When Your Child Refuses Visitation

What Can You Do If Your Child Doesn’t Want to Spend Time with You?

When Your Child Refuses VisitationDivorce is difficult on everyone, but tends to affect children much more than adults. From toddlers to teenagers, kids are often acutely aware that their situation is different from most, if not all of their friends. Constantly going back and forth can be exhausting, and can leave children feeling like they don’t truly belong anywhere. Often, that can manifest in a child’s desire or decision not to spend time with a non-custodial parent. When your child tells you or your ex that he or she doesn’t want to have visitation, what can (and should) you do?

The Law in New Jersey

Technically, a child must be at least 18 years old in New Jersey to have the legal right to choose where he or she wants to live…and to choose not to see one of his or her parents. That doesn’t mean, though, that a younger child may not be granted that right by the court. However, for a minor to have the legal right to refuse visitation, the minor must go to court and get a signed order from the judge.

As a rule, the courts tend to be open to a request for refusal of visitation. First, though, the court will typically have a hearing to gather additional information. The judge will carefully gather evidence, seeking to ascertain whether the custodial parent has wrongfully influenced the child, or is offering some type of reward or benefit if the child refuses to see the non-custodial parent. The court may also examine whether there is any threat of harm or physical abuse to the child, either from the custodial or the non-custodial parent. In these types of hearings, the court may also take testimony from the child, and may give weight to that evidence.

Talking to the Child and to the Custodial Parent

Generally, though, using the courts to enforce a visitation order against your child is not recommended. The quality of your visitation will likely be minimized when it is compelled.

Your first course of action may be to talk with the custodial parent, to see if they have a better understanding of why the child is refusing visitation, or to see if they are complicit in the refusal. It can also be beneficial to speak directly to your child, to see if there has been some miscommunication, or to attempt to mend a damaged relationship.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Spousal Support in New Jersey

What Types of Alimony Are Available? How Does the Court Determine Spousal Support?

Spousal Support in New JerseyAlimony…it seems like an archaic term, something that’s gone by the wayside as women have become fully integrated into the workplace. Do the courts in New Jersey still grant alimony/spousal support awards? If so, how do the courts determine both eligibility for alimony and the appropriate amount/duration of payments? Are there different types of alimony a court can award?

Alimony—Still Alive and Well in New Jersey

Though the frequency with which alimony awards are granted has diminished, and though the types of awards given tend to be different, parties to a divorce still have a right in New Jersey to ask the court for spousal support. The court may, at its discretion, order either party to a divorce to pay alimony to the other party, based on a wide range of factors, including:

  • The length of the marriage—Though there is no minimum requirement, the longer parties have been married, the greater the chances of securing alimony
  • The health and age of both parties—For recipients, older age and poorer health weigh in favor of support. For payors, the opposite is true.
  • The potential earning capacities of the parties
  • The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during the marriage
  • The actual needs of the recipient, in comparison with the ability of the other party to pay
  • Whether or not the parties played a significant role in parenting during the marriage
  • Whether or not the recipient owns any income-producing property
  • The outcome of the property settlement in the marriage

The Different Types of Spousal Support

Though the courts have the discretion to grant an alimony award with an open duration, it’s becoming more common for spousal support to have a limited duration. A recipient whose age or infirmity makes it difficult or impossible to become self-sufficient may receive alimony permanently, but most alimony awards are:

  • Temporary—Established for a set period of time…usually a period of years
  • Rehabilitative—Put in place until the recipient is able to be self-sufficient, through training, education or career advancement

The Termination of Alimony

Alimony can be terminated or reduced by various events, such as

  • The remarriage of the recipient
  • Cohabitation by the recipient with a partner in an intimate relationship
  • The retirement of the payor

Accordingly, it is critical to properly and tightly draft any alimony provision in the divorce decree.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving Day, we take time to express our daily gratitude for the simple pleasures of life—good friends, family, people we hold dear. As we gather together, help us be grateful and let us share our bounty with our brothers and sisters.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

Stepparent Adoptions in New Jersey—The Basics

Stepparent Adoptions in New JerseyWhen you are divorced with minor children, and you remarry, you may consider having your new spouse legally adopt your children. There can be a number of tangible benefits to doing this:

  • If the other biological parent is abusive, obstinate or unfit to be a parent, you can legally limit his or her access to the child.
  • Your new spouse will have the legal right to participate in decisions regarding the child’s welfare.
  • The children may be entitled to certain work-related benefits.
  • It can help your new spouse build a strong relationship with your children.

In some instances, completing a stepparent adoption is relatively simple, but it also can be fraught with challenges. Here are some of the fundamental things you need to know about the stepparent adoption process in New Jersey:

  • There are age restrictions. A person must be at least 18 years old to be a stepparent. In addition, the stepparent must be at least 10 years older than the adopted child. You can always petition the court to remove those restrictions if doing so is in the best interests of the minor child.
  • You must obtain a termination of the parental rights of the other parent. The easiest way is for the other biological parent to voluntarily relinquish all parental rights. If the other parent is unwilling to do so, however, you must petition the court to terminate their rights. In New Jersey, parental rights can be terminated only if the parent is deemed unfit. Some of the factors that might form the basis for a ruling of unfitness are neglect and abandonment, substance abuse, or evidence of criminal activity. Failure to pay child support is not sufficient grounds for termination of parental rights.
  • If the child to be adopted is over the age of 10, his or her preference may be considered, but the court will have sole discretion to make a decision in the best interests of the child.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will take your case only if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

Happy Thanksgiving 2019

“Give thanks not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day of your life. Appreciate and never take for granted all that you have.” – Catherine Pulsifer

What is Equitable Distribution in a Divorce Proceeding?

And How Does It Apply to the Division of Marital Debts and Assets in New Jersey?

In the aftermath of a marital breakup, one of the most challenging tasks you might face is the division of marital property and allocation of debts incurred during the course of the marriage. There are essentially two approaches: (1) equitable distribution of debts and property or (2) allocation of the marital estate as community property. New Jersey applies the legal principle of equitable distribution.

What is Equitable Distribution?

The key word in equitable distribution is “equitable,” which means “fair.” A court applying the concept of equitable distribution attempts to divide debts and assets in a way that is most fair to both parties. That does not mean the property will be divided equally.

In New Jersey, if the parties to a divorce cannot agree on the distribution of property and obligations, the court will use the following criteria to create a fair settlement:

  • The length of time the parties were married
  • The age of the parties at the time of divorce
  • The mental and physical health of the parties at the time of divorce
  • The income each party brought into the marriage
  • The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during the marriage
  • The existence of a valid prenuptial/postnuptial agreement or other document providing for the allocation of property upon divorce
  • The economic circumstances of both parties at the time of divorce
  • The contribution each party made to the education, earning power, or training of the other party
  • The current income and earning capacity of both parties
  • The extent to which either party contributed to the creation, preservation, acquisition, or dissipation of the marital estate
  • The debts and liabilities of both parties
  • The extent to which either party deferred his or her career goals to maintain the home
  • Any other factors the court may consider relevant

WHAT PROPERTY IS INCLUDED IN EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION?

  • The key dates in equitable distribution are the date of the marriage and the date the Complaint For Divorce was filed. Almost any property acquired, or debts incurred, between those two dates, are “marital”. Whose name they’re in doesn’t matter, they’re joint and subject to distribution.
  • The exceptions are property acquired by gift or inheritance, or from a personal injury settlement for pain and suffering.
  • Assets and debts acquired before the marriage are generally not subject to distribution – unless acquired or incurred “in contemplation of marriage”, e.g., a house purchased a week before the wedding.
  • Assets and debts acquired after the Complaint For Divorce is filed are not subject to distribution.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will take your case only if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online, or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday between 9 am and 5 pm.

Happy Veterans Day 2019

Happy Veterans Day 2019

“On this Veterans Day, let us remember the service of our veterans, and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free.” – Dan Lipinski

When Can a Custodial Parent Relocate in New Jersey?

How Does a Court Determine Whether to Grant a Relocation Request?

When Can a Custodial Parent Relocate in New Jersey?Let’s face it—we live in a highly mobile society, where people seldom stay in one place for long. One study found that the average American moves about 12 times in his or her lifetime. It’s one thing to pick up and move your whole family—you may still face additional challenges from minor children. But what if you’re divorced and have custody of minor children? Can you relocate? Are there any conditions on your right to move?

In the state of New Jersey, if you are a custodial parent of minor children from a divorce, you must obtain the permission of the court for certain moves. There’s a specific statute (a written law) that governs relocations outside the state of New Jersey—the custodial parent must always obtain court approval. While there is no specific statute addressing moves within the state of New Jersey, there’s plenty of “judge-made” law—court decisions—to help determine rights and responsibilities.

While ruling that the statute governing out-of-state relocations does not apply to in-state moves,the court in Schulze v. Morris also held that an in-state move could be construed as a “substantive change in circumstances.” If so, it requires modification of the existing custody and visitation order. If the existing custody and visitation order needs to be revised, the court must then apply the same factors used to determine whether an out-of-state relocation is permissible.

The Factors Considered When Evaluating a Relocation Request

The guiding principle when assessing whether relocation is permissible is the “best interests of the child.” With that as a given, the court will inquire about:

  • The reason for the move—is it for a new job, a better school system or some other reason that can be construed as benefitting the child
  • The reason for the non-custodial parent’s objection to the move
  • The prior relationship between the parents—is there evidence of an ulterior motive?
  • Will the non-custodial parent still be able to maintain a meaningful and regular relationship with the child?
  • Whether the child has special needs or talents, and the extent to which those needs and talents will be met through a relocation
  • The available educational, health and entertainment opportunities for the child in the proposed relocation site
  • The impact on extended family member relationships with the child (such as grandparents)
  • The child’s preference, if the child is deemed to be of sufficient age

As a general rule, the court will not allow a move in a child’s final year of high school, unless the child consents.

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.

How Do New Jersey Courts Determine the “Best Interests of the Child”?

The Factors that Go Into Custody and Visitation Decisions

How Do New Jersey Courts Determine the When you can’t find a way to make your marriage work and need to file for divorce, it can be especially difficult to resolve disputes over child custody and visitation. Ideally, you and your ex-spouse will be able to come to an agreement that puts the needs of your children first. Unfortunately, that rarely happens.

If you can’t come to an amicable solution regarding custody and visitation, the court will have to make that decision for you. When that becomes a necessity, the court places a priority on “the best interests of the child.” But what does that really mean?

Under New Jersey law, the court may look at a wide range of factors when seeking to establish what will be in “the best interests of the child”:

  • The amount of time (as well as the quality of the interaction) that each parent spent with the child during the marriage
  • The fitness of each parent
  • The age of the child
  • The number of children in the marital home
  • The ability of each parent to work cooperatively in matters pertaining to the child
  • The distance between the parental homes, as well as the proximity of each parental home to the child’s school and other activities
  • Any special needs of the child, and the ability of each parent to meet those needs
  • The stability of each parent’s home environment, including stability of partners or house-mates
  • Any history of domestic violence by either parent
  • The perceived safety of the child in each parental home
  • The work and extra-curricular activities of each parent, as demonstrating the amount of time available for parenting
  • The preference of the child, if the court determines the child is sufficiently mature to participate in the decision-making

Contact Attorney David M. Lipshutz

We will only take your case if we know we can help. For an appointment, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9 am and 5 pm.