Areas of Practice

Divorce, Custody, Support

office picThe experience of going through a divorce, separation or termination of a relationship with a domestic partner is life-changing, emotionally challenging, and often painful.

We see our role as providing information about the options and processes that will best meet the needs and achieve the goals of each client. An array of options, varying from Collaborative Law, Mediation, negotiations between attorneys, and litigation is available. We carefully analyze each client’s particular situation to identify the best option.

For many clients, Mediation or Collaborative Law offers a private, non-adversarial, respectful way to make the transition from one to two family units, and offers a much better opportunity to preserve a good co-parenting and post-divorce relationship.

In Mediation, a neutral Mediator facilitates the discussion and negotiation between the parties and helps them come to an agreement. Consultation with each party’s attorney typically takes place outside the mediation process. In Collaborative Law, the parties and the attorneys meet together, often with other professionals, to help them work out an agreement. We help each client decide the level of professional and support they wish to have so that they can choose a process which is most appropriate for them and their unique situation.

In some instances, litigation is appropriate and necessary, and we make appropriate referrals to attorneys who do litigation.

Throughout the process, our focus is on providing our clients with the necessary information and tools to make well-considered choices and decisions about the future.

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Adoption

office picWe realize how important it is to follow all legal procedures so that an adoptive parent or parents can have peace of mind that the adoption of their child is permanent and secure.

We assist clients in the adoption of children through an adoption agency; re-adoption of children who were adopted from other countries, so that they will have a United States adoption certificate and birth certificate; adoption by agreement between birth and adoptive parents; step-parent adoptions; and second parent adoptions by same-sex parents. It is still essential for married same-sex parents to do a second-parent adoption, because many states and countries still do not recognize a second parent and their child’s relationship without an adoption.

Throughout the process, we provide information about legal options and procedures, support and guidance to ensure the adoption goes smoothly.

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LGBT Family Law and Domestic Partners

office picWe have considerable expertise and experience in meeting the needs of LGBT clients, including gay and lesbian couples. Marriage has been available to same-sex couples in New York since June 2011 and their marriages have been recognized by the Federal government since June 2013. Same-sex couples face unique considerations when they marry and it is often advisable to enter into a pre-nuptial agreement (or post-nuptial agreement, for couples who are already married) to honor how they view their relationship and clarify how they want to address issues related to property, debts and other legal consequences of marriage. Mediation and Collaborative Law are ideally suited to helping couples work out the details of a pre- or post-nuptial agreement in a loving, cooperative way.

Some same-sex and opposite-sex couples choose not to marry, for a variety of reasons. This means that the extensive protections applicable to married couples are not available, and there is no safety net to protect partners in the event of illness or death. There are also no established legal rules that govern division of property and debts and other issues when a couple separates.

We work with domestic partners to make sure that they are protected as much as possible through health care proxies, Living Wills, durable powers of attorney, second-parent adoption, releases for access to medical information, and authorizations to obtain medical care for children and determine the disposition of their partner’s remains after death. Married couples also need to have these documents, because marriage does not automatically give a spouse the right to make health care decisions, manage the spouse’s affairs during an illness, or obtain medical information. See Wills, Trusts and Estates for more information.

A domestic partnership agreement specifies each partner’s rights and responsibilities in the event of a separation, and can avoid potentially painful, costly litigation. Collaborative Law or Mediation offers a cooperative, respectful way to negotiate domestic partnership agreements, or, if there is no agreement, negotiate the division of property and debts and arrangements for children when a couple separates.

Our office has been actively involved in efforts to reform the law to better protect LGBT clients, including litigation to extend the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples.

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Real Estate

office picWe are mindful that buying or selling a house is a major life event. It can be very stressful to coordinate selling one home, buying another, and making all the moving arrangements.

We strive to make the process as simple and stress-free as possible by explaining each step, letting our clients know what they need to do, preparing them for the closing, coordinating with the attorneys for the bank and the other party, and with real estate agents.

We also provide representation for commercial closings, including rental properties and other business properties.

Another aspect of our real estate work is to advise clients about residential and commercial leases, to make sure that the client clearly understands lease terms and that his or her interests are adequately protected.

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Wills, Trusts and Estates

office picIt is critically important for every adult to be well informed about the rules that apply if he or she has not signed a Will. Very often, the default rules do not meet our clients’ needs, and we assist them in preparing a Will so that their wishes are carried out and their families are protected. In particular, domestic partners and parents with minor children need to plan carefully to ensure that the tragedy of a death is not compounded by hardship for the survivors through poor planning. When necessary, we provide referrals for advanced estate planning.

We also assist clients in designating a trusted relative, partner or friend by means of a Health Care Proxy to carry out their wishes regarding health care if they are incapacitated. A Living Will gives clients the opportunity to express their wishes about terminal health care. We discuss with each client the advisability of having a durable Power of Attorney, which will enable a trusted person or institution to take care of financial and other affairs without the need for the appointment of a guardian. By signing a Disposition of Remains form, clients can outline their wishes for disposition of their body after death and choose who will be in charge of making the arrangements. Married couples need to sign these documents, because spouses do not automatically have the right to make health care decisions for their incapacitated spouse, or manage their spouse’s financial affairs.

In instances where a client is concerned about a relative, partner or friend who is incapacitated, we assist clients in applying for appointment as a guardian. Our involvement in guardianship proceedings includes appointments by the court to represent the interests of alleged incapacitated persons, or act as the court evaluator, to make recommendations to the court about the best option for incapacitated persons.

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Estate Administration

office picAfter the death of a loved one, we assist the administrator or named executor in the administration of the estate, providing guidance in a sensitive and compassionate way at a time when family and friends are grieving and often overwhelmed by the tasks involved in taking care of an estate. We discuss the extent of our involvement with each client, and then carefully guide them through the estate administration process.

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Small Business

office picWe work closely with clients who own, purchase or start a small business, to ensure that the business is structured in a way that meets their needs. We help clients determine whether to conduct the business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company or corporation or other kind of entity, and guide them through the business formation process. As a business grows, we help our clients with general advice about contracts, employment issues. We offer advice and assistance in the purchase or sale of a business to make sure all legal requirements are met and the closing proceeds smoothly.

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Municipal Law

office picWe bring many years of experience to the field of municipal law, including zoning, planning, land use, historic preservation and zoning issues. Mariette was City Attorney for the City of Ithaca from 1996-99, and continues to represent municipalities and municipal agencies such as the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency, Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency, and the Town of Ulysses, and has provided legal consultation to the Village of Potsdam, New York. We advise both municipalities and individuals on all aspects of municipal law.

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Not-For-Profit Corporations

office picWe represent not-for-profit corporations in many aspects of their operations, including contract review, incorporation, drafting and revisions of bylaws and a variety of transactional work. We offer a reduced hourly rate for not-for-profit clients and are mindful of the mission and needs of each organization as we advise them.

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