Listening = Custom Plan

Every case is unique, including yours. We listen to your story, your needs, and design a plan to target those needs and goals. We also prepare you for the procedural obstacle course. Decades of experience and an ability to listen makes this a unique legal experience.


Why Us

Ms. Passonneau’s low keyed, but extremely professional and experienced approach will make you feel comfortable that your matter is being handled as it should be. Yes, she is tough. Yes, she listens. With these skills she builds her strategy for your case. In this manner even the most challenging and difficult client problems can be resolved in the most direct and efficient manner possible.


Network of Professionals = Right Solutions

The firm has an extensive network of connections to the other professionals which sometimes need to be engaged in matrimonial matters. This includes real estate appraisers, business valuation experts, forensic accountants, occupational experts, forensic psychologists, family oriented social workers, therapists, parenting coordinators, and private investigators.



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Polly N. Passonneau

Polly N. Passonneau joined Pavia & Harcourt, LLP. in 2019. Her specialty for approximately the past twenty years is Matrimonial Law, but she has over thirty (30) years of experience in a combination of Matrimonial or Family Law, Commercial Litigation & Criminal Defense. She additionally engages other counsel to assist in the efficient processing of your case, from a newly admitted attorney to attorneys with as much as eight to ten years of experience.

She has had experience in all of the courts that are contained in New York City, as well as Nassau, Suffolk & Rockland Counties. In connection with her other litigation, she has made numerous appearances in the Federal District Courts of the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York, and has argued appeals both in the State Appellate Divisions and in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Her referrals come from colleagues, adversaries, and clients alike. Thus she is universally recognized as efficient and effective, even when she is on the opposite side of the case.
Whether yours is the largest or the smallest case in the office, she will give you the attention you need.

Education: Washington University in St. Louis, A.B. cum laude 1978 (disqualified from further honors owing to senior year abroad); L’Université de Strasbourg, France, Diplôme 2ème 1978; University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, M.A. Comparative Literature, Juris Doctor.

Admitted: 1985, Massachusetts;1986, New York; 1987, United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and United States court of Appeals, Second Cirtuit; 1999, United States Supreme Court.

Member: New York County Lawyers Matrimonial Committee, New York State Bar Association Matrimonial Committee.

Biography: Chairperson, Equal Justice Foundation, 1983-1984; Assistant District Attorney, Kings County District Attorney’s Office 1984 – 1988; Associate: Marks, Murase & White; Moore, Berson, Eisenberg, Lifflander & Mewhinney; Established Polly N. Passonneau, P.C. circa 1991.

Recognition & Client Reviews

Martindale Hubbell

Polly N. Passonneau, P.C. received the AV Peer R eview Rating™ Polly N. Passonneau, Esq. from LexisNexis® Martindale-Hubbell® in 2000, and has maintained that standard since that time.

This is the Legal Profession’s Most Prestigious Rating Service.

The “AV” rating means that she is deemed to have very high professional ethics and preeminent Legal ability. Only lawyers with the highest ethical standards and professional ability receive a Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating.

The Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings evaluates lawyers in the United States and Canada based on the anonymous opinions of members of the Bar and the Judiciary, including both those who are rated and those who are not. The first review to establish a lawyer’s rating usually occurs three years after his or her first admission to the Bar.

LexisNexis Martindale-Hubbell conducts secure online Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings surveys of lawyers across multiple jurisdictions and geographic locations, in similar areas of practice as the lawyer being rated. Reviewers are instructed to assess their colleagues’ general ethical standards and legal ability in a specific area of practice.

“Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings were created in 1887 as an objective tool that would attest to a lawyer’s ability and professional ethics, based on the confidential opinions of other lawyers and judges who have worked with the lawyers they are evaluating,” said Mike Walsh, President and CEO, U.S. Legal Markets at LexisNexis. “The Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings have remained the most prestigious and widely respected lawyer rating system in the world for over a hundred years.”

*About LexisNexis
LexisNexis® (www.lexisnexis.com) is a leader in comprehensive and authoritative legal, news and business information and tailored applications. A member of Reed Elsevier Group plc [NYSE: ENL; NYSE: RUK] (www.reedelsevier.com), the company does business in 100 countries with 13,000 employees worldwide. In addition to its flagship Web-based Lexis® and Nexis® research services, the company includes some of the world’s most respected legal publishers such as Martindale-Hubbell, Matthew Bender, Butterworths, JurisClasseur, Abeledo-Perrot and Orac.
In the United States, LexisNexis offers its customers total practice solutions comprised of an extensive range of online and print legal, regulatory, news and business information products, tools, customized Web applications and critical filing services that help legal professionals achieve excellence in the business and practice of law.


Client Testimonials

“She saved my life.” -B.Z.


“Ms. Passonneau’s attention to detail both made me feel confident and secure.”


“Ms. Passonneau works hard to make it look easy.”


“I needed to find an attorney to help facilitate my divorce and was not sure where to turn. A friend suggested that I contact the New York Bar Association, they recommended Polly Passonneau, and after our first meeting I knew that her professionalism and manner would make a difficult situation a lot easier.” Michelle Giuliano.


“Legal proceedings are inherently anxiety-ridden and stressful. [Ms. Passonneau’s] professional approach, personal counseling and comforting assurances provided the necessary ingredients for weathering the legal maelstrom ahead.”


“I wanted a lawyer who would keep me advised in a way that I could understand what was happening in my case, and keep it under control, but still let me have the divorce my way.”


“In the combative world of suit and counter – suit, Polly’s no nonsense approach and superior communication skills can clear the table, bringing resolution to your legal conflict.”


“Really smart people can explain complicated things so anyone can understand; this is one of Ms. Passonneau’s great talents.” – C.L.


Contact and Location

Office Hours

Monday – Friday
09:00 AM – 06:00 PM
Phone: 212-508 – 2329

Polly N. Passonneau, Esq
Pavia & Harcourt, LLP.

230 Park Avenue, 24th Floor
New York, New York 10169
(212)508 – 2329


Practice Areas

All Aspects of Family Law

Prenuptial Agreements

Prenuptial Agreements

Working with your counsel and your fiancé(e) on a prenuptial agreement may be one of the most rewarding steps to take in building a solid foundation for your marriage. During this process, you will discuss fundamental values and goals in a productive and thoughtful manner. Marriage is a partnership, which includes economics. A prenuptial agreement puts you, not the legislature, in control of those economics.


You will learn how marriage affects your rights to earnings and property acquired by either you or your spouse during the marriage. You will then have the opportunity to decide whether you want this law to apply to you and your spouse, or if the two of you would prefer to make your own rules together. In this process you design your own economic partnership.



The primary two differences between Legal Separation and Divorce is that:
1) only if you are divorced may you remarry; and
2) you can be legally separated, but not divorced, and remain on your spouse’ health insurance plan;
3) married but legally separated spouses may still have the right of election against the other spouses estate (consult with trusts & estates counsel on this issue).

Divorces come in all shapes and sizes. Some are completed in a matter of months. Some take years. This all depends not just upon the issues presented by each situation, but also upon the approach of the parties.

If you are planning to divorce, you should first decide what you want to achieve in the process: set your goals.

Then find out, in consultation with an attorney, if your goals are reasonable. Finally, assess the costs and effort required to achieve your ends.

After focusing on realistic goals, work with your attorney to plan the specific steps you will take to achieve those goals, plan for contingencies, estimate how long it will take, and how much it will cost. The very simplest divorces in New York take three to six months, difficult and complex divorces take years. Planning and focus can dramatically shorten this process.

Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution

New York State is an equitable distribution state, not an equal distribution state. Our state laws also consider a marriage to be an economic partnership. The New York State Divorce process divides everything that is considered Marital Property.


Separate Property is excluded from this process. Separate property includes: All property held prior to and at the time of your marriage, property acquired by inheritance, provided you have not put such property into joint name, proceeds from personal injury claims, and gifts from third parties to one spouse alone.


Marital Property includes everything that you have acquired from the date of your marriage until you file for divorce or sign a legal separation agreement, regardless of title, including your earnings, pension contributions, and businesses developed. The portion of any such property to be distributed to the non – titled spouse varies entirely upon the equities of each unique situation.


Spousal Support

Spousal Support

New York State currently has two formulas for the calculation of spousal support. One is for the calculation of spousal support while your matter is pending, the other is for spousal support once your matter is completed. These formulas can be found at the New York State Courts website, or nycourts.gov.

These formulas are generally applied, but they are not mandatory. The parties are free to agree to a different amount, so long as such agreement complies with statutory requirements.

The duration of maintenance is also recommended by statute, and depends upon the length of the marriage.  Again, parties are free to agree to any duration they choose. A court issuing a decision, however, must list the factors it considered in determining the duration of any spousal support order.




Child Custody (Parenting Plan)

Child Custody

Legal custody: Legal Custody means the right to make major decisions on behalf of your minor child or children with respect to education, health and religion.


“Legal Custody” is not carte blanche to make financial decisions. If one parent has the right to make these decisions, it does not necessarily include the financial impact of these decisions.

“Joint Legal Custody” means the parents make decisions together. This works for parents who are largely in agreement regarding major issues.

“Primary Physical Custody” (also referred to as residential custody) means having the primary home for the child or children. The parent with primary physical custody is also entitled to child support. The custodial definitions are independent of parenting time (visitation).

If parents cannot agree regarding their custodial relationship, the court will decide this for them. To assist the court in its decision, it may appoint an attorney for the child or children and a forensic psychologist to assess all family members. The forensic psychologist will prepare a report and recommendation for the court, which can take many months. This professional shall have the right to speak not only to the parents and the children, but also to other family members for each parent, teachers, therapists, doctors, and anyone else who has regular contact with the parties or the children.

Ultimately, the best interests of the children will govern.


Parenting Time (Visitation)

New York State is moving away from using the term “Visitation” owing to the connotations this term has for the general public. Parenting schedules can be designed by the parents alone, by the parents with the help and advice of experienced counsel, or with the assistance of Parenting Coordinators. The professionals all have experience in designing plans and can present multiple possibilities to parents during this process. Parenting Coordinators, who are either lawyers or therapists specifically trained in the area of designing parenting plans and conflict resolution, can be an excellent alternative for parents who cannot come up with a parenting plan on their own.

If the parents, even with professional input, cannot agree to a plan, the court will conduct a hearing and come up with a plan for the parents after hearing from all interested parties.
Again, it is the best interests of the children which shall govern the decision.

Child Support

Child Support

Basic child support is a sum to be paid by one parent to the other for the support of the parties’ child or children, and it is calculated based upon a percentage of income. In addition to basic child support, the parents shall each be obligated to contribute to the cost of the child’s or the children’s health insurance, unreimbursed medical expenses, child care while the parents are working, and possibly educational expenses, depending upon the means of the parties.

Parties may opt out of the application of the statutory formula, agreeing to more or less child support, depending upon the means of the parties and the non – economic contributions of the parents to the child’s  or the children’s day to day lives.

Egg Donorship Contracts

Egg Donorship

This is a contract between a woman whose eggs are not viable and another woman whose eggs are viable.

The process takes several months, and involves the hyper-stimulation of the eggs of the donor. Her ovaries then produce as many as ten to fifteen eggs. These eggs are then harvested and fertilized in a lab setting. When they are viable, they are then implanted into the recipient.
Currently the success rate for this process, depending upon the facility used by the parties, is approximately 48% percent, based upon statistics from the website of the American Pregnancy Association. The success rates vary based primarily upon the age of the donor. Higher and lower success rates are published in various sources on the Internet. You should investigate fully the variables which affect the success rate with your fertility specialist.

The contract between the parties sets forth the terms of the agreement, meaning how much, if any, financial remuneration will be paid by the recipient to the donor. It may also provide for other forms of compensation. The contract requires the donor to adhere to the protocol designed by the treating facility or physician. And, finally, it provides that the donor has no parental rights to any resultant children.

Case Results – Prenuptial Agreements



Successfully negotiated prenuptial agreement sought by other spouse. Added clauses which protected non – monied party by providing defined, stepped distributions to be made to her by monied spouse depending upon length of marriage, and provided for payment of counsel fees in the event of divorce.

Client’s prior counsel unsuccessfully negotiated prenuptial agreement for eight months; after change to Ms. Passonneau, prenuptial agreement was executed within two months, and parties remain married to this day.

Case Results – Divorce



How does couple residing in New York, with pending Italian Separation proceeding speed up the process? The client, an Italian national resident of New York, was frustrated that the Italian proceedings for a legal separation commenced by his wife, also an Italian national based in New York, had been ongoing for years, and would only result in a legal separation. Because there was no divorce action pending anywhere else, as legal residents of the State of New York, they could divorce in New York State. The client followed her advice and Ms. Passonneau completed the divorce in six months. The parties were pleased with the prompt resolution.

Completed Lagging Divorce. The client came to Ms. Passonneau complaining that her divorce had been taking years. Ms. Passonneau took on the case and the parties had completed all required paperwork within two months.

Successfully argued against any award of counsel fees for wife’s trial counsel when counsel had already been awarded fees and had conducted extensive discovery, but not one bit of discovery produced was used at trial.

Case Results – Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution


Successfully argued for distribution of one half of marital estate, whereas a simple title analysis would have rendered client entitled to nothing.

Successfully established that property acquired by husband during marriage should be distributed Fifty Percent (50%) to Wife, Husband being title owner notwithstanding, and that Wife’s foreign separate property real estate was exactly that, separate property.

Located nearly 1 Million United States Dollars in hidden assets which were subject to equitable distribution, resulting in prompt settlement of case favorable to client.

Established that client’s thirteen year divorce, in which she had been represented by other counsel, resulted in inequitable result owing to fraudulent concealment of large cash flow; upon new proceeding to rescind divorce agreement, case settled with a four fold increase in client’s distribution.

Case Results – Spousal Support

Spousal Support


Obtained sufficient spousal support to permit wife to get back on her feet, despite short duration of marriage, owing both to discrepancy in spousal income and need.

Succeeded in achieving an increase in spousal maintenance on appeal from $2000 monthly to $3500 monthly.

Successfully negotiated spousal maintenance to benefit of wife, with stepped decreases over time, with tax benefits accorded to both parties.

Obtained favorable disposition for wife based upon husband’s history of high earnings and wife’s absence from work force during early years of marriage.

Case Results – Child Custody & Parenting Plans

Child Custody

Both obtained custody for client, and the right to relocate with child to any location within the contiguous United States, owing to creative solution regarding continued contacted between child and other parent.

Obtained order of standard parenting time for Father of six month old, where mother objected, but was not breast feeding and where father was just as capable as mother of caring for young child.

A client whose situation met the criteria for an award of sole custody asked the court instead to award joint custody to show the other parent just how much that parent would promote the children’s relationship with the other parent. The Court, in an unprecedented decision, awarded joint legal custody to the parties.

Case Results – Child Support

Child Support


Ms. Passonneau obtained a return of funds paid to the Department of Social Services as the result of an improperly entered default judgment against a former marine. The former marine was proven not to be the father based upon DNA tests, and funds garnished from post – military earnings were returned (No military earnings had been garnished).

Successfully argued for imputed income after successfully moving into evidence payor spouse’s handwritten ledgers documenting cash income. Court imputed income to Husband, as a result of which case settled prior to completion of trial.

Case Results – Egg Donorship Contracts

Egg Donorship


In representing recipient, successfully argued for inclusion in contract of certain restrictions on activities of donor, who was an athlete. The restrictions were aimed at permitting the donor to continue her activities while limiting the possibilities that these activities would negatively impact the likelihood of success of the process.

In representing donor, successfully argued for inclusion in contract financial provisions regarding travel and accommodation where recipient, having chosen donor in distant state, initially sought to have donor pay for her own travel and accommodations for the final stages.

Case Results – Appeals

Plyers eating screw

On Appeal, overturned lower court decision that Marital Residence was the Husband’s Separate Property, resulting in a distribution to the Client – Wife of one half the value of the residence.

On appeal, had a conviction for both aggravated harassment and contempt of court in connection with a violation of an order of protection reversed and the record of the defendant’s wrongful conviction sealed.

Successfully stayed enforcement of a change of custody order issued subsequent to pretrial work performed by other counsel. Counseled client regarding proper management of custodial issues in a manner which would appease the other parent without waiving any rights. The trial court maintained its decision after trial, but the other parent never exercised the right to effectuate change of custody owing to total change in client management of custodial issues. Client thus maintained de facto custody.

Uncommon Problems Solved



Correcting Birth Certificate. Is the wrong name on the birth certificate? Is paternity attributed to the wrong person? This can be corrected under the proper circumstances, and the original, incorrect birth certificate is sealed, and can only be unsealed by order of the court.

Backtracking through expert reports as the result of newly discovered evidence, previously unavailable publicly and concealed by one party, Ms. Passonneau in several instances has proven hidden millions and obtained excellent post – judgment results based on these findings.

The Process & FAQ’s

Practical Things to help facilitate the process and prepare yourself.




A consultation can provide an overview regarding what to expect in your particular situation, and help answer some basic questions regarding what to expect.


Engagement of counsel requires a fully executed retainer agreement outlining service and fees, and a review of a statement of client’s rights, as well as client responsibilities.

Getting Started

Plyers eating screw

Client Questionnaire: Information needed to complete paperwork, focus issues

Ms. Passonneau has a form called “Questionnaire for New Clients” which she will ask you to complete; the information provided allows the office to complete all paperwork necessary to complete the divorce.

Statement of Net Worth:Needed in all cases that proceed to court. Also needed in most other cases to provide overview of financial issues.

This is a document, prescribed by statute, which, once completed, provides a picture of the parties income, expenses, assets, and liabilities. The office can provide this to you in either in a word processing or spreadsheet format.


The amount of child support is dependent upon the income of the parties and the number of children. In New York State, child support is obligatory until age 21. Go to nycourts.gov and search “Calculate child support” to locate tools for the calculation of child support.

Go to the same website and search “Calculate Spousal Support” to locate tools for the calculation of spousal support.


“Alimony Recapture” Calculator: The IRS in certain instances will deem support paid to have been property distribution. This shows tax impact, and shows how it can be avoided.



Designed and built by Adam Quinn (agquinn@gmail.com).

Professional Portrait Photography: Chadwick Lukazewski (emailchadl@gmail.com).

Hands Photography: Priyanka Katumuluwa (psk249@nyu.edu).

Art Direction: Polly N. Passonneau