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"Mark turned my case around from the first day I hired him. He's very strategic and he's a 'numbers' man which was exactly what my case needed!" T.D.
"If you are seeking a divorce attorney who is a compassionate human being with praiseworthy perseverance and ambition, then Mark Goldstein is the lawyer for you!" J.B.

I am a member of the United States military who just learned that I am being deployed overseas. Will I lose the right to see my children?

In general, each New Jersey parent has the right to a specified amount of parenting time. Courts will typically make this determination based on the best interests of a former couple’s child. For parents who are members of the military, this right can be interrupted as a result of deployment. If you recently received notice of your deployment, you probably have a lot of questions. Of paramount importance is — what happens to your children while you are away?.

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If you and your children’s other parent are not living together, you will likely find yourself having to address  the issue of child support.

In the State of New Jersey, while many things in life may not be certain, it is fairly well established under New Jersey Law that both parents have a duty of support related to their children who have not been emancipated.  This applies regardless of the parents’ living situation or whether or not they are married. In general, one parent is the custodial parent (under the current definitions, this person is referred to as the “Parent of Primary Residence” (the “P.P.R.”), or payee, and the other is the non-custodial parent (currently referred to as the “Parent of Alternate Residence” (the “P.A.R.”)  or payor.

 

When determining a child support order, a New Jersey court is required to consider various factors.  These factors include: the needs of the child, the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent, any and all sources of income and each parent’s assets, the earning capacity of each parent, the need and capacity of the child for education, the age and health of the child as well as each parent, the income, assets, and earning ability of the child, the responsibility of each parent for the court-ordered support of others, the reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent, and any other factors the court may deem relevant. The good news, when it comes to the issues of child support, as compared to the issue of alimony )see our earlier blog posts on this topic), child support IS, in the vast majority of cases, calculated by the use of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines (the “Guidelines”).

WHAT ARE THE NEW JERSEY CHILD SUPPORT GUIDELINES?

The Guidelines are a set of mathematical formulas that, once applied to the raw data, will generate the same support award amount, regardless of who or where the calculation is made.  It’s that fixed and certain, except of course, if you and the other parent have a combined NET income between the two of you that exceeds $3600 per week! (this equals $187,200 per year of combined NET income of the two parents, on an annual basis).   IF you find yourselves in this situation, the Guidelines will only apply up to the maximum amount set forth, for the $3600/week amount.  Thereafter, the Guidelines are abundantly clear – you do NOT simply extrapolate the maximum guidelines amount by the amount which exceeds this ceiling of $187,200/yr.  Instead, the Guidelines and the case lase in New Jersey that has resulted from disputes involving such situations, is well settled.  A judge is REQUIRED to hold a hearing (known as a “plenary hearing”) where witnesses, documentation, and facts are to be introduced, to allow the judge to determine how much, if any, the child support should be increased above the maximum amount under the Guidelines.  This inquiry by the judge is to ascertain what, IF ANY, needs of the child or children would NOT be met if the support order was fixed at the maximum amount up to which the Guidelines were capped.  As you can well imagine, the amount, if any, by which the support should be increased is therefore extremely fact sensitive.  The attorneys at Goldstein Law Group have handled many cases in which the parties combined net incomes far exceed the Guidelines maximum.  We have conducted many trails in the Superior Court Family Part to address the child support award that may apply in such high income cases.   Selecting a knowledgeable attorney that has experience is this specific area is critically important.

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In our firm’s family law practice and when we serve as Early Settlement Panelists  to mediate divorce cases  for the Superior Court of New Jersey,  Family Part, Chancery Division,  perhaps the most common issue in the overwhelming majority of divorce cases involves the issue of ……. alimony!  When clients meet with us at the beginning of a case, invariably, the most burning questions they ask us are:

Will I have to pay alimony to my husband or wife, if I get divorced?

Am I entitled to receive alimony?   If so, what type of alimony?   How long will my alimony last?  The next inquiry is always,  and perhaps the most important one to the client is “HOW MUCH ALIMONY WILL I HAVE TO PAY? or, “HOW MUCH ALIMONY AM I ENTITLED TO RECEIVE?”

We are frequently asked, “What if I want to live with someone after I start or after I finish my divorce?  How will this impact the alimony? What if I am receiving alimony and my former spouse dies?

These are ALL good, important questions that we attempt to answer for our prospective clients, and guide and counsel them in their divorce action.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for a quick answer right now from reading this blog, you won’t find it.  This is because the answers to these questions are not arrived at by the mere consult of a formula, or a page in a book,  where you simply plug in some income data, some dates,  and  other information and  it spews out the amount, the  type, or the duration  of alimony that you will have to pay or you would be entitled to receive, as the case may be. Indeed, that IS the case, generally, as to how child support is calculated (i.e.- by use of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines).  Not so when it comes to alimony!

Instead, the answer to these questions comes from years and years of experience in applying and advocating the factors found in the New Jersey Case Law and Statutes which set forth the criteria which allows, in fact, directs the judges and the family law attorneys to consider when making  a determination as to alimony.  Of course, ultimately, it is the judge’s determination that will govern if the parties, despite  assistance of their counsel, have not been able to settle their case without the necessity for the judge to conduct a trial after which the judge will enter the alimony award.  Fortunately, with experienced legal counsel, statistically, approximately  90-95% of all divorce cases that enter the system will, eventually, settle; that is, the parties and their counsel will be able to achieve an agreement with respect to the issues in their case, including alimony, without having to endure the emotionally and oftentimes, financially draining process of a trial.   And, if a trail is necessary because of the failure of your spouse to be reasonable, the attorneys at Goldstein Law Group LLP are experienced trial attorneys that zealously represents our client’s interest to pursue the objectives of our clients and a result that is important to our client.

In general, alimony is paid to an ex-spouse by his or her former spouse for a specified period of years,  or an unlimited duration, or until a certain contemplated event may occur which allows a dependent spouse to become fully or partially able to contribute to his or her own support (“rehabilitative alimony”). Such spousal support would typically be awarded to a financially dependent spouse in order to ensure that both former spouses continue to live a substantially similar quality of life (standard of living)  following the end of their marriage. In New Jersey, alimony will not normally be awarded when each member of the former couple has a comparable earning capacity.  Although it may feel that way, it is important to note that alimony is not designed to serve as a punishment or a reward for either member of the divorcing couple.  It is important for you to know, as a current divorce litigant or if you are contemplating moving forward with a divorce in the future, what the statute in New Jersey directs as the factors which a court must consider in determining the myriad facts in a specific case before a definitive answer can be given to the following burning questions that most divorce litigants want to know almost immediately when they consult with us about a divorce:

To have a better understanding yourself, a look at the fourteen(14) statutory factors which the court is obligated to consider in making a determination as to alimony, is indispensable.  We’ve made it easy for you.   Here they are:

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Many divorce litigants, after they endure an emotional, and many times costly divorce process, later suffer some economic change –  a hardship that did not exist when their divorce was finalized, and find that the support award you are paying, or the support you are receiving, is proving to be too much to bear (as the payer) or not enough to pay your bills and live (if you are the payee).  You might be wondering, under what circumstances will a New Jersey Court modify (increase or decrease),  or  even terminate my  alimony?

The answer to these questions is difficult to quantify.  To answer it, you need to be aware of the laws governing alimony (also known as “spousla support”,  or “maintenance”). New Jersey has various types of alimony that may be awarded to a dependent spouse at the time of a divorce.   In many cases, even before the divorce reaches a conclusion (we call this “pre-judgment”), an interim support order may be entered by the court while the case is pending.  This is to ensure that the economic status-quo that existed before hte divorce case commenced is maintained, to the extent the economics of the case permit this. Such an order for support or other relief that is entered during the pendency of the case is referred to as a “pendente lite” order.  It literally means “pending the litigation.”

Answering the above questions about how to modify or terminate an alimony order, or to defend against a motion from your ex-spouse seeking to modify or terminate the support you receive, while once well settled in the law, has recently been exposed to some uncertainty since the passage of the new legislation by Governor Chris Christie on September 10, 2014.  For example, under the new alimony statute reforms that were enacted into law in September 2014, the form of alimony once known as “permanent” alimony was dispensed with.  In its place, the legislature created  “open durational” alimony.    Please follow our blog or consult our website which is linked to this blog to learn more about the different types of alimony  that currently exist under New Jersey law.  In general, an alimony order may be subject to modification or termination after it is entered unless the former spouses specifically bargained for and agreed otherwise in their property settlement agreement.  This is commonly known as an “anti-lepis” provision.   Typically, a  spousal support award  may be reduced or, in some cases,  terminated based on the changed circumstances of either party or the nonoccurrence of a circumstance the court expected to occur when the award was issued.  Another type of alimony in New Jersey, known as a limited duration award (typically for a period of months or years) may be modified or even eliminated when or if a substantial change of circumstances may occur, even if that happens  before the court-specified term of alimony expires.

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A family court’s findings will typically be upheld as long as they are supported by adequate credible evidence. In Rubino v. Rubino, a New Jersey couple with two children divorced in 2006. At the time, the couple entered into a property settlement agreement (“PSA”) that was incorporated into their final judgment of divorce. The PSA provided each member of the former couple with joint physical and legal custody of their two children, outlined a visitation schedule, and stated the parents would pay equal portions of their children’s expenses in lieu of paying formal child support payments. The PSA also transferred the parties’ home to the former wife and required the woman to pay her former husband $80,000 in two installments within two years. Additionally, the agreement provided the former husband with the authority to extend the scheduled deadlines for any good reason including the welfare of the couple’s children.

Not long after the former couple’s divorce was finalized, the father was arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a child, stalking, and criminal sexual contact. As a result, the children’s mother was provided with full custody and her former husband was ordered to pay weekly child support. Both parents were also ordered to continue sharing monthly child care expenses.

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In an Appellate Division case, a couple divorced in 2012 after 29 years of marriage. At the time, both spouses were in their late forties and their two children were grown and emancipated. Because the former spouses disagreed about the appropriate amount and duration of alimony, they chose to engage in binding arbitration over the issue.

During the course of the marriage, both spouses earned comparable incomes. Immediately prior to initiating divorce proceedings, however, the former wife lost her job. Because of this, she was enrolled in a technology institute and collecting about $525 in weekly unemployment compensation at the time of the arbitration hearing. At the hearing, the woman told the arbitrator she would complete her training in July 2013 and expected to be earning a larger salary than she previously received within two years.

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In New Jersey, an alimony or child support order may be modified based on permanently changed circumstances. When the facts are disputed by the former spouses, a court may choose to order a plenary, or evidentiary, hearing. In Galante v. Galante, a married couple with three children divorced in 2011. As part of the divorce proceedings, the couple entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement (“MSA”) that required the husband  to pay all of his youngest child’s expenses in lieu of traditional a child support payment based on the child support guidelines. It also included an alimony obligation from the husband to the wife that was broken down into two steps where he would pay certain expenses of the Wife plus he would give her a weekly amount of support direct.  After the former marital residence would be sold, the second step of the alimony kicked in.  In step two, the husband simply paid the wife a fixed sum of alimony each month.

About one year after the couple divorced, the husband sought to vacate the MSA due to “manifest unfairness.” Approximately six months after his request was denied, the man filed a new motion, this time he sought to modify his support and other obligations. As part of this new motion, he also requested a plenary hearing to address his requested relief and to determine how much his support should be reduced to.

In his motion, the former husband claimed that the parties’ MSA should be modified due to his changed financial circumstances. According to the former husband, since the time of the divorce being entered in 2011, his business income declined significantly, his business assets were seized by creditors, and he owed $16,000 in medical bills. The husband also stated that his financial circumstances were permanently changed when he accepted a much lower paying job with a new company. In response, the wife filed a cross-motion asking the trial court to deny her former husband’s request.

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A primary caretaker’s job offer warranted the removal of a divorced New Jersey couple’s minor children to another state. In a recent Appellate Division ruling, a couple married in 2005 and had twins in 2009. At the time of their marriage, both spouses were employed by an investment banking firm. Not long after their wedding, however, the husband lost his job and remained unemployed until he filed for divorce in 2011. During this time, the wife earned about $300,000 per year.

About one year after the father initiated divorce proceedings, his former wife lost her job effective December 31, 2012. She was also promised a bonus and severance package worth approximately $200,000. Following a divorce trial, the couple reached a custody settlement that was incorporated in their Dual Final Judgment of Divorce (“DJOD”).  In September 2012, the family court entered a final judgment of divorce which provided that the mother was designated as the Parent of Primary Residence (the “PPR”) and the father as the Parent of Alternate Residence (the “PAR”).

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In New Jersey, an individual who seeks to modify his or her alimony obligation based on changed circumstances must establish that such changes are permanent. In an Appellate Division case, a couple divorced in 2007. At the time, the terms of the couple’s property settlement agreement (“PSA”) were incorporated into their dual judgment of divorce. As part of the PSA, the husband agreed to pay his former wife $2,500 per month in permanent alimony.

In January 2013, the man stopped working for his towing business due to health reasons. Despite this, he maintained a 51 percent share in the company.  A few months later, the former husband sought to reduce or terminate his alimony obligation. According to the man, his changed circumstances merited such a change.

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When an alimony recipient begins living with a new partner, he or she must demonstrate that a continuing financial need exists in order to continue receiving spousal support. In an unpublished opinion, a couple divorced after about 14 years of marriage. Their June 2005 judgment of divorce incorporated a matrimonial settlement agreement (“MSA”) that required the husband to pay his former wife limited-duration (a/k/a “term”) alimony until August 2013. The MSA also stated the alimony award would be subject to modification or termination if the former wife began cohabiting with a new partner.

In 2012, the former husband filed a motion to terminate alimony payments after learning his former wife’s boyfriend began residing with her. The family court denied the man’s motion because he failed to establish that his former wife received a financial benefit from her new living arrangement. A few months later, the former wife moved into a home that was owned by her boyfriend. In April 2013, the former husband filed another motion to terminate his alimony obligations as of the date their cohabitation began or the date of his motion.

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