Termination or Modification of Alimony in New Jersey

Ways to Change or End an Alimony Order

Divorce from Bed and Board in New JerseyAlimony is still ordered in New Jersey divorce cases, though it’s granted far less often than it used to be. Alimony is often set up as a temporary means of support during a period when the recipient completes the training or education necessary to become self-sufficient. Alimony also can be permanent; however, there are ways to modify or even terminate a permanent order of alimony. Either party can ask the court for a change in alimony, but the request must be in writing, and the other party must have an opportunity to contest the proposed modification.

The Effect of Remarriage on a Spousal Support Order

The parties may agree in a divorce judgment that alimony ends when the receiving party remarries. If the order does not address remarriage, then under New Jersey state law, alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the recipient. The remarriage of the paying party rarely provides grounds for modification or termination of spousal support.

Cohabitation as a Basis for Reducing or Terminating Alimony

The parties to a divorce can stipulate in the divorce decree that alimony ceases if the recipient cohabitates or lives with a new partner. However, even if the divorce order is silent on the issue of cohabitation, a long-term romantic relationship, where the couple shares living space and finances, can be the basis for modification or termination of spousal support. That won’t happen automatically, though. The party seeking to change the alimony order must file a motion, and the court will hold a hearing and make a decision.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help. For a private meeting, 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.

Divorce from Bed and Board in New Jersey

What Is It? Why Would You Choose It?

Divorce from Bed and Board in New JerseyIf you’re experiencing difficulties in your marriage, but you’re not certain that divorce is the answer, there’s a fairly unique process in New Jersey, known as “divorce from bed and board,” that may be a good solution. Also known as a “limited divorce,” it’s not really a final divorce but more akin to a legal separation.

How Does Divorce from Bed and Board Work?

To put a divorce from bed and board in place, both parties to the proceeding must agree to that approach. The grounds stated for the divorce will be just like those for a traditional divorce, but with divorce from bed and board, the parties remain technically married under New Jersey law. In addition, the parties are limited with respect to their acts:

  • Neither party can remarry without getting a final judgment of divorce and thereby converting the limited divorce to a full one.
  • The parties cannot acquire property as a couple while the divorce from bed and board is in place. The parties can, however, continue to jointly own property acquired before the divorce from bed and board.
  • Rights to property in an estate, or to take an elective share in the estate of a spouse, are not preserved when a divorce from bed and board is put in place.

Why Choose a Divorce from Bed and Board?

Perhaps the most compelling reason to opt for this approach is that it allows a spouse to continue to obtain health insurance coverage from the other party’s employment benefits, which is permissible because the parties are still technically married.

A divorce from bed and board can serve as a trial separation without the consequences of a full-blown divorce.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help. For a private meeting, 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.

The Divorce Settlement Agreement

What Is It? Do You Need One? What Should It Include?

The Divorce Settlement AgreementOften, divorce proceedings involve no real animosity; the parties recognize that their marriage isn’t working and that they’ve just grown apart. Maybe there are children or even a substantial marital estate involved, but both sides are able to amicably agree on custody and visitation, as well as the equitable distribution of assets and debts. As harmonious as such a divorce may be, a written divorce settlement agreement is still needed.

What Is a Divorce Settlement Agreement?

A divorce settlement agreement is a written document, signed by both parties, which sets forth in detail the terms of the parties’ agreement regarding custody and visitation, child support, alimony or spousal support, and the division of marital debts and assets. Though an oral agreement may technically be enforceable in court, there are proof problems inherent with oral agreements. The written settlement agreement becomes a binding contract, requiring that the parties comply with its terms. If one party fails to perform as specified, legal action can be taken.

There’s no requirement to have a settlement agreement in place before or at the time you separate. In fact, the final agreement typically comes late in the divorce process. The sooner you can come to agreement and put it in writing, the less acrimony and expense you’ll incur.

It’s usually in your best interests to have an attorney either negotiate the terms of the settlement agreement or at least review the provisions. An attorney will have a comprehensive understanding of the law and can ensure that the agreement is in your best interests. It’s also fairly common for the judge in a divorce proceeding to review the settlement agreement to ensure that it’s fair to both parties. If you can’t reach an amicable agreement with your spouse, the judge may decide to issue a ruling governing custody, support, and property distribution.

Once your settlement agreement is signed, it’s a legally enforceable document. You can make modifications to the agreement, but they must be mutual and should be done in writing.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law Attorney

At the law office of David M. Lipshutz, we won’t take your case unless we know we can help. For a private meeting, contact our office online or call us at 856-627-1990. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M.

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.

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.

Enforcing a Divorce Judgment in New Jersey

How to Take Steps to Ensure that Your Ex Complies with the Court Order

Enforcing a Divorce Judgment In the aftermath of a divorce proceeding, when the judge has signed your divorce decree, you hope and expect that both parties will honor the terms of the order, so that you can get on with your lives. Unfortunately, though, the relationship challenges that led to the divorce often don’t end just because the marriage has ended. Your former spouse may choose not to comply with court order, failing to pay child support as required or denying you access to your children at times of scheduled visitation. What can you do if your ex violates the terms of the divorce judgment?

File a Motion for Contempt of Court

Under the law, whenever a party to a court order fails to comply with the terms of that order—and a divorce decree is a court order—that’s “contempt of court,” which can result in some pretty serious actions by the court. As a general rule, though, the court won’t know that a court order has been violated unless someone puts the court on notice. Accordingly, if your ex refuses to honor the provisions of the divorce decree and you have tried, unsuccessfully, to get him or her to comply, you will have to put the court on notice. To do that, you must file a motion, asking the court to find your former spouse in contempt.

It is critical, though, before you file your motion, to attempt to resolve the dispute without the intervention of the court. In fact, New Jersey law mandates that you accompany your motion for contempt with a “certification,” stating that you or your legal counsel made a good faith attempt to work out the disagreement.

Your motion must include a list of the specific provisions of the court order that your ex has failed to honor, a request that your ex comply with the requirements of the divorce decree (a copy of the original divorce judgment should be attached), and a request that your ex pay your attorney fees.

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.

Paying the Costs of College after Divorce in New Jersey

divorceTraditionally, divorce settlements in New Jersey did not mandate any type of payment by the non-custodial parent for the costs of a child’s college education. Parents could voluntarily contribute or even include some type of payment arrangements in a divorce settlement, but it was totally discretionary. To a significant degree, that has changed.

Under the current approach, courts will look at the financial resources of a non-custodial parent to determine whether contributions to a child’s college tuition and other costs should be mandatory. Though the courts tend to view college education now as a necessity, such a requirement will typically only be included in a divorce decree after an analysis of the following factors:

  • Whether the family values and goals create a reasonable expectation by the non-custodial parent that the child will attend college
  • The amount required by the child to pay for higher education, as compared to the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay
  • The financial resources of the custodial parent
  • The availability of financial aid
  • Any financial resources the child may have
  • The child’s ability to earn income during the academic year
  • The level of commitment of the child to the course of study
  • The intellectual capacity or aptitude of the child
  • Any financial resources the child may have
  • The child’s ability to earn income during the academic year
  • The extent to which the curriculum sought relates to any prior training or long-range goals of the child

To protect yourself, either as a custodial or a non-custodial parent, you want to make certain that your property settlement agreement clearly states the obligations of each parent with respect to payment of the costs of a college education. In addition, you want to know whether your child support obligation terminates on the child’s 18th birthday…it does not do so automatically.

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.