Justice Sunshine gives Matrimonial Law update at Bay Ridge Lawyers meeting

May 1, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The Bay Ridge Lawyers Association (BRLA) held its April membership meeting on Wednesday at Mama Rao’s in Dyker Heights featuring Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine.

The presentation, “Matrimonial Law: From a Statewide Perspective,” covered a range of topics, including the harmonization of Supreme Court Rules and Matrimonial Rules, Joint Divorce Pilot Programs, and his essay on COVID-19 and future custody determinations.

Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine, the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Matrimonial Cases. Eagle photo by Robert Abruzzese.

Justice Sunshine also informed attendees about the annual report of the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee, the limited pilot program for affidavits in lieu of custody on consent, common mistakes when filing uncontested divorce forms, and the amended “Kyra’s Law” bill.

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The New York State Unified Court System’s Uncontested Joint Divorce Pilot Project was implemented in five counties in the State last year including Kings, Queens, Broome, Ontario, and Westchester counties. It aims to simplify the divorce process for litigants.

From left: Michael Benjamin, Immediate Past President William Gillen, Lola Waterman, Steven Chiaino, and President Dominic Famulari. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.

The project allows couples to jointly sign an affidavit meeting all of New York’s legal requirements, fill out fewer individual forms, sign and notarize papers only once, and allege only a breakdown in the relationship. The judge explained the new forms that are available on the court’s website, and discussed how they further streamlined the process for couples with or without children.

When discussing the virtual evidence courtroom (VEC), Justice Sunshine explained how the various parties that come before him were all dealing with a breakdown in decorum during virtual hearings. As a result, early in the pandemic, the judge wrote an essay he had published in the New York Law Journal that discussed the impact of COVID-19 on future custody determinations. He explained that in it he emphasized that parental behavior during the pandemic could affect judicial decisions in the future, urging parents to cooperate for the well-being of their children.

Clockwise from left: Marissa Arribito, Betsey Jean-Jacques, Paula Bondad, Hon. Janet McFarlane, and Hon. Brian Gotlieb. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.

Justice Sunshine mentioned the Annual Report of the Matrimonial Practice Advisory and Rules Committee, highlighting their ongoing efforts to improve the divorce process in New York State. These efforts include collaboration with the Office of the Statewide Judge for Matrimonial Cases, simplification of the Uncontested Divorce process, and other ongoing initiatives.

Hon. Jeffrey Sunshine serves as the Statewide Coordinating Judge for Matrimonial Cases since June 1, 2018. He graduated summa cum laude from Brooklyn College in 1977 and earned his Juris Doctor from Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in 1980.

From left: William Gillen, Michael Todd Mueller, Hon. Brian Gotlieb, Gianna Famulari, Dominic Famulari, and Santorini Rivera. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.

His judicial career includes serving as a Kings County Family Court Judge (1998-2001), Acting Justice of the Richmond County Supreme Court (2001-2003), and Kings County Supreme Court Acting Supreme Court Justice (2003-2010). He was elected as a Supreme Court Justice in 2011 and continues to serve in this role.

In his role as Coordinating Judge, he regularly meets with various stakeholders to discuss matrimonial law, rules, procedures, and court operations.

From left: William Gillen, Charles Machado, Alexis Riley, Betsey Jean-Jacques, Shannon Calabrese, Robert Abruzzese, and Dominic Famulari. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.

Justice Sunshine has been instrumental in the creation of the virtual evidence courtroom and the uncontested joint divorce pilot project in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He led the effort to harmonize Supreme and County Court rules with Matrimonial Rules, providing greater flexibility for judges and attorneys.

Additionally, he has been involved in recommending protocols for matrimonial and family court mediation, and facilitated the first-ever Matrimonial Practice Diversity Summit. Justice Sunshine’s extensive career includes various positions within the legal community, recognition for his contributions, and numerous published works.

From left: Charles Boulbol, Tommy Tafuri, and Ray Ferrier. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.
From left: Gary Hanna, James Villani, Brian Chin, Yolanda Guadagnoli, and Kaitlyn Logan. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.
Hon. Nancy Sunshine, County Clerk, Clerk of Supreme Court and Commissioner of Jurors, Bud Ahern, and Dominic Famulari. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.


Ryan Mahoney, the newly appointed Corresponding Secretary for the Bay Ridge Lawyers Association. Eagle photo by Mario Belluomo.

The meeting itself was the annual membership meeting where the BRLA welcomed its newest members with certificates. It was also the BRLA’s opportunity to announce the results of its annual elections and long-time member Ryan Mahoney was named the newest officer.

Adam Kalish is the president-elect, he will be installed during a ceremony in September. Mario Romano becomes the vice president, Yolanda Guadagnoli will be recording secretary, Sarah Moore the treasurer, and Ryan Mahoney is added as an officer as the next corresponding secretary.

Mahoney currently serves as a Senior Trial Attorney at Joseph & Norinsberg LLC. Before joining this firm, he held associate positions at Harris Beach PLLC, Barclay Damon LLP, and HoganWillig PLLC. From 2015 to 2020, Mahoney worked at the New York City Law Department.

He is an alumnus of Niagara University and the University at Buffalo School of Law. During his time at law school, he held the position of Executive Publications Editor, was an Associate Member of the Buffalo Human Rights Law Review, and served on the Buffalo Moot Court Board.

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