By: Bennett Marcus
CHEMTOB, MOSS, & FORMAN
At Nancy Chemtob’s office, they don’t refer to their clients by name, ever. Every client has a nickname that the entire staff uses, and that’s not just for high profile cases like, Michael Douglas’s ex-wife Diandra Douglas, Tory Burch or Star Jones, whose divorces Chemtob handled. Her firm, Chemtob, Moss & Forman, is one of the top matrimonial and family law firms in New York, and confidentiality is paramount. “To me confidentiality is the absolute most important thing,” says Chemtob. “It’s probably the most important part of my business.” Although her clients have included Bobby Flay’s ex-wife Stephanie March, Tiki Barber’s wife, and Matt Lauer’s wife Annette Lauer, this rule extends to every case. “I have a client who’s a hedge fund owner, we call him the tall man,” she says. For very confidential matters, like high profile prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, which are not subject to public filings, the files are kept under lock and key, and only two of the firm’s partners have access.
GROUND BREAKING CUSTODY CASE
A landmark New York Court of Appeals decision created an important new law recognizing the custody rights of adults who are not biological or adoptive parents of a child but who should, based on their involvement in the child’s life, be recognized as a parent nonetheless. This decision has far-reaching implications for modern familial arrangements in NY, including LGBT couples that lacked legal marriage rights in NY when a child entered their relationship. Within days of this decision, Nancy Chemtob of Chemtob, Moss & Forman brought an action in Manhattan Supreme Court using this groundbreaking law to protect a client whose ex-partner was attempting to move abroad with the child they had been raising together. Ms. Chemtob successfully used the law to temporarily enjoin the counterparty from leaving the country with the child, and the matter is now scheduled for a trial, which will set an historic precedent in establishing the meaning of this law moving forward.
COMPLEX CUSTODY CASES
Chemtob’s clients often call her late at night and on weekends, all the time, but it’s part of the job. “I have a client who called me at one in the morning, and three in the morning, and she was really in a bad situation. I wasn’t happy at all, but I just dealt with it,” says Chemtob. When there are issues with children, she explains, most of the time those fall on weekends or holidays. “Believe it or not we’re incredibly busy coming up to Thanksgiving or Christmas vacation.” Some cases that Chemtob has handled have been highly complex and significant in the legal world. In Assini vs. Assini, she successfully got a court to grant a father custody of his son without a hearing, thus changing the law. The mother had custody of the child, and there was a domestic incident via the stepfather, so Chemtob made an emergency application to transfer custody to the father. The law in New York at that time, 2004, required a trial or hearing for custody changes. “Ever since then the law has been if you go to court and you have compelling reasons to transfer custody, you can do so on an emergency basis,” she explains.
FIRST SAME SEX DIVORCE
Another groundbreaking case she handled was New York State’s first ever same-sex divorce, for a couple who married in Massachusetts but lived in New York – before same-sex marriage was recognized here. “New York State didn’t recognize same sex divorce, and they couldn’t go to Massachusetts because they weren’t residents,” she says. “I had to do all the research and work to determine whether or not New York State should recognize out-of-state divorce, and the judge ruled that they could. And that was the first same sex divorce in the state.” (New York State legalized same sex marriage in 2011.)
A FAMILY OF LAWYERS
Everyone in Chemtob’s family is a lawyer, so she followed that path, hoping to be a real estate attorney. When she graduated law school in 1990, the real estate market had crashed, so there was a brief stint doing employment law, which she did not enjoy. But she kept hearing more about divorce and matrimonial law, and found it intriguing. “It’s an incredibly competitive area of law and there are very few firms that specialize in it and do it well.” She opened her own office, and today the firm has twelve attorneys and a support staff of 25.
MT. SINAI HOSPITAL’S CHILD LIFE PROGRAM
Outside of work, Chemtob loves food and travel, and is active in many charitable institutions, including Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Child Life Program, which helps women whose newborns are dealing with illness in the neonatal unit. That program is close to her heart because her own three children had serious conditions as newborns. “They’re fine now, but you don’t know they’re fine when they’re there,” she says.
cmftlaw.com | 212-317-1717