In March of 2016 the New Jersey case of Harrington v. Harrington was decided. The case deals with the retroactive modification of child support when a child is emancipated. In Harrington, the plaintiff and defendant had three unemancipated daughters, a twenty-year-old college student, a seventeen-year-old high school student planning to attend college, and a fifteen-year-old high school student, when they divorced in 2012.

The plaintiff agreed to pay $240 per week in unallocated child support. Unallocated child support is support that is not allocated as specific amounts of money per child, but rather one amount for all the children. In this case, that means that the $240 per week payment is not divided into ⅓ (or $80) per child.

In September 2014 the parties mutually agreed to emancipate the two eldest daughters, which typically means that the payment of child support would be recalculated. However, neither party sought to change the child support order, and the plaintiff continued to pay $240 per week in child support. Continue reading

In 2014 the New Jersey legislature amended the statutes that relate to alimony. Prior to the amendments, a person paying alimony had to actually retire before he or she could ask the court to modify the alimony. That made it difficult for the person paying alimony to plan for his or her post-retirement finances. Under the amended law, the payor can seek an order modifying or terminating the alimony order based on a plan to retire before actually retiring–allowing the prospective retiree to better plan for the future.

The New Jersey Superior Court addressed the issue of when a motion to modify alimony is timely based on prospective retirement in the April 2016 case of Mueller v. Mueller. In Mueller, the parties were married for 20 years before they divorced in 2006. Thereafter, Gordon Mueller paid Rosemary Mueller $300 per week in alimony, the amount agreed upon in the parties matrimonial settlement agreement. Gordon sought a court order that says that his alimony obligation will terminate upon his retirement under the new law. Gordon was 57 at the time he sought the court order, and planned to retire in 5 years when he was 62 years old.

As a threshold matter, the court discussed that the agreement was entered into well before the amendment. The court found that this case fell under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j)(3), which covers alimony agreements that were entered into before the effective date of the amended statute, which is September 10, 2014. The age at which Gordon planned to retire was 62, which is not  the “full retirement age” defined by the Social Security Act, so the case would be covered by the section of the statute that deals with early retirement. Once determining that the statute applied to this case, the court could consider the factors listed in the statute in order to determine if it would be equitable for the alimony to be modified or terminated. Continue reading

New Jersey Laws Against Discrimination (LAD) do not limit protection of employees to the mere marital status of being single or married, but also protect employees from discrimination based upon other marital statuses. The June, 2016 Supreme Court of New Jersey decision in Smith v. Millville Rescue Squad took the opportunity presented in the case to identify and implement the legislative intent of the LAD by defining the scope and boundaries of the Act insofar as the term “marital status,” not previously defined in the Act or in case law.

The Court held that “marital status” was inclusive of “employees who have declared that they will marry, have separated from their spouse, have initiated divorce proceedings or have obtained a divorce. Thus, any employee in any of these enumerated statuses, as well as single and married, are afforded protection against discrimination in employment..

The facts reported in the case are as follows: Robert Smith was a certified EMT and paramedic in the employ of Millville Rescue Squad (MRS) for 17 years. He was terminated in February, 2006 from the position of Director of Operations. His superior, CEO of MRS, John Redden, was aco-defendant in the case. Mr. Smith’s wife, mother-in-law and her two sisters were also employed by MRS in various positions. Continue reading

On September 10, 2014, the New Jersey alimony laws changed, making a serious change on the prior state of the law. One seemingly small part of the statute now creates a scenario whereby it is presumed that alimony will terminate upon retirement, unless the person receiving alimony proves that it should not be terminated. The new law has shifted what is called the “burden of proof.” The earlier statute put the burden on the person paying alimony to prove termination of alimony was the correct result, now, the burden is shifted to the one receiving the alimony to prove it should not end.

The changes discussed are those where full retirement age has been reached and not situations dealing with early retirement. A reduction of income based upon what is often referred to as “good faith retirement,” after age 65, has long been considered a change of circumstances that warrant Court review of the financial situation of the parties to determine whether modification of the alimony award is appropriate.

The New Jersey Appellate Division had the opportunity to explain when portions of the new statute, NJ 2A:34-23(j), must be applied. In the case of in the case of Landers v. Landers. The Court made clear that subsection (j)(3) sets the standard for to be applied to final alimony awards issued prior to the amendment, placing the burden of proof on the party receiving alimony to show the modification or termination should not be granted. Continue reading

New Jersey’s standard for modification of an alimony award is based upon a change of financial circumstances such that a modification of the award is warranted. More importantly, the financial change of circumstances cannot be of a temporary nature, but must be of a permanent nature. The permanent change standard is a very high hurdle, discussed and reiterated in the recent New Jersey Appellate Court’s decision of Grier v. Grier.

The Grier case, in relevant part, deals with what the Court determines to be a financial change of circumstances that is of a more temporary nature, so modification warranted, the matter not even requiring a hearing in the lower court. A hearing is only required when the plaintiff demonstrates a prima facie case in his pleadings. This means that Mr. Grier had to provide enough information, sufficient allegations, to support his claim to modify support based on a permanent change of circumstances. The lower court found he provided inadequate support of his claim, as did the Appellate Court, because the change of circumstances he pled was temporary.

In short, Mr. Grier’s claimed that he had a reduction of income since entry of the order for alimony because he lost a client, and wanted the court to reduce his alimony obligation based upon that financial change. The lower court as well as the Appellate Court simply did not see the loss of one client as a permanent event, assessing that his income could increase again at any time, thereby making the income reduction temporary. In addition, Mr. Grier had filed bankruptcy in 2014, greatly reducing his debt, which the court stated he “admitted.”    Continue reading

alone-by-the-beach-1560339-1278x851

A divorce causes drastic changes in your life because you are suddenly alone. You may have children, friends, and other family members who love and encourage you, but it is not the same as it is with a spouse. Morning coffee becomes just a routine, you watch movies with a bowl of ice cream, and those early morning conversations are now between you and the cat. Things are different, and loneliness can become commonplace. The first year is the hardest because it is a new experience.

Do You Really Miss Your Ex?

Most people miss the experiences they had with their former spouse. When you have been part of a relationship for years, it is difficult when it ends. Perhaps you went out for dinner and a movie twice a month, bowled with friends, enjoyed camping, solved crossword puzzles over coffee, and went for evening walks. The activities you shared are what you miss; if you and your spouse were compatible, you would not have divorced. Remember, if you enjoyed going out to dinner and a movie when you were married, you will still enjoy the experience with friends. Everything you did with your former spouse is still fun for you to do with friends, a date, or by yourself. If you feel lonely at night, it is because you have been used to having another person to talk to or watch a television show with. Invite a friend over or consider getting a roommate.

Holidays And Special Occasions

There are some days when loneliness hits you harder. You and your spouse may have created your own traditions for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. You thought they would last a lifetime, but they no longer matter. Start new traditions for every day that is important to you. Don’t allow yourself to slip into an emotional funk because your former spouse didn’t acknowledge your birthday. Unless you have children, you will probably never hear from your former spouse again Continue reading

child-1435845-1279x911

Divorce is an ugly word but an unfortunate circumstance in many families today. While a divorcing couple can typically navigate the process with as few hurt feelings as possible, it is often impossible to keep children completely out of the battlefield when parents start considering separation and divorce. It is easy to let your children slip to the back of your mind when you are preparing to go through a divorce, simply because there is so much for you to worry about. One thing you simply cannot do, however, is stop worrying about your children. They are going through the divorce with you and your spouse – even if you try to keep them as far from the process as possible.

If you and your spouse are giving serious thought to ending your marriage and you would like to spare your children as much anguish, confusion, and heartache as possible, here are several important things to remember when you begin the process.

Reinforce your love for your children.  Children of divorce often feel that they are at fault in some way for their parents’ divorce, while this is usually never the case. It is critical that you and your spouse constantly reinforce your love for your children while you are going through the process of divorce. They need to know that they are important to you and that the reason why mommy and daddy are no longer together has absolutely nothing to do with them at all. Continue reading

Although the credit bureaus do not consider divorce one of the many factors that contribute to an individual’s creditworthiness, expecting to come through a divorce with your credit unscathed simply isn’t realistic. Your individual financial behavior, the types of debt you and your spouse carry and the amount of joint debt you both owe affects your credit scores long after the divorce is final.

Closing Joint Accounts

It isn’t uncommon for married couples to hold joint accounts. One of the first financial decisions most divorcing couples must make is whether or not to close their joint accounts. While closing a joint bank account doesn’t have a clear credit impact, closing a joint credit card often damages both individuals’ credit scores.

Your credit utilization ratio–the percentage of debt you carry on a credit card as measured against that card’s credit limit–has a significant effect on your credit rating. When you close a joint credit card, you lose the available credit remaining on that card. This increases your credit utilization ratio and, in turn, adversely affects both your credit scores and those of your spouse. Continue reading

Divorce rarely brings out the best in people, and common sense is often the first attribute to fall by the wayside at the beginning of proceedings. More than one spouse has ended up on the other side, officially divorced and scratching her head, wondering, “What have I done?” You love the house. You worked hard to improve it over the years. Your kids go to school down the street. There may be a lot of reasons you want to hold on to the property. But consider all the pros and cons before you give up everything else in settlement negotiations.

Keeping the House for the Kids’ Sake

Let’s start with your children, the ones who go to school in the district where the marital home is located. Changing schools can be traumatic for a youngster. If you’re sure you can’t relocate to a new home in the same district, this may be a consideration, but it may be less of a concern if your kids attend private school – a move may simply mean you have to drive farther to deliver them and pick them up on schooldays.

Their ages are an important factor as well. Although it may be upsetting for a fifth grader to change schools, the effect on a high school junior may be far worse if moving means he can’t graduate with the same kids he’s gone all through school with. The flip side is that he will most likely fly the nest in a couple of years, going off to college. Do you really want to make a long-term commitment to the property when your primary reason for keeping it is short term? Continue reading

Financial factors are very crucial for you to review as you begin the divorce process. You are most likely aware that divorces can be expensive, but do you know how much yours will cost you?

You may be surprised to find out that the average cost of a divorce is about $15,500. However, the costs vary depending on dozens of different factors. A simple divorce can cost you as little as $3,000. While a complex divorce can cost $100,000 or more.

Below you will find some helpful information about the financial obstacles that you may face during your divorce. Continue reading

Peter Van Aulen has received a rating by Avvo.com. Please go to https://www.avvo.com/support/avvo_rating.html rating to learn how Avvo determines their ratings. Please note that this advertisement has not been approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Peter Van Aulen has received a rating by Martindale Hubbell. Please go to http://www.martindale.com/Products_and_Services/Peer_Review/Methodology.aspx to learn about the selection process. Please note that this advertisement has not been approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

*** Peter Van Aulen a member of Rue Ratings Best Attorneys Of America. Please go to https://www.bestattorneysofamerica.com/membership/the-selection-process/ to learn about the selection process. Please note that this advertisement has not been approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court.

** Peter Van Aulen was included in the 2015 and 2016 Super Lawyer List published by Thomson Reuters. Please go to http://www.superlawyers.com/about/selection_process.html to learn about the selection process. Please note that this advertisement has not been approved by the New Jersey Supreme Court. (Justia Support please note this replaces the disclaimer for Super Lawyers already on my website.)