In The News
GUILDERLAND — The law firm of Young, Fenton, Kelsey & Brown, P.C., has a new name and a new office, but the firm maintains its long-standing local experience.”We’re not new to the area. We were formerly known as Wein, Young, Fenton & Kelsey. We just changed our name,” said Young, Fenton, Kelsey & Brown, P.C.’s office manager, Mary Megyeri, who has been with the firm for over 20 years.
“Our office has moved, and we have a new name,” Megyeri continued. Soon, the firm will also have a new website at www.yfkblaw.com. Descriptions of the types of law the attorneys handle are listed there, as are biographies and pictures of the three partners and their associate.Principal William N. Young has practiced law in Guilderland since 1976. He is a former Albany County legislator and a longtime resident of Voorheesville.
“The partners all reside within the community,” Megyeri said.”Not only do we work in the community, we live in the community.”
“Young represents the Association of Fire Districts, as well as individual fire districts throughout the area,” Megyeri said. Young can, for example, help fire districts with the purchases of apparatus or with legal matters, she said.
“We also handle matrimonial and family law cases,” she said. These areas include divorces, child support, and child custody, she said.
Partner Andrea L. Kelsey, an Altamont resident with 20 years of experience, focuses exclusively on matrimonial and family law. Lisa E. Brown, a Voorheesville resident, has practiced matrimonial and family law for 14 years. The practice welcomed her as a partner in January.
Their associate, Nicole Strippoli, joined the firm in 2006. Strippoli practices commercial litigation, wills and estates, real estate, and criminal and traffic law. A founding partner, the late Mr. Fenton is deceased, while a previous partner, Paul H. Wein, has left the firm.
“We have excellent paralegals to assist our clients,” she said. They “act as a middle person between the client and attorney, and are both knowledgeable and professional,” she said.
Melanie Kellam and Lisa Milone are the firm’s paralegals, and Rebeka Bueno is the firm’s secretary.
The new Young, Fenton, Kelsey & Brown, P.C., office, at 1881 Western Ave., by Pioneer Savings Bank, has a new fax number: 518-456-4644. Their telephone number, which did not change, is 518-456-6767.
“We’re here to continue to provide the legal services and help that people need,” Megyeri said.
Wednesday, March 12, 1997
CHILD SUPPORT DECISION UPHELD —
Appellate court rules fathers’ payments can be based on the percentage of time kids spend with him, JOHN CAHER, Staff Writer, ALBANY
Sharing child custody means sharing expenses, and a father who takes care of the kids 40 percent of the time cannot be expected to pay 100 percent of the support, an appellate court has ruled.
In a potentially landmark ruling involving a Saratoga County couple, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court last week upheld a decision that cut Gregory M. Holmes’ child support from $236 a week to $65.75.
Holmes, an insurance executive earning roughly $53,000, and his estranged wife, Diane, a teacher making about $43,000, agreed to a shared custody arrangement when they separated in 1990 after five years of marriage, court records say.
Under the agreement, the parents alternate weekends with their two children. During the week, they spend two nights a week with their father and three with their mother.
After a court declared Diane Holmes the custodial parent and ordered Gregory Holmes to pay her 25 percent of his income in child support, the father argued that he was unfairly overburdened. The appellate court agreed.
“We were living at a very different level,” Gregory Holmes said Tuesday.
Holmes said that when the children, who were 2 and 4 when the parents separated, were with him they were living in a two-bedroom apartment. When they were with their mother, he said, they lived in a four-bedroom house.
“We couldn’t go to the movies and we couldn’t go out to eat,” Holmes said, blaming the austerity on the generous child support awarded to his estranged wife.”They couldn’t have the things with me that they could have when they were with their mom . . . The projection was that mom is a queen and dad is some kind of flunky.”
Diane Holmes said Tuesday that the ruling will discourage dual parenting.
“When I did this, when I gave more custody, it was out of my love for my children,” she said.”Even though I was bitter . . . I put my children first.”
State support guidelines require noncustodial parents, usually fathers, to pay child support based on a formula: 17 percent of their gross income for one child; 25 percent for two; 29 percent for three; 31 percent for four; and 35 percent for five. Since Diane Holmes was declared the custodial parent, her husband was ordered by Saratoga County Family Court Judge L. Foster James to pay 25 percent of his income in child support.
But Gregory Holmes fought and, after years of battling, won an appellate court victory.
The Appellate Division of state Supreme Court found that the Holmeses are simultaneously custodial and noncustodial parents. Therefore, she is required to pay him 25 percent of her income and he is required to pay her 25 percent of his income. The net result $65.75 goes to Diane Holmes every week, less than a third of what she had been receiving.
Thursday’s ruling by Associate Justice D. Bruce Crew III dealt largely with a technical dispute over how to compute the child support. But the underlying principle — that a parent can be custodial and noncustodial at the same time — is novel and will likely be challenged in the state’s highest court.
“At what point can we call a father a ‘simultaneous’ custodial parent?” asked Andrea Kelsey, the Guilderland attorney who represents Gregory Holmes. ”Is it 30 percent of the time? Twenty percent? The court has not told us. It simply said, in this case, with (the father having custody) 40 percent of the time, we can say yes, he is a simultaneous custodial parent and entitled to support.”
Diane Holmes’ attorney, Stephen L. Molinsek of Friedman & Manning of Delmar, declined comment.
Kelsey, elated with the ruling, and Diane Holmes, dissatisfied with it, both expressed concern that some parents may exploit the decision to gain a financial edge over their estranged spouse.
“The potential of this decision, unfortunately, may be that we will see a lot more typically noncustodial parents demanding shared custody, thinking it will result in a substantial reduction in their child support guidelines,” said Kelsey, a partner in the firm of Wein, Young, Fenton & Kelsey.
Gregory Holmes, a member of the Fathers Rights Association, said he hopes the decision will encourage parents to take equal responsibility for their children, not only financially, but also emotionally.
“My children have taught me more than I could ever teach them in terms of discipline, in terms of responsibility, in terms of the things I do with my life,” Holmes said.”I have given up a lot of professional (opportunities). The payback is love and admiration and relationships that will never fail. The payback is more than you could ever imagine.”
Thursday, July 15, 1999
SPLIT DECISIONS SOCIAL CHANGE IS QUESTIONING THE FORMULA FOR DETERMINING CHILD SUPPORT By CELINA OTTAWAY
Carolyn Baraby separated from her husband, Bryan, in a typical ”War of the Roses” nightmare with a distinctively 1990s twist.
The couple fought bitterly, spent 10 months living in separate parts of their $300,000 house on Lake Champlain and finally separated, in 1995, after a therapist told them someone had to move for the sake of the children, according to Carolyn Baraby.
But like a growing number of couples, the Barabys managed to overlook their differences long enough to negotiate a shared custody arrangement. The couple’s two sons then ages 9 and 13 suggested they alternate weeks, one week with mom then one week with dad. The Barabys agreed.
True 50-50 splits like the Barabys’ are still uncommon, but more children are dividing their lives between two households.
“It’s clearly more of a trend to have real joint, real shared custody now,” said Thomas Gordon, a child support hearing examiner for Rensselaer Family Court.
But while custody arrangements may have evolved, the state Legislature’s child support formulas have not.
New York’s Child Support Standards Act sets formulas for determining how much each parent should contribute to child support. The formula assumes that one parent has primary physical custody of the child. There is no provision for shared custody arrangements.
”In 1989, it was a lot easier to figure out who the custodial parent was than it is now,” said Gordon, who sees from 60 to 100 Rensselaer County child support cases a week.
The courts have been left to decide such sticky questions as who pays when the kids spend 40 percent of their time in one house and 60 percent in another, and who gets credit for sleepovers at friends’ houses.
For Capital Region residents, the issue may have been clarified by a midlevel state appeals court in Albany.
In December, the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court decided that although the Barabys spend equal time with their children, Bryan should pay Carolyn child support because he makes more money.
The court decided that in 50-50 splits, the parent who makes more money should be designated the noncustodial parent and pay support based on the state formula. Under the formula, noncustodial parents pay the same amount of child support whether they have the children every other week or live in Alaska and see the kids one week a year.
Parents can argue for an exception if they feel the award is unjust or inappropriate.
For people who leave marriages and see their incomes plummet, as Carolyn Baraby did, the decision is a chance to even out the lifestyles between the two households.
”There was no way that I could take care of their needs in the same lifestyle that he could,” said Baraby.
But advocates for fathers’ rights say the decision may make it financially impossible for some fathers or mothers, if they have the higher income to share custody of their children.
The decision is especially problematic for middle-class couples, said Paul Wein a trial lawyer with Wein, Young, Fenton and Kelsey in Guilderland. A parent may end up paying the full amount of child support and then not have enough money left over to support his kids while they are with him, Wein said.
The Baraby decision sets a precedent for all child support cases settled in the Appellate Division, Third Department, which includes the Capital Region. It also answers years of legal wrangling as the courts have attempted to apply the Child Support Standards Act to today’s families.
In 1989, the state adopted the Child Support Standards Act in response to a federal mandate. Until then, judges used their discretion to decide how support should be allocated. Awards varied widely from case to case and court to court.
Now, courts decide child support awards with a mathematical formula. Parents can also come to their own private agreements outside of court.
The Baraby case is the latest in a string of decisions aimed at adapting the state’s formula to shared custody arrangements. The cases and the courts’ decisions provide an intimate look at the issues surrounding modern family life.
Talk to family lawyers and they will tell you divorce isn’t what it used to be.
Mark Cerasano has been practicing matrimonial law since 1982. He represented Carolyn Baraby in her child support hearings.
“Back in the 1970s, the mother had sole legal and physical custody and the father had visitation rights,” said Cerasano, referring to standard divorce procedures. ”But in the ’70s and ’80s, the courts began to recognize that the noncustodial parent should have a bigger say.”
The courts started to award joint legal custody to parents, which gave the noncustodial parent a right to participate in major decisions. Kids generally still lived with one parent who had primary physical custody.
Then came arrangements where children split their time between two households.
Divorce lawyers say the rise in shared custody arrangements reflects social changes. They note that fathers are often more aggressive about their rights and mothers are more likely to have careers. Often both parties feel it is important for children to have two active parents.
Divorce has also lost some of its social stigma and marriages are easier to end, said Cerasano.
Many of today’s clients are divorcing for different reasons than clients in the past, Cerasano said.
“It is people who have just fallen out of love,” he said.
Shared custody arrangements require a lot of cooperation and communication.
“More parents are willing to work together in sharing and raising their children,” he said.
Some states address shared custody arrangements with a formula that takes into account a parent’s income and the amount of time the parent spends with a child.
In the mid-1990s, a case out of Saratoga County opened the door for this kind of accounting in New York.
The result, according to both divorce lawyers and the courts, was a stopwatch mentality where many parents pushed for extra time in order to reduce their child support payments.
“(It) didn’t work because in most cases figuring out the percentage of custody was nearly impossible,” said Gordon, the hearing examiner. ”You were asking questions like, ‘What’s more expensive, when the kid was sleeping or when the kid was awake? And if one parent drops the kid off to school in the morning and the other one picks him up, who gets the credit for the time the kid is in school?’
In 1998, the court put an end to the hour counting.
In that case, the unanimous decision concluded that, ”The difficult policy choices (involved in adjusting child support payments for shared custody cases) are better left to the Legislature.”
Earlier this year, Baraby vs. Baraby confirmed that even in a pure 50-50 split, judges must designate one noncustodial parent and apply the formula. It is up to the parent to prove that the award is unjust or inappropriate.
How often judges and hearing officers will grant exceptions to the formula remains to be seen.
In true 50-50 cases, there are often variances, said Gordon. It is harder to get an exception when the parents share time unequally say four days at mom’s house and three days at dad’s.
Gordon also considers the incomes of both the parents. If the parents make roughly the same amount of money there may be more grounds for an exception than if one person makes far more money than the other.
“The grounds for a variance is a relatively high bar,” he said.