In our quest to connect on a more meaningful level with divorce attorneys, divorce experts and professionals, and divorce litigants, we have conducted a series of interviews with some of New York City’s most prominent and respected divorce attorneys. Below is an except of an interview with Great Neck Long Island divorce attorney Jacqueline Harounian, Partner at the law firm Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, P.C. We were particularly interested in Ms. Harounian’s views on the trends in equitable distribution on licenses and degrees was well as the need for reforms of the child support laws. We are honored to speak with her today and appreciate her taking the time from her busy practice to chat with us.
Jacqueline Harounian: It is my pleasure.
Divorce Saloon: Let’s jump right into this if you will. What attracted you to this type of work?
Ms Harouninan: Well, I am passionate about family law. For me, it is extremely rewarding to help people through one of the most stressful periods of their lives — a time of extreme emotional and financial crisis—to the other side. I enjoy working closely with my clients to help them meet their goals. My practice is built on referrals from satisfied clients and other professionals.
Divorce Saloon: Wow. That says a lot when clients refer you because they are so satisfied with your work, doesn’t it? So, would you advise young lawyers getting out of law school to specialize in matrimonial law being that you find it so rewarding?
Ms Harounian: For those individuals that don’t mind the “messy” aspects of dealing with client’s emotions, family law is a great field. It is certainly one of the most interesting areas of the law, since the laws are just catching up to our fast changing society.
Divorce Saloon: Bien entendue. Family law is not for the faint of heart. You’ve got to love it. Speaking of our fast changing society, do you think that clients should rely on online reviews on Internet sites to choose a divorce attorney? Why or why not?
Jacqueline Harounian: Clients should interview several attorneys before hiring one. The best starting point is a referral. Websites such as Super Lawyers and Avvo are very good to find out names for lawyers to interview. Those websites are not paid for their rankings, but are based on peer endorsements and objective research. The Internet is very good to research the credentials and reviews of an attorney. The strongest weight should be given to reviews that are not anonymous, but where actual names of clients are used, i.e. Google. The ratings on Martindale and Lawyers.com are also verified and are therefore reliable.
Divorce Saloon: That is an interesting viewpoint and I’m sure Avvo will be happy with that ringing endorsement…. So, how has technology and the digital revolution affected your practice personally, if at all?
Ms Harounian: Technology has enabled me to be much more responsive to my clients, which helps to put their minds at ease when issues come up after hours or on weekends. Parents today are taking advantage of technology. The use of smart phones has facilitated regular use of texting and email which has served to improve communication between both parents, and between parents and children. The use of Google calendars, Skype and Facetime for video conferencing is very common.
Divorce Saloon: This is great. It is good to know that the repurcussions of the digital revolution have not all been negative. Besides these obvious changes, what else is new and different in the last 5 years or so in the field of matrimonial law? What are the emerging trends?
Ms Harounian: There is a major trend of joint and shared custody (50/50) parenting time. Ever since the economic downturn, there are more and more households where parents share parenting duties.. The option of no-fault grounds (based on irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for more than 6 months) has removed a great deal of the stigma of divorce and has consequently reduced some of the negativity inherent in the process. It has caused the initial stages of the divorce process to be more focused on the real issues: i.e. custody and financial issues, and less on the personal lives of the litigants, and who is to blame for the breakdown of the relationship. Previously, it was not unusual for certain parties to spend months litigating the issue of grounds, at the cost of several thousand dollars. In addition, we have seen a greater number of older couples (who previously did not have adequate grounds, or who did not want to make allegations of fault) moving forward with separation and divorce actions. No-fault divorce has streamlined the initial procedural steps of most cases, especially those that are in Court before a Judge. There have been major trends in the areas of equitable distribution and joint custody.
In the area of equitable distribution, contrary to other states, licenses and degrees are still considered marital assets subject to equitable distribution in New York . Years ago, a homemaker who supported her spouse during medical school could expect to receive an award of 35% to 50% of the value of degree. The percentage varied on the contributions of the homemaker towards the degree. The value of the degree was based upon an expert’s opinion as to the enhanced earning capacity of the titled spouse.
However, over the past five years or so, the non titled spouse’s share of the value of the license or degree has been shrinking quite dramatically. Today, the percentages are in the 10% to 30% range. I have seen cases with 0%. In lieu of these awards, the Courts are instead focusing on durational maintenance awards, which are based on actual income of the monied spouse, not enhanced earning capacity.
Divorce Saloon: That is very very interesting, this issue of valuing degrees and the shrinking of awards based on this factor. I am not sure if this is a good trend or not. What do you think? And also, what needs to be new and different in the field generally, in your opinion?
Ms Harounian: I would say that there needs to be more emphasis on keeping cases out of Court and there also needs to be a fairer way to allocate child support when parents are sharing custody.
Divorce Saloon: These are important issues indeed. But it is definitely heart-warming that joint custody is becoming more of the trend in New York as it should everywhere, as far as we are concerned. Well, Thank you, Ms Harounian. We appreciate your taking the time to chat with us today.
Jacqueline Harounian: You definitely are welcome. Have a great day.
Jacqueline Harounian, Esq. has been rated “AV Preeminent”, the highest rating possible for legal ability and professional ethics by Martindale Hubbell. She has been designated a Super Lawyer in Family Law for the past five consecutive years (2010 – 2014). Only 5% of lawyers in New York State are recognized by Super Lawyers each year, by attaining a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Ms. Harounian has also been selected to Top 50 Women Lawyers in New York (2012 and 2014) by Super Lawyers, and has been designated a “Leader in the Law” by New York Magazine, The New York Law Journal and the Wall Street Journal (2013 and 2014).
Jacqueline Harounian, Esq.
Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, P.C.
1010 Northern Boulevard
Great Neck, New York 11021
Website : www.lawjaw.com
READ MORE ABOUT MS HAROUNIAN HERE