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At the conclusion of a divorce involving children, a court usually enters a Parenting Plan or visitation schedule outlining the specific times when each parent will have physical custody of a child. Cooperative parents can generally make informal changes to the plan when circumstances dictate to accommodate such things as vacations, involvement in school events or parental work schedules. Flexibility serves the needs of both parent and child and minimizes stress.

Unfortunately, not all divorces result in cooperative parenting, and a parent may withhold a child from the other parent in violation of the court ordered parenting plan. When a parent interferes with the other parent’s right to custody, the offending parent may be subject to both civil and criminal penalties.

Custodial interference, in the broadest sense, occurs when one parent actively disrupts the other parent’s scheduled time with their child.  Interference may be as relatively minor as preventing phone contact between a child and parent, interfering with the other parent’s participation in school activities or returning a child an hour late from visitation. Continue Reading →

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Parents owe a duty to their children to provide financial support. The issue of child support often is a point of contention in divorces and may remain so for years. The person paying support may attempt to reduce or eliminate payments through acts taken in bad faith. Similarly, the person receiving support may take inappropriate action when payments are not received. Here are several actions that responsible parents should and should not take involving the payment of child support.

Don’t quit a job to reduce support payments. Child support payments are based on the income of both parents. Once a support amount is determined, that amount is split in relation to each parent’s percentage of combined income. A vindictive former spouse having sufficient savings will sometimes quit a job or switch to a lower paying job to reduce his or her percentage of total income and, as a result, the support payment. This may simply make financial matters worse, because the desired support reduction may not occur.

The court may impute income to a person who is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed. This means the court can set the income level used to calculate the support payment based on prior wages, work experience and comparable jobs available if the court determines a person intentionally reduced his income to avoid paying support. Someone hoping to reduce a support payment by reducing his net income from $3800 to $2500 may unexpectedly find he will still have to pay support based on the higher income amount but with fewer resources to make the payment. Continue Reading →

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Entry of final papers in a divorce frequently triggers a variety of emotions. There may be a feeling of relief at having survived the legal process. Even when divorce is uncontested there is often a feeling of sadness from officially ending a relationship that once was special. There should also be feelings of hope and optimism as you embark on a journey to create a life after divorce.

Creating your new life means letting go of the old. Harboring resentment from actions taken or things said during the divorce process will only hold you back. Now is the time move forward, to set new goals, welcome new experiences and to revive the dreams of what you once hoped to accomplish in life. Certainly, you may need time to grieve over the loss of your marriage, but also view this life change as an opportunity to rediscover and reinvent yourself.

Your new life will require attention to practical matters but should also allow you to enjoy activities that, while married, you may have deemed impractical. On the practical side, you need to change your will and, possibly, the named beneficiaries on your life insurance. Joint accounts should be closed. You may need to obtain your own health insurance. Review your budget and monthly expenses taking into consideration any spousal or child support you may pay or receive. This process may have begun while the divorce was pending, but a quick re-evaluation may prove worthwhile. Continue Reading →

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Divorce and Health Insurance

The availability and cost of health insurance for both children and soon-to-be former spouses should be considered in every divorce. Maintaining access to affordable health insurance consistently ranks near the top of consumer concerns. Child support laws vary by state. While every state requires parents to provide health insurance for their children, there is no legal obligation for one spouse to provide insurance coverage for the other spouse following divorce. However, several options exist to help ensure both spouses have adequate health care coverage after a marriage is terminated.

Insurance Coverage for Children

Federal and state laws require parents to maintain health insurance coverage for dependent children. The responsibility to pay for health insurance is often spelled out in a child support order entered at the end of a divorce proceeding. In some cases, both parents will be ordered to provide insurance if it is available at an affordable cost through an employer. Alternatively, one parent may be ordered to provide insurance with the other required to contribute to the cost based on income. If coverage is not available through employment, insurance must be obtained from the private market, Medicaid or the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program.

If both parents are able to obtain insurance, one policy may be designated for primary use with the other policy covering costs not paid by primary coverage. Since the parent who takes a child to the doctor will be expected to pay for services when rendered, parents are often advised to enter into a contract with the doctor that specifically outlines the percentage of co-payments and other uninsured costs for which each parent will be billed and expected to pay. The contract should be signed by both parents. Continue Reading →

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Some couples see marriage as the beginning of a journey during which they will come to better know and love each other every day. Others prefer to have a clearer view of the path on which they are about to embark. Toward that goal, couples should take the time to explore some basic issues which will confront nearly all married couples. These are some of the more important discussions for persons about to marry.

Money and Finances. Financial issues are a leading cause of divorce. People about to join their lives should discuss if and how they will join their finances. Spending habits and the existence of current debt should be disclosed. Disclosure of all financial accounts is a must. Keeping a secret bank account is sure way to deal a serious blow to the marriage once the account is discovered. Couples should determine if they will share joint credit cards and bank accounts and whether income from all sources will be combined.

Other important issues include how much each might contribute financially to purchase of a home or car, whether retirement accounts will be established and how each views saving, investing and long-term financial goals. Feelings about lending money to family members, living within a set monthly budget and how much debt is acceptable are also worthy of conversation. Continue Reading →

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If you are going through a divorce, chances are that you have already allied yourself with the usual suspects: a lawyer, a therapist, family members and old friends. But one of the best resources you can draw upon to give you strength during the divorce process is a divorce support group. Perhaps you have never heard of these. They are meetings of people going through a divorce, where individuals can share their stories and express their emotions in a neutral and supportive environment. Many churches or community centers offer these groups – it just might take a bit of digging to find out where and when they are held. Joining these groups can make a significant, positive impact on your emotional well-being during your case.

These groups can offer a number of benefits. First, they can be held in person or even online, meaning that you have no excuse to not attend. Deciding to do so is a major first step, and if you take the plunge, take a moment to praise yourself. Some groups might offer events that could help you, such as bringing in professional counsellors or legal experts to provide general information about going through a divorce. Others are more traditional, encouraging its members to be open about their experiences and share solutions and stories. Some might be able to provide you with professional resources or referrals. They provide a supportive community and keep you accountable for your actions and attendance. But most of all, they comprise of people who will listen to you with an empathetic ear. Each member in that group knows exactly what you are going through. Sometimes, just being able to acknowledge that you are not alone in your suffering can be incredibly healing. Continue Reading →

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Parenting Plans, entered as part of the final orders in a divorce, layout the custody and visitation arrangements between parents and children. The plan acts as a co-parenting blueprint by outlining the rights and responsibilities each parent has toward a child. Regardless of how custody is shared, one person will usually be designated as the primary or custodial parent. The child will be required to reside with that parent except for specific times when the child will live with the non-custodial parent.

Courts seek to encourage frequent and regular interaction between children and both parents unless a reason, such as a history of domestic violence, exists to limit contact. Ideally, the parents should mutually work to craft the plan rather than delegate the task to the court. Creativity in structuring the custody and visitation details can provide positive results for both children and parents.

The traditional schedule for school-age children has the child living with the primary parent most of the time with the child residing at the other parent’s home every other weekend from Friday evening to Sunday evening. Holidays are rotated each year. Winter and spring breaks from school may be split or alternated. The child may live with the non-custodial parent for a couple of weeks to half of the summer vacation. This time-worn schedule creates the weekend parent, a status often loathed by the non-custodial parent. However, a few changes can make a big difference. Continue Reading →

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In any divorce matter, the issue of retirement can be contentious. This is usually because it can be one of the largest assets in the marriage, particularly when the parties have been married long-term. When it comes to the division of military retirement, the regulations surrounding its division can be complex – especially when military disability is involved. The New Jersey Appellate division case of Fattore v Fattore discusses the various issues that can arise with military retirement and divorce.

The parties had been married over thirty-five years when they divorced in 1997. Their final judgment included a waiver of mutual alimony, which stated that they each waive alimony to each other now and in the future. Among other assets, each party’s pension was divided. Plaintiff, an operating room nurse, earned a modest pension, and she was to receive a one-half interest in the community portion of defendant’s pension, which had been offset against any equity she was going to receive in exchange for defendant keeping the marital resident (about $55,000.00). The defendant was a full-time member in the Army National Guard at the time of the divorce. A Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) was finalized in 1999. The defendant continued in his role in the Army for another three years until he became disabled in 2002. He was able to receive pension and disability without impacting his pension pay-out, and he was able to receive disability benefits, tax-free. A party opting for disability benefits in lieu of retirement payments are fairly regular occurrences in the context of military retirement and divorce.

The plaintiff never contacted the defendant to find out the status of the pension, and the defendant assumed that she had been receiving her share of the benefit. In 2010, the plaintiff contacted the Army and they responded that because a portion of the defendant’s pay is based on disability, it cannot be divided. It is an authorized deduction and so, there is nothing left for the property to be divided. She filed a motion to compel the defendant for compensation in 2016. At trial, the judge determined that although the situation was the fault of neither party, it was nevertheless unfair and appointed a pension appraiser to determine what her interest in the defendant’s pension would have been at the time of their final divorce judgment. In the interim, the defendant was required to pay her $1800 a month, which would be taken from any of his resources. This was not to be alimony, nor would alimony be required since both parties had waived their rights to it previously. Continue Reading →

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For a happy couple contemplating marriage and planning for the big day, a discussion related to divorce and death is usually not a top priority on the to-do list. However, consideration of a prenuptial agreement which can protect important property and financial interests requires that talk. Therefore, knowing what is a prenup and understanding its benefits are important to your financial future. A prenuptial or premarital agreement, also known as a prenup, is simply a written contract between two people planning to be married outlining use or disposition of property and distribution of debts in the event of divorce, the death of a spouse or other event.

Premarital agreements trace their origins back thousands of years when they were commonly used by royal families to protect their riches. A present-day misconception is that prenups are only necessary for the wealthy. In reality, prenups can be vital and provide benefits for people of moderate means.

Prenups are valid in all 50 states. More than half the states have adopted the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act drafted in 1983. States which have not adopted the act in whole have enacted statutes which mirror many of the law’s provisions. Continue Reading →

If a person requests a restraining order in NJ, they need to support enough evidence to show that it is more likely than not there is cause for concern that they could be the subject of physical violence. They must be a ‘victim of domestic violence,’ including someone in a dating relationship with the aggressor. Obtaining a NJ restraining order is, therefore, a question of fact to determine whether the applicant is in reasonable fear for their safety and whether they are in a dating relationship. The October 23, 2018 published trial court case of TM v RMW involved a heavy fact-intensive inquiry by the court in determining whether a restraining order was warranted.

The specific questions were, first: whether a plaintiff is a ‘victim of domestic violence’ as defined within a ‘dating relationship’ when the relationship consisted primarily of an intermittent sexual relationship but missing the traditional elements of a dating relationship defined in Andrews v. Rutherford. Next, the court examined whether a defendant can use the defense of consent when accused of simple assault and harassment by offensive touching when there was no dispute that the parties enjoyed consensual rough sex with each other.

The two individuals in question had known each other for several years. The female plaintiff was granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) alleging that they had a dating relationship, including a sexual relationship with the defendant that has lasted for 8 years. The incident which led to her request occurred during a session of consensual rough sex, wherein the plaintiff alleged that the defendant said he hated her and punched her with a closed fist. When she asked him about the punch, he laughed and punched her again. At the hearing for the final NJ restraining order, the parties represented themselves and had no other witnesses other than themselves. The parties had frequent sex during the first years of their relationship, followed by a three-year cessation of sex. But for the last year, the relationship had consisted of irregular encounters – about once every three months – which involved consensual rough sex. Continue Reading →

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