How Is Paternity Established and How Does It Affect Child Support?

Camden County Paternity Attorneys“Who is the father of this child?” makes for juicy gossip on certain talk shows. The truth is that modern DNA testing can determine whether a particular person is the parent of a particular child with 99.99% plus accuracy.

From a legal perspective, however, enforcing paternity obligations such as child support may be more difficult. Establishing paternity according to legal rules is essential for ensuring that the father of a child pays necessary child support and has the opportunity to contribute to the raising of the child, if appropriate.

Is a Paternity Test Needed for Child Support in New Jersey?

For child support purposes, a paternity test is not always necessary. If the biological father of a child born to unmarried parents concedes that he is the father, or if the couple agrees that he is the father, then the father will likely be expected to pay child support. In this situation, the father may be referred to as the “acknowledged father” in court documents.

In some cases, a father is presumed to be the father of the child. For instance, if the parents were married when the child was conceived or born, the father may be presumed to be the father of the child. Similarly, if the father attempted to marry, or married, the mother, he may be considered the “presumed father” under particular circumstances.

Who Can Bring a Claim to Establish Parentage in NJ?

Since presumed-father rules vary by state, it is important to talk to a knowledgeable NJ family lawyer if child support is an issue and either parent lives in New Jersey. Either parent may bring a paternity action to court in order to declare parentage. States use various names for paternity actions, including “establishment hearings,” “filiation hearings,” or “parentage actions.”

Some paternity actions are brought by welfare organizations that provide TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) benefits to the mother and child. In these situations, the mother is required to cooperate with TANF officials or risk losing her benefits.

If a particular man is determined to be a father in a paternity action, he may be ordered to pay child support. He may also seek custody or parenting-time rights with the child in most cases.

Contact an Experienced Camden County Family Lawyer Today to Discuss Your Parentage & Child Support Issues

Attorney Daniel K. Newman leads a New Jersey divorce and family law practice that focuses on applying knowledge and compassion to every case we handle. To learn more, contact our office today 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.

Is It Always Necessary to Get a Prenuptial Agreement Lawyer?

Prenuptial Agreement Lawyer New JerseyWhen two people are in love and planning a wedding, the last thing that anyone involved wants to consider is the idea that their marriage may someday come to an end prematurely. However, couples do need to be aware of all the possible circumstances that can arise. So, preparing a prenuptial agreement before they are wed may be a very wise and financially prudent thing to do. That leaves the question: should all couples get a prenuptial agreement lawyer to manage these details, even when both partners feel as though they would be able to handle this type of situation themselves?

An Experienced NJ Prenuptial Agreement Lawyer Can Steer Couples in the Right Direction

Regardless of how solid a relationship a couple may have, it is frequently a good idea to engage a prenuptial agreement lawyer. This does not mean that there won’t be numerous aspects of the prenuptial agreement that both parties can agree on before the process even begins. In fact, the more items that both of you can agree on in the beginning, the better the entire ordeal will be for you in the future. Nonetheless, there are still several issues that you may not even be aware of that are best left to be handled by an experienced New Jersey family attorney. Even in the most positive of relationships, the best route to take will be one in which each of you retains your own lawyer to draft a prenuptial agreement, or one of you retains a lawyer to prepare the agreement and the other retains a lawyer to review it so that you both have someone looking after your best interest.

The truth is that any prenuptial agreement will be examined very closely by the courts, and having an agreement that was prepared or reviewed by the two separate lawyers for each of you only helps everything go more smoothly. If neither of you has a lawyer, or if only one of you does, then the agreement will have to be scrutinized even more closely, as the chance of the agreement not being complete or possibly being one-sided becomes even greater. If each of you has your own lawyer to look out for your interests and to help you come up with a more solid prenuptial agreement, any future divorce proceedings will almost always be easier to deal with.

Another aspect that makes it important for you to both have a lawyer is the different laws that exist in each state. These laws vary greatly throughout the country. If you are not aware of the specific details that make up each of these laws when making your prenuptial agreement, important issues can easily be missed or overlooked. By having a knowledgeable attorney deal with matters such as these in the beginning, rather than finding out about them afterwards when you are in the midst of a divorce and tensions are running high, you are more likely to avoid the difficulty of needing to confront this kind of circumstance.

Free Consultation with an Experienced Camden County Family Lawyer

In the end, a happy relationship will make it easier to agree on the essential terms of your relationship. There are a number of issues that are best left to be dealt with by a qualified attorney. Call the Law Office of Daniel K. Newman at 856-309-9007 to set up a free consultation today or fill out our online contact form.

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.

Who Is Able to Adopt a Child?

New Jersey Adoption LawyerAdoption is one of the greatest gifts anyone can give. There are many children both in and out of our country who are not afforded the same opportunity as others, simply because they no longer are under the care of a parent(s) or guardian(s).

Choosing to adopt a child and help him/her get out of whatever situation they may be in is a big commitment and requires great care. The adoption process itself is involved and can end up taking quite some time. But before you even get started on the adoption process, you must first make sure that you are able to adopt a child.

Adoption of a Child in New Jersey

In New Jersey, any person who is at least 18 years old may adopt. If you are married, your spouse must consent or you must jointly apply to adopt. When it comes to the child, he/she can be any person. If it is an adult adoption, then they must be 10 years younger or more than the person looking to adopt. If the child is 10 years old or older, their consent in the adoption is going to be considered.

Now, this does not mean any adult can adopt a child. While laws may vary from state to state, it is common that an adult must be considered a “fit parent” in order to adopt a child. This means meeting certain requirements as required by the state, perhaps even including requirements handed down by the adoption agency you are adopting through.

Unique Difficulties Faced by Certain Couples Looking to Adopt in NJ

As stated earlier, adopting a child is not easy even though it seems most anyone can do it. Depending on the type of couple, some adoption experiences may end up more difficult than others.

For starters, it may be more difficult for a single parent to have their adoption successfully completed. This is because most agencies often look to put healthy infants and younger children in two-parent families. In addition, birth parents often want their children to also be placed in a two-parent home.

In a similar sense, lesbians and gay men may also find it harder to adopt than their heterosexual counterparts, despite an increasing number of states allowing gay and lesbian couples to adopt jointly. The good news is that New Jersey permits single LGBT individuals to petition to adopt and also permits same-sex couples to jointly petition to adopt. In addition, the state of New Jersey permits a same-sex partner to petition to adopt their partner’s child or child of the relationship.

Again, when it comes down to it, the decision is made based upon what is in the best interests of the child. If you are looking to adopt a child you need to build a strong case for what makes you a fit parent, regardless of demographics.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Camden County Family Lawyer to Discuss Your Adoption

It is in your best interest to consult an adoption lawyer who is familiar with the state’s ideals of a fit parent. In New Jersey, the Law Offices of Daniel K. Newman can help put you in the best possible position to make your adoption dreams a reality.

Call 856-309-9007 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.

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.

Factors That Merit Changing a Final Judgment

Modifying a final court decision is common in family law. Changes regarding income, illness, and the residence of either party can make adhering to the judgment unfair or even impossible. A post-judgment modification is when a judge alters a court decision after a final judgment is made. Often in divorce cases, the custody, child support payments, and the marital status of either party can change. If some event impacts at least one of the parties, the judgment may need to be modified.

Life Events, Injury and Illness

A change in circumstances for either party such as employment status or health could require the court to review the family law case. If the party paying the support loses their job rendering them unable to fulfill their duty, they must inform the judge. If the payer is injured and cannot work for a short amount of time, a judge may temporarily reduce or stop the payments. If the illness is permanent and debilitating, they may be incapable of providing support. However, if the child has an illness, the amount of support may increase. Further, if the supported parent gets a job, the payment amounts could be reduced or stopped.

Relocation to Another State

The custodial parent may want to move to another state, which would call for the court to reevaluate the decision. The reason for the move may be for a job, to live near relatives or for a cheaper cost of living. While such a move would clearly impact visitation with the child by the noncustodial parent, the move is permitted unless the noncustodial party can demonstrate that the relocation is not in the child’s best interest.

Emancipated or Alimony Recipient

A child is emancipated when he or she reaches the legal adult age and no longer needs to be supported financially. The child may be granted emancipation earlier than legal adult age if they can demonstrate financial independence and no mental illness. However, support may still be required if a child has a condition rendering them physically, mentally or even financially dependent. If a spouse who is receiving support remarries, she may not need as much support.

Family law is not the only field of practice to utilize post-judgment modifications. The details of which parent gets custody, the amount of support being paid and either party’s fluctuating income often mean that settlements will probably be modified more often than other cases.

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.