Joleena Louis Law

Practice Areas


In almost every high conflict divorce case either one or both parties are accused of being a narcissist.

In most cases neither party is actually a narcissist and the parties are just experiencing typical divorce conflict.

However, in some cases, one party is a true narcissist and special precautions need to be taken.

What are the characteristics of a real narcissist?

The characteristics of  Narcissistic Personality Disorder According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition:

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love.
  3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions).
  4. Requires excessive admiration.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.

Narcissist thrive in high conflict situations like divorce

Narcissists believe they are above the law and don’t feel the rules apply to them.  They thrive on the adversarial nature of divorce and will manipulate the system whenever they can in order to “win.”

A narcissist  will do everything possible to complicate and delay the divorce process including:

  • Refusing to provide documents
  • Refusing to negotiate
  • Ignoring court orders
  • Lying about income
  • Hiding assets
  • Making false allegations of abuse or neglect

They have no interest in an amicable resolution, they just want to win at any cost.

Tactics For Dealing With The Narcissist

Preparing For The Financial Aspects of Divorcing A Narcissist

Make sure you have access to funds for the fight.

The narcissist thrives on the adversarial nature of litigation, so be prepared for a long drawn-out fight.

The first thing you need to do to get prepared is to determine how you will fund this litigation.

If you know a divorce is coming, try to make sure your credit is in top shape in case you need to take a personal loan or need access to credit.

Talk to friends and family about borrowing money for legal costs. If you have assets that will likely be sold during the divorce you can pay them back once everything is settled.

If the narcissist is the monied spouse you may be able to request that your spouse pay your counsel fees. Talk to a New York divorce attorney about your options.

Get your financial paperwork together

Your narcissistic spouse will attempt to hide assets and will refuse to provide financial documents. Before the divorce gets underway, get copies of all financial documents and collect all account numbers. Documents should include deeds, bank accounts, credit card accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and tax returns.

Once you get these documents, put them in a safe place. Scan them and store the on the cloud or let a friend hold them until you hire an attorney.

Preparing For The Emotional Aspects Of Divorcing A Narcissist

Seek The Assistance Of An Experienced Therapist

This is going to be one of the most difficult experiences of your life. A good lawyer will listen and sympathize, but you really need the assistance of a therapist to help you navigate the emotions you’ll experience.

It’s very likely that the narcissist has been emotionally, verbally and possibly physically abusive and a trained professional can help you move forward with your life.

Join A Support Group

Others have gone through this and they can offer great advice and support. Find a local support group through sites like or find a group that communicates online.

End all direct communication.

The narcissist will take advantage of every opportunity to upset you. Shut this down by limiting communication.

You can get a court order to limit communication to a discussion of the children by text,  email, or an app like Our Family Wizard.  This way you have hard evidence of any harassment.

If you don’t have children or if you feel harassed you ask that all communication happens between the lawyers.

Find A Calming Hobby

Don’t let the divorce consume your life. I often suggest that my clients find something new that will take their mind off of everything- even if it’s an hour a week. Join a yoga class, start painting, go back to school, or anything else that will help you relax.

Don’t worry about what other people think. Narcissists are often very charming  so it may be difficult for other people in your life to see him as you see him. You can’t worry about that right now.

Preparing For The Legal Aspects Of Divorcing A Narcissist

Hire an attorney.

You can’t deal with a narcissist while navigating the legal system on your own. Find a divorce attorney who has experience with high conflict divorce. They will help serve as a buffer between you and your narcissistic spouse and help you make the right legal decisions to counteract the narcissist’s tactics.

Have zero tolerance for violations.

If the narcissist refused to comply with a court order, bring it to the attention of the court. This could mean filing a contempt motion and requesting attorneys fees.

Once they realize this behavior will not be tolerated, they may be less likely to violate orders in the future.

Make sure custody exchanges happen in a public place and limit communication. Your lawyer should be able to come up with options that work best for your family. Again, make sure any communication is recorded so you have evidence of any threats.

Know What You Want

The cornerstone of a good divorce strategy is having a clear idea of what an acceptable resolution will be. Literally take a pen and paper and write down the things you are willing to fight for and what you would be willing to give up.

Give this list to your lawyer so they can develop a plan to achieve this result.

Other Tips For Divorcing A Narcissist

Become educated about the divorce process.

The divorce process becomes much easier when you understand how it works. Knowing what can and cannot happen will alleviate your fears and make threats from your ex less powerful.

And if you know your liabilities you and your attorney can make plans to address them.

Become educated about narcissistic personalities.

Understanding how the narcissist thinks will equip you with the tools to counter the narcissist’s tactics.

Set reasonable expectations.

No one really wins in a divorce, and this is especially true when divorcing a narcissist. Divorcing a narcissist will be a long, difficult, painful and expensive experience. It will be emotionally draining and you will not get everything you want.

Going into a divorce from a narcissist with this knowledge will make you better prepared.  

Get everything in writing

You ex is going to try to manipulate the system by playing the victim. This means they will lie to the court about what was said.

One way to combat this is to get everything in writing. Every little thing. Want to switch days with the children? Did they agree to pay for something? Get it in an email or text.  If it’s not in writing it does not exist.

This also includes other things like keeping a journal of verbal communications with them and keeping track of pickup and drop off of the children.

Keep in mind that all written communication will be seen by the judge so be on your best behavior. Don’t take the bait to argue or fight in writing.

Stay Calm

The narcissist ultimate goal is to win by hurting you. They want you stressed out, worked up and upset. Don’t fall for it. Stay calm to let them know they don’t have that kind of control of you anymore.

Divorcing a narcissist can be difficult, but with the help of the right attorney, not impossible.  


As all pet owners know, pets become part of your family. Often couples treat their pets like children, and the prospect of never seeing your beloved pet again can just as bad as losing custody of a child.

Research suggest that about 50% of American marriages end in divorce and that 62% of American households include at least one pet. Deciding what happens to the pet is an important factor that divorcing parties must consider.

Unfortunately, divorce courts generally treat pets as property and it is often up to the judge to decide who entitled to said property.

Many couples think they can share custody of a pet, but often it’s extremely impractical. Though our pets feel like children, a joint custody arrangement simply won’t work the same way and typically fail.

So, how do you decide who gets Fido? Here are some things to consider?

Whose pet is it?

If a spouse owned a pet before the marriage, that spouse would be entitled to keeping the pet.

But if the pet became part of the family during the marriage, thing get a bit trickier.


How To Decide Who Gets The Pet In A Divorce

Do Your Kids Love The Pet?

If you have kids and they love the pet, their feelings take priority. The divorce is already difficult for them, so taking away their pet if you don’t have to, would be unfair.

If the pet is important to the children, it should live wherever they live.

While it may be impractical for couples without children to share custody of a pet, if children are involved and are going between households, it could be a good idea for the pet to go with them.

I’ve seen this scenario work, depending on the personality and needs of the pet. Though you will have to make decisions such as who pays vet bills and coordinate on consistent care for the animal.

Where do you live?

Yes, this can be an important factor. Some pets don’t do well with changes in their surroundings. Remember, these times are stressful for all involved, so if you’re the one moving out — and you know Fluffy becomes a quivering mess of nerves when you change the drapes — then leaving the pet behind, though difficult, is likely the best recourse.

What about your work schedule?

Caring for a pet jointly can be much easier than doing it alone, especially if you work long hours. Take an honest look at your schedule and determine if you will really be able to give the pet the care and attention it needs.

Keep in mind that the expense of divorce may require you to work more than you did while you were married.

Can you afford it?

The cost of caring for a pet can be very expensive. From vet visits, medicine, to food and toys, costs can add up. An emergency vet visit can cost hundreds of dollars.

You will most likely start this new chapter in a worse financial position than when you started. You have to make sure these expenses will fit in your budget before you decide to take on the pet.  

Who takes care of the pet’s daily needs?

Be honest about who  takes care of the animal’s basic daily needs such as feeding, walks, grooming and vet visit. If you don’t usually take care of these things you may find it to be overwhelming to suddenly have to do it on your own.

Think about which of you are best at taking care of these basic needs.

What’s best for the pet?

The most important question to consider is what is best for the pet. Pets need consistency. If one party will move around a lot or have a disrupted routine, they may not be the best owner of the pet. Losing a “member of the pack” will be stressful enough.

Even though you both love it equally, you have to make the decision that allows your pet to live the most comfortable life.

For more information on how to keep your pet in divorce schedule your divorce strategy session today.

Child Support in New York can seem confusing and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You asked your biggest questions and I answered.

Check out the slideshow below for answers to the most common questions about child support in New York.

Have more questions? Follow us on Facebook for more New York child support and child custody tips.

A frequent question that parents have about child custody is what happens if one parent takes the children out of state and never returns.

The outcome depends on if there is a custody order or agreement in effect. If there is not, you can still get your children back but the process may be a little more difficult.

If there is a custody order in place, a custodial parent cannot move out of state without permission from the court or written permission from the non-custodial parent. Review the terms of your custody agreement or order for more details.

If there is no custody order, the relocating parent cannot file for custody in the new state until the children have lived in that state for six months. The state has the right to refuse jurisdiction if it is proven that the relocating  parent  has hidden the location of the children from the other parent until the six months has passed, in order to get custody.

It may be a good idea to immediately file for custody if the other parent indicates they may leave the state with the children.

Children Out Of State

The Law On Interstate Custody

The Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA)  works in conjunction with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA), all work together to establish uniformity amongst the states with regard to child custody orders so that a parent can not just take the child to another state and get a custody order.  

The custody order from the first state will be given full force in all other states and law enforcement can be contacted to assist in returning the child to the other parent when the violating parent refuses to return the child.

What To Do If Your Ex Takes Your Children Out Of State

Immediately contact your attorney who will contact the district attorney. Since an order was violated, they will be able to access the Federal Parent Locator Service and get in contact with the district attorney where your child is located.

Your attorney may also file a motion to compel the return the children, a violation of the order and custodial interference.

You can’t stop the other parent from taking the children out of state for a vacation, but if they don’t return you have legal options.

If you’re considering taking your children, you should discuss these thoughts with an attorney. Not only may you face criminal charges you may also lose custody of your children entirely. If you have a valid reason for relocating it’s best to go through the legal system.

As always, this is legal information and not legal advice and you should consult with an attorney before taking action.

Need help with your child custody case?  Schedule your case strategy session today.

 Children Out Of State

No one wants to think about divorce, but with almost 50 percent of all first marriages and close to 70% of subsequent marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, the savvy business owner needs to think about protecting this major asset.  

If you worked hard to build your business alone, you don’t want to risk losing part of it to a spouse who has contributed very little to your success.

Your Business May Be At Risk In A Divorce

The primary question when it comes to dividing assets in a divorce is whether the asset is separate or marital property.

Separate Property

In New York, separate property includes:

  • Property that was owned prior to the marriage;
  • Inheritance;
  • Gifts received by one spouse from a third party;
  • The pain and suffering portion of a personal injury judgment

Separate property can become marital property if you commingle it with marital property. For example, if you deposit your inheritance into a marital bank account it becomes marital property.

Marital Property

Any property that does not meet the qualifications for separate property and is acquired during the marriage is usually considered marital property regardless of how the property is titled.

So if you buy an apartment during the marriage, it is still considered marital property even if the deed is only in your name.

In New York, if the value of separate property increases during the marriage, that increase  may also be considered marital property.

For example, if you started your business before marriage but your husband helps you get new clients, he may be entitled to a portion of the increase in value.


How To Protect Your Business From A Divorce Before or During  Marriage

The best time to take action in protecting your business from divorce is before marriage or very early on. By planning ahead you’ll have the opportunity to implement pre-emptive strategies that will keep you in control of your business.  

There are several strategies you can use before you get married or early in your marriage to protect your business from divorce:

Sign A Prenup

The most effective way to protect your business from divorce is to designate it as separate property in a prenuptial agreement.

A well-written prenup will ensure that your business remains separate property no matter how much your spouse contributes.

If you have a prenup, you should still employ some of the other strategies as a backup, but as long as your prenup is valid your business will be covered.

Be sure to use an attorney experienced in divorce for business owners who will know exactly how to word the prenup to keep your business fully protected.

Sign A Postnup As Soon As Possible

A postnuptial agreement is exactly the same as a prenup but it’s signed after the marriage.

Postnups are most effective if they are signed long before the parties file for divorce. A postnup entered into right before a divorce might be questioned. The best practice is to get it signed early in the marriage.

To ensure that your pre or postnuptial agreement is enforced, it is best that both parties have the agreement reviewed by separate attorneys.

Create A Buy-Sell/Operating/Partnership/Shareholder Agreement

If your business is a partnership, LLC, or corporation, you should have a buy-sale, operating, partnership or shareholder agreement in place that has a provision that defines what happens to the business should any owner get divorced.

Such agreements may :

  • Require all partners/owners have a prenuptial agreement that waives their spouse’s interest in the business
  • Limit a spouse’s ability to acquire ownership
  • Deny the spouse voting rights
  • Prohibit an owner or their estate from transferring or selling any ownership interests to third parties without written consent of the other owners
  • Give the business or other owners with the mandatory right or right-of- first-refusal to buy the ownership interests from the ex-spouse of an owner.


Put The Business In A Trust

The idea here is that by putting the business in an irrevocable trust means it won’t be considered a marital asset since the trust, not you, actually owns it.

While this may work if you put the business in a trust before marriage, if you do it after the marriage and the business was previously considered marital property the court may consider it a fraudulent transfer. In this situation, the trust could be dissolved or you could be ordered to pay your spouse their portion of the business.

The other downside is that you can’t take back (revoke) an irrevocable trust so the business will be in the trust forever.

This option can be complicated so you should discuss the repercussions with an attorney.

Keep Your Spouse Out Of The Business

If your spouse is not involved in your business, it’s best to not let them start and  if they are already involved you should try transition them out as soon as possible.

Unless you have a prenup, your spouse’s involvement in the business can strengthen the case that they are entitled to a larger portion of the business.

As the business owner, the outcome will be much better for you if your spouse was excluded from the start.

Keep Finances Separate And Pay Yourself A Real Salary

Keep the marital finances separate from those of the business. This goes back to commingling. If the business is separate property and you invest marital money, your spouse may now be entitled to a percentage.

You should also pay yourself a realistic salary. Many business owners pay themselves little so they can put it all back into the business. By doing this you spouse has an argument that money that should have been going to the household was going back into the business and therefore they are entitled to a bigger portion of the assets.

How To Protect Your Business From Divorce When Divorce Is Inevitable

Get A Valuation

The court will usually order a court-appointed valuation, but many business owners choose to have independent valuations to verify the number. It could also be a good idea to get a valuation done prior to starting the divorce so you are better prepared for planning purposes.

Sacrifice Other Assets

One way to protect your business from divorce is to sacrifice other assets to keep it.

This may be a good option if the business is clearly a marital asset and you have other valuable assets that you are willing to give up. You can agree to give up the marital residence, retirement accounts, or other financial assets in order to keep the business.

Buy Out Your Spouse

Often business owners must buy out their spouse. In many cases, the business does not have the liquidity to pay a lump sum so the business owner makes arrangements to make any payments over time using the business’s cash flow or a bank loan.

You can also raise buyout funds by finding investors or selling a minority stake in your business.

Sell The Business And Divide The Sales Price

The last and least desirable option is to sell the business and divide the sales price. For many couples, the business is their only asset and there is no other way to buy out the other spouse.

It’s a difficult situation, but you may be able to use your share of the proceeds to start a new business.

Divorce as a business owner can be tough, but with the right tools and information, you can protect what matters. To learn your options schedule your business protection strategy session today.

How to protect your business from divorce

Why There Is No Accountability For How Child Support Is Spent

The number one question I receive about child support is why the child support recipient does not have to account for spending.

How Child Support Is Calculated In New York

Child support in New York is calculated pursuant to the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”) (Domestic Relations Law §240(1-b) and Family Court Act § 413(1)(b)).

Support is calculated by multiplying the combined parental income (income of both parties) by the appropriate child support percentage (17% for one child, 25% for two, 29% for three, 31% for four and 35% for five or more).

The custodial parent is typically the parent that the children live with most of the time any they are the recipient of child support. The non-custodial parent is the parent that pays.

How Child Support Can Be Used

I think the confusion lies in the misconceptions about what child support is supposed to cover.

Some believe that child support should go directly to the children or only cover the child’s bare necessities, such as food and clothing. But in reality, child support is used  to meet the financial needs of the child and to attempt to maintain the child’s standard of living.

This means that support can cover a broad range of expenses including expenses to maintain the household or other expenses that affect the child’s standard of living.  

Why Courts Don’t Require Proof Of How Payments Are Used

One reason courts typically don’t require proof of how payments are used is because of the of the huge waste of time and resources required to enforce this.

It would be very difficult to prove if child support or the custodial parent’s income was used to make a purchase. And very invasive to constantly have the non custodial parent constantly analyzing the custodial parent’s expenses.

Courts like finality and requiring proof of how payments are used leaves the door open to people bringing their ex back to court every time they make a new purchase.

In most cases, child support is only a fraction of the cost of raising a child so monitoring the spending of the custodial parent would cause more problems than it solves.

Why There Is No Accountability For How Child Support Is Spent

When An Accounting Of Spending Is Necessary

In the rare instance that the basic needs of your child are not being met, you have recourse. Before petitioning to the court you must have solid proof that the child is neglected. This means the child is not living in a safe place, is not fed, or not appropriately clothed and you have proof the custodial parent is spending the support  in an unreasonable fashion.

What You Can Do

If you have concerns about how child support will be spent, you can have more control over the situation if you enter a written agreement with the custodial parent. For example, you can agree to make direct payments for certain expenses to reduce the amount of “cash” given to the custodial parent.

For a more detailed discussion of your New York child support options, contact me to schedule your case strategy session.

Summer means more time to spend with your children, especially if you are still adjusting to a shared parenting plan.

Keeping your kids entertained this summer without breaking the bank is easy with all the free family friendly activities around NYC this summer.

Here are a few of the best free things to do with your kids in NYC during your summer parenting time:

  1. Catch free fireworks at the Coney Island Boardwalk every Friday night through September 2.

  2. Grab a blanket and some snacks and enjoy a free movie under the stars. There are free outdoor movies every day of the week throughout the city.

  3. Dust off the bikes and hit one of NYC’s many family friendly cycling routes.

  4. Celebrate French culture at NYC’s official Bastille Day fete. There will be music, dancing and other fun family activities.

  5. Every Thursday from 3-5 enjoy free admission to the Brooklyn Children’s Museum.

  6. On Tuesdays and Thursdays visit Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Environmental Education Center for an aquarium, crafts and other free activities for kids.

  7. Enjoy a relaxing morning listening to a story at Central Park’s Hans Christian Andersen statue every Saturday through September 24.

  8. Cool off in the AC and learn important history at the free National Museum of the American Indian.

  9. Cool off  in a local splash pad or water playground in NYC.

  10. Let your body and imagination go wild at the Imagination Playground at the South Street Seaport.


Tips for Pickup and Drop Off During Parenting Time Exchange

Tips for Pickup and Drop Off During Parenting Time Exchange

One of the most complicated aspects of shared parenting is making pick up and drop off go as smoothly as possible. Emotions can be high for everyone involved, especially in the beginning, and very often this is the time and place that altercations occur.

Every family and situation is unique, but there are several things you can do to make the transition easier on you and your children:

Choose an appropriate venue

The simplest venue is curbside at the home of either parent. This is ideal for the children because it simpler and makes the exchange less of an event for the children. In an effort to make transportation fair I usually suggest that whoever’s parenting time it is the one who picks up the children. Dad picks up from moms house during his parenting time then mom picks them back up from dad when it’s her parenting time.

However, depending on the family’s history, this may not be appropriate.

In high conflict situations a public place may be the better option. Ideally this is not a permanent situation, but a temporary solution until the parents can exchange the children without fear of altercation.

Often people choose a neutral location such as a park or parking lot of the school or a fast food restaurant. In cases involving orders of protection the exchange may have to be made at the local police precinct.

Before deciding on one of these venues, seriously consider the effect it will have on your children.

Be on time

This is the biggest complaint about pickup and drop off during parenting time exchanges. Lateness causes and tension that can lead to unnecessary arguments and altercations. If you are going to be late give appropriate notice and make sure you don’t make it a habit.

Openly Communicate with Your Children

The most difficult part of divorce for children is when they don’t feel secure and they don’t know what is going to happen. Children need structure and they want to know what is going to happen next so it’s important to fully explain the shared parenting arrangements with them.

Exchanges can be very difficult for children because they often feel torn between both parents. It can feel like a betrayal to be happy to see one parent or sad to leave the other. The best thing you can do is to encourage children to share their feelings without fear of hurting you.

Allow them to talk about their time with the other parent without pumping them for information or making negative comments.

Openly Communicate with the Other Parent

Communication is essential to co-parenting. Even if you hate your ex, you have to be able to discuss issues regarding the children.  If the exchanges aren’t going well because the children are upset or the schedule is cumbersome, address the problem with the other parent and try to reach a resolution before allowing resentment to build or running back to Court. In high conflict situations, a text or e-mail exchange may help.

Be Flexible

No Parenting Plan is going to be effective forever. The needs and desires of the children changes as they get older and you will need to allow for flexibility over time. The goal of an effective parenting plan is the best interest of the children and this can be accomplished if the parents are willing to adapt to the needs of their children.

Parenting Time Exchange

When it comes to child custody in divorce, your parenting plan will be the law that governs co-parenting your children. A well written plan will help keep your children’s lives predictable and aid in minimizing conflict between you and your ex. This guide will help you consider what topics to include in when creating your parenting plan.

What Is A Parenting Plan

A parenting plan is a written agreement that outlines how you and your spouse will raise your children after divorce. It should lay out  when each parent should see the children, how decisions about the children are made, and how information is shared between parents.

A well written parenting plan will be focused on the best  interests of the children. Since both parents agree before signing off on the plan, it’s an amicable way to start a successful co-parenting relationship with your ex spouse.  By setting clear guidelines and expectations the parenting plan reduces conflict and encourages consistency.

A parenting plan should be detailed but also allow the parties to agree on temporary changes. Things that don’t seem like a big deal today can become huge disagreements later, so it’s better to be very specific in the parenting plan so everyone knows what is going to happen.

Keep in mind that this is only a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Seek out the assistance of an attorney to discuss specific issues that may be a factor in your case.

Topics to Consider When Making a Parenting Plan

Parenting schedules

The Residence of the children. This is important because the residential parent (a.k.a. Custodial parent) is the recipient of child support in New York. It’s also important because it determines the children’s address for school.

Pick Up and Drop Off. It is very important to include details about drop off and pick up as this will become a source of disagreement at some point. Include specific times, days, location, and which parent will be responsible for transporting the children. Keep in mind any orders of protection or safety issues.

Changes to the parenting schedule. Inevitably temporary chances to the schedule will have to be made. A parent may be sick,out of town for work or other unforeseen circumstances can require a change in the schedule. Discuss how schedule changes will be made (Phone call? Text? Email?),  how much notice must be given and if there will there be make-up time.

Communication with children while with the other parent. The children must be allowed to communicate with the other parent. Discuss the parameters of this communication.

Children’s belongings. Will the children bring personal items back and forth between homes or will each parent be responsible for providing items at their house. This may seem trivial but it is a frequent source of disagreement and will be important to your child.

Child’s social activities.  Discuss what happens if the children have a birthday party or extracurricular activity. Determine how these events can be scheduled (Can mom RSVP to a birthday party that happens during dads parenting time?),who is responsible for taking the child, and who is responsible for purchasing any gifts or equipment the child may need for the event or activity.

Childcare. Decide who watches the children if the person with parenting time is unavailable. Will the other parent have right of first refusal? Or will you agree on a list of sitters that you both trust?

Vacations & holidays

Consider how you will divide school breaks, summer vacation and religious holidays. Common options include:

Children spend certain holidays with one parent every year.

Holidays alternate between parents each year.

Stick to the regular schedule.

Be specific about times. I urge my clients set specific pick up and drop off times for holidays and include “or any other times agreed upon by the parties.” That way you have flexibility to agree on whatever times you want, but if there is any disagreement you can go by the parenting plan. If you don’t have specific times included in your parenting plan, what happens when mom wants the kids at 8am on Mother’s Day but dad doesn’t want to bring them until noon?

Other significant days. Consider birthdays (parents and children’s) and other events such as family weddings, graduations, funerals, etc. Having a plan now makes it easier later.

Decisions About Health care

If you have joint custody, consider how decisions about medical or dental care  will be made. Include what happens if you can’t agree.

Emergency medical treatment. Determine how you will notify each other if the child needs to go to the ER or receive emergency medical treatment.

Arrangements for doctors appointments. Discuss who will make appointments and who will take the child to the appointment.  Also include who picks up prescriptions, etc.

Access to medical records. Typically both parties will have access.

Care of sick child. Who will take time off work? Can the other party come over to visit?

Health Insurance card. Who will hold the card? Can you get two copies? Will the card go with the child?


If you have joint custody, discuss how decisions about any change in school, school programs or  tutoring will be made.

Parent-teacher conferences and school events. Decide if you both WILL attend or alternate attendance.

Field trips. Consider who signs permission slips (Either parent? Must you notify the other parent?) who will  pay fees for trips, who will chaperone.

School absences. Discuss why the child can be absent and if the other parent must be notified. School absences and tardiness is a hot button issue in many custody cases. You can minimize conflict by coming to an agreement.


Religious upbringing and activities. How will you make decisions about religion? Are there any religious activities that you both agree the children will participate in?


Vacation Time. It is standard in New York parenting plans to give each parent at least 2 weeks of uninterrupted parenting time that could be used for travel with the children.

Notice of travelling with the child. Consider when notice must be given. Do you want notice if they go to the Jersey shore for the weekend, or any travel that involves a flight?  Determine what type of information the traveling parent needs to supply. Typically it includes a travel itinerary, where they will be staying, and a way to contact the children during the trip.

Child’s Passport.  Who will keep the child’s passport? Will each parent cooperate in obtaining a passport for the child and signing any consents required for the child to travel?

Communication between parents

Method of communication. Depending on the nature of your relationship, you may want to limit communication with your ex to traceable methods such as texts or email.  

Type of information to be communicated. Again, depending on the nature of your relationship, you may want to include a clause that all communication be directly related to the children. This can help limit harassment from an angry or high conflict ex spouse.   

Miscellaneous Topics

Discipline and rules. If you had rules for the children during the marriage and you want to maintain that consistency between households, you can agree to include those rules in the parenting plan. For example, homework, bedtimes, hair color, allowance, piercing, tattoos, driving, use of phone, use of computer, dating and employment.

Pets. If the children have a pet will it go between household with them?

Birthday and holiday gifts. Will you continue to buy gifts together? Will you discuss gifts so you don’t get the same things?

Involvement of new partners.  Discuss when to introduce new partners to the children. In my experience this is the biggest source of tension in most custody matters. The key is being realistic. You can’t prevent your ex from introducing the children to a new partner, but you can agree on a way to do it that is in the best interest of the children. That can include an agreement that the no introduction is made unless you have been dating the person for a specified amount of time or that the other parent has to be introduced before the children can be introduced.

Another related issue is the new partner posting pictures of the children on social media. If this is a big deal for you, you may want to discuss including parameters in the parenting plan.

Relocation. In New York, if there is a custody or visitation order you cannot relocate any distance that will impair the other parent’s access to the children without leave of the court or written permission of the other parent.  Many people like to define a geographic scope such as within a certain number of miles, within the state or within the five boroughs.

Process for making changes to the parenting schedule. Include how the agreement can be changed. For example, you can say that temporary changes can be made by text or email but permanent changes must be in writing and notarized.

Parenting plans are the blueprint for an effective co-parenting relationship. While it’s not a magical instrument that will make all of your parenting problems go away, it is a great source to turn to when you and your ex cannot agree.

There are many things to take into consideration when drafting a parenting plan so the best way to make sure you are not omitting any important issues is to consult with a New York divorce attorney.

For more useful tips information on child custody in New York, download our free CHILD CUSTODY CHECKLIST.

Guide to Parenting Plans

This infographic will show you the three steps to getting child support in New York.

child support in New York


Do you have more questions about child support in New York? Check out our free child support webinar!

Latest News

How To Protect Yourself When Divorcing A Narcissist

In almost every high conflict divorce case either one or both parties are accused of being a narcissist. In most cases neither party is actually a narcissist and the parties are just experiencing typical divorce conflict. However, in some cases, one party is a true narcissist and special precautions need…

How To Decide Who Gets The Pet In A Divorce

As all pet owners know, pets become part of your family. Often couples treat their pets like children, and the prospect of never seeing your beloved pet again can just as bad as losing custody of a child. Research suggest that about 50% of American marriages end in divorce and…

What You Need To Know About Child Support In New York

Child Support in New York can seem confusing and complicated, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You asked your biggest questions and I answered. Check out the slideshow below for answers to the most common questions about child support in New York. Have more questions? Follow us on Facebook…

What To Do If Your Ex Takes Your Children Out Of State

A frequent question that parents have about child custody is what happens if one parent takes the children out of state and never returns. The outcome depends on if there is a custody order or agreement in effect. If there is not, you can still get your children back but…

The Ultimate Guide To Protecting Your Business From Divorce

No one wants to think about divorce, but with almost 50 percent of all first marriages and close to 70% of subsequent marriages in the U.S. ending in divorce, the savvy business owner needs to think about protecting this major asset.   If you worked hard to build your business…

Why There Is No Accountability For How Child Support Is Spent

The number one question I receive about child support is why the child support recipient does not have to account for spending. How Child Support Is Calculated In New York Child support in New York is calculated pursuant to the Child Support Standards Act (“CSSA”) (Domestic Relations Law §240(1-b) and…

Why Work With Joleena Louis Law