PETER J. GALASSO
Peter J. Galasso
Recently awarded the highest possible
Martindale-Hubbell distinction for Legal Ability
& Ethical Standards by both his peers and the Judiciary.
After graduating Magna Cum Laude from the highly regarded Business School at SUNY Albany, where he concentrated his studies in accounting and management science, Peter attended and graduated from the prestigious Boston University School of Law. He thereafter began his legal career by honing his trial skills as an Assistant District Attorney in Bronx County. About four (4) years later, Peter entered private practice and focused on matrimonial and commercial litigation. In late 1988, Peter joined his long-time partner James Langione and established his own law firm in Garden City.
In addition to being a long time member to the New York Bar Association and its committees on matrimonial and Family Law Committees, Peter’s designation as a Fellow to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers punctuates his reputation as being a highly skilled matrimonial lawyer, given the fact the AAML, founded in 1962, is the most selective and prominent existing National Matrimonial organization that rigorously tests hopeful candidates before accepting them as being qualified to be a Fellow to the AAML.
Peter's resume includes over thirty years of litigating cases involving immensely significant legal challenges. In one of his groundbreaking cases entitled Brim v. Combs, Peter represented world-renowned entertainer, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs in a Mount Vernon, NY Family Court proceeding where the Petitioner sought an upward modification of P. Diddy's child support obligation for the parties’ son. Rather than permit Ms. Brim’s attorney the opportunity to cross-examine his celebrity client for months about his otherwise confidential financial information, Peter refused to produce P-Diddy for a deposition and did not allow him to testify at trial, over which the news media was salivating. Peter’s unique defense was predicated not on his client's ability to pay support, but on his child’s provable "reasonable" expenses. Because Peter's client did not testify, the Family Court initially slammed him with an award of $35,000 per month that was based on a veritable wish list of expenses. In response to media inquiries, Peter called the decision “patently unreasonable” and promised that a successful appeal would follow. It did. The Appellate Division slashed the Family Court award almost in half and this case set the standard for similar high-income cases throughout New York State in ruling that all child support award determinations must be governed by the child's reasonable needs as opposed to being set based on the wealth of the payor parent.
Many cases that Peter has tried to verdict have had a lasting effect on the legal landscape. In one of Peter's landmark cases entitled Baron v. Baron, which involved a marital estate worth over $80 million, the Court found after a battle of the parties' respective experts, that the husband’s business was worth $50 million, which was closer in line with Peter's expert's $34 million value than it was the wife's expert's $82 million value. However, in response to Peter’s minimization of the wife’s contribution toward the growth of that business, the trial judge awarded the wife only 20% of the value of the business, despite the fact that the parties had been married for over 25 years. The Appellate Division affirmed that 20% award, stating in pertinent part:
Contrary to the Plaintiff’s contentions, the Supreme Court providently exercised its discretion in awarding the Plaintiff a 20% share of the Defendant’s company. “Although in a marriage of long duration, where both parties have made significant contributions to the marriage, a division of marital assets should be made as equal as possible. . . there is no requirement that the distribution of each item of marital property be made on a equal basis.” Here, the 20% share takes into account the Plaintiff’s minimal direct and indirect involvement in the Defendant’s company, while not ignoring her contributions as the primary caretaker for the parties’ children, which allowed the Defendant to focus on his business.
The Baron case has become an oft-cited precedent in any case where a litigant argues for a departure from the customary 50-50 equitable division of the marital estate.
Over the course of Peter’s career, in addition to his frequent lectures before his colleagues, he has authored approximately thirty (30) articles and opinions, most of which were published by the New York Law Journal, which is the only significant daily legal news publication in New York State. Many of Peter’s articles either helped better clarify the law or identified logical incongruences in how a particular law was being applied.
For example, in his article “Whose Children are they anyway”, Peter crystallized how incompatible the law governing grandparent visitation was with an intact couple’s free exercise of their statutorily protected parental rights. Peter argued that parents, unlike grandparents, are legally responsible for the care of their children. The alleged state interest that justified imposing an obligation on an intact couple to facilitate an estranged grandparent access simply does not exist to justify the legislation.
In one of his articles entitled “Rolling the Dice Pendente Lite”, Peter reminded the Judiciary how careful it had to be in awarding interim support based solely on the parties’ conflicting claims as set forth in motion practice rather than live testimony. A miscalculation at the outset of divorce litigation often emboldens those who benefit from errant decisions made by a fallible jurist, which elongates the parties' painful journey.
In his article entitled “Validating Hocus Pocus”, Peter exposed the vacuous evidentiary basis that judges relied on in admitting the hearsay testimony of a healthcare professional that parrots the statements made by a toddler about alleged sexual abuse. In allowing such testimony, Peter argued that the well-established rule that precluded a witness from testifying about something she heard from a non-testifying witness was being eviscerated.
Peter's published writing on business valuation has been his most prolific source of inspiration. To best appreciate Peter's business valuation expertise would be to attend a trial and watch him work. Short of that, a good read of Peter's numerous articles on the subject should provide meaningful insight into the skill he brings to a case.
For example, Massoni v. Massoni was a hotly contested Westchester divorce action that involved profound differences in the valuation methodologies and the valuation opinions reached by the forensic accountants. Peter was engaged by the defendant - husband's trial counsel to hire and help guide a forensic expert to value the husband's interest in the remaining lines of business in a large outdoor advertising business entity that sold its billboard division for approximately $690,000,000 to CBS two years after the parties’ divorce action was commenced. Peter’s role was also to cross-examine and eviscerate the opinion of his wife’s expert. In seizing the moment, Peter convinced the trial court and, ultimately, the Appellate Division, to reject the wife’s experts’ testimony in its entirety, and to rule in Peter’s client’s favor by adopting the valuation opinions reached by his expert. In its April 7, 2023 decision, the AD held in pertinent part:
Nor did the Supreme Court improvidently exercise its discretion in crediting the defendant’s expert valuation of the B-Units over the valuation of the plaintiff’s experts. “The valuation of a marital asset must be founded in economic reality”…and “[t]he determination of the value of business interests is a functioning properly within the fact-finding power of the court”… “However, ‘[t]here is no uniform rule for fixing the value of a business for the purpose of equitable distribution . Valuation is an exercise properly within the fact-finding power of the trial court, guided by expert testimony. The determination of the factfinder as to the value of a business, if within the range of the testimony presented, will be accorded deference on appeal if it rests primarily on the credibility of expert witnesses and their valuation techniques”… Since the plaintiff’s experts failed to discount the valuation of the B-Units based upon a lack of marketability and control…, the court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in adopting the valuation of the defendant’s expert. Further, the court did not improvidently exercise its discretion in determining that the formula value testified to by the defendant’s experts more closely approximated the fair market value of the defendant’s B-Units than the value based upon a potential sale of the company, where there was no evidence that the sale of the corporate employer was imminent. (citations omitted)
That Appellate Division’s decision secured an outcome that not only saved Peter’s client several million dollars, but which, at the same time, cost his client in overall counsel and expert fees a fraction of what his adversary and his expert generated and charged the wife. The full decision can be read by using the attached link: Massoni v. Massoni