Category Archives: Family Law

NEW JERSEY ALIMONY REFORM: A COMMON SENSE TRANSLATION

AlimonyBy Toni Ann Russo, Esq.

Even many attorneys are unsure as to what impact the New Alimony Laws are going to have on Alimony and Divorce Cases going forward.

The Law is being applied prospectively so that cases filed for the first time after the law’s effective date will be effected as well as older cases where one of the parties seeks modification of an existing alimony obligation should there be no property settlement agreement defining the parameters of a modification. Additionally the court redefines retirement, reduction in income and cohabitation which will be applied to all cases requiring such a determination.

The new law directs that for marriages less than 20 years, the “limited duration” of alimony cannot be for longer than the length of the marriage. (except in exceptional circumstances) If the marriage is 20 years or over, a party is entitled to what is known as “open durational alimony” which may turn out to be similar to the previous “permanent alimony”.

What about these “exceptional circumstances” that could impact on the duration of alimony? The new law provides that certain “exceptional circumstances” may result in a duration of alimony longer than the marriage Age, degree of dependency, illness, career sacrifices, disproportionate share of estate, impact of the marriage on ability of spouse to support himself/herself, tax considerations, or any other factors just and equitable.

The court is also free to consider the nature, amount and length of support payments made during the divorce in rendering an alimony award.

While the new alimony law places limits on the duration of alimony I expect the law to impact permanent alimony cases the most. Most of the temporary alimony cases in the past did not result in durations more than the term of the marriage anyway. And while a court may consider the payor spouses early retirement, full retirement age is now defined as that age which a person is eligible to receive full retirement benefits under section 216 of the Federal Social Security Act, such that it may still prove difficult to retire early and not pay alimony. In fact, the new law allows a party to apply before retirement for a ruling as to whether or not they will still have an alimony obligation should they retire. This provision is a welcomed addition.

If you would like a FREE INITIAL ALIMONY OR DIVORCE CONSULTATION call 201-343-2(LAW)529 or

contact us at http://www.toniesquire.com

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The Trial Court Erred by Not Referring Case to Mediation

                                 

In the case of D.A. v. R.C. after reviewing the record developed before the Family Part in a custody matter where there were disputed issues of fact, the Appellate Court agreed with defendant’s arguments and remanded this matter for the trial judge to refer this matter to mediation as required under Rule 5:8-1. The Appellate Court stated that ‘If mediation fails to resolve the custody and parenting time issues raised by the parties, the judge shall then conduct a plenary hearing to resolve the factual disputes contained in the parties’ account of events, and thereafter place on the record his factual findings and conclusions of law as required by N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(f) and Rule 1:7-4(a). As part of this hearing, the judge must comply with the requirements of Rule 5:8-6 by either interviewing the parties’ now sixteen-year-old son concerning the custody and parenting time issues raised by his parents, or otherwise place on the record the reasons for his decision not to interview this child. In reaching this decision, the judge must consider the factors outlined in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c), including “the preference of the child,” given his age and capacity to reason.’

To read entire opinion go to: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-jersey/appellate-division-published/2014/a4030-12.html

ADOPTION LEGISLATION OPENS DOOR FOR CONTACT WITH BIOLOGICAL FAMILY

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Gov. Chris Christie announced Monday he would support a law enabling adoptees to obtain their birth certificates. A previous court decision had sealed adoption records since 1940.The governor however, has requested that the law not take effect until 2017, allowing parents time to decide whether they wanted to be found.60s.s views had changed, and that New Jersey needed to catch up. Once signed into law, New Jersey will be the 12th state to provide access to birth certificates in addition to Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

The compromise legislation allows birth parents to submit a form to the state Health Department saying whether they want direct contact, contact through an intermediary, or no contact and their name redacted. Birth parents who surrendered a child before Aug. 1, 2015, would have until Dec. 31, 2016, to submit the form.

For adoptions finalized after Aug. 1, 2015, birth certificates would be available in their entirety, and birth parents would be able to submit a form indicating their preference. Under the legislation, a birth parent who requests no contact will be encouraged to provide the Health Department with updated family information every 10 years until age 40, and once every five years after that. In addition, the state will notify the adoptee when information is added.

Adoptees over age 18, their children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, or adoptive parents or guardians would be able to request a copy of the original birth certificate, the birth parents’ preference on how or whether to be contacted, and other pertinent family information.

 

 

Shady Spouse, Hidden Money

The age old quote, “Money is the root of all evil,” unfortunately holds true when it comes to greedy spouses in the midst of a divorce. A recent article in Bloomberg, focuses on such spouses and the extremes they go to in order to rake in the dough.

Matters that couples tend to fight over include the division of assets, child support, child custody, spousal support, visitation rights etc. Yet some people will not only hide money right after the fact that getting a divorce has been decided upon, but even before there are troubles in paradise.

While this is typically a very hard thing to do if you work for a company that is not yours, due to set salary and taxes automatically being taken out every cheque, it is still possible. Also those who own their own business outright can be hiding their true income from not only their spouse but also from the Government. This not only reduces how much financial support the dependant spouse receives, but can also cause more trouble for both parties if the Government finds out and gets involved.

Hiding money from the IRS is tax evasion, and although there are laws that protect the innocent spouse, it is not foolproof. This is due to the fact that it can argued that the innocent spouse would have had to have known that money was being hidden or falsely reported due to red flags such as luxury items or outrageous mortgages when you’re supposedly living off a middle class income.

So if you see the writing on the wall, be smart enough to conduct your own investigation of all income and assets before going through with a divorce. This is to make sure that you are receiving the proper amount of child/ spousal support that you deserve and to make sure that you don’t get in trouble with the IRS if they find out and act upon it.

The Modern Soldier and His/Her Battle for Custody

On January 25th, Governor Christie passed a bill that protects Military men and women from loosing custody of their children due to being deployed/ receiving treatment post deployment.

The law protects these men and women from having the court make changes to their custody agreement while they are away, and up to 90 days after they return. They are not allowed to deem these men and women as unfit parents just because they are/ were away serving out of the country as long as they have a written notice of deployment or post-deployment treatments. The temporary guardian, of these children, must legally set aside time for the children to interact with their mother or father, such as over the phone or by video messaging.

However, this new law does not stop the court from changing the agreement, and potentially taking away custody, if it comes to the attention of the court that the child, or children, are considered in danger.

For more information: Source

Photo by: S Braswell

How Twitter and Facebook are becoming Weapons in the Court Room

Could Social Media lead to your downfall in the courtroom?

Over time, as the world and technology changes, new battle strategies have to be invented in order to be deemed victorious. This poses true for not only war, but for court room battles as well, and these new battle strategies involve social media.

As our society slides into an age where “over sharing” is in and privacy is out, we need to become more mindful of what we post on sites such as twitter and Facebook. Users no longer have a filter and post anything and everything, ranging from what they had for breakfast to more intimate details about sexual encounters or the drugs they did over the weekend, sometimes even including pictures. At the time of posting this information the user might think, “Who cares, my page is private and the only people who are going to see this are my friends.” However, years down the road when the user is going through a nasty divorce, this information might resurface in the court room.

Both women and men have begun using old and new Facebook/ Twitter posts in order to prove infidelity or the fact that one parent is not suitable for custody of the children involved. Twitter, for example, is allowing users to download reports, dating back to the very first day the account was created, of any and all statuses posted which could potentially be used as evidence against you.

For more information on Social Media in the court room:

Source

*Photo by: Gabriella Fabbri

NJ Supreme Court: Prenatal Drug Exposure is Not Enough to Prove Child Abuse

To Prosecute, or Not To Prosecute, That is the Question:

Should there be legal consequences for women who use either alcohol or illegal substances while pregnant? This question is still extremely controversial, and due to varied opinions, will continue to be for years to come.

The New Jersey Supreme Court recently reached a unanimous decision that the state may NOT consider a newborn to be abused or neglected based solely on evidence of prenatal drug exposure. There has to be substantial evidence showing that the drugs and or alcohol ingested while pregnant will have lasting effects on the infant and his/ her health in order for there to be a case. This evidence can come in the form of actual physical or mental impairments at birth etc.

According to the article, many states have already prosecuted women who have abused drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. These convictions were mainly overturned because of the fear that it would discourage women, who are pregnant while suffering from substance problems, from seeking out the help they need.

Congress has already responded by authorizing grants, which will be used to set up drug treatment programs targeting pregnant drug/ alcohol users.

For More Information: http://verdict.justia.com/2013/02/19/in-utero-the-new-jersey-supreme-court-says-prenatal-drug-exposure-is-not-sufficient-evidence-of-child-abuse

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