pecuniary interest.

The vast majority of my clients are wonderful people, caught in difficult positions. I believe most of them will help try to do the right thing.

Particularly in family matters, winning isn’t always getting exactly what you want. There are usually several parties in every family litigation, and people have a tendency to forget about the children and grandparents. What’s good for you may not always be the best for the kids.

All my brother & sister lawyers should make an effort to counsel their clients on human correctness. Winning is not always the largest amount of money or having it your way. Life must proceed with some harmony.

At KGG, we have been counseling, lawyering and helping people solve life problems for 43 years. We are here to help.

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Are Prenuptial Agreements Unbreakable?

When crafted and executed correctly by an attorney, prenuptial agreements are almost always iron-clad, and used by thousands of couples who are planning their nuptials. A solid prenup is an invaluable tool for protecting pre-marital assets, including real estate holdings, private possessions acquired before the wedding and other holdings. For many couples, prenuptial agreements provide a platform for honest, open communication about not only assets, but outstanding debts and child support obligations – issues that can prove contentious if the marriage ends.

In most situations, financial issues are the most antagonistic when a marriage begins to dissolve, which is why many couples prefer to have a contract in place so there is no quarreling about assets and property entitlement. 

There are certain circumstances, however, when a prenup may not hold up in divorce court. Below are some factors that may void the validity of a prenuptial agreement.

Factors that can void a prenup 

  • Lack of legal representation – In some states, a judge can throw out a prenup if one or both parties signed the agreement without the benefit of legal representation. In California for example, each spouse is obliged to have their own attorney review the contract and advise them of their rights prior to signing.
  • Lack of full disclosure – Unless both spouses waive away their rights to full disclosure in a prenuptial agreement, this contract can be voided if one or both partners fail to list all debts and assets. The court may void a prenup if one partner conceals debts or assets from the other, which may be viewed as fraud.
  • Timing issues – Depending on which state you reside in, signing a prenup just days before your wedding can prove problematic later on. Each state and jurisdiction has their own interpretation of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act which addresses timing issues. In New York, for instance, signing a prenup 4 days before your wedding ceremony is not considered enough time. One or both partners may later say they did not have adequate time to thoroughly review and understand the terms.
  • Signing under duress – Judges are also obliged to be watchful of signs that one of the spouses signed the prenup under unfavorable terms, or was pressured because an extravagant wedding was paid for by the other. Courts can and do overturn prenuptial agreements in which one party signed under duress.
  • Unconscionable terms – If a premarital contract is obviously unfair and extremely one-sided, the court may have grounds to void it. For example, if the contract stipulates that all earnings and property acquired during your marriage is yours, with no equitable division of assets, the judge may throw out the contract based on unconscionable terms.

Experienced family lawyers

Founded in 1975, the law firm of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, P.C. was created to help residents throughout New Jersey and New York. Our dedicated Rockland and Bergen family attorneys boast more than 40 years of experience handling all facets of matrimonial law, assisting clients in the drafting and creation of legally-binding prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

We are proud to offer quality family law services at affordable rates. Schedule a confidential case review in either our Bergen or Rockland County offices by calling today.

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Premarital Agreements


Premarital agreements, also known as prenuptial agreements, are guidelines that couples set before getting married, to draw fine lines regarding rights and ownership of certain assets. While premarital agreements aren’t a must, many couples find them to be beneficial. If you or someone you know is interested in obtaining a premarital agreement, contact the law offices of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman, P.C. Our team of experienced professionals will offer you nothing but the best legal representation for your matrimonial law needs.

Common misconceptions regarding premarital agreements

There are many common misconceptions regarding premarital agreements. For example, there are a number of reasons why they are used. Many people believe that premarital agreements are used only in wealthy marriages, to protect one party’s assets. However, such agreements can be used to protect one or both party’s assets in the event that divorce proceedings take place, determine how property will be passed on in the event of a sudden death, or to clarify financial rights and responsibilities during a marriage.

How are premarital agreements helpful?

Premarital agreements can be very helpful, due to the fact that they can be tailored to meet the needs of your unique marital situation. In the event that a couple doesn’t seek a premarital agreement, most aspects of responsibility and property during and after the marriage will fall subject to state family laws. For example, in most states, such laws state that your spouse will be entitled to share and receive some of the property acquired during the marriage, share in any debts that are acquired during the marriage, and receive some of the property in the event of death. Many couples find that they are uncomfortable with the specifics that such state laws entail, which makes premarital agreements very beneficial, as they clear any grey area by setting firm guidelines to meet the needs of the couple’s specific situation.

After many years of scrutiny by the court system, every state now allows premarital agreements and divorces and remarriages are acceptable. Additionally, women hold a more equal place in society, which allows for the validation of most prenuptial agreements. However, to this day, the court system analyzes each prenuptial agreement thoroughly, so it is important to make sure that it is done correctly. A premarital agreement should entail clear and understandable guidelines that are fair to all parties involved and meet state requirements.

ContactKantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman, P.C

If you or someone you know is interested in obtaining a premarital agreement, contact the law office of Kantrowitz, Goldhamer and Graifman, P.C. We have the knowledge and experience to make sure that you receive only the best legal representation.

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