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Financial difficulties often go hand in hand with divorce. But, resolving a mortgage default after a divorce can be complicated. Nassau Suffolk Law Services’ Foreclosure Prevention Unit, including attorneys Vivian Storm and Heather Graham and paralegal Luz Cartagena-Collado, recently obtained a loan modification for a client who had been struggling to resolve her mortgage default for nearly 14 years because of complications related to her divorce.

When JO filed for divorce, her ex-husband responded by taking out a substantial new mortgage loan on the family home in violation of a court order. He quickly dissipated the proceeds of the loan and defaulted on payments. JO ultimately was awarded the title to the home in her divorce settlement, and her husband was ordered to bring the loan current. 

It should have been a happy ending, but shortly thereafter JO was injured at work and missed several mortgage payments. When JO got back to work, she approached the lender to try to bring the loan current. Because JO was not the original borrower on the mortgage loan, however, the servicer refused to speak with her. 

A federal law called Garn St. Germain (12 U.S. Code § 1701j-3(d)(7)) and implementing regulations (Regulation X (12 CFR § 1024.38)) address situations like this. They require mortgage servicers to allow family members who acquire property through a divorce, or the death of the original borrower to be treated as “successors in interest.” Nonetheless, divorced spouses, widows, and widowers routinely face roadblocks when they attempt to resolve problems with the loans on their homes. JO’s servicer would not accept payments from her without a modification to bring the loan current. And they would not allow her to modify the loan without the participation of her ex-husband. 

The servicer commenced and then failed to prosecute a foreclosure proceeding. Over the next several years through a succession of different servicers, JO repeatedly applied for loan modifications and attempted to resolve her default. Sometimes she was even granted a modification only to have it withdrawn when she was unable to obtain the signature of her estranged ex-husband. As the years passed, the arrears grew to make an affordable modification more and more difficult to achieve.

Eventually, a servicer commenced a new foreclosure proceeding. JO contacted NSLS’ Foreclosure Prevention Unit seeking help opposing a Motion for Judgment of Foreclosure and Sale. NSLS discovered that JO was never properly served with the Summons and Complaint. The Foreclosure Prevention Unit brought a Motion to Dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction. This motion was eventually resolved through a stipulation allowing JO to submit a late answer. Discovery proceeded and the servicer brought a motion for summary judgment in the midst of the pandemic. After the Foreclosure Prevention Unit opposed that motion, the servicer finally agreed to grant JO an affordable modification without requiring her ex-husband’s participation. 

15 years after her divorce, JO finally has full control of her own home.  


The Driver’s License Suspension Reform Act (DLSRA) which went into full effect in June 2021 will make it easier for New Yorkers to keep their driver’s licenses if they cannot pay traffic fines. Before the DLSRA was passed, a driver's license could be suspended if the driver could not pay a traffic fine or fee upfront and in full. Because of this, many New Yorkers who could not afford to pay these fines in a single payment had their licenses suspended. This made it harder to find a new job or get to work.

The new law:

  • Prohibits driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay traffic fines and fees.
  • Reinstates licenses that were previously suspended for failure to pay traffic fines and fees.
  • Allows drivers to enter into installment payment plans for all traffic fines, fees, and surcharges.
  • Allows drivers to have their license reinstated if it was suspended for failure to pay a fine or appear in traffic court if they enter into a payment plan and/or appear in traffic court.

Under the DLSRA, your license can be suspended for failing to appear in traffic court, failing to answer a traffic summons, or failing to pay a driver's responsibility assessment. The DMV will also still suspend licenses based on dangerous driving. Drivers who have their licenses reinstated but have unpaid traffic fines also must still pay those fines. But, the DLSRA makes payment plans for as little as $25 per month available.

This FAQ from the Fines and Fees Justice Center has more detailed information about the DLSRA and how to enter an installment payment plan for unpaid traffic fines.


If you owe money to New York state including medical debt to a state hospital or student debt to a state college, you may be eligible for debt relief from the New York Attorney General. Available help includes:

  • Stopping interest charges and collection fees
  • Protecting New York State tax refunds
  • Stopping judgments from being enforced
  • Changing payment plans, and
  • Permanently reducing the amount due.

To qualify, you must have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and owe money to New York State that has been referred to the Attorney General’s office for collection.

You can apply for this temporary relief on the NY Attorney General's website.

This temporary debt relief only applies to debt owed to New York State. You can refer to our Personal Finance & Employment FAQ or contact Nassau Suffolk Law Services if you have questions about managing your debt.


New Yorkers with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) may be eligible for New York safety net benefits in the form of direct cash payments. Under Karamalla v. Devine, a 2018 class-action case, New Yorkers with TPS who were denied public assistance on the basis of their immigration status between June 17, 2012, and October 14, 2016, may also be eligible for retroactive benefits.

Potential members of this class action suit should have received a notice in August 2019 or May 2021 that they may be eligible for retroactive benefits. If you work with someone you believe was eligible, but did not receive a notice they can still apply to their county Department of Social Services for retroactive benefits. To be eligible for retroactive safety net benefits under Karamalla, a person must:

  • Live in New York State and have TPS;
  • Be currently receiving cash assistance payments; and
  • Have applied for and were denied cash assistance payments between June 17, 2012, and October 14, 2016, because of their immigration status.

If you are an advocate with a client who may meet these eligibility criteria, you can contact the Empire Justice Center with any questions at 518-935-2695 or


Law Services has been growing to better address the needs of Long Islanders emerging from the pandemic. Other long-time Law Services staff have moved into new positions.

We Recently Welcomed:

  • Kelsey Benavides, Social Worker
  • Carol Corey, Assistant Bookkeeper
  • Patty Clausen Assistant Bookkeeper
  • William Dodd, Paralegal in our Disability Advocacy Project (DAP) Unit, serving people who were denied SSD or SSI  
  • Irma Gonzales, Deputy Director of Finance
  • Danielle Leake, Law Graduate in our EDRP (Education Disability Rights Project) unit, serving students and people with developmental disabilities
  • Michelle Moreno, Islandia Receptionist 
  • Jaime Parker, Staff Attorney, Coordinator for the Community Legal Help Project, offering limited legal services at the Brentwood and Selden Public Libraries
  • Eeshani Patel, Paralegal in our Senior Citizen Law Project, serving residents of Nassau County over age 60
  • Kelsey Rios, Islandia Receptionist
  • Michael Walch, Islandia Receptionist

Congratulations on New Roles:

  • Sharon Campo, Supervising Attorney for Volunteers and Community Projects
  • Donna Famiglietti, Executive Assistant
  • Kayla Schunk, Staff Attorney in our Suffolk County Domestic Violence Unit
  • Chanelle Slater, Paralegal in the Disability and Health-Related Units
  • Vivian Storm, Staff Attorney in our Nassau Civil Unit, serving tenants facing housing problems

Programs for

General Audience

Homeowners Rights During The Pandemic

Presented by NSLS Foreclosure Prevention Project in Partnership with the Copiague Memorial Public Library

Many homeowners are struggling to pay their housing expenses because of the pandemic. Come learn about homeowners' rights and options from Nassau Suffolk Law Services' Foreclosure Unit.

Topics discussed will include options for working with your lender and the foreclosure process, including:

  • Forbearance; 
  • Repayment plans;
  • Loan modifications;
  • The foreclosure process;
  • Homeowner assistance programs.

Thursday, September 9, 6:00 pm



Legal Support Center for Advocates Presentation

Preparing for the End of the Moratorium

Presented by NSLS Senior Staff Attorney Marissa Luchs Kindler

Since the beginning of the pandemic, New Yorkers facing financial hardship have largely been shielded from eviction. The New York State Covid-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act moratorium is scheduled to end on August 31, 2021. This presentation will prepare advocates to work with clients facing eviction, including an explanation of new legal protections created during the pandemic and available sources of assistance.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021, 1:00 pm


Calling all Volunteers

Compassionate attorneys and other volunteers are needed to assist people with limited resources who are facing legal challenges on their own.

For more information about becoming a Pro Bono Attorney or NSLS Volunteer, please contact:

  • Carolyn McQuade in Suffolk County: (631) 232-2400, ext. 3325,
  • Susan Biller in Nassau County: (516) 292-8100, ext. 3136,

To help people facing eviction, please contact:

  • Michele Fischetti in Suffolk County: (631) 232-2400, ext. 3362,
  • Roberta Scoll in Nassau County: (516) 292-8100, ext. 3115,
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