Articles Posted in Case Law

Mark Goldstein, Esq. and the four other highly experienced family law attorneys at Goldstein Law Group appear regularly before the family court judges in Monmouth County, New Jersey, Middlesex County, and Ocean County.   We see the good and the bad!  Some good decisions by our judges, some not so good (in our opinion, of course).   It’s disheartening and frustrating to us as professionals when we sometimes  read about a  decision by a  judge that seems unreasonable or unfair.  Divided-House-300x200

A recent decision that was just issued earlier this year, from Judge Aquaviva sitting in the Monmouth County Family Court did, in our opinion, get it right!

In the case C.N. vs S. R., the court was asked to address an issue that we, as family law practitioners, encounter frequently-that is, what happens to a house where two parties decided to live together, bought a house to live in, and even raise a family together in that house, but simply did not marry?  What happens when that relationship sours?

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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At its essence, a marriage or civil union is essentially a contract. The term “contract” is defined under the law as an agreement between two (or more) parties that creates a legal obligation to do (or refrain from doing) a certain thing. Several elements must be present in order for a valid contract to be formed:  competency of the parties, subject matter, consideration, mutuality of agreement, and mutuality of obligation.

In a recent New York family law case, a trial judge was called upon to decide whether a husband and wife had formed a valid contract with regard to the husband’s agreement to pay rent for the couple’s grown children.

The Agreement, as Claimed by the Wife

In the Nassau County Supreme Court case of Liberman v. Liberman, 201429/2014, the parties had purportedly entered into an agreement under which the husband was to pay $1,900 per month to each of their children to subsidize the rent on their respective apartments in Manhattan. Although both children were employed, college graduates, and over the age of 21, the wife claimed that the husband was obligated to continue the payments until the children were either married (or had cohabitated with someone for a certain time) or reached the age of 30, whichever occurred first.

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Will my spouse be entitled to permanent alimony if we divorce after 15 years of marriage?

Since September 2014, the term “permanent alimony” became a thing of the past.  Now, in New Jersey, it has been  replaced with the phrase “open durational alimony.”  Currently, a family court must first determine whether open durational alimony is merited before considering other types of spousal support, such as limited duration or rehabilitative alimony. Although there is no bright-line rule regarding what constitutes a long-term marriage, the September 2014 amendments to New Jersey law now state a spousal support award may not exceed the length of a couple’s marriage if the union lasted less than 20 years, except in certain exceptional cases.

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New Jersey’s Family Court Recognizes the Changing Times in Which We Live- Judge Rules that a Permanent Restriction on an Ex-Spouse’s Paramour Staying over His or Her House When the Child is Residing at the Home May NOT be Enforceable.

Can my ex-husband allow his new girlfriend to spend the night while our child is at his home for parenting time?    This is the question that Mrs. Mantle, an Ocean County post -divorce litigant wanted to know.  She believed she could enforce such a restriction.  The Court believed otherwise.   Judge Lawrence Jones sitting in the Ocean County Superior Court, Family Part, was willing to tackle this sensitive issue we family law practitioners frequently encounter in the divorce cases we handle at Goldstein Law Group.   Until now, there was little guidance on what time periods or other conditions, if any, were reasonable for an ex-spouse to ultimately expose his or her children to that spouse’s new significant other, in particular, to have the paramour sleep over the house when the children were also residing there.   We, as family law attorneys, counseled our clients accordingly, based upon the ages of the child or children, the living arrangements, any psychological issues the child or the parties were facing, and other case sensitive factors.  In many instances, the parties sought to impose “DaVita” restraints (taken from the case in which Mr. and Mrs DaVita addressed such issues, and there were restraints imposed on the exposure of children post-divorce to a parent’s significant other. Here, Judge Jones recently ruled that blanket DaVita restraints are not generally enforceable.  Rather, divorcing parents may not permanently ban a child from interacting with a parent’s new significant other without proof of inappropriate conduct.  In Mantle v. Mantle, two divorcing parents agreed to indefinitely restrict either parent’s new paramour from having access to their child during parenting time.  A few months later, the child’s mother sought to enforce the open-ended “no exposure to dating partners” requirement on his father.  Despite this, the mother did not assert that the father’s new girlfriend committed any inappropriate or harmful acts in the presence of her son.

According to the family court, a 1976 Appellate Court case upheld a trial court’s decision to place a restriction on a child’s access to his or her parents’ dating partners.  In DaVita, the court ruled the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it granted a mother’s request that her former spouse’s girlfriend be prohibited from spending the night during the father’s parenting time.  In that case, the court added that the decision was not contrary to the current societal norms in the community.

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A mother’s extreme difficulty in obtaining international travel documents to allow her children to visit their father at his home in Brazil did not warrant changing the parents’ custody arrangement from joint to sole custody, according to a recent Appellate Division ruling. While the family’s travel complexities were a new development, they did not rise to the level of a “substantial change in circumstances,” as needed to modify an existing child custody arrangement. As this case highlights, courts, in the interest of stability for the children, require significant showings in order to change custody arrangements.

The custody dispute involved two former spouses, Paulo and Sandra Costa, who divorced in 2006 after 12 years of marriage. At the time of the divorce, with both of the Costas living in New Jersey, they agreed to joint custody of their two children, who were six and nine. Three years later, though, the father relocated to a small town near Sao Paolo, Brazil.

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An Appellate Division case from last year (June 2014) offers some clarity regarding when an alimony payor spouse’s financial setbacks are involuntary as opposed to voluntary or permanent as opposed to temporary. In this particular case, the husband whose reduced salary for more than three years was the result of his efforts to save his failing business was entitled to seek a reduction in his alimony payments. Since this decision occurred in June of last year, New Jersey’s sweeping alimony reform statute was enacted when Governor Christie signed a bill on September 10,2014 that addressed many aspects of alimony, giving guidance to the family bench and bar with respect to such issues as the type of alimony that may be appropriate, as well as the duration of any such alimony. The new legislation also set forth specific factors which a judge must now consider (after September 10, 2014) in deciding a modification application of a payor’s support as occurred in this case.

Michael and Tracy D’Alessandro married in 1985 and separated 22 years later. During the marriage, they had two children. When the couple completed their property settlement agreement in 2009, the husband was a one-half owner of a business, which was valued at the time at $1.25 million, and was receiving a $240,000 annual salary. The wife worked in a school cafeteria and made $15,000 per year.

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A husband’s attempt to bring an end to his alimony payments did yield a reduced obligation, but not the complete cessation he sought. It also came at a price after the Appellate Division upheld not only the continuation of alimony but also a trial court award requiring the husband to pay $15,000 of the wife’s attorneys’ fees that she spent defending against his efforts to terminate alimony.

When Robert Clauss married his wife Linda in 1988, she was a ballet dancer who had no college education. When the couple divorced two decades later, the wife was unemployed with no income. The couple reached an agreement on spousal support that called for imputing an income of $30,000 per year to the wife. However, by 2012, the wife had earned her license as a registered nurse and was making $66,000 per year.

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Sometimes, a divorcing couple completes their property settlement agreement anticipating one future, only to have a different one unfold after they finalize their divorce. A couple encountering such a situation ultimately required a trial court and the Appellate Division to resolve their alimony dispute. The court decided that nothing in the agreement gave the wife grounds for extending the end date of her receiving alimony, even though the “trigger” event for the start of her alimony did not occur for a period of years, instead of months.

When Stephen Tully and Ann Buscher divorced back in early 2007, their case included a property settlement agreement that called for the husband to pay the wife alimony starting from the time they sold the marital home and running until the end of 2016. The couple, however, ultimately did not vacate the house or list it for sale right away. The wife moved out in 2011, and the husband followed the next year. The house was listed for sale in September 2012.

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A three-judge panel recently held that certain whistleblowers are eligible for protection under New Jersey law. This ruling affects the rights of people who report the suspected abuse of vulnerable family members. If you believe a family member is being mistreated, talk to an experienced New Jersey family law attorney. If you suspect that someone is in immediate danger, you should call 911 right away.

An ambulance was dispatched to a New Jersey nursing home in order to transfer an elderly woman to a local hospital. The senior reportedly had a “goose egg lump” on her head, as well as bruising around the ears, down her neck, and on her arms. No one knew where the injuries came from. The woman’s daughter happens to be a doctor who rode along to comfort her mother on the ride. The daughter asked an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) working for the ambulance company if she had ever seen similar injuries originating from this nursing home. The EMT answered “yes.” The EMT allegedly reported the issue to her dispatcher. The daughter also pursued the matter. Thus began an investigation into possible senior abuse at the nursing home.

The nursing home became aware of the allegations stemming from the EMT’s statements. The nursing home contacted the ambulance company to express concern over the matter. Soon thereafter, the EMT was fired by the ambulance company. Continue reading

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