Equal Shared Custody—Pros and Cons

The Advantages and Disadvantages of 50/50 Parenting

Equal Shared Custody—Pros and Cons Historically, in the aftermath of a divorce, when there were minor children in the home, one parent was granted primary physical custody and the other parent was accorded rights of visitation, typically bringing the child into his or her home every other weekend, alternating holidays and on other agreed-upon occasions. That approach, however, is changing, as more an more states are enacting laws that allow for “equal parenting,” where the minor children spend half of their time with each parent. New Jersey allows such an arrangement.

On it’s face, it may seem like the most equitable way to resolve custody issues. Typically, both parents want to play a meaningful role in the growth and development of their children. But equal parenting does not come without its challenges and its detractors. Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages.

The Benefits of Equal Shared Parenting

Studies indicate that when minor children spend approximately the same amount of time with each parent:

  • They have higher self-esteem, better school performance, and better emotional, behavioral and physical development
  • They have a broader perspective on the world, due to the differences inherent in each household
  • There are fewer gender-based assumptions about parenting for all parties involved
  • Parents tend to work more cooperatively, provided there is no fundamental conflict or animosity

Opponents of equal shared parenting fear that:

  • Sharing custody equally typically eliminates child support and may leave children without adequate financial resources
  • Children may struggle to have a sense of belonging anywhere, feeling instead that they are visitors in both homes
  • Where there is a fundamental level of discord, the frequency of contact between the parents can be problematic
  • Mandating that the child spend an equal amount of time with each parent does not accurately replicate what happens in most intact homes…it’s customary for a child to spend significantly more time with one parent than the other.

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.

Can I Deny Visitation for Unpaid Child Support in New Jersey?

What Are Your Rights When Child Support is Past-Due?

Can I Deny Visitation for Unpaid Child Support in New Jersey?When you’re a custodial parent to minor children, payment of child support by your ex can help ensure that you can keep a roof over your head and put food on the table. When your former spouse clearly has the resources to pay child support, but refuses to do so, you can feel considerable resentment when your children leave for visitation. Can you deny the other parent access to the children because of a failure to pay child support?

The Right to Visitation is Not Conditioned on Payment of Child Support

In New Jersey, as in all states, the right of a non-custodial parent to regular access to and visitation with minor children is not tied to the payment of child support. Though the non-payment of child support can create significant problems, denying visitation will typically only make things worse, as it will constitute a violation of a court order (your divorce decree) and could potentially place you in contempt of court.

Furthermore, absent a showing that the non-custodial parent poses a physical threat to the minor children, it’s unlikely that a court will issue an order denying visitation with minor children. That does not mean, though, that a custodial parent who is not receiving child support cannot petition the court to change the terms of visitation. However, the courts will be unlikely to issue an order that negatively affects the children.

A better approach, when child support is not being paid, is let the matter be handle by the Probation Division of the New Jersey Department of Human Services. How do you do that? Well, as a general rule, unless you agree to some other method of payment in your divorce decree, that will be the default method for payment. With that approach, all child support payments will be made to the Probation Division, either directly or through wage garnishment. The Probation Division will keep records of all support paid, and has the power and authority to engage in collection actions, when there are arrearages. The Probation Division has a number of tools at its disposal, including:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Attachment of tax refunds
  • Suspension of passport or driver’s license renewals
  • The issuance of an arrest warrant for contempt of court

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.

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