Restraining orders are legal orders that protect a person or multiple people from another person. Restraining orders are issued where the defendant has committed an act of domestic violence, and orders him or her not to contact the victim or else be subject to arrest. Different states have different procedures in place for securing a restraining order. Obtaining a NJ restraining order has two main steps. In the first step the plaintiff (the person who wishes to obtain the restraining order) files a complaint with the court, and the court either grants or denies a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO). In the first step, the court only considers the plaintiff’s side of events without yet hearing from the defendant, which is why it is only temporary. If the court orders the TRO in the first step, the second step is a hearing with both parties, usually within 10 days after the TRO was ordered. During this hearing, the court will consider whether to make the restraining order permanent, called a Final Restraining Order (FRO).

Silver v. Silver – Two-Step Test for NJ Restraining Orders

Silver v. Silver is a seminal New Jersey case that articulates the two-step test that a court applies in determining whether to order a FRO. First, the defendant must have committed an offense (called a predicate act) that is prohibited by the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. Second, the court must find that a FRO is necessary to protect the Plaintiff from future harm or threats of violence.

A.M.C. v. P.B.  – The Facts

It is the second step of determining whether to make the NJ restraining order a permanent one, and the second step of the Silver test that is at issue in the October 21, 2016 New Jersey case of A.M.C. v. P.B. In A.M.C., a wife sought and received a TRO against her husband, a NJ police officer. At the FRO hearing the wife and her estranged husband were present, and the wife alleged that her husband had assaulted her on at least two separate occasions during a three-week period that culminated in her fleeing their home to seek refuge at a women’s shelter and that he verbally threatened to harm her in the future. The husband denied the allegations. Continue reading

When a judge calculates the amount of child support that a parent must pay for a child, many different expenses are factored into that calculation. Certainly things like food, clothing and shelter are included, but additional items such as transportation and entertainment area also considered. Sometimes there are additional expenses that a child can incur that are not necessarily contemplated when base child support payments are calculated. The Guidelines are written in such a way that judges are allowed the discretion to make adjustments to the level of support if necessary on a case-by-case basis, and a judge did so in a recent child support case holding that a parent may need to pay additional child support in NJ if the supported child is especially gifted or talented in the field of the arts.

P.S. v. J.S.

In the November 2016 case of P.S. v. J.S., the judge dealt with the question of whether the child in question should be considered “gifted” and thus have the child support her parent pays increased to provide additional money in order to pay for the expenses required to pursue her talent.

The parents in that case were in a dispute about the payment of expenses related to her acting activities. The Plaintiff currently pays the Defendant $113 per week in child support. The dispute here is that the Defendant wants the Plaintiff to pay additional funds as child support to help cover the cost of all extracurricular activities, “including but not limited to theater-related costs.” The Plaintiff objects to paying the additional support, arguing that those costs are already included in the child support that he pays. Continue reading

Child custody cases can often be contentious, expensive, and lengthy. Because of this, New Jersey courts have developed programs like mediation to assist parents in settling their differences outside of the courtroom. The Custody Neutral Assessment Program exists in some areas of New Jersey, mostly in the southern part of the state, though it is not specifically provided for in the child custody laws in NJ. A custody neutral assessment is used in a child custody case if the parents fail to reach an agreement through the initial mediation process, and is thought to be a less expensive and less time consuming of a process than otherwise lengthy custody evaluations. The assessment process takes approximately 3-4 hours, and costs vary depending on the location, but cost around $1,000 to perform (each parent paying half of the cost), which is significantly less than other options.

The Assessment Procedure

The assessment itself is conducted by a licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist or social worker that is prequalified by the court to have the experience and skill necessary to conduct such an assessment. Despite the fact that mental health professionals perform the assessment, the assessment is not a psychological evaluation or testing, and does not involve treatment. The assessor meets with the parties to discuss the issues that cannot be agreed upon. The assessor will sometimes include the children or others involved in the family situation such as step-parents, if deemed appropriate considering the circumstances.

Scope of Assessment – Recommendations

At the conclusion of the interview(s), the assessor will prepare his or her recommendations about how to resolve the issues in dispute by the parents and deliver them to the court. The clinician’s recommendations may include parenting time and custody, as well as referrals for substance abuse evaluations, anger management classes, or related issues that are preventing the parties from agreeing on custody matters. The court will then schedule a case management conference and at that time determine whether it will accept, modify, or reject the recommendations of the evaluation. The recommendations are not binding on either party, each still has the ability to perform a full custody evaluation. Continue reading

For many people, the holidays are a time of family gatherings and happy memories.  However, for recently divorced couples with children, the holidays present a myriad of issues.  Who will have the kids on Christmas morning? How will visits with extended family members be managed? Who decides what to buy and how much to spend on Christmas gifts? Can the ex-spouses manage to be in the same room together? Even after a divorce in NJ, the holidays can be a joyful time if the divorced parents intentionally keep it that way. If the problems get out of hand with your former spouse, you need to speak to an experienced NJ child custody lawyer.

 

Preparation is key.  Conversations about visitation schedules, gifts, and special events should be had weeks, if not months ahead of time. Talking to your ex might still be painful.  Keep conversations focused on the task at hand.  Resist the urge to take jabs at one another or to bring up old wounds. Try to remember that you both love your children and that moving forward in a healthy co-parenting dynamic will benefit them immensely.

 

Provide opportunities for your children to spend time with both sides of the family.  This may mean that your holidays are more hectic than they used to be.  If so, talk with extended family members about your concerns.  Do your best to allow opportunities for family celebration, but don’t sacrifice all your time with your children on the altar of extended family relationships.  Continue reading

If you are faced with getting a divorce, your life isn’t over yet. It’s just filled with a lot of different tasks that need to be handled if you are to get on with your life with as little stress as possible. In addition to all of the paperwork that needs to be filed, finding a new place to live, figuring out who gets which assets, and changing your contact information, you’ll need to settle up the debts that you hold jointly as well as those you are individually responsible to pay. An attorney can assist you in coming up with a good plan to do so or you can attempt to figure it out on your own. Here are a few ideas to help get you started.

Dividing the Debt According to Personal Responsibility

If your divorce is amicable, you shouldn’t experience any difficulty when you divide up your marital debts. Each spouse can simply take responsibility for personal debts, and the jointly held balances can be split down the middle. If the accounts are held individually, this strategy is easy to implement. Otherwise, cash transfers from one spouse to the other might need to take place.

If the divorce isn’t a friendly one, you might have more difficulty arranging this particular strategy, especially if some of the accounts are jointly held. For example, you might not want to pay for the $800 TV that your spouse purchased using a shared credit card. It’s important to create a list of all debts so that you don’t lose track of any of them. You can even make three lists: one for you, one for your spouse, and one for the two of you together.

Trading Off the Debt

If one spouse has greater means to pay off the debts, such as a higher income level, you might want to consider trading off the debt in exchange for a higher percentage of assets. For example, the spouse who has a larger salary agrees to accept responsibility for certain debts in exchange for jointly owned assets. Continue reading

New Jersey Statute – Grandparent Visitation

According to the Grandparent Visitation statute, N.J.S.A. 9:2-7.1, a grandparent who is deprived of visitation can seek an order of visitation from the court. In order to do so, the statute states that the grandparent must demonstrate that visitation is in the best interest of the grandchild. As a general rule, however, parents have the right to raise their children the way they wish to, without interference. We call this parental autonomy.

Validity of the Grandparent Visitation Statute – Moriarty v. Brandt

To better understand the current status of grandparent visitation in the state, we need to discuss a case called Moriarty v. Maguire. In Moriarty, the court dealt with the apparent clash between the Grandparent Visitation Statute and parental autonomy. The court in Moriarty ruled that in order for a grandparent to gain visitation against a parent’s wishes, the grandparent must show by a preponderance of the evidence that without the visitation the child will face harm.

Grandparent Visitation Litigation – Major v. Maguire

In Major v. Maguire, grandparents Anthony and Suzanne Major sought visitation under the Grandparent Visitation Statute. The Major’s son, Chris Major, was separated from their granddaughter’s mother, Julie Maguire, when he passed away in 2013. During the separation, the Major’s said they had a close relationship with their granddaughter, including weekly or bi-weekly visits, attending dance recitals, and family trips. Suzanne stated that she frequently took care of her granddaughter while Chris was dying, even living with them in the final weeks. Since Chris’s death, the grandparents stated that they have only seen their granddaughter twice for short visits. Continue reading

Divorce is never an easy subject. In the best of circumstances, a lot of decisions must be made for a successful dissolution. In the worst cases, it may become an ongoing battle with neither party willing to give in. In every situation, an experienced Bergen County divorce attorney can make the difference.

Why Choose Peter Van Aulen

Peter Van Aulen has been a divorce attorney for more than 23 years, serving Bergen County and surrounding areas. During his years dedicated to family law, he has been part of many situations revolving around divorce and child custody issues.

His Record

Mr. Van Aulen has handled child custody cases as part of divorce for both men and women. He has obtained restraining orders for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, he has represented those falsely accused of the crime. Continue reading

The dissolution of a marriage is stressful enough, that is why it is important to choose the best divorce lawyer to handle your divorce case. Your divorce lawyer should be qualified, experienced, and reasonable.

Divorce Lawyer Qualifications

At the most basic level, the person you choose to represent you in a divorce case needs to be qualified as a lawyer. All lawyers must be licensed to practice law in the state of New Jersey. In order to be licensed, a lawyer must graduate from a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association, pass a professional responsibility exam, pass the New Jersey Bar Exam, and receive a Certification of Character.

Divorce Lawyer Experience

There are tens of thousands of lawyers in New Jersey, how do you know which one to choose? While some lawyers have a general law practice, meaning that they handle multiple types of legal cases, many lawyers tend to specialize in a particular area of the law and devote their law practice to that type of case. Divorces cases, sometimes called matrimonial cases, fall under the umbrella term of family law. Choosing an experienced matrimonial attorney to handle your divorce case makes good sense, and asking the attorney you are considering about their experience handling divorce cases is a must. Continue reading

Mothers and fathers are responsible for ensuring that their children are provided with food, clothing and shelter, regardless of the relationship of the parents. For this reason, the State of New Jersey takes the payment of child support very seriously and provides services to ensure that child support orders are paid.

In New Jersey, child support payments may be handled either by the probation department or may be paid directly to the other parent. Handling child support payments through the probation department using the NJKiDS system provided by the state is often a good idea for both parents. The parent paying support benefits because a record of payments is automatically generated, providing proof of your payment. Paying the other parent directly creates a potential risk of not getting credit for payments made. For the parent receiving support, the record of payments made is also beneficial because missed payments will be clearly shown, and the probation department will automatically be notified to begin enforcement of the child support order.

New Jersey Kids Deserve Support (NJKiDS)

The New Jersey Kids Deserve Support (NJKiDS) is a state-run computer system that contains child support case information that parents can access by phone or online. It contains a record of the information about your child support case, including a record of past 13 months of child support payments and any major case events that have taken place. Using this system is beneficial to the parent receiving child support payments because if a payment is missed, it will automatically take action to enforce your child support order. Continue reading

What is Physical Child Custody?

Physical child custody is also known as residential custody. A child lives with the parent who has physical custody. The parent who the child lives with is called the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR).

What is Sole Physical Child Custody?

A parent may have sole physical custody of the child, meaning that the child lives only with one parent. In this arrangement, the child often has visitation time with the other parent, but does not stay overnight.

Can We Have Joint Physical Child Custody?

Yes, in New Jersey parents can share physical custody. The child will split time equally between both parents’ homes. A common example of this custody arrangement has a child living with a parent for a week, and then living with the other parent the next week. Continue reading

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