Divorce Mediation by Allison Turley Madden, Esq., Experienced NJ Attorney

DIVORCE LAW 101

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THE LAW OF EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION IN NEW JERSEY

Generally speaking Equitable Distribution means if you got it during the marriage, you share it equally in your 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

The law regarding alimony is considered by most attorneys to be incredibly vague.  There is no specific calculation that is required to be used.  Most attorneys take the difference between the parties average incomes over recent years and calculate a third of that difference to come up with an alimony suggestion.  Many factors can affect that or change that calculation.  A judge will apply the statute and take into consideration 14 factors set forth therein in determining an amount.  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.  

There are commonly at least four types of alimony:

  • 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.  

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.  It also no longer treats alimony received 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.”  As a result, unlike alimony, child support provides limited wiggle room for negotiation and as they say it is what it is.

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?  

I will not preach to you here about how much damage can be and is often caused emotionally, spiritually and mentally to children who are involved in custody battles.  It is an issue that I personally feel almost insanely passionate about.  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.  This is not a chess board and your children are not pawns.  

The court will determine or you can agree through mediation, legal custody of your child and physical custody of your child.  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 coparent (obviously the optimal arrangement) joint legal custody should be agreed upon.  In such a case each party has a legal right to access to information concerning the child and input on their lives.  Parties have to communicate regarding their children for this to work.  If parties do not communicate effectively this will be a recipe for disaster with your child being the innocent victim.  Most of the time, parties agree to some version of joint legal custody.  If not a court would order sole legal custody to one parent whereby the other parent would not play a part in decision making etc.   

Mediation can be a great place to start to relearn communication skills that may have gone “dormant” over time.  While you may no longer be enamoured 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.

With regard to physical custody parties can agree to sole custody with one parent having the child most of the time or joint physical custody.  There are as many variations of joint custody as there are grains of sand on a beach.  It is always in the best interests of everyone involved to work out an agreement regarding the child that is fair to the child and causes the least amount of emotional and physical disruption.  Fighting over joint custody arrangements because one or both of the parties selfishly want to remain or become the primary caretaker despite the realities of an arrangement (how far one parent lives from the child or the child’s school for example) do nothing to protect or help your child get through what is an emotionally difficult time in the best of circumstances.   

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 the end of the day you may or not get the result that is best for you and your child.  Why take the power to decide this vitally important issue out of your hands and place it in the hands of third parties who don’t even know your child?  

Contact us to get started today!

DISCLAIMER

Again, a mediator is not your lawyer.  She is impartial and works with both parties equally to review the facts, inform the parties as to what the law MAY BE and provide some insight on how things might proceed in a particular legal situation.  The preceding therefore is for informational purposes only and should not under any circumstance be considered legal advice.