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Unfortunately, parents may fall delinquent on their child support obligation for any number of reasons.

The overdue payments that they owe are known as “arrears.” The good news is that, in New Jersey, you may be entitled to collect overdue child support before the other parent can collect any inheritance!

However, there are certain steps that must be taken before you can collect child support arrears from the other parent’s inheritance. First, either you or the probation department must sue the obligated parent in Family Court, and you must obtain a Judgment specifying the amount of money that you are due. Then, the Judgment must be “recorded” or “docketed” with the Clerk of the Superior Court in Trenton.

Grandparents Rights

By: Francine J. Galante, Esq.  Galante-Carlin-Francine-GDM7074p2_web-214x300

You may be asking yourself,  what happens if I can no longer see my grandchild(ren)?  It could occur if a parent, your own son or daughter in some instances,  limits or prohibits your time with your grandchild because of an argument you had with your child or, sometimes, this occurs  after a divorce, separation, or the death of your grandchildren’s  parent.

If you cannot reach an amicable agreement with your grandchild’s parent, you should consider filing an application in the county Family Court (the Superior court of New Jersey) where the child lives called a “petition” seeking visitation and seek to establish a regular visitation schedule so that you can see your grandchild(ren) on some regular basis. Your application will be “on notice” to all parties, including the parent(s) of your grandchild(ren). It is better if you can show that you tried to resolve the matter prior to filing your application with the court, to show good faith on your part.

Who has the burden of proof in a case like this?

You will have the burden to prove that your grandchild is being harmed by your denial of this visitation. Judges must consider any relevant evidence to make a determination that the child will be harmed without the court-ordered time you are seeking, including but not limited to an established grandparent-grandchild relationship, life-altering changes in the child’s home during or after the parents’ divorce or separation, death of a parent, etc. It may be necessary to provide expert testimony that the child has or will suffer psychological harm if they are cut off from seeing you.

The “Best Interest of the Child” Standard:

The court will require you to establish that spending time with you is in your grandchild’s best interest, substantiated by evidence, including but not limited to your relationship with your grandchild(ren), your relationship with the child’s parents, the length of time since the child has had contact with you (and any circumstances surrounding your prior contact including if your grandchild lived with you, if you were a caregiver, etc.), the parents’ visitation arrangement (if they are divorced or separated if they were not married), the reasons surrounding your current denial of contact with your grandchild(ren), the potential impact on the child’s relationship with the parent(s) if the proposed time is granted, and any history of sexual or physical abuse by you or the child’s parent(s), if applicable.

If you claim that the parent(s) are unfit to care for your grandchild(ren), then you will have to prove that the natural parents are unable to provide for the safety and welfare of the child and demonstrate that living with you would be in the child’s best interests, considering the child’s health, safety, and general welfare. Seeking custody will require the use of experts and result in a plenary hearing ( a mini trial) in order for the Judge to render a decision as to a proposed change in custody.

Unfortunately, the process for obtaining a change in custody or even requesting visitation rights with your grandchild(ren) is not a simple process. Sadly, extensive case law in New Jersey has created hurdles for grandparents to overcome before they can even seek a visitation order from a New Jersey Court. This is because parents’ rights in raising their children are constitutionally protected and superior to any other person, – even the child’s grandparents –  absent a showing that the “best interests of the child” are at risk. New Jersey’s current  case law establishes a presumption that “fit” parents act in the best interests of their children. Therefore, a grandparent seeking to compel a visitation schedule with a child in the custody of a fit parent must overcome this presumption; and many parents use this presumption to dismiss grandparent visitation petitions even before there is a hearing where the grandparents are afforded the opportunity to present their position.

Grandparents seeking visitation of their grandchild(ren) are faced with a difficult  challenge. They have the right to engage in discovery and present their evidence to the court, but the case must be strong enough to overcome the presumption that a fit parent will act in the best interest of his or her child. There is much case law on this matter and it is clear that a grandparent  cannot simply establish that visitation is in the child’s best interest simply by saying so; rather, the grandparent has the burden to affirmatively prove to the Court that the child will suffer harm unless the visitation is granted.

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My Spouse or Loved one has recently died. Will I have to pay Taxes?      Taxes-confusing--300x188

There are generally three kinds of taxes that may come into play upon death: 1) Income Taxes; 2) Inheritance Taxes; and 3) Estate Taxes. There are a variety of factors which determine whether and which types of returns and taxes are paid.

In our last post, we addressed Income Taxes. This post will address Inheritance and Estate Taxes.

My Spouse or Loved one has recently died. Will I have to pay Taxes?    Estate-tax-return--300x200

There are generally three kinds of taxes that may come into play upon death: 1) Income Taxes; 2) Inheritance Taxes; and 3) Estate Taxes. There are a variety of factors which determine whether and which types of returns and taxes are paid.

This post will address Income Taxes. Inheritance and Estate Taxes will be addressed in future posts.

How does the court decide which parent gets custody?

When parents cannot agree about issues concerning the custody of their minor children, the court will attempt to determine a custody arrangement that will be in the “best interest” of the children. This is typically accomplished after the court has reviewed evidence such as each party’s testimony, statements of other witnesses, and the results of the report of the “best interest evaluator” (a forensic psychologist or other qualified professional who assists the court). In some instances, the court may also consider the testimony of the children themselves, but only if they are of a sufficient age and capacity. In such situations, the judge usually speaks to the children outside the presence of the parents.

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My spouse and I were divorced several years ago. How can I get the court to reduce the amount of permanent alimony that I am required to pay?

You can file a motion for modification of your alimony obligation based upon “changed circumstances”. You will need to show that the change is continuing (e.g.- not merely a temporary situation) and that it is not something that was taken into consideration in your marital separation agreement or the trial court’s final judgment of divorce. As the obligor spouse, you have the burden of proving your case through records such as tax returns, pay stubs, and other documentation.  “Temporary unemployment” is usually less than a period of 3 months.  You may have to wait at least 3 months from suffering your unemployment before the “temporary” unemployment may become sufficient to qualify you for a modification or termination of your alimony obligation.

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Divorce cases and other family law disputes are usually handled through the civil court system. Occasionally, however, an issue arises that projects an issue from the divorce courts into the criminal court system. Typically, these cases center around issues such as custodial interference, violation of a protection order, and so on.

Not long ago, however, a rather unique “divorce scheme” case played out in federal court. According to a news report, a total of seven men have either pled guilty to or been found guilty of being involved in a group that used illegal means to coerce certain Jewish men to agree to divorce their wives.

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How can I get my ex (or soon-to-be ex) to stop harassing me?                     domestic-violence-picture--300x200

To begin, you may ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order against your spouse or former spouse. If the judge believes that you are in danger of domestic violence, he or she can issue a temporary order that is good for 10 days. The first hearing is usually ex parte, with the judge hearing only the complainant’s side of the case. Continue reading

What visitation rights will I have if my spouse has physical custody of our children following our divorce?

In New Jersey, the term “visitation” is the antiquated terminology that simply  refers to parenting time that the non-custodial parent spends with the parties’ minor child(ren).  In fact, the terms “custodial” and “non-custodial” parent are not used any longer.   Rather, the more politically correct and current terminology uses two new designations  – the  PPR and the PAR.   These acronyms stand for “Parent of Primary Residence” (PPR) and “Parent of Alternate Residence” (PAR).  Essentially, the PPR is the parent at whose home the children reside the majority of their time.  Sometimes, if the parents share a true 50-50 (equal) parenting time, neither parent would be designated the PPR.  Sometimes however, even under these circumstances, it may be necessary to designate one parent as the PPR solely for school registration purposes, especially if the two parents live in different school districts or zones.    If the parties can work out an agreement between themselves, the court will usually approve it. Otherwise, the court must decide what type of arrangement will be in the best interests of the child(ren).

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domestic-violence-2--300x199For all of the unfortunate victims of domestic violence, the days of home confinement imposed by the Government’s concerns about the spread of the Corona Virus have brought new heightened concerns to spouses  living together  who are enduring ongoing abuse.  The loss of a job, forced 24/7 engagement, and worries over getting sick have,  in many cases exacerbated an already volatile situation. Clients fear for their own safety but fear there is no alternative or a safe place to escape to.

Rest assured, throughout the pandemic,  while the court buildings are closed, the Court system IS  open and they ARE  addressing these  emergent concerns –  virtually.  During the COVID-19 Corona Virus pandemic,  I have already handled emergent family court issues via Zoom video conferencing with success and can represent you in a domestic violence Final Restraining Order case without issue, via ZOOM or Microsoft Teams.

As the lock down subsides and the Shelter at Home mandates are relaxed,  it is becoming even easier to access the court’s help.

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