MEETING OPTIONS DURING THE CORONAVIRUS: The Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen understands your concerns regarding the spread of the Coronavirus, and now offers different meeting options to our clients and those seeking legal representation. All meetings, including initial free consultations, can be handled either through the phone, FaceTime, Zoom, or in person.

 

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Since the early 1980s, the divorce rate in the U.S. has steadily declined. The long-held belief that at least 50% of marriages end in divorce is no longer true. Divorce Statistics collected in recent years by census reports, government and private studies and university research paint an interesting portrait of marriage and divorce in the United States.

Many states now have no-fault divorce laws. Spouses do not have to allege a specific reason for wanting a divorce other than having irreconcilable differences or that the marriage is irretrievably broken. However, some of the most common reasons that marriages fail include infidelity, addiction and abuse.

A majority of Americans claim that they would end their marriage if they discovered their spouse had cheated on them. Yet research shows that 50-60% of couples who have dealt with infidelity in their marriage found ways to overcome the issue and stay together.

Addictions may include, drugs, alcohol, porn, and gambling. A University of Buffalo study revealed that nearly 50% of couples divorced when only one partner drank heavily. Where partners had similar drinking habits, the divorce rate during the same period was 30%. Other research shows that if only one spouse smokes, a couple is 75-91% more likely to divorce. Continue Reading →

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Stay-at-home orders, job losses and strained finances resulting from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic have increased the stress on marriages across the globe. While one might think that increased time together would have been welcomed by partners whose busy lives kept them apart much of the time, just the opposite is proving true. Rising divorce rates and coronavirus limitations appear to be directly related in countries that are now easing restrictions.

Several cities in China reported a surge in divorce filings once government-ordered lockdowns were lifted. A lawyer in Turkey claims divorce filings increased fourfold in that country following the imposition of quarantine restrictions. Many U.S. family therapists and attorneys expect the same trend to occur in this country.

Marriage counselors commonly encourage spouses to allow each other the freedom to socialize with separate friends and pursue favorite personal activities. For example, one spouse may enjoy jogging with a small group of long-time friends while the other may look forward to weekend golf with buddies from the office. Being involved at work or school, enjoying a favored activity and maintaining casual relationships outside of marriage are important to a person’s mental and physical health. Continue Reading →

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With businesses across the country shutting down and millions of people being furloughed from their jobs, the economic pressures resulting from the coronavirus pandemic are increasing. For parents who either pay or receive child support, financial anxieties may be even greater. Many support recipients will likely be paid less, at least in the short term, if the paying parent has lost a job.

If the recipient has also been laid off from work, that person’s ability to provide adequate care, food and shelter for children may be seriously jeopardized. Recipients of child support may be forced to rely upon social services and community organizations such as food banks to get through the crisis.

The worries for parents who have experienced an income drop and remain obligated to pay support are also increasing. Support payments are not suspended or eliminated by the pandemic. Falling behind in support will create a greater debt to be made up in the future. Many states have laws that result in the suspension of driving and professional licenses if a parent’s support payments fall too far behind.

Failure to pay child support also may result in defending yourself at a contempt proceeding in court. Courts can impose a variety of sanctions for failure to pay support, including mandatory wage garnishment, imposition of fines and costs and jail time. Continue Reading →

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The normal routines of daily life continue to be upended by the coronavirus, and uncertainty exists about how long businesses and schools will remain closed. For divorced parents, dealing with child visitation and the coronavirus can create increased anxiety and conflict. As the situation and resulting government orders may change rapidly, the best co-parenting will result from cooperation and flexibility.

Most stay-at-home orders across the country do not take priority over court-ordered visitation provisions. The stay-at-home order issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy specifically provides an exception allowing travel for family visits. Other states have taken a similar approach. Orders enacted in California and Illinois included language that specifically allow travel for custody exchanges between parents. Massachusetts officials have also stated that the virus does not provide a legal basis to disobey visitation orders.

The general guideline in virtually every state is that, at a minimum, court-ordered visitation schedules should continue to be followed unless there is some specific and provable reason to restrict contact such as either a parent or child contracting the disease. Denying visitation based on a generalized fear that a child may be exposed to the virus is insufficient. Continue Reading →

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Domestic violence (DV) occurs far too frequently in marriages, among family members and between people in dating relationships.  Lawmakers in many states have increased criminal penalties for DV offenses. Special courts have been established to handle DV-related cases. Judges often receive specialized training to better understand the dynamics of domestic violence and to learn about sentencing options that may prove most effective to reduce the chance of recurrence.

The term “domestic violence” by itself does not describe a crime. The term is a designation attached to a variety of crimes indicating that the relationship between the alleged victim and perpetrator is such that a repeat incident is far more likely to occur than a similar incident between strangers. Relationships which trigger the DV label include spouses, people in dating relationships, family members, relatives, roommates and civil union partners. Even if the incident involves a relationship that no longer exists, such as an incident involving former spouses, the DV tag may apply.

DV crimes include a broad spectrum of behavior that results in physical or emotional harm. Actions that can be labeled as domestic violence range from assaults, stalking and harassment to making threats, intimidation and sexual assault. One of the tools available for victims of domestic violence in every state is a protection or restraining order. Some may question how a piece of paper will make them safer, as there have been news reports of people being hurt or killed by a restrained person after a protection order was obtained. However, in the vast majority of cases protection orders serve their purpose and can help to reduce the fear of possibly experiencing a repeat occurrence. Continue Reading →

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Domestic violence (DV) is a serious problem. Every state has a procedure in place that allows persons to obtain protection or restraining orders intended to prevent contact from alleged abusers. The process to initially obtain a protection order is fairly quick and simple. A person can usually go to a county courthouse, write out a short statement explaining what happened and why an order is necessary, present the paperwork to a judge and obtain a temporary order within a few hours .In some jurisdictions if the incident just happen a person can start the process by calling the police department.

The restraining order is usually served by law enforcement on the person being restrained. Temporary orders are typically effective for 10-14 days at which time a formal court hearing takes place giving the restrained person an opportunity to respond, present evidence and contest the order. After hearing arguments from both sides, a judge will either dismiss the case or sign an order which can last for an indefinite period.

While the system is designed to provide quick assistance to victims of domestic violence, this process can easily be abused by making false accusations that can result in devastating results for the person accused. Since it only takes one person’s statement without any supporting evidence to get a temporary restraining order, the target of that order may immediately lose access to a home, property and children and suffer damage to his or her reputation. Continue Reading →

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Divorced Parents may want nothing to do with each other following a difficult divorce, but when minor children are involved, the necessity of exchanging children to comply with court-ordered custody and visitation plans usually requires some degree of interaction. Ideally, contact between ex-spouses during an exchange should extend just long enough to safely accomplish delivery of the children. However, if grudges are held or conflict exists regarding parenting styles or issues, the event of exchanging the children carries the potential for emotionally harmful and even violent behavior.

Spouses may fall out of love with each other, but children will still love each parent and hope to have a strong bond with each parent. Children who witness divorced parents arguing or threatening each other generally experience stress and often blame themselves for parental problems. Such stress can lead to depression, poor school performance, negative social interaction and even physical health problems.

When children are present, communication between hostile ex-spouses should be kept to a minimum. Issues involving child support or parenting differences should be addressed by e-mail, phone calls or by communication via attorneys. Continued conflict experienced during custody exchanges can make a child fearful and resistant to comply with the visitation schedule simply to avoid the negative feelings which routinely accompany the exchange.  Continue Reading →

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Most of us are on our best behavior when we enter a relationship. Fights are rare, we’ll drop everything to take a phone call from them, and we can’t imagine our feelings ever changing. But fast forward to five years into marriage, and things have become a lot more comfortable, maybe even too comfortable. Once we’ve walked down the aisle and signed the marriage certificate, we don’t hold ourselves up to the same standards we did while dating.

We take our spouses for granted, disrespecting them in small ways and before we know it, our once idealistic marriage is heading for a divorce. When a marriage breaks down, it doesn’t always come from a huge event like an affair, it can be more like Chinese water torture, where we wear each other down slowly and painfully over years by adopting bad habits, or not giving our best selves to the relationship. If you’ve noticed your marriage is in a slump, consider whether you are guilty of the following behaviors.

You’re More Critical than Kind

Throughout the course of a marriage, there will be many occasions when you feel the need to criticize your spouse. No matter how well-intentioned the advice is, if it’s delivered unkindly, it will be more hurtful than helpful. Practice being kind, even when you’re frustrated, and your spouse will be more receptive to your advice. Continue Reading →

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For divorces involving children, a child support order will be part of the final paperwork signed by a judge. In most circumstances, this order requires the non-custodial parent to pay a monthly sum to the parent with whom the children live most of the time. Unless the children are near the age of majority when the divorce takes place, circumstances may eventually change making the original support amount insufficient or impractical.

Most states allow parents to ask a court to change the support amount if there is a substantial change in circumstances. Some state laws also allow for periodic review of support amounts without showing changed circumstances. New Jersey allows either parent to request a review every three years without a showing of changed circumstances. Washington requires a 24-month period before such a review.

Change of Circumstances

Child support is typically based on incomes of the parents. A legitimate change in parental circumstances includes job loss or change, extended illness, incarceration, remarriage and retirement. For example, if the paying parent loses a job paying $4,000 and takes a job paying $2,600, this constitutes a legitimate change in circumstances. Similarly, if that parent is promoted to a job paying $6,000, that also is a substantial change. Continue Reading →

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Reports of child abuse and neglect in New Jersey are investigated by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP), known until 2012 as the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). A DCPP/DYFS investigation may have lasting impacts on you and your children.  Here are some frequently asked questions regarding the Division’s procedures.

Will I be told the name of the person making a report to DCPP? The names of individuals reporting suspected abuse and neglect are kept confidential. A person making a report in good faith is generally protected from liability.

How long does an investigation take? DCPP’s goal is to complete an investigation within 60 days. If there is any possible merit to the accusation, expect DCPP to take the full period of time. If DCPP determines there is some legitimate basis for the allegation, involvement with DCPP may well continue past the initial 60-day period. Continue Reading →

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