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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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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 →


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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