DIVORCE LAW 101

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THE LAW OF EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION IN NEW JERSEY

New Jersey is a state that follows the law of equitable distribution.  Generally speaking Equitable Distribution means any assets or debt acquired during the marriage should be equally distributed when you divorce.  That includes assets, real property and debts.  There are some exceptions to this rule like inheritance received, but for the most part things tend to get equalized upon divorce.

ALIMONY

Alimony is, as most people know, an amount to be paid by one spouse who earned more during the marriage to the party who earned less during the marriage for a specific period of time.  There are several different types of alimony depending on the length of your marriage: temporary or rehabilitative, term and open duration.  Generally speaking, in divorce cases where one party earned more money than the other the following are the types of support or alimony ordered or agreed upon:  


  • Pendente Lite support - spousal support paid while your divorce is pending;
  • Rehabilitative alimony - paid for a short time period to help the other person get back on their feet after the divorce; 
  • Limited duration alimony - alimony for a set amount of time, usually common in marriages under 15 years;
  • Open duration alimony - alimony with no end date other than a parties’ retirement - usually common in long term marriages.  


A judge will often apply the statute governing alimony in New Jersey when deciding an alimony case.  He or she will take into consideration 14 factors set forth in that statute to determine the amount to be paid.  Those factors can include (but are not limited to) such things as the duration of the marriage, the ability of a party to pay and the need of the party, the standard of living of the parties during the marriage, the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties and the parental responsibilities for the children.  


Also important to know is that recent changes put into place in 2019 no longer allow a payor of alimony to take a deduction for alimony paid for income tax purposes federally.  The same law states that alimony received is no longer taxable as income to the recipient federally.   

CHILD SUPPORT

Child support is the amount one party pays the other in order to continue to provide for the child’s needs post-divorce.  Regardless of custody, the majority of cases involve scenarios where a child will spend more than half the time with one parent causing that person to be deemed the parent of primary residence.  There is a presumption that more of the financial obligation of raising the child will fall on that person and child support is put into place to assist financially with the costs of raising the child.  

Child Support in New Jersey is governed by a strict formula into which specific income, insurance and other relevant information is placed in order to arrive at a child support number.  This process is typically adhered to unless there are extenuating circumstances that may require considerations that cause child support to fall “outside of the guidelines.”  

CHILD CUSTODY

Determining a custody arrangement for your child should always involve answering one question: what is truly in the best interests of your child?  


In the perfect world, divorcing parents would work together to successfully arrive at parenting plans and living arrangements for their children post-divorce that are not motivated by emotions or hurt feelings related to their divorce.  There is an enormous amount of research conducted that confirms the negative effects on a child  emotionally, spiritually and mentally when they have been used as a pawn in a custody battle. Determining custody should, in a perfect world, have absolutely nothing to do with your personal feelings about your partner and emotions or hurt feelings that arise out of the dissolution of your marriage.  Divorce is not a chess game and children are not pawns.  


There are two types of custody that must be determined in most divorce matters involving children.  Legal custody determines how you and your partner want to handle the important decisions concerning your child on matters such as education choices, health care, etc.  If both parties can work together and continue to co-parent legal custody is often appropriate.  Once legal custody is determined, physical custody will need to be resolved to determine the physical location of the child's primary home and the development of a parenting time plan for the parent of "alternate residence."  

 

Mediation is an excellent venue or method of resolving difficult custody issues.  It can be a great place to start to relearn communication skills that may have gone “dormant” over time.  While you may no longer be enamored with your soon to be ex, if you have children you most definitely will continue to have to “deal” with them until your child is emancipated, moved out and on their own.  Now is as good a time as any to try to put your personal feelings aside and promote only what is best for your child.


If you can reach an agreement as to the custody of your child you will save yourself, your partner and, most importantly, your child, months and sometimes years of emotional turmoil and upset.  Just ask any adult you know who suffered through a custody battle as a child and they will tell you of the emotional damage they sustained and how much they had wished their parents could have just gotten along.  In addition, custody battles are incredibly expensive when the parties cannot agree.  Third party forensic psychiatrists are often brought in who require retainer fees typically in the thousands of dollars range just to speak with you and your child.  


At Conscious Uncoupling Solutions, we offer fantastic creative resolutions for difficult custody situations through mediation.  If your particular case is not mediation appropriate, we will fight hard for your rights, as well as for the rights of your child so that they ultimately will come out ahead with their best interests protected moving forward.

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