Family Law/General Law
Greater New York Area
Matthew Kesten began his career over 32 years ago. He originally fell into the divorce field by chance when he was a new lawyer assigned by his former firm to handle a matrimonial case. In 1986 he joined a new firm and immediately began handling more and more matrimonial and family law cases. He quickly became the firm expert and partner in charge of matrimonial matters, and continued on that path. Matt eventually went on to become a partner in that firm and just recently moved to his current firm-Schwartz Sladkus Reich Greenberg Atlas, LLP as a Partner.
What you can expect in your initial meeting:
➮ 1 hour at no charge
➮ Information about New York law as it relates to divorce, spousal maintenance (known to most of us as “alimony”), custody and child support (if there are children involved), division of marital assets (known as “equitable distribution”) and attorneys’ fees.
➮ Options of how to approach your divorce:
➮ Primarily handling the matter on your own with your spouse
➮ Pursuing the matter with the help of attorneys
➮ Attempting to resolve the matter via mediation or a collaborative process (which still require attorneys to finalize and consult)
➮ By way of litigation (which Matt tries to avoid and considers a last resort when all else has failed).
Matt’s clients run the gamut of situations. Many come to him before they begin the divorce process, looking for information about the process or because they have decided to separate from their spouses. Some clients come to him after having initiated the divorce process because they are unhappy with their current representation (usually because their lawyers are not communicating with them, or are not keeping them apprised about what is happening in their cases, or are not properly preparing them). Still others seek out and consult with Matt because they are unhappy with the result of their matrimonial situation and want to review it with him to determine if there are any options (such as an appeal) to alter that result.
In preparation for a meeting with Matt, he suggests getting your hands on or at least familiarizing yourself with as much financial information as possible, such as tax returns, bank statements, credit card statements, etc. Alimony and child support awards are based on your household income, so this information is critical. If you suspect that your spouse is mishandling or misusing marital property or monies, finding a paper trail is necessary to undoing or being credited for your spouse’s improper activities.
When asked how clients can reduce the pain of divorce, Matt advices that the best way to do so is to try to keep the situation as amicable and efficient as possible, by keeping the lawyers out of the process and trying to work out as much as possible on your own before turning to your attorneys. If you can do that, your lawyers essentially become scriveners in drafting an appropriate “separation” or “settlement” agreement, which is the basis of you ultimately getting divorced. Once you involve lawyers in the negotiations, it becomes a much more expensive process.
While Matt is an experienced and well regarding litigator, he routinely suggests trying to avoid or minimize litigation, as it is an expensive, time consuming and ultimately very unsatisfying process. This is particularly true because Matt believes that 80-85% of cases will typically settle at some point anyway, so why not before you and your spouse are embroiled in that expensive and time consuming process, which requires periodic court appearances that generally last several hours just to have a ten or fifteen minute conference with a Judge. Litigation also requires a lot of “lawyer time” in terms of gathering, reviewing and drafting paperwork for filing motions and to exchange with your spouse’s attorney. You can expect cases in New York that cannot be resolved to last two years or more.
Despite the fact that divorce can be very challenging, sad and acrimonious, Matt has great compassion for his clients and loves his work. He knows he’s done a great job when he sees his client’s face after signing a fair settlement agreement or after a trial that resulting in a favorable decision for his client.
Matt is divorced and has two children that he very successfully co-parents with his ex-wife, who he still considers his best friend. He reinforces the fact that all divorcing couples should strive for the relationship he has with his ex-wife for the sake of the children. Don’t make your kids suffer just because the marriage didn’t work out.