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Brooklyn Bar Association offers free advice for those looking to get divorced

July 9, 2019 Rob Abruzzese

The Brooklyn Bar Association Foundation Law Committee hosted a “Basics of Uncontested Divorces: Know Your Rights” event at the Bar Association in June. The event was free, open to the public and meant to help Brooklynites looking to represent themselves in an uncontested split from their spouse.

“Our programs include landlord tenant programs, consumer debt and bankruptcy, elder law, what to do if you’re arrested,” said Fern Finkel, co-chair of the BBA Foundation Law Committee. “They’re all in the format of know-your-rights. If there is any program in particular that people and the community are interested in, we try to accommodate that.

“All of our programs are free, we have attorneys here, we have non-attorneys who are in related fields, and everyone is invited,” Finkel said. “You can bring your family and friends. We do this just to give something back to the community.”

Fern Finkel.
Eagle file photos by Rob Abruzzese

The event, which was co-sponsored by the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, was hosted by Finkel, and fellow Foundation Law Committee Co-Chair Hemalee Patel, a special referee in Staten Island who served as the moderator. The other speaker was Stephen Rossini, a special referee in the Kings County Supreme Court, Matrimonial Part.

None of the information provided at the meeting was personal legal advice, and there is no attorney-client privilege extended. But the presenters were able to go through instructions on how to file for an uncontested divorce, including filling out all the paperwork, including child support agreements when there are children involved.

“We’re honored and thrilled to have Stephen A. Rossini, who is a special referee here in Kings County Supreme,” Patel said. “He is a New York Law School graduate in 2005, and was in private practice until 2006 when he became law secretary to then-Surrogate Hon. Frank Seddio.

Hemalee Patel.

“In 2008 he joined the Supreme Court Kings County Law Department. There he has worked diligently. He does a bit of everything. He’s known as ‘The Fixer.’ He covers parts, he does contested divorces, he conferences cases and this is his specialty. By his estimation he has done about 6,500 uncontested divorces.”

Both Patel and Finkel remarked at the tremendous amount of paperwork, including all necessary forms, Rossini provided. The forms, which are available online, can also be obtained at the Kings County Supreme Court’s Office for the Self Represented, located in room 122c at 360 Adams Street.

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Rossini explained how to fill out the paperwork and exactly which forms need to be filled out. He said the biggest thing to consider is if there are children involved or not because then more documents need to be filled out, including child-support agreements.

“The package like this, if you follow the instructions, you’ll have a perfect set of papers ready to be submitted to the court,” Rossini said.

He pointed out that because child support is the right of the child, and neither of the litigants, a child support agreement is required. However, he said that the court doesn’t enforce the agreement unless one of the parties complains so that many divorcing couples getting an uncontested divorce can come to a side agreement that works for them that doesn’t necessarily rely on the state’s guidelines.

“When I say child support must be awarded, it must,” he said. “But in the real world sometimes the husband and wife come to an arrangement where the children are covered, they’re provided for and they get along.

“Whatever you guys do, the papers must reflect the proper child support,” Rossini continued. “We want people to be able to live together. If you have children, you need to deal with each other. You will never be able to get rid of each other, so we want you to come to an agreement that allows you to deal with each other.”

The Foundation Law Committee hosts regular know-your-rights events that are free and open to the public. At this time, no immediate events are planned, but Finkel said that the committee will begin hosting more events in September.

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