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Family law in New Jersey certainly revolves around the individual facts of each case. But what some individuals take for granted is how crucial a firm understanding of basic procedural rules of court can be to someone’s custody dispute. Of course, judges are not exempt from this requirement. But one recent case required an examination of whether a judge had properly followed child custody laws in NJ to ensure the correct decision had been reached.

In JG v. JH, the two parents in question were not married when their son, John, was born in 2012. At first, things were going well. In 2014, the court ordered the parents to share joint legal custody of their son, with the mother (Jane) having primary residential custody, and the dad (Joseph) having significant parenting time. The next year, the parents attempted to reconcile and so the consent order was vacated. It was not meant to be, and eventually, the parents grew apart, Jane entered a new relationship and became pregnant with another man, now her fiancé. Joseph claims he is a known drug user and is a convicted felon who has multiple prison sentences. As a result, Joseph filed an order to show cause under the original order (since vacated) asking for sole custody of John.

The court denied the order to show cause, stating that there was a failure by Joseph to show ‘actual imminent threat of harm’ to the child,’ and the court could not grant such emergency relief based on speculation. It did, however, grant temporary sole physical custody of the child to Joseph, pending a resolution on the application, because the court felt that there was the potential for violence in the mother’s home, which could negatively impact the child. Jane’s parenting time was also to be supervised by her mother. In turn, Jane responded with her own order to show cause, claiming that the child would suffer by his sudden separation from her. This was denied, with the judge again claiming there was no evidence for imminent harm supplied.  Continue Reading →

 

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If you and your partner are going through a divorce, it’s incredibly important that you take the time to talk with your child about what’s happening and to help them deal with their emotions. Depending on your child’s age, they may feel a variety of emotions. They might feel sad, relieved, frustrated, or scared. Your child might even feel anger. This is one of the most common emotions a child can experience when their parents are getting divorced. Fortunately, there are several things you can do dealing with divorce and children.

  1. Tell your child about the divorce right away

While you might be tempted to wait until things are almost finalized before you speak with your child, it’s important that you talk with them often and early. Your child will be able to sense that things are changing around the home and that family dynamics are shifting. Talking with your child will let them know you trust them and care about them. Don’t spring the divorce on them at the last second. Instead, once you and your partner have agreed to separate, sit down with your child and have an open and honest discussion.

  1. Answer your child’s questions

While you don’t need to answer all of your child’s specific questions, it is important that you address as many questions as you reasonably can. For example, your child doesn’t need to know about infidelity that led to the divorce. What you can say is that you and your partner have chosen to separate, but that both of you still love them. Focus on your child’s relationships with both of you and place an emphasis on the fact that you will still be a family. Do not say negative things about your spouse because it will increase their anger and damage them. Continue Reading →

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For long-term relationships, the question of alimony in NJ is often hotly contested in a dissolution of marriage case. In a recent New Jersey Case, Bermeo v Bermeo, the court decided whether or not to increase alimony payments after a property settlement agreement.

The parties got married in 1986. Their two children were both adults at the time of the divorce. The parties settled, and the final judgment of divorce incorporated the agreement. The alimony provisions required the defendant to pay plaintiff $4,000.00 each month based on his imputed income of $160,000.00, as well as various percentages of his supplemental compensation, such as bonuses, stock options, and commissions. Notably, the agreement also stated that the parties enter the agreement with the understanding that they will not be able to enjoy a similar lifestyle after the divorce, and waived a determination of the joint marital lifestyle.

The defendant had enjoyed high compensation during the marriage; however, he had received some pay cuts, which he discussed. Additionally, shortly after entry of the divorce, sought new employment for significantly less pay based on anticipated layoffs at his former place of work. Continue Reading →

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In a divorce, awards of stock are frequently the largest assets in the marital estate. It is no surprise then that how these accounts are divided can be controversial and highly contested. This kind of division of assets in divorce can often be complex, particularly if the stock awards have not yet vested and their value is as yet unknown. In one recent case of first impression, MG v SM, there was an issue of whether or not certain restricted stock, which would vest after the complaint of the divorce, would be subject to division in a divorce if the vesting is contingent upon the party in question’s employment efforts after the complaint.

The parties married in 1998, the plaintiff became a principal consultant for a major multi-national corporation. From August 2003 through August 2010, the employer gave plaintiff an annual stock award, which would vest in yearly clusters. By way of example, the plaintiff noted that in 2003, he received 490 shares. Starting in 2011, 174 shares each year would begin to vest. The same schedule applied to all subsequent stock awards. According to plaintiff’s testimony, this was so the company could ensure continuous high-performance of the employees. So, if in the year the stock award was going to vest and the employee had performed poorly, the company had the option to terminate their employment, along with their rights in the stock.

When the plaintiff filed his complaint for divorce in July of 2014, just three of his eight stock awards had fully vested. When considering the division of assets in divorce, the plaintiff’s position was that the stocks which had already vested should be eligible for equitable distribution to his spouse, but not the ones which had not yet vested. The court disagreed. The judge ruled that the defendant could share the stocks which had vested as of the date of filing as well as the awards which would vest after the complaint. Continue Reading →

When it comes to ending your marriage, divorce ranks right up there with getting your wisdom teeth pulled out. As author Mary Kay Blakely once said, “Divorce is the psychological equivalent of a triple coronary bypass.”

If children are involved, you may be in store for a lengthy adjustment period. Divorce and children are difficult to navigate. Learning to keep the peace would do wonders for both sides. Of course, that is easier said than done. Nonetheless, here are 10 tips for recently divorced couples who have children together:

1) Come up with a schedule, and stick to it

Remember, children thrive on routine and consistency. Your custody arrangement should take into account your children’s ages, the activities they’re involved in, and your work and personal schedule. Of course, there are times when life gets in the way, and you need to change things up a bit, which leads to the second tip.

2) When comes to divorce and children learn to say “yes!”

Does your ex-spouse need to tweak the schedule occasionally? Do they want to take the kids to see their parents during what is supposed to be your Christmas? If the other household’s requests are not unreasonable, then accommodating them could go a long way toward building up goodwill between the two families. In a perfect world, your ex will be just as accommodating and reasonable when you need some help. Whether that happens when the time comes is not the point, which is to create a happier, healthier environment for your children. Continue Reading →

It is becoming frequently common for couples to have children outside the marital relationship, for a multitude of reasons. Part of it has to do with delaying marriage – part of it has to do with the relaxing of stricter moral or religious codes regarding sex prior to marriage. Regardless, when children are born outside the marriage, both parents still have a duty to care and support their children. However, there are certain New Jersey custody laws for unmarried parents that these individuals should be aware of in order to preserve their parental rights.

Establishing Parental Rights

The mother is always presumed to be the mother of the child, whether married or not. But for fathers, the New Jersey custody laws for unmarried parents include a requirement to establish paternity before any orders can be issued concerning custody, visitation or support. There is a multitude of ways unmarried parents can establish paternity. If the parties never marry, then the father will need to sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity. A certificate of parentage can establish paternity and can be executed at the hospital during the child’s birth. The parents will need to meet with a birth certificate coordinator who will explain the provisions and significance of the form. Then, they will need to present valid identification and fill out the certificate. Their signatures must then be witnessed by the coordinator. Of course, if the parents do not fill out the form at the hospital, it can be completed later at either a local registrar’s office or county welfare agency.

He can also file a lawsuit to establish paternity, where a court will determine that he is the father. The couple can marry shortly after the child is born and sign a legitimization form, or the father can agree to his name put on the birth certificate and agrees to support the child. The father can also welcome the child into his home and openly hold out the child as his own. However, it is also best to get a court order or acknowledgment of paternity on file to get rid of any question as to the paternity of the child.  Continue Reading →

The child support guidelines of New Jersey are designed to provide consistency and certainty in family law matters. There is sometimes conflict between the parents, particularly if the parent paying child support believes that the recipient spouse is using that child support for frivolous things, like shopping trips or vacations. But the truth is, if the recipient parent is covering the essentials and expenses required by law, they can spend their money on whatever else they want. So, what does child support cover in NJ?

This question is basically asking, what does the child support I receive (or pay) cover, and what should be the other party’s responsibility to cover? It is important to understand what does child support cover in NJ to appropriately budget and ensure the child is taken care of. The guidelines apply to parents who earn a combined net income of up to $187,200.00. Any couples who exceed this amount will still have the guidelines applied, but an additional amount can be added, depending on multiple factors set forth under the child support statute.

Of course, child support covers the basics: food, clothing, and shelter are of course non-negotiable expenses when raising children. Food should be healthy and keep the children at an appropriate weight, but it does not necessarily allow regular meals at a fancy steak restaurant (unless the lifestyle of the child prior to the divorce incorporated these kinds of meals with some frequency). That is because if the parents can afford it, the court will consider the lifestyle to which the child had been accustomed to prior to the dissolution of the marriage when rendering child support orders. Clothing is another expense included in the calculation – which is a huge category. Clothing includes shoes, diapers, winter clothing, and accessories. It also includes maintenance of the clothing, such as cleaning sports uniforms or dance costumes. However, sports footwear is not included in the calculation. Shelter includes everything from the mortgage, rental payments, and utilities to keep a comfortable roof over the head of the children. If you are starting to think that some of these expenses are arbitrary, you would be correct.  That’s why the question, ‘what does child support cover in NJ’ is so commonly asked by parents involved in a family law matter.  Continue Reading →

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 →

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