It is an unfortunate fact of life that when relationships go sour, some parents cannot set aside their own pain. Instead, they prevent the children they have with the other parent from developing a meaningful relationship with the other parent. Sometimes, parents will not have access to their child for years due to the actions of the other parent. In these cases, reunification therapy is a good option to help ease the child into a meaningful relationship with their mom or dad.

The goal is to reintroduce the parent and child so that they can continue to build a relationship, and also to prevent any further cleaving of the bond. If the court orders reunification therapy in a family law case, then a therapist will be appointed to help counsel each party. Ultimately, successful reunification therapy means that the court can order visitation.

Children who have been separated from their parents are more likely to face emotional distress or difficulty in adjusting. They often exhibit self-hatred, low self-esteem, aggression, and lack remorse or guilt. Therefore, reunification therapy aims to ensure the child has the best possible chance to work through the issues they might feel with an absentee parent. Continue reading

Raising teenagers is a challenge on its own. Chances are your teen is already dealing with school issues, dating, hormones, and emotions that seem to change every minute. If you and your partner have decided to separate, it’s crucial that you talk with your teen as soon as possible about the divorce. This way, your child has time to process what’s happening. While it might make more sense to wait until the divorce is final, the truth is that your child likely already knows something is wrong or different at home. Sitting down and talking with your child will help provide stability, comfort, and understanding. Here are some suggestions on how to explain divorce to a teenager.

Sit down as a family

One of the most important things you can do for your child is to sit down as a family to tell your teen about the divorce. While you might not be on speaking terms with your spouse, it’s essential that you present a united front for your child. Sitting down together ensures you both know what you’re telling your child about the cause of the divorce. That also enables you to address any concerns or questions your child has at this time. Many children, even teenagers, feel unloved and afraid when they discover their parents are separating. Talk with your partner ahead of time and decide how you’re going to tell your child about the divorce. Then the three of you should sit down and have a long, honest, and open discussion about how your lives are going to change. Continue reading

Divorce is rarely an easy thing for the children, no matter their age. While those still living at home often have to deal with being ferried between parents and at times living with a new stepparent, dealing with the dissolving of your parents’ marriage as an adult is not easy either. There are at least five things you should do as an adult if your mom and dad get divorced.

Avoid Being Caught in the Middle

As an adult, your relationship with your parents is likely different from your childhood relationship with them. You may have become more of a friend or confidant rather than just their child. Because of this, it can be easy to get caught in the middle. One or both parents may try to complain to you about the other one. You may feel like you have to take sides. They may even try to use you as someone who relays messages to the other parent. With the exception of abuse or other related issues, you will likely want to try to maintain a healthy relationship with both parents. This means letting both of them know that you are not going to listen to them badmouthing the other one as well as telling them that you are not taking sides.

Set Boundaries

Boundaries may include the sort of things they can discuss with you. For example, you may want to hear about how your mother is having a great time dating a new guy, but you want her to keep the intimate details to herself. Boundaries may also include the amount of help you will provide. Maybe you are willing to teach Dad how to iron his work shirts, but you expect him to start doing it on his own after a few days. Continue reading

Marriage counseling, or couple’s counseling, is a form of psychological therapy that seeks to deal with mental health issues, or other problems, stemming from a relationship between two people. The idea is that both parties will attend counseling as a means to elaborate upon the issues and the strain being caused between them. Ideally, they will learn how to solve their problems through the mediation of a professionally-trained counselor or therapist.

The marriage counseling statistics indicate that couples attend therapy for any number of reasons. Arguments, abuse – both physical and emotional, loss of love or other feelings, parenting troubles, resentment, and problems with affectionate or sexual intimacy are all common reasons for attending couple’s therapy.

In the United States, couple’s therapy data reports an overwhelming satisfaction rate for this form of counseling. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists reports that 98 percent of couples surveyed felt they had received excellent therapy. Over 90 percent claimed they received the care that they needed and felt ready to tackle their marital or couple’s problems. Continue reading

New Jersey courts often grapple with the issue of domestic violence within family law cases. Judges often err on the side of caution in these cases, but this can lead to a judge overstepping their authority. `The case MC v GT demonstrates such a failure on the part of a judge, and more explicitly outlines the NJ restraining order requirements when relationships become physically violent. The appellate court appears to emphasize the necessity of an unequivocal finding of domestic violence before a judge can issue a restraining order unless there are other pending family matters at hand.

MC had been dating GT for a little while at the time she filed a complaint against him under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. At trial, the judge ultimately concluded there was not sufficient evidence to support a finding of domestic violence, and noted reservations about each party’s credibility with the court. The judge specifically held that MC failed to prove that GT acted “with a purpose to alarm or annoy.” Despite these findings, the judge decided to enter a restraining order against GT, citing her equitable powers. GT appealed, arguing that the judge exceeded her authority in issuing the restraining order.

On appeal, the court focused solely on the judge’s assertion that her equitable authority allowed her to issue a restraining order, even though she found insufficient evidence of domestic violence. The appellate court entertained a discussion as to what the NJ restraining order requirements are. The judge at the trial level relied on another appellate case, PJG v PSS. In this case, there were two cross-complaints, with each party accusing the other of domestic violence. The man proved his claim against the woman and so the judge ordered restraints. However, the judge found no evidence of domestic violence against the woman. Similarly, he entered a restraining order against the man anyway. On appeal, the panel agreed that the Act will not “authorize entry of a final restraining order absent preponderating evidence that the defendant committed an act of domestic violence. However, the court also determined that without such an element, that a judge could still enter restraints under the judge’s ‘ample inherent power.’ Continue reading

Chances are you never expected to go through a divorce. No one does. If you thought you were going to get divorced, you likely wouldn’t have gotten married in the first place. This makes going through a separation even more difficult. During a divorce, your emotions will be running high. You might feel anxious, stress, or shocked. You might feel betrayed. You might feel scared, alone, or isolated. No matter what you’re feeling, what you’re going through, or what you’re planning to do once the divorce is finalized, it’s important that you meet with a NJ divorce lawyer to help you through your divorce. The right New Jersey divorce lawyer will help you every step of the way. Instead of your divorce being a complete nightmare, your lawyer will help make things bearable and will ensure things go as smoothly as possible. Here’s what you need to know.

First off, an experienced NJ divorce lawyer understands all aspects of divorce and separation. Because divorce can be complex, it can be challenging to find out what your rights and responsibilities are. A divorce lawyer will be able to help you with this. Your New Jersey divorce lawyer will guide you through any paperwork you need to fill out and will tell you whether you need to appear in court or not. They’ll make sure all your paperwork is filed on time and if you need to serve papers to your former spouse, your lawyer will help you arrange this.

Your NJ divorce lawyer will also help with custody arrangements. If you and your partner share a child or children, it’s even more important that you have legal representation. Because there are different types of child custody, your New Jersey divorce lawyer will help make sure you and your child have the best possible outcome when it comes to determining physical and legal custody of your child. If joint custody is an option, your lawyer can also assist you in creating a parenting plan that meets the needs of you, your former spouse, and your child. Also, an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer understands the alimony and child support laws in the state. He or she will be able to inform you what you are entitled to or what you are obligated to pay. Continue reading

The New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) carries a heavy burden in presenting a case as to whether or not a parent is engaged in abuse or neglect of a child. The case of the NJDCPP v. N.B., the mother of a minor child, was recently appealed after a trial court founds that the mother had abused or neglected her twelve-year-old son. There were various issues as to the weight and credibility of the evidence presented, which the appellate court grappled with before ultimately overruling the trial court.

Facts

It all started when the biological father of D.B., who had been living with the mother at the time, filed a complaint about the child’s mother. The mother and her boyfriend had gotten into an argument, where the mother had said: “she was going to harm herself one of these days.” The law enforcement officers reported that D.B. had phoned an aunt after his mother left him alone in their shared hotel room and he was scared. The aunt came to retrieve the child and let him stay at her home for a time until the father picked him up. The police reached out to the mother to conduct a welfare check after hearing this report. N.B. agreed that there had been an argument, and she went for a drive to cool down for a few hours. She left her son at the hotel because he did not want to go for a drive. She confirmed that when she said she was going to hurt herself, it was simply a figure of speech and she did not really mean it.

In subsequent interviews, D.B. reported several other comments his mother made within the same vein, such as the mother telling her boyfriend, “since we are all here, why don’t you drive off the bridge and kill us all.” He also told the DCPP that the fights between his mom and boyfriend had been physical in the past, and he was fearful on that day that his mother would ‘go off on him’ when she got back to the hotel room. The mother denied this, as well as denied any physical altercations between herself and her boyfriend, asserting that their arguments were only ever verbal. Despite of this, the DCPP removed D.B. from his mother’s custody and placed D.B. in possession of his father.  Continue reading

Divorce is considered the third-worst event a child can experience. Parents need to focus on minimizing the pain of the divorce to child. What follows are some tips parents can use to make the process less painful for everyone involved.

1) Keep it civil.

Parents are among the most significant people in a child’s life, and the last thing they want to see is parents who argue every time they are together or one parent who badmouths the other when she or he isn’t around. This sort of behavior is so harmful to children that some people even label it as abusive. No matter a parent’s feelings toward an ex-partner, all interactions that occur in the presence of a child should be as polite and respectful as possible.

2) Present a united front.

Children need a certain amount of structure and consistency, so all parenting decisions should be joint decisions. Rules should not differ much, if any, between households, and parents should resolve their differences of opinion in private and approach children only after they reach a consensus. Parents must work together to compromise and act consistently for the sake of their children’s well-being. Continue reading

The growth of college expenses and tuition has far outpaced the growth of the average person’s wages. Student loan debt affects the majority of young college students today, and it is no surprise that parents want to help ease the burden for their children. When couples divorce, and college is contemplated for their kids, it can be an issue as to who should be responsible for the costs associated with a university education. In a recent unpublished case, D.M v K.M, the New Jersey courts grappled with college expenses in a NJ divorce.

The parties had been married for seventeen years when they decided to file for divorce in December 2010. They had two children – a daughter, born in 1992, and a son, born in 1996. During the proceedings, the parties signed a property settlement agreement (PSA), which was incorporated into the final order of divorce. The PSA held that the couple would address payment of college expenses at the time their children would be attending, as well as requiring Plaintiff (the husband) to pay $100/week in child support. Each party also agreed to claim a tax exemption for one child each.

The parties’ daughter entered college, and the defendant paid the first three semesters, after which she filed a motion with the court requesting contribution from the plaintiff, as well as payment from him for future expenses. She alleges that Plaintiff contributed money from the children’s payroll checks into a college fund for the children, but actually used the money for his own purposes.  He motion was dismissed, and she appealed. The appellate court held that the trial court improperly denied her motion based solely on the fact that defendant requested reimbursement after she paid expenses. The court remanded, and ordered the trial court to conduct a full Newburgh analysis. The Newburgh factors are used in family cases when analyzing college contribution claims, even though the case was actually a wrongful death action. The Newburgh case asserts that parents have the duty to provide a necessary education for children – even after they have reached the age of 18. Continue reading

Divorce is never simple or easy. Maybe you wrestled with the decision for years before finally deciding to proceed with a divorce. Perhaps your former spouse made the decision for you. Maybe you and your partner chose to end things on amicable terms. No matter how your divorce came to be, it’s important that you take the time to work through your emotions and feelings regarding the separation. Then you’ll be able to help your children cope with their own emotions, as well.

Whether your children are infants or teenagers, they’re going to experience a variety of emotions regarding the separation. Their entire life will change when you get divorced, so it’s important that you help them deal with it as effectively as possible. No matter how old your children are, there are several steps you can take to help them face these new changes.

First off, make sure you avoid talking negatively about your former spouse. While it can be easy to point fingers and place blame during a divorce, try to remember that to your children, this is their beloved parent. Even if your partner has been terrible to you, try to avoid saying anything that would stress out your children or make them feel like they’re being placed in the middle of your divorce. If you can’t say anything positive about your former partner, simply avoid saying anything at all to your children. Continue reading

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Peter Van Aulen is certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney.

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