New York, as a political entity, has long held more traditional views on what constitutes a “family” than, perhaps, the majority of individual New Yorkers have. New York only recently adopted “no-fault divorce,” preferring for decades that couples who wished to divorce jump through hoops to fit their marital discord into one of several restrictive boxes, such as adultery or abuse.
The tide, however, is starting to turn, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Housing Court. In a still somewhat surprising move, in the case Lopez v. Reyes, Bronx Housing Court Judge Brenda Spears dismissed a building superintendent’s petition to evict his longterm live-in girlfriend from his apartment on the basis that they were not married, and did not have any children together. According to Judge Spears’s decision, which cited the earlier decision Braschi v. Stahl, “a narrow definition of of ‘family,’ relating only to the nuclear family with children is inapplicable to modern society.” New York law has long recognized that marriage is, first and foremost, an “economic partnership,” and Judge Spears recognized that the couple had lived together, in a marital-like economic partnership, for more than 25 years. Accordingly, Judge Spears ruled that only the Family Court or Supreme Court had jurisdiction to determine issues surrounding the dissolution of their marital-type relationship.
It will be interesting to see where this leads. The narrow definition of family has always played a large role in succession rights for the city’s coveted rent-control apartments. Could this judicial trend lead to a relaxing of the restrictions for rent-control apartments? My prediction: not without a huge fight.
As the flood waters start to recede here in NYC, it’s useful to think about all of the different ways the storm may have had legal ramifications for you and your family. One of the major considerations is housing: if your home was damaged, or if you are without required services for an extended period of time, you may have a claim against your landlord, utility provider or insurance company. Likewise, if you had possessions damaged during the storm, you may need to make an insurance claim to protect or replace your interest. In natural disasters such as this, often insurance companies, landlords and other responsible parties resist paying what you may be entitled to under your lease, policy or other agreement, because of the sheer number and value of claims.
Other areas of concern are in the employment and educational spheres. Are you being penalized for your inability to work during the extended power outages and transportation suspensions? Are you unable to work due to child care obligations? Are you receiving less of an education than you bargained for because of school closures or delays, or the cancelation of important programs you were counting on?
There are many ways that individuals and businesses can be impacted by the storm. Most of us would be smart to take stock of our homes, jobs and property to see where we might need to fight a little harder to get what we’re entitled to receive. Also, for those who braved the storm without basic estate documents, including guardianship designations, living wills, power of attorney forms and sufficient life insurance planning, now would be a good time to think about how you would need your property and rights to be allocated should, next time, the truly unthinkable happen.
If you are having any issues getting back on your feet, and feel you could benefit from a legal advocate in your corner, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are experienced in dealing with landlords, insurance companies and creditors, and we can offer great advice to help you be prepared for any future disasters.