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

Getting divorced can be stressful, even in the most amicable situations. Before you proceed, it’s a good idea to get an idea of what to expect before you begin filing for divorce in NJ. You should, reach out to an experienced family law attorney to guide you through the process.

Terminology

It’s important to have a basic grasp of the words used when filing for divorce in NJ. If you file the petition, or the one requesting the divorce, you are the plaintiff, and your spouse would be the defendant. The words ‘divorce’ and ‘dissolution’ are used interchangeably, and in fact, the initial form to file is called the ‘Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution.’

A no-fault divorce is in New Jersey is either based on living at two separate residences for at least 18 months before the divorce, or where the parties had irreconcilable differences for at least 6 months before filing. A fault divorce is when a party’s actions resulted in the breakup of the marriage, such as adultery, cruelty or abandonment.  It is important to note that in most cases there is nothing to gain by filing a fault divorce. In most situations if you prove fault you will not receive more alimony, child support or receive more in asset division.   Continue reading

Unfortunately, in matters of family law, there are circumstances in which a parent’s rights to their children are under investigation, and parental rights can be terminated. The Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) is the agency charged with ensuring the protection of children, and are typically the party requesting involuntary termination of a parental rights. Recently, they were involved in an appellate case, DCP&P v. PD and AW, which covered a breadth of issues, including international treaties and constitutional due process.

Background

In 2006, AW, the mother, gave birth to a child called SD. Several days later, DCP&P got word that there were adults abusing alcohol and drugs in the same apartment the children were living. SD tested positive for cocaine. As a result, SD was removed from AW’s custody on an emergency basis, and the child was put in a resource home. The DCP&P then filed a complaint with the court requesting care, custody and supervision of SD. The court approved their request, and AW agreed that she was responsible for neglect of the child. SD was then placed in the care of KA and RA, maternal relatives. PD was proven to be SD’s father, after a paternity test. He was offered supervised visitation, which eventually had to be held at the offices of the DCP&P given the fractious relationship between the resource parents and the biological parents. Eventually, SD was returned to AW’s care, with the DCP&P remaining involved. The court entered an order preventing PD from having any access to the child in March of 2007 until he had participated in various evaluations and programs to get access to SW reinstated. He did participate, until he was charged with a probation violation, and stopped attending the programs. In 2008, the court determined that AW and PD were to share legal custody of the child, with AW having physical custody. PD received charges for aggravated assault at some point, and was sentenced to three years in prison. In December 2008, PD was deported back to Cape Verde, Africa.

In 2012, DCP&P received another report of violence between AW and a man called JG. AW was charged with neglect and SD was placed in the care of the DCP&P, at which point PD was notified. SD was eventually placed once again with KA and RA, and PD was notified of the child’s placement. DCP&P considered placing the child with PD, but there was difficulty in determining whether his home would be suitable, given his international location. An international home study was carried out in November 2013, and the court found it inadequate, particularly in light of concerns regarding PD’s criminal history. There was no recommendation for SD to be placed with PD. In January 2014, the court approved of the DCP&P’s plan to terminate PD and AW’s parental rights. In December 2014, AW surrendered her parental rights to KA and RA. The court held trial on the DCP&P’s complaint concerning PD’s parental rights in June 2015. PD was still in Africa, so did not participate in trial on day one, but participated by phone and gave sworn testimony on day 2. He opposed his parental rights being terminated, and asked the court for SD to live with him.   Continue reading

Settling on a custody and visitation schedule can be the most difficult part of a divorce. Your kids are the most important part of your life, and it’s natural to want to fight for as much time with them as possible. However, when you consider issues of custody, you have to keep your children’s best interest as your top priority.

Here are five tips for making a co-parenting arrangement work for the kids in your life.

Give kids a voice.

Unless your children are very young, they will have preferences about where they want to spend their time. While custody arrangements are not decided by children, it’s important to make them feel that their opinions are valued.Talk to your kids about splitting time between Mom’s house and Dad’s. Are there particular nights of the week that your child has sports or another activity? Are you being sure to take this into account when you plan the schedule? Divorce can shake a child’s life to the core. It’s important to keep as much consistency in their lives as possible. They shouldn’t be forced to give up activities because of the divorce. When a family is going through turmoil, children often feel like they have no control. Giving them a voice will help them cope. However, do not sign-up your child for activities with the intent interfere with your ex-spouse’s parenting time. 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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