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Brooklyn Bar Association CLE covers ground where matrimonial and bankruptcy law meet

May 16, 2018 By Rob Abruzzese, Legal Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Bar Association held a continuing legal education seminar for attorneys during which they discussed how matrimonial actions are affected by bankruptcy filings. Pictured from left: Hon. Elizabeth S. Stong, David J. Doyaga, Sr., Hon. Esther M. Morgenstern and Robert A. Ugelow. Eagle photo by Rob Abruzzese

Bankruptcy actions and divorce can have a big effect on each other so the Brooklyn Bar Association hosted a panel to discuss what happens when the two areas of the law come together during a continuing legal education seminar in Brooklyn Heights on Tuesday.

Hon. Esther M. Morgenstern and Robert A. Ugelow, co-chairs of the association’s Family Court Committee, hosted Judge Elizabeth S. Stong, from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Downtown Brooklyn, and attorney David J. Doyaga for the two-hour discussion.

“When we were considering topics, we decided on this one because we really felt like that it was something that the Family Law committee could benefit from,” Morgenstern said.

“I’m in the Integrated Domestic Violence Court where I do all criminal domestic violence arrests in Brooklyn, and I’m also litigating divorce and custody visitation and other family court petitions,” Morgenstern continued. “When one of the attorneys mentions that they’re going to file bankruptcy, we look at each other like, ‘What does that mean for us? Are they going to stop paying child support, are they going to stop paying other things?’”

Stong and Doyaga spent the two hours explaining various concepts of each area of the law and what happens if a petition is pending in family court and a divorce action is pending in the supreme court.

During the discussion, Stong opened by pointing out that bankruptcy can be very helpful for people that it is a guaranteed right in the constitution.

“This isn’t some newfangled thing that we figured out when people started spending too much on their credit cards,” Stong said. “It is fundamentally a part of who we are as a country.”

Doyaga’s opening was a little more dramatic.

“Bankruptcy law is evil,” said Doyaga, who has practiced bankruptcy law for over three decades. “The witches and warlocks that practice it are also evil. Because it’s disruptive. That’s its nature. All the rules you learn your entire life as a lawyer, the fundamental rules that go on — everything is screwed up by bankruptcy. What you guys are doing all day to try to make things right, I’m up all night thinking of ways to screw it up. That’s what bankruptcy lawyers do. It’s disruptive.”

Doyaga and Stong discussed Musso v. Ostashko, where Doyaga represented the wife in a divorce trial. The wife won the house in the divorce proceedings, but immediately after she won, the husband filed for bankruptcy. It was a complicated case, but ultimately the husband’s move was successful in keeping the wife from getting the house.

The case is a perfect example, Doyaga explained, how bankruptcy is disruptive.

The Brooklyn Bar Association’s next seminar is titled “The Liens Lowdown: Update on Medicare, Medicaid and ERISA Liens” and will feature attorney Paul K. Isaac Sr. It will take place at the Bar Association on Thursday, May 24 at 6 p.m.

On Wednesday, May 30, there will be another event title “Multi-State Guardianships: Dos and Don’ts of Article 81 Guardianship Proceedings,” with a panel that will include Ira Salzman, Ira Miller, Julie Stoil-Fernandez and Anthony J. Lamberti.