Our Practice Areas
We are a law firm dedicated to divorce and family law. Explore our practice areas, and contact us for more information.
We Help People Resolve Their Family Law Issues
The breakup of a marriage can be extremely complicated. Everything in your life is affected, including your children, your property, and your future income. There are two parts to any divorce case. The first part is the actual cause of action for divorce which gives the court the right to grant the parties a divorce. Grounds for divorce can be “fault” or “no fault”. A court requires that the parties to prove certain facts that support their request to get divorced. In New Jersey, this is relatively easy with the passage of the “irreconcilable differences” statute. This is one of the two “no-fault” grounds for divorce. While there are other grounds for divorce, this cause of action is typically used, even in fault cases, because of the low threshold of proof needed to satisfy your burden of moving forward with the divorce. The second part of the case is the more complicated aspect of divorce. That is the part of the case involving the resolution of child custody, parenting time and financial rights. In the typical divorce case, the parties ultimately agree upon the custody and financial issues. The parties then enter into a written document incorporating their agreement. Then the case proceeds to court as an uncontested matter and a judge grants the parties a divorce incorporating their agreement. In the less typical case, the parties do not agree how to resolve their case and the case proceeds to trial after which a judge decides all of the issues. There are a number of considerations in any divorce case, even those where the parties agree on most of the issues. Do not try the DIY approach to divorce. It is simply too complicated to cover all the issues without a lawyer. Additionally, you should be looking for an attorney that only practices divorce and family law. They are far better at predicting the various issues that may arise in any given case. Remember, you get only one chance. After the agreement is signed, or the trial ended, your ability to change anything is extremely limited. You need to get it right the first time. Feel free to contact us. We can explain your rights and responsibilities in any situation. The first consultation is free, and there is no obligation to do anything after that.
Sometimes spouses decide to separate without getting divorced. Moving out of the marital home without an agreement can result in various unintended consequences. In New Jersey, there is no true legal separation for married couples. It should be noted that the unmarried couples have such a right if they entered into a civil union. Legal separation was not extended to married couples. Even though there is no formal cause of action for legal separation, if you choose to separate it is important that you do so in a controlled manner. We typically advise our clients that a formal agreement must be negotiated and signed prior to moving out, so both parties’ rights are clear. If the parties later reconcile, the agreement can be cancelled. If they decide to get divorced, the terms of the agreement can be incorporated into their marital settlement agreement. If you are contemplating a separation from your spouse, please contact us.
A marriage in New Jersey may be annulled in certain circumstances. Unlike divorce, with an annulment, the marriage is treated as not existing in the first place. Because it erases the marriage, there are limited grounds upon which a court may grant an annulment. Grounds for an annulment fall into two categories, namely, void and voidable marriages. A marriage would be void if one of the parties is already married when they get married. Bigamy is not allowed in New Jersey (or any other state). A voidable marriage is a marriage in which one of the parties can, under certain circumstances, invalidate the marriage. An example of this would be if one of the parties defrauded the other party, or one of the parties was under the age of consent. With voidable marriages, one of the spouses must move before the court to declare the marriage void and prove their case for an annulment. It should be noted that a civil annulment has absolutely nothing to do with a religious annulment. Even if you are granted an annulment by a court, your religion may still recognize the marriage as valid. Therefore, if you wish to marry in the church in the future, you will also need to obtain a religious annulment.
Child Custody & Parenting Time
The most serious issues involving the breakup of a relationship involve the custody of the children. The needs of the children need to be considered before the needs of either parent. There are two considerations when it comes to child custody. The first is legal custody and the second is physical custody (a/k/a parenting time). Legal custody relates to who has the right to make major decisions for the children. Such decisions include medical issues, education, and religious upbringing. Physical custody or parenting time relates to when each parent will spend time with the children. In New Jersey, child custody is presumed to be shared equally by the parents. However, this does not mean that parenting time must be exactly even. In most cases, parenting time is not exactly even. One of the parents usually will have more parenting time than the other parent based upon what historically has happened, as well as each parties’ employment and individual living situations. Resolving custody and parenting time issues when the parties cannot agree with each other is often exceedingly difficult. We usually recommend that clients put all else aside and treat custody and parenting time as the most important and only issue in their case. The resolution of custody and parenting time issues usually have significant consequences for each parent. Sometimes parenting time issues limit where the parties can live, or where they can work. If the parties wish to relocate after the divorce, the relocation may prevent them from effectively exercising parenting time with the other parent. In all cases, the best interests of the children must be considered first. In our experience, we have found that once a successful parenting plan and custody arrangements are in place, the rest of the issues in the case are easier to resolve. When considering custody and parenting, we first determine our client’s goals, and we work with them and the other party to develop a custody plan that works best for them and the children. The number of issues that arise when considering custody and parenting time are too numerous to cover here. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact us.
Child relocation out of the state of New jersey, also known as removal, are among the more complicated cases involving child custody. New Jersey law provides the if the parties cannot agree upon the removal of a child from the state of New jersey, the child cannot be removed absent a court order. If a parent removes a child from New Jersey without the consent of the other party, a court will usually order them to return the child to New Jersey until a hearing can be scheduled. A party’s failure to comply can have grave consequences, including criminal implications. Therefore, it is very important to seek competent legal advice in any case involving the removal of a child from New Jersey long before moving day.
A child has the right to be supported by both parents. Even if one of the parents is absent from the child’s life, that parent still has the obligation to support the child. In New Jersey, child support in most cases is determined by reviewing and applying the New Jersey Child Support guidelines. The guidelines use both parties’ incomes to arrive at a base child support number. This number is allocated between the parties based upon the number of overnights each party has. The child support is then adjusted for recurring expenses such as health care and work-related daycare. There are other adjustments that can be made to the child support number. Although the parties can deviate from the guidelines, this is usually done where there has been an offset due to a negotiated amount for equitable distribution or alimony. Deviations from the guidelines must be disclosed and explained to the court. The calculation of child support is usually routine, once the parties’ incomes and the parenting schedule are known. Sometimes, however, the determination of these variables is difficult. Please contact us if you wish to discuss the calculation of child support.
Alimony, sometimes called spousal support, is usually one of the hotly contested issues in any divorce case. The purpose of alimony is to keep the lower earning supported spouse in about the same financial position as her or she was in during the marriage. While traditionally alimony was paid by the husband to the wife, alimony is now gender blind. There are several distinct types of alimony in New Jersey: temporary (pendente lite), limited duration, rehabilitative, reimbursement, or open durational. Pendente lite alimony is awarded during the pendency of the case. The remaining forms of alimony are awarded after the final divorce judgment is entered. When determining alimony, the court must consider several factors set forth in the New Jersey statutes. The factors include, but are not limited to, the actual need and ability of the spouse’s to pay, the length of the marriage, each spouse’s age, physical and mental health, the standard of living during the marriage and the likelihood that both can maintain a reasonably similar lifestyle after the divorce, each spouse’s earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, employability, and the length of time the supported spouse was absent from the job market, and each party’s share of the equitable distribution. Most divorce practitioners will initially focus on the length of the marriage, and each party’s income and/or ability to earn income. From there, an initial determination of the amount and term of the alimony can be made. Since alimony can last for many years after the marriage has ended, it can have a lasting effect on both spouse’s future finances. Although alimony can be modified or terminated in certain circumstances, such applications are difficult and costly to bring before a court. Therefore, agreements respecting alimony should never be entered into without seeking the advice of a divorce lawyer.
Like alimony, the division of marital property, also known as equitable distribution, is an area of divorce that is the subject of significant litigation. Each party is entitled to a share of all property acquired during the marriage. Although there is a presumption that marital property is equally divided, it does not have to be done that way. Frequently spouses trade one form of property for another. Disagreements arise when the parties cannot agree upon the value of marital property, or whether a particular property is entirely or partially marital. The issues can become complicated when premarital property, which generally is not subject to division, increases in value during the marriage and a claim is made by the other spouse for a share of the increased value of the property. In some cases, such as when a business or pension needs to be valued, experts such as forensic accountants, business evaluation experts, and pension appraisers need to be employed to help the parties and the court value the marital share of the particular asset. In the case of a pension, federal tax laws prevent the division of the pension absent an order of a court. The order is called a qualified domestic relations order and is almost always prepared with the help of competent counsel and a pension valuation expert. As can be seen from this short writing, the division of a couple’s assets can be difficult. The parties are always best served by seeking the advice of a divorce attorney. Please contact us. We will be pleased to assess your individual circumstances and provide you with an opinion as to the division of your assets.
Domestic Violence Restraining Orders
Restraining orders are among the more serious issues handled by our firm. Immediately upon its entry, a restraining order can affect, among other things, a party’s employment, income, housing, custody arrangements, and right to possess weapons. Since the entry of a restraining order in New Jersey is permanent, the dire consequences can have long lasting effects. In addition, the incident giving rise to the entry of the restraining order may, in addition to the restraining order, have criminal consequences. The violation of a restraining order is a criminal contempt of court and carries with it severe penalties. If you are either the victim or the defendant in a domestic violence restraining order case, you need representation. The consequences are far too serious to try to represent yourself. If you are involved in a domestic violence case, call us immediately. In accordance with New Jersey law, the initial hearing must be scheduled within 10 days of the entry of the restraining order. It is imperative that you act quickly to protect your rights. We are here to assist you.
A prenuptial agreement is entered into before parties get married. The agreement sets forth each party’s rights to property division and spousal support if the relationship ends in divorce. The agreement can also address issues related to the division of property upon the death of one of the spouses if the marriage was failing at that time. Many parties do not know how to approach the topic of a prenuptial agreement with their future spouse. They are concerned that the discussion may ruin the marriage before it starts. However, if the parties have assets and income at the time that they get married, a well drafted prenuptial agreement can provide them with certainty, and actually make their relationship better. It is obvious that the pre-nuptial agreement should be discuss long before the parties’ wedding day so neither party feels pressured. Also, the New Jersey statute requires that each party be represented by counsel, or specifically waive their right to counsel. Moreover, the prenuptial agreement must be in writing, signed by both parties, and have a complete list of assets and liability annexed. If you have any questions about a prenuptial agreement, or you are unclear whether you need a prenuptial agreement, please contact us. We will be pleased to discuss the issues with you.
Domestic Partnerships, Civil Unions and Same-sex Marriage
In New Jersey, same-sex couples were granted limited rights beginning in 2004 with the New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act. This Act allowed registered domestic partners limited rights in New Jersey including certain health care, state pension rights, insurance rights, the right to inherit from a partner without a will, and the right to file a joint state tax return. In 2007, New Jersey passed the Civil Union Law that granted same-sex couples the same rights afforded to opposite-sex married couples. A domestic partnership and civil union differ primarily in their treatment of property rights and alimony. The latter law allows a partner to obtain both property rights and alimony upon the termination of the civil union, while a domestic partner was not afforded these rights. Both statutes, however, only affected a couple’s rights under New Jersey law as the federal government did not recognize same-sex relationships. In 2013 the United States recognized same-sex marriages allowed under state law, and later in 2013 same-sex marriage became legal in New Jersey, and in 2015 the United States Supreme Court ended the ban on same-sex marriage in all fifty states. The termination of a same-sex union raises the same issues (perhaps fewer issues in the case of a Domestic Partnership) as those in an opposite-sex marriage. If you are contemplating the termination of your Domestic Partnership, Civil Union, or marriage, please contact us. We will be pleased to discuss your rights with you.
The parties spent months or years resolving their divorce case or going to trial to have a judge resolve the case. It is now resolved, and both parties live happily ever after fully complying with the marital settlement agreement or judgment of divorce, right? Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Sometimes, one party acts in bad faith and overtly does not comply with the agreement or judgment. Other times, unforeseen events occur that prevent a party from complying with the agreement. Still other times, the agreement or judgment is unclear, and the parties do not know whether or how to comply with the agreement or judgment. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. The parties need to resolve the issue, either through further negotiation or litigation. If you are experiencing any issues whatsoever with your former spouse, please contact us. We have substantial experience with post-judgment issues and can provide you with concise answers about any issue you have be experiencing.
We represent clients in connection with juvenile and adult adoptions. Each of these types of adoptions have different concerns. If you have questions or concerns with a potential adoption, please feel free to contact us.
Mediation & Arbitration
Mediation and Arbitration fall under the category of Alternative Dispute Resolution or ADR for short. Mediation refers to non-binding process whereby a trained mediator works with the parties and the lawyers to resolve the parties’ issues. The process is non-binding which means either party is, after participating in good-faith, free to accept or reject the mediator’s proposed solution and move the case to the next stage (usually more litigation). Arbitration is a binding process whereby an arbitrator hears judge hears the testimony of the parties (and sometimes other people) and then decides the issue. This is similar to what happens in court. However, since the court system has thousands of cases and only a handful of judges, arbitration usually concludes in a timelier manner than traditional litigation in court. ADR is a tool used extensively in family practice. The reason for this is simple…it works. Each party involved in mediation has an equal say in what happens and can guide the process as they believe necessary. This is unlike litigation (or even arbitration) where a judge hears the testimony of the parties (and sometimes other people) and then decides the issue. In such cases, the parties have little control over the outcome of the case. The process certainly has its limitations. It always works better when the issues are highlighted by the parties’ attorneys in advance of the mediation. If you are considering resolving your case through mediation, call us first. We can offer constructive advice that will increase your chances of a successful mediation.
Contested Estate Matters
We have represented clients in contested estate cases for many years. In the usual case, siblings have a dispute about the disposition of their parents’ estate(s). Sometimes, however, other parties are involved. The disputes could involve an unequal distribution between siblings prompted by a claim that one of the children unduly influenced their parent(s) towards the end of their life, thereby compelling them to change their previously prepared estate plan to a new distribution scheme more favorable to that one party. Other times, the percentage each child is receiving is acceptable to all the parties, but the executor is failing to make distribution in accordance with the last will and testament. This is a case of justice delayed, justice denied. Another common issue is the executor’s willful dissipation of estate assets for expenses that are unnecessary. In each case, the aggrieved party has recourse. They can bring the matter to court and challenge the last will and testament, compel the executor to make distribution in accordance with the last will and testament, or require the executor to account to the beneficiaries for their spending of estate property. These cases are invariably complicated and should not be undertaken with an attorney with substantial experience in this area. We have substantial experience litigating contested estate cases, and a strong background in tax and accounting. It is important that you act quickly in estate cases. Once an executor is appointed, they have the power to act on behalf of the estate immediately, without notifying the beneficiaries. If the executor is unscrupulous, they can do a lot of damage in a brief period of time. Please feel free to contact us if you have any concerns about an estate.
How It Works
The break up of a relationship is difficult. Our representation of you is not.
Our initial case consultation is free. We will review your case, and determine how we can help you.
Every family is unique, and every client has different objectives. We will work together, and develop a plan to resolve your case.
Once the plan is developed, we will guide you through the litigation process focusing on your objectives.