Category - Divorce

Understanding Different Types of Divorce in Voorhees New Jersey

Types of Divorce

There are different types of divorces in New Jersey. This is why it is important to have an experienced divorce lawyer by your side from The Law Offices of Daniel K. Newman. We understand all divorce laws in the State of New Jersey and have successfully represented individuals while obtaining for them favorable resolution of their family law matter.

What is an Uncontested Divorce Versus a Contested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one where both parties have agreed in writing to the terms and conditions of a Marital Settlement Agreement. A Divorce Complaint and other required documents are filed with the court, and the case is given a court docket number. A Summons along with the Divorce Complaint are then served upon the defendant and proof of service is filed with the court. The court then schedules an “uncontested” Final Judgment for Divorce hearing. This is the most streamlined type of divorce that our NJ law firm can help you with. A contested divorce, on the other hand, is one in which you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on all of the issues regarding the dissolution of the marriage, children’s issues if there children born of the marriage, allocation of marital debt and equitable distribution of property. This will involve negotiations, hearings, motions and sometimes a full trial in order to have a Superior Court judge issues a ruling as to all of the disputed issues.

About Default Divorces

A divorce by “default” is a two-step process. The first step is filing an Entry of Default. This occurs if the other spouse has not filed an Answer or otherwise pleaded to the Summons and Divorce Complaint within 35 days of service of the Summons and Complaint upon the defendant. The second step is a Notice of Final Judgment. This is a proceeding for a final judgment by default where the attorney prepares a written request for the court detailing relief sought against the defaulting party insofar as dissolution of the marriage, children’s issues, equitable distribution of property and allocation of marital debt is concerned.

Contact a Voorhees Family Law Attorney for a Consultation About Divorce in New Jersey Today

If you are thinking about filing for divorce, or if you have already started the divorce process and are dealing with another matter such as child custody, child support, or division of assets, you need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at The Law Offices of Daniel K. Newman represent clients throughout the state, including Camden, Cherry Hill, Winslow, and Pennsauken. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at 856-309-9007 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 1202 Laurel Oak Rd., Suite 207, Voorhees Township, NJ 08043. There is no charge for the first consultation at our office.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

Amber Heard Follows Through On Promise To Donate Johnny Depp Divorce Settlement

Divorce Settlement Lawyer in NJMovie star Johnny Depp is accustomed to being in the public eye, but the negative attention caused by his recent divorce from Amber Heard is extremely embarrassing for the famous actor. Actress Amber Heard filed for divorce in May of 2016 after alleging that Depp aggressively attacked her by pulling her hair and slapping her in the face with a cell phone.

Heard Gives Divorce Settlement to Charity

Heard explained that she planned to pursue a settlement, but it wasn’t for the money except to the extent she could donate it to charity. In August, actress Heard promised to donate her divorce settlement damages. She specifically stated that she planned on giving it to charities that would prevent violence against women to help defend those less able to defend themselves. Recently, she made good on that promise and gave a large amount to the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. The actress was noted on the 2017 donors list from the hospital in a designated category suggesting she donated somewhere between $1 and $5 million.

Family Lawyer Daniel K. Newman

Johnny Depp and Heard’s marriage lasted only 15 months, but the settlement, in this case, was enormous. When physical and emotional abuse is present in the marriage, courts may under the appropriate circumstances award damages against the abuser in what New Jersey calls a “Tevis” claim. The expertise, experience, and compassion that attorney Daniel K. Newman offers his clients provide a practical and successful method for dealing with all types of family law issues. His goal is to help clients achieve the best possible results throughout this difficult time period in their lives. To get started on your case today, contact the law office of Daniel K. Newman at 856-309-9007.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

Divorce: Do You Need a Lawyer?

A Divorce Lawyer for Camden County, NJ ResidentsWhen a married couple decides to divorce, both parties face some very difficult decisions. Many individuals going through the divorce process are emotionally distraught and anxious. Despite this, soon-to-be single individuals must make crucial decisions about finances, parental obligations and previously shared property with a former spouse who may or may not be cooperative.

The mental and emotional strain of divorce puts increased pressure on people, so it can be harder to make rational decisions even for the most calculating and forward-looking individuals. If you and your former spouse are able to agree on all issues between yourselves, then you might not need to hire a lawyer. A written signed marital settlement agreement is among the things you need to finalize the divorce. When there are significant marital issues in play that prevent amicable resolution of all issues, a divorce lawyer is necessary to ensure your rights are protected. There are many future financial decisions like college costs and pension issues, for example, which are overlooked by people when they represent themselves.

Various factors may influence a person’s decision to hire a legal professional during a divorce. In many situations, one party may find it impossible to negotiate effectively with their former partner to reach agreements. Your former partner’s personality will play a significant factor in whether you will be able to reach agreements outside of the courtroom. It is best to hire a divorce lawyer when significant issues like abuse have been present during the marriage. A lawyer will protect the rights of abused children, women or men, and a legal advisor can also help you deal with a dishonest or vindictive spouse attempting to utilize divorce court to further abuse you. If your spouse has hired an attorney, then it’s wise to hire your own legal representative.

Contact Camden County, NJ Divorce Lawyer Daniel K. Newman For A Free Consultation Today

Mediation can help some former spouses come to a negotiation, but an experienced divorce lawyer will ensure your rights are protected when one individual refuses to fairly negotiate. The compassionate and dedicated divorce attorney Daniel K. Newman can help you during this difficult process. Contact his law office now at 856-309-9007 to discuss the details of your case and determine if a divorce attorney is right for you.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney/client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

Benefits of a Collaborative Divorce

The typical divorce often involves parties sparring with each other as adversaries. A collaborative divorce utilizes a different approach. Family law attorneys guide their clients to work together to find equitable solutions to issues such as custody, visitation, and property division. Instead of entering the divorce process contentiously, spouses agree to work together to troubleshoot and solve problems through negotiation and mediation.

In a collaborative divorce, proceedings are less expensive and can be completed more quickly than litigation. Both parties can feel confident about having their concerns addressed. Additionally, a compromise occurs during negotiation, which allows the parties to reach a settlement without a judge interceding. In this format, all parties, including children, typically experience less stress and anxiety.

Both parties must be willing to work with each other to achieve a collaborative divorce. With this plan, a family law attorney can help spouses end their marriage and move forward without the acrimony usually associated with divorce.

Resolving Difficult Family Law Matters

Family law tends to be particularly challenging because emotions often run high. Whether a situation involves the dissolution of marriage or the custody of children, people usually have strong feelings that become part of the process. It may be possible to resolve some problems without excessive intervention, depending on the situation.

Reaching an Agreement

The goal of any family law matter is to reach an agreement. While this often involves going to court to enlist the help of a judge, this is not always necessary. The parties can also make an agreement without the intervention of any outside entities. The process may also involve negotiation, mediation, counseling, and arbitration. If each of these options fails, the final step may be entering the dispute into the court system for a ruling.

Even though it’s typical for these situations to be unpleasant, parties can take steps to resolve issues in a positive manner. Avoiding personal attacks and blame, keeping children out of the process, and striving to communicate effectively are three ways that people can work to resolve differences amicably.

Understanding Post-Judgment Modifications for Child Support

What is a post-judgment modification?

A post-judgment modification is a process in which a person files a motion or application to modify a court order, such as child support, custody, or parenting time. This is typically due to a considerable change in circumstances, and the modification will only be granted if the person’s change in circumstances is substantial enough. A few examples that would be grounds for modification are significant changes in either party’s income, behavioral or criminal problems, substance addiction, change in daycare expenses, college expenses, or unanticipated medical expenses of consequence.

The successful motion or application is frequently accompanied by an affidavit or certification, including relevant exhibits, and sometimes a legal brief if the legal issue is unique or a matter of first impression before the court. The matter is then scheduled for oral argument before a Superior Court judge, at which time a decision is rendered.

Relocating With Your Children

Frequently people come in to see me who want to relocate to another state with their children.  Sometimes divorced, and sometimes having reached the end of non-marital cohabitation with the other natural parent, these individuals express a number of different reasons for wanting to leave New Jersey.  Among the most common reasons are: A desire to go to a sun-belt state with appreciably cheaper costs of living and better job prospects; reuniting with family members who reside in another state; and a job transfer by a new spouse.

Under New Jersey law, N.J.S.A. 9:2-2, minor children of parents divorced, separated or living apart, who are natives of New Jersey, or having resided five years within its limits, cannot be removed for residential purposes out of this jurisdiction without the consent of both parents unless the court shall otherwise order.

A New Jersey Supreme Court case, Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001), establishes that a party seeking to move out of New Jersey with his/her children bears the burden of proving that there is a good-faith reason for the proposed move, and that the proposed move will not be inimical to the children’s interests.  The following factors are addressed by the court in making this decision:

(1)        the reasons given for the move;

(2)        the reasons given for the opposition;

(3)        the past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it bears on the reasons  advanced by both parties for supporting and opposing the move;

(4)        whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here;

(5)        any special needs or talents of the child;

(6)        whether a parenting-time schedule and communication schedule can be developed that  will allow the non-custodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child;

(7)        the likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child’s relationship with the non-custodial parent if the move is allowed;

(8)        the effect of the move on extended family relationships here and in the new location;

(9)        if the child is of age, his or her preference;

(10)      whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent;

(11)      whether the non-custodial parent has the ability to relocate; and

(12)      any other factor bearing on the child’s interest.

From my experience practicing in South Jersey, Chancery Division-Family Part judges in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland and Salem Counties will almost always let the custodial parent move to either Philadelphia or New Castle County, Delaware, if minimally sufficient reasons are set forth by the party seeking to move as long as New Jersey retains jurisdiction of the case for so long as the law allows.  As far as distant locales are concerned, I have always found that the best approach is to present the judge with a host of favorable options so as to make it difficult for him/her to deny the removal application.  These reasons may include: An offer by the custodial parent to permit the non-custodial parent substantially extended summer and holiday parenting time; agreement to fly the non-custodial parent to the children’s new location several times per year if financially feasible; providing the judge with comprehensive statistics about the lower cost of living in the proposed new state, including housing costs, lower taxes and the consumer prices; more favorable job prospects in the new state than those available in New Jersey if the parent seeking to move has not already been offered or accepted new employment; and offering extensive telephone, Skype or Face Time contact with the children.

In a particularly thoughtful, comprehensive opinion, Benjamin v. Benjamin, 430 N.J. Super. 301 (Ch. Div. 2012), Judge L. R. Jones held that it was not a mandatory prerequisite for relocation that the parent seeking to move had obtained a guaranteed job in the other state.  The court reasoned that it was not realistic to expect an employer in another state to offer guaranteed employment to an arms-length job applicant who (a) still lives in New Jersey, (b) is in the middle of ongoing family court litigation which may last for months, and (c) cannot reasonably tell the employer whether or when he or she might be able to start work.

If the other parent objects to the relocation, and there are genuine issues of fact as to whether or not the move would be personally, socially and financial harmful to the child, generally, the court schedules the removal application for a plenary hearing.  This procedure is akin to a trial where witnesses are presented, documents introduced into evidence, and the attorneys prepare  post-hearing, proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.

All in all, if the party seeking to relocate out-of-state prepares his/her application comprehensively, taking all of the factors set forth in Baures and Benjamin into consideration, there is a reasonable chance that relocation will be permitted.

BAD BEHAVIOR AND ALIMONY

Your spouse has been unfaithful to you, has been physically and/or mentally abusive, or has been involved with illegal or immoral activities, and you want to file for divorce.  Is the court going to take this bad behavior into consideration when deciding whether or not you have to pay alimony? The answer is possibly, but not necessarily.

In a case entitled Mani v. Mani, 183 N.J. 70 (2005), the New Jersey Supreme Court described alimony as an economic right that arises out of the marital relationship.  It is intended to provide the dependent spouse with a level of support and standard of living comparable to the quality of life that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.  If bad behavior by the party who is otherwise eligible for alimony has negatively affected the economic status of the marital parties, fault may be considered in calculating alimony.  But if the marital misconduct does not affect the economic status quo of the parties, generally, it is not to be considered in an award of alimony.  The only exceptions to this rule are cases where the potential alimony recipient is guilty of egregious fault.  In the Mani case, the New Jersey Supreme Court referred to a California statute which barred alimony payments to a dependent spouse who attempted to murder the supporting spouse. Deliberately infecting the spouse with a loathsome disease was also cited by the Mani court as an example of egregious fault.  In the case of Clark v. Clark, 429 N.J. Super. 61 (App. Div. 2012), the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey further defined “egregious fault.”  This lawsuit involved a situation in which the wife conceived and carried out a long-term scheme to embezzle the cash receipts from the parties’ pharmacy business.  The wife’s actions were criminal in nature and demonstrated a willful and serious violation of societal norms.  This type of conduct is willfully, wrong, fraudulent and purposely intended to deprive the other spouse of the economic benefits of the marital partnership, and it may serve to lessen or abolish alimony.

In the case of Puchalsky v. Puchalsky, 2014 WL 9913174 (App. Div. 2015), an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division affirmed the trial judge’s alimony ruling.   Both husband and wife were involved in income-tax evasion and healthcare fraud in the course of running a dental practice.  Since both parties were involved in illicit activities, and neither party would be able to replicate their martial lifestyle irrespective of how much or how little alimony was awarded, the appellate court let stand the trial judge’s alimony award.

As unfair as it may seem to the aggrieved party, in a no-fault state such as New Jersey, the court does not generally take into consideration your spouse’s infidelity or the behavior you had to endure during your marriage, when deciding on the amount and term of alimony.  Bringing these types of behavior to the judge’s attention can be valuable, however, with respect to other decisions the court must make such as custody and parenting time, for example.

So, before concluding that you may be “off the hook” in terms of paying alimony to your spouse in light of his/her bad conduct, unless that conduct causes measurable financial harm, it likely will be a negligible factor at best in considering the amount and length of alimony to be awarded.

New Jersey Child Emancipation

“I want to sign my rights away.” “He’s gonna be 18 in June. I can stop paying child support then.”

I have often heard these and other similar comments.  For the most part, however, such thoughts are wishful thinking and not reflective of current New Jersey law.  But what happens if these mistaken beliefs come before the court in the form of a proposed consent order which a judge is asked to sign, or in a marital settlement agreement presented at an uncontested final divorce hearing?

First, under such circumstances, an experienced attorney will advise his/her clients that their child emancipation expectations are likely against New Jersey public policy.  So, questionable child emancipation language rarely appears in attorney-drawn orders or agreements.  Second, a judge will likely refuse to sign a consent order containing premature child emancipation language despite consensus between the parents.  And third, should dubious emancipation language “slip through the cracks,”  a subsequent judge or an appellate court will probably not enforce the questionable provisions finding them to be at odds with New Jersey public policy.  It should be noted that with marital settlement agreements judges rarely, if ever, read them at an uncontested divorce hearing.  Judges are simply interested in assuring that the parties have voluntarily signed the agreement without coercion; that they understand it and recognize that they are giving up their right to trial;  and that they wish to settle the case according to the terms of the agreement.

Child emancipation is almost always interwoven with termination of child support payments.  The guiding principle is that child support belongs to the children.  The parent receiving the support holds it in constructive trust for the children.  The money is to be spent on and for the children.  To be sure, in a number of cases the child support monies are spent by the receiving parent on personal items that do not benefit the children.  Unfortunately, the courts do not have the resources to monitor parental use of these funds.  In fairness, court personnel and related state and county agencies cannot be expected to micromanage the spending habits of divorced and separated parents.

“Emancipation” is a legal concept denoting the end of the fundamental, dependent relationship between parent and child.  Dolce v. Dolce, 383 N.J. Super. 11, 17 (App. Div. 2006).  It is not automatic and “... need not occur at any particular age …” Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529, 543 (1982).  Upon emancipation, legal and physical/residential custody rights and responsibilities are no longer vested in the parents and child support ceases.

N.J.S.A. 9:17B-3 holds that once a child reaches the age of majority, now eighteen, a parent has established “prima facie, but not conclusive, proof of emancipation.”  The burden of proof then shifts to the party seeking to continue the child support obligation.  Next, the court embarks on a critical evaluation of the existing circumstances—the child’s needs, interests, independent resources, family expectations, and the parties’ financial abilities, among other things.  Newburgh v. Arrigo, supra, at 545.

If the child joins the armed forces, gets married, obtains employment and his/her own residence at a separate location, these are all factors indicative of emancipation.

Another consideration is the responsibility of the parents in New Jersey to provide for payment of the children’s undergraduate college education after all loans, scholarships and grants upon immediate, fulltime (twelve credit hours or more per semester) enrollment in college. This duty was originally set forth in the Newburgh case referred to above. While Newburgh does not provide detailed guidance for trial judges in how to implement its philosophy, a common convention among New Jersey Family Division judges is that students are given five years to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree.  Thus, the support obligation may continue until the child is twenty-three.

This is just a brief synopsis of a few of the many issues that may arise when parents are confronted with the child emancipation question.

Representing yourself in Divorce

I see it time after time.  To save divorce attorney’s fees, people go down several different paths:  They pay a nominal sum of money to a commercial divorce center in exchange for a packet of forms;  go to the Clerk of the Chancery Division-Family Part for divorce forms;  cobble together self-drawn marital settlement agreements  from internet sites; or acquire generic forms from family and friends.  Actually, it is surprising how much the layperson gets right from these various sources.  The problem that arises, however, is the critical nature of those several things which are omitted or poorly worded.  Child custody and child support are fertile areas for mistakes in agreements drafted by laypersons.  The distinctions between “legal” custody and “physical/residential” custody are often not understood and, therefore, not correctly phrased in the agreements.  Parenting time is not sufficiently specific.  For example, pickup and dropoff arrangements are not clarified, and extended summer parenting time and holiday visitation are either left out or imprecisely phrased.

Lack of understanding of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines by divorce litigants often leaves them uncertain as to how much money per week should be paid for child support resulting in too little or too much being paid.  Also, failure to have child support paid via wage execution through the County Probation Department Enforcement Division is not included in the agreement.  The child support recipient often does not know the process to implement the wage execution.

As far as real estate division is concerned, the quitclaim deed/mortgage refinance issue is usually mishandled.

Regarding spousal support, it is not uncommon for the amount of the weekly alimony and the length of the alimony term to be inconsistent with the statutory guidelines and conventions employed by the courts and divorce attorneys.

As well, division of retirement assets is often never accomplished since laypersons generally do not understand the contributory retirement plan “rollover” process and the necessity for Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROS) for defined benefit plans (pensions).

To correct the above mistakes, indeed, if that can be accomplished at all, may wind up costing more than if an attorney had been retained to handle the divorce in the first place.

The procedural remedy in New Jersey is a post-judgment motion to attempt to correct the deficiencies in the marital settlement agreement.  Sometimes this is successful and sometimes not.  There are two competing legal doctrines: one, basic contract law; and two, recognition that the Chancery Division-Family Part is a court of equity which seeks to provide justice to all parties.  On the one hand,  in interpreting a contractual provision, the goal is to ascertain the intention of the parties to the contract based on the language used, taken as an entirety.  Some judges take the position that the court will not excuse performance of the agreement as written because the court is not obligated to make a better contract for the parties than they saw fit to make for themselves.  The court may also rule that subsequent events which should have been foreseen by the parties when they entered into the martial settlement agreement will not make the contract unenforceable as written.  See Schwartzman v. Schwartzman, 248 N.J. Super. 273, 278 (App. Div. 1991), and Schiff v. Schiff, 116 N.J. Super. 546, 561 (App. Div. 1971), certif. denied 60 N.J. 139 (1972).

On the other hand, there is a legal doctrine in New Jersey by which the law grants particular leniency to agreements made in the domestic arena, and likewise allows judges greater discretion when interpreting such agreements.  The rationale of the New Jersey courts is that although marital agreements are contractual in nature, contract principles do not have as great a place in the law of domestic relations as in other areas of the law.  Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 148 (1980); Guglielmo v. Guglielmo, 253 N.J. Super. 531, 542 (App. Div. 1992); Konzelman v. Konzelman, 158 N.J. 185, 194 (1999).

Chancery Division-Family Part judges, when confronted with a post-judgment motion to amend, interpret or clarify the marital settlement agreement, have a substantial degree of discretion.  Only in the most extreme circumstances, such as if there is a plain misreading of the law by the Chancery Division judge, will an appellate court reverse the trial judge.

So, if you choose to represent yourself in a divorce, beware of the legal and procedural obstacles that lay ahead.