Category: Child Custody
Building Bridges between Parents & Parents and Children
Family Reunification Therapy is a Court-Ordered Intervention That Demands Family Members’ Commitment.
Divorce can put a family on its head, especially when it comes to children. Frequently the non-custodial parent feels excluded as the children don’t want to visit or stay with them according to the family plan. There is typically an impression by the children that the other parent is the reason for the divorce, or the children are not interested in seeing the non-custodial parent because they are resentful of the lack of time that has been spent with the non-custodial parent since the divorce. High conflict custody and divorce cases also pose a potential long-term challenge for an amicable family life functioning after the divorce has been finalized.
The Reunification Therapy Method in New Jersey
Reunification Therapy is a method used by a counselor to hold sessions with the children and both or one parent to build a bridge from the parent to the children and to facilitate cooperation among the parents as well. The counselor typically encourages all family members to receive individual therapy to process the group sessions. Group sessions should be light as they include the children. Role-play, games, association activities, and more are based on the children’s ages and comfort levels.
Programs could be long-term or short-term, and they are based partially on the family’s willingness to assimilate their unification as a whole. It is tough to find success when one or more family members are resistant to the process. Sometimes reunification therapy is court-ordered in family law matters, and some sessions require extended family participation, especially when an extended family member takes care of the children in a babysitting role.
The Reunification Therapy Process Main Goal
The goal of reunification theory is to bring the family together. It is a series of sessions where the parents encourage each other and the children to have positive relationships. Divorce can place a wedge between a mother or father and a child. Frequently, children blame one parent for the divorce and demonstrate hostility toward that parent. Also, sometimes dangerous circumstances are in one or both homes, such as illegal substances, mood-altering substances, unsafe visitors, or domestic violence. This provides the children with a platform to express their concerns regarding those matters.
Getting Ready For Your Reunification Therapy
The therapist will meet with each parent separately while discussing family plans, court orders, visitation, and parameters regarding screen time, junk food, and sports. The goal here is to get the parents on the same page and demonstrate a united front. It may not be easy, but it can help create a solid relationship. Frequently, the therapist will bring in specialists to help with the heavy psychological lifting. Sometimes the custodial parent is less than supportive but is supportive if the process shows progress. The beginning sessions will build trust between all of the family members. The children may negatively perceive a parent who has cheated as slick or untrustworthy, and therapy can possibly change that vision.
Therapist Role in Reunification Therapy Sessions
The therapist has to set up a plan and begin by working with the parents. All decisions are made for the family’s greater good as a neutral party. The therapist does not support the side of another parent. Their role is to offer sympathy to all family members and teach them a new way to treat one another. Time management of the sessions is up to the therapist. This could mean determining the length of each session and the participants for specific sessions. The therapist teaches the family how to express themselves and respond to other people’s negative emotions such as fear, anger, or frustration and processes them into manageable pieces. Parents are taught to react less and listen more. It is about building relationships and having the tools to maintain them, thereby creating a healthy family unit.
Besides the therapeutic section, the therapist will report to the court each family member’s progress (or lack thereof) and any refusal to cooperate or positive breakthroughs.
Expected Outcome of Reunification Therapy
Therapy results are different from one family to the next because the needs, emotions, expectations, and history are as unique as the family itself.
So what do successful results look like? Children have an open, honest, respectful relationship with both parents. They can express frustrations, joy, fear, academic concerns, insecurities, and even constructive criticism to the parents in a respectful manner where they are heard, and their message is received with maturity and an open mind.
Parents can express their concerns to one another and their children, keeping topics age-appropriate. Parents do not accuse each other of manipulating the children into favoring one over the other while supporting one another to follow the parenting plan. They avoid arguing, gaslighting, and alienating the other ex-spouse.
Results are fluid and can take weeks or months. Some families put up little resistance, while others have difficulty processing the necessary exercises. 20% of families that the court mandates are unsuccessful.
Reunification Therapy Cost and How It is Handled
Once the court has mandated the family for reunification therapy, the cost is shared between the parents, 50/50. There is a deposit of $500 before the sessions begin. A report at the end of the sessions for the court is prorated to provide payment for the court report, which is $200 hourly. Its cost Each 50-minute session is $160.00. There is another fee of $160 hourly for lawyers. The exact number of sessions or their length cannot be known because it varies based on the family’s enthusiasm, cooperation, and participation.
Questions about Reunification Therapy in Your Family Law Matter? Contact our Law Offices in Brick and Sea Girt NJ
Reunification Therapy can be a vital tool to keep your family together. The conflict between parents and children can set a harsh environment. Your lawyer can find a therapist and get them approved. The court will approve your therapist, and you could be on your way to a life-changing experience. Your family may leave with excellent communication tools, and perhaps you’ll be interacting better than ever.
Bronzino Law Firm is a family law practice with a focus on our clients. Our family lawyers are skilled in custody law and can help you resolve your unique legal challenges, address your needs, and answer your questions about family reunification therapy’s role in your case in Ocean Township, Toms River, Sea Bright, Lacey, Berkeley Township, Point Pleasant, Rumson, Wall, Mantoloking, Lakewood, Colts Neck, and other towns in Ocean and Monmouth Counties.
Call (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation or to schedule an appointment at our local office nearest you. We look forward to discussing your case, your family’s goals, and how best to create your future with your children.
It May Not Be a Good Idea Opting for a “Do It Yourself” Divorce
It’s Highly Recommended to Walk into Court with an Experienced Family Lawyer by Your Side
You and your spouse have talked things over and agreed that an amicable, quick divorce is best for the family. Your spouse has chosen a lawyer, and you, wanting to save some money, have decided to represent yourself. You can get all of the forms online and watch some how-to videos that will explain everything. Besides, you have already agreed to keep everything civil.
Divorce, like potato salad at a picnic, can go bad before you know it. Your spouse has someone protecting their rights and making the most strategic choices while you are struggling as you read your notes from the online information you have gathered and use all the legalese you have seen on tv or in the movies. It is not going to go well for you, and once the divorce is filed and signed by the judge, there are no do-overs. It is imperative to seek a professional divorce lawyer to protect your rights.
Options in Divorce Representation in NJ
Yes, you most certainly can. Should you choose to do so, there are some essential tips it would behoove you to keep in mind. If only a few issues have you and your spouse from getting a divorce, try mediation. A divorce mediator can help you straighten out the sticky wickets that are preventing you from moving on.
It is valuable to acknowledge whether you have the time to complete all the forms and file them at the specified times. Some people use document preparers who are brick and mortar locations or online. For an extra fee, document preparers will fill the documents for you with the court. The level of reliability of each business is subject to investigation, so do your homework.
If you and your spouse agree on property distribution, spousal support, custody, child support, and a parenting plan, you could be a candidate for a DIY divorce. Still, emotions often get high, and the agreements go out the window.
Legal Jargon Can Be an Issue in Self Representation
Just because you and your spouse appear to be on the same page regarding your divorce, that does not mean that a DIY divorce is a good idea. By doing the divorce yourself, you are liable to make hundreds of mistakes that commonly include calculating child support, a solid picture of assets and expenditures in the home, visitation, child custody, and more.
Everyone has a pretty good idea of the economics of their household, but the financial part of the divorce is not about good guesses. It is about gathering evidence and filling out a CIS (Case Information Statement), a detailed form that presents all of the financial information of the home. It is a complicated form and needs to be done carefully as it is an official court document. If your statement is miscalculated, it can change the number of assets and how much will be divided.
You and your spouse talked about you buying their share of the house or getting a new loan with only your name on the deed. Now your spouse wants to keep the house for the kids. According to the equitable distribution, the judge can make several decisions, such as selling the home and dividing the proceeds or one of you buying out the other and getting a new loan. But what happens if neither of you can get a new loan or other property issues arise?
Probably the most complicated part of divorce is when children are the topic. Before child support is talked about, a visitation schedule is established. This is more than a PowerPoint calendar with two different colors. The type of custody must be decided. When support is discussed, if an agreement cannot be reached, the judge will set an amount that may be higher than the non-custodial parent can pay.
Consider the Following Aspects Before Your Final Call
You are not a lawyer. You don’t know how to prepare documents, calculations, or witnesses (if need be). You are on a raft in the ocean without a paddle, you know where you want to get, but you haven’t the slightest notion of how to do it.
The discovery process can be a minefield. You and your spouse must exchange pertinent documents to outline the divorce agreement. Your spouse’s lawyer will know what information is protected because it is considered privileged; if your spouse does not want to release everything, you will have to file a subpoena to obtain what is missing (if you know what you are looking for.)
Maybe you don’t know what an equitable settlement is. If your neighbors got a divorce, and they have three children the same age as you and assets similar to yours, then what worked for them should probably work for you, right? Wrong. Every divorce is different. If you represent yourself, how will you approach the judge with the “But-it’s-not-fair” clause when their decision is far different from what you expected? You cannot use other people’s divorce results as a springboard for yours.
The most important reason you shouldn’t represent yourself in your divorce is perspective. You are too close to the situation and cannot see it clearly, try as you might. For as kind and amicable as you and your ex have been with one another, there are still deep feelings that could cause you to act with poor judgment. This is even more true when there are children involved. A lawyer is familiar with all of the child custody laws and can protect your rights and those of your children.
Thinking You Should Represent Yourself when Getting Divorced? Think Again. Contact Us for Help from a Seasoned Ocean NJ Divorce Lawyer
Divorces are frequently adversarial, and you need a knowledgeable divorce lawyer working with you to make sure your rights are protected and you are not taken advantage of. Your lawyer will investigate and obtain all the necessary documents and forms to represent you completely. They will represent you in court and keep you abreast of every step to be taken as well as being an expert negotiator.
In conclusion, CAN you represent yourself in your divorce? YES, you can. SHOULD you? If you are a divorce lawyer, maybe. If you aren’t, absolutely not. When you go to a restaurant, do you go back into the kitchen and cook your favorite dish? Of course not. You let the pro make your favorite meal and par for the privilege.
Is divorce expensive? Yes. Is your family’s future worth the expense? I would think so. The great Pres. Abraham Lincoln had something to say about this topic that hits the nail on the head, “…Every man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.” At our firm, we have represented clients in Mantoloking, Jackson, Holmdel, Oakhurst, Brick, Ocean Township, Rumson, and across Ocean and Monmouth County.
If you are getting a divorce or know someone who is, Bronzino Law Firm has excellent divorce lawyers who, through experience, have been shown to be talented, astute, and, if need be, aggressive. Call us today at (732) 812-3102 or send us a message online to get a free consultation or make an appointment.
Critical Information You Can’t Miss to Defend Your Visitation Rights
Child Support and Visitation Rights Lawyers Providing Support in Little Silver, Lavallette, Toms River in Monmouth and Ocean Counties
There are few things about divorce that are easy, but one of the most difficult for ex-spouses to navigate interpersonally and emotionally is how their divorce will impact their kids. Issues around physical and legal custody of the child can be heart-wrenching for both parents, as everyone wants for their children’s best interests to be at the center of their world. In fact, the New Jersey Superior Court: Family part also places children’s best interests at the heart of any divorce settlement, and it affects everything from their judgments on child custody to visitation and child support. Read on to learn more about how visitation is determined in New Jersey child custody cases and how child support affects it.
Child’s Rights to Spend Time with Both Parents
New Jersey law considers it a child’s right to have a relationship with both parents. As such, the courts consider a child’s time with both of their parents paramount in any divorce and they will ensure that when a parent has been granted full custody, the other parent will receive as much visitation with the child as is appropriate and safe. Whatever the custodial arrangement, both parents will have fair visitation time with their child, as outlined in a parenting time agreement. New Jersey labels the custodial parent, one who the child spends over 72 percent of their time with, as the “parent of primary residence” (PPR). The non-custodial parent is called the “parent of alternative residence” (PAR) in New Jersey. Both have the right to spend quality time with their child if it is safe for the child.
Child support is court-ordered payment by the PAR to the PPR to help the child’s upbringing, and it is not directly related to visitation. However, a court may withdraw visitation rights if a parent does not make their ordered child support payments.
Delayed Support Payments and NJ Visitation Rights
It is not a parent’s prerogative to determine the visitation rights of a child outside of the court-ruled arrangement. As such, if a parent is late on their child support payments, it is the PPR’s duty to report late payments to the New Jersey Department of Human Services, the New Jersey child support payment agency.
Extreme Scenarios to Deny Visitation Rights to a Parent in New Jersey
The New Jersey Family Court is always going to hold the child’s best interests as their central pillar in child custody determinations. The court will generally award the non-custodial PAR either ‘reasonable visitation,’ ‘unsupervised visitation,’ or ‘supervised visitation’ with their child. In some cases, however, the court will deny the parent who does not receive sole custody visitation rights. This generally occurs in severe cases in which, due to a history of domestic violence or drug or alcohol addiction, the court deems the non-custodial parent to be an unsafe influence in the life of the child. This is reserved for extreme cases, as the court considers it a child’s right to have a relationship with both parents regardless of custody status.
What to Do if a Spouse Denies Visitation Rights in NJ
As the non-residential parent, it is your right to have visitation with your child if the court has awarded you reasonable, supervised, or unsupervised visitation. A PAR who has a court order and parenting time plan detailing the original agreement that has been denied may approach the court to hold the custodial parent in contempt. As a first step, you can contact your local authorities to enforce the court order or contact your New Jersey county’s child abduction response team.
If your visitation rights have been arbitrarily suspended in New Jersey, seek counsel from our Brick NJ Family and Custody Lawyers
If you have been denied visitation, a New Jersey family law attorney will ensure that you are granted your rights, both in your child’s best interests and your own. A court ruling that has denied visitation for safety issues due to your past can be revisited with the help of a family lawyer. Additionally, a parent who has been granted visitation by the Superior Court but has issues with the custodial parent following through with the parenting time agreement can rely on the preparation, education, and experience of a lawyer to file a motion in court to enforce the order and even change custodial designation.
If you have been denied visitation rights or your visitation is being withheld, our lawyers are exceptionally positioned to serve on behalf of your child and your best interests. At Bronzino Law Firm, we understand how important your relationship with your child is for their healthy development. We advocate for parents in child support and custody matters in Point Pleasant, Ocean Township, Middletown, Barnegat, Beach Haven, Rumson, and across Ocean and Monmouth County to fight for justice when it comes to custodial and visitation arrangements.
Contact (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation to discuss your particular case and the roads that we can assist you with taking to rectify the situation.
What to Know about Guardians ad Litem (GAL)
The best interest of the child is the supreme goal of a Guardian ad Litem, called upon in family law cases where custody and visitation issues exist.
In divorces, custody battles, and child protective services cases, decisions rest on the best interests of each child. Best interests include where and how a child thrives by meeting their security and development interests. Thus, the child’s education, healthcare, and safety needs weigh heavily in a court’s custody apportionment when parents have a contested custody or a department of child protection and permanency (DCPP) case. Often the court relies on a third party to represent the interests of children in disputes. As the voice of the children, the guardian ad litem (GAL) plays a critical role in the court’s decision.
At Bronzino Law Firm, our talented family lawyers provide support, guidance, and skillful representation in custody and parenting time disputes in Toms River, Jackson, Point Pleasant, Bayhead, Lacey, Brick, and towns in Monmouth and Ocean Counties. Contact our offices at (732) 812-3102 today to schedule an appointment or a free consultation to discuss what steps you can take to protect your rights in a guardian ad litem case and how our lawyers can help.
Characteristics of a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) in New Jersey
When you are fighting a highly contested battle for child custody, visitation, or parental rights, a guardian ad litem is a lawyer, mental health professional, or other suitable people who you will get to know. So, if you and your spouse are vying for primary custody in a divorce, the court has the authority to appoint a GAL, though they use this option sparingly. However, only lawyers can represent children whose parents face abuse and neglect accusations, as when the state threatens to terminate their parental rights (N.J.S.A. 30:4c-15.4). Known as law guardians, these lawyers speak for the children they represent, a mouthpiece for their desires and complaints, and advocate for their best interests (N.J.S.A 9:68.23). The court also appoints the law guardian.
Understanding the Role of the Guardian ad Litem (GAL)
Thus, when an evaluation of the parents is part of a divorce or custody dispute or a minor child is a party to the court action, the guardian ad litem determines and promotes the children’s best interests to the court. On the other hand, the legal guardian participates in court proceedings involving the dispute, including cross-examining witnesses and appealing court decisions. Whereas the legal guardian is the lawyer for the children, representing them as a party in a dispute, the GAL reports to the court what the children want and what other professionals recommend after an investigation and evaluation of the involved parties. The GAL must interview the children, parents, siblings, and other relevant parties to investigate and evaluate the child’s circumstances. They obtain documents, such as school, health, and police records about the family and hire experts like counselors, therapists, and lawyers for the children, if necessary and approved by the court. They also speak with lawyers for the parties.
Key Information Gathered by the Guardian ad Litem
The GAL’s investigation and evaluation are for informing the court of the child’s best interests. The GAL’s research, interviews, summaries, reports, and assessments are one component of the court’s overall determination of what constitutes “best interests,” including the relationship of each parent to the child, the relationship between the parents, the child’s relationship with their siblings or others in the household, and the safety and stability of the home. For example, looking at the parents, the court wants to see the parents are mentally and physically capable, able to communicate, and free of substance addiction and domestic violence incidences. In addition, the court examines their education, employment, and willingness to accept custody responsibilities.
Factors Considered by the NJ Family Courts
Each parent’s situation, their ability to reliably maintain a parenting schedule, the proximity of their residences, and the quality time each parent spent with their child before separation are factors for the court. In addition, the court considers the child’s age, needs, education, and preference if old enough (N.J.S.A. 9:2-4A). So, if one parent works nights and lives alone, they might not be able to meet the child’s or children’s safety needs. However, a court or lawyer may have a creative solution to address the overnights, perhaps awarding custody or visitation to the parent on their days off. A party may be willing to change jobs to gain custody. And if either parent abuses substances or has a history of driving after drinking alcohol, the court may consider that parent an unsafe parent. But typically, each parent’s situation or lifestyle may not best fulfill the child’s needs in some way or another, and an evaluation of all factors is necessary to determine where the child should live.
Importance of Having the Advice of a Family & Custody Lawyer when a Guardian ad Litem is Called in Your Case
When the court appoints a guardian ad litem or a party requests one, both parents should know what they do and what to expect. They should know the role of the guardian ad litem and how that involves each parent. Before an investigation begins, each parent must understand their interview answers become critical in a court’s custody and visitation decision. As such, a parent’s preparation is crucial to advancing their interests or, in the case of parent termination cases, to protect their parental rights. Hiring a family law attorney guarantees that a parent knows what questions a guardian ad litem might ask, how the interview affects the case’s outcome, and what evidence the parent might provide to enhance their position as a responsibly bonded parent to their child.
Get Representation from Point Pleasant Family and Custody Lawyers
Contact a family lawyer at the Bronzino Law Firm for advice and representation if you are in a contentious custody or visitation dispute with your co-parent. Our lawyers in our Brick and Sea Girt locations can prepare you for an evaluation and the court’s best interests criteria by highlighting your parental strengths and strong relationship with your child or children. We have years of experience identifying and presenting your most vital attributes and profile of a loving, responsible parent and willingness to do whatever it takes for your children. We can also recommend you take parenting classes, change your living situation, or make other changes to show the court your earnestness in gaining custody of your child if there are additional hurdles that need to be addressed. In a word, our family law and child custody lawyers can prepare you for the preparatory phase of the custody hearing and every aspect that comes after.
We can cross-examine witnesses and your co-parent at a custody hearing, defending your interests and deflecting accusations of parental neglect, disinterest, or inability to meet your child’s needs. A custody hearing is a trial that includes your testimony, your co-parent’s testimony, and that of the guardian ad litem and other experts who have counseled or treated your child. It takes legal prowess and long preparation to win a custody battle. Thus, hiring an expert family lawyer who regularly deals with guardians ad litem and their importance for your case is your best move. Call (732) 812-3102 or fill out our online intake form to get in contact with a family law attorney on our team for your custody case involving a guardian ad litem in Holmdel, Red Bank, Lakewood, Neptune, Freehold, Sea Bright, Bay Head, and across Monmouth County and Ocean County.
Adding a New Jersey Parenting Coordinator for the Best Interest of the Children
Divorce and Parenting Lawyers providing counsel to clients in Lakewood, Brick, Colts Neck, Beach Haven, and across Ocean and Monmouth Counties
Sometimes doing things the way they have always been done is not as effective as trying something new. For decades, divorces were focused on the parents arguing and yelling or settling down at the table to talk; the children embroiled in the crossfire were never asked for their opinion about what their future would look like.
More than one million children are affected by divorce every year. Millions of children will be mixed up in their parents’ conflicts, unable to escape the vulnerable and harsh world they experience daily.
As part of a pilot program from 2007 to 2012, Bergen, Morris, Sussex, and Union counties established a method similar to mediation for parents who were having difficulties avoiding conflict in the most basic of parenting issues. Despite having finished, judges still use the program when they feel it is necessary and would behoove the entire family. The one exception is if there is a history of domestic violence.
Parenting Coordinator Profile
A parenting coordinator is a neutral party chosen by the court or agreed to by the parents who are struggling with aspects of parenting decisions. Psychologists, psychiatrists, family therapists, and even qualified lawyers are some professionals that make good coordinators. It should be someone with experience in working with families, especially children.
Mediation Role of the Parent Coordinator
A parent coordinator’s purpose is to help a family focus on the importance of their parenting plan by negotiating solutions to problems that the parents cannot find a solution to, even when a project is already in place. The use of a parenting coordinator can reprioritize goals, make way for compromise, discuss possible misunderstandings, and learn methods of communication to express oneself in a way that promotes collaboration and positivity.
Possible Scenarios for a Parenting Coordinator to Step In
A judge can appoint a parenting coordinator when they feel it is necessary, even after a final order is given or when a parent has violated the custody order and is held in contempt. If both parties agree, or one party can prove there is a need for a coordinator or the judge, analyzing the dispute, decides that one is needed based on the list below.
The judge can only appoint a parenting coordinator when both parents can afford to pay for the sessions. The child’s best interests would be best served if a parenting coordinator was appointed. If the judge decides it is a “high conflict case,” meaning that the parents in the case have used excessive litigation, verbal abuse, and distrust. There have been incidents of physical aggression or threats of physical attack. The parents cannot agree on the care of the children. The judge believes a parent coordinator can solve several of the issues.
Issues Handled by a Parenting Coordinator in New Jersey
It is important to remember that the parenting coordinator has specific content to stay focused on. There is no ad-lib or spur-of-the-moment discussion. The coordinator is there to work with the parents to reach answers to problematic issues. A parent coordinator facilitates productive discussions and identifies the stumbling blocks that the parents are experiencing that prevent them from making decisions that will allow them to parent together. The coordinator establishes boundaries and ensures that the parents treat one another with respect. Educating parents on making decisions that are in the child’s best interests is another skill the coordinator has. Frequently, the parents want to “win” the discussion without considering the benefit the outcome will have for the children. The parenting coordinator provides resources the parents can use for decision-making skills and documents all the progress made in the sessions. If necessary, the coordinator will bring the children into the discussion in a calm and safe environment to express their concerns without verbal attacks.
There are several topics such as diet, clothing, recreation, extracurricular activities, daycare and babysitting, vacations, education, transportation to and from visitation, health care management, and use of social media, among others.
Parenting Coordinator Appointed by Court
The court can appoint one for you, or you can request on your own that the court appoint one for you.
Talk to an Experienced Brick Family Lawyer to Supervise the Parenting Coordination Process in Southern New Jersey
The parenting coordinator focuses on specific problems between the parents and their possible solutions. The lawyer’s role is to make sure that the decisions made are legal and for the best interests of the client and their children. After each session, the parenting coordinator will draw up a document summarizing the day’s events and give it to the lawyer. Custody agreements, visitation, and child support can be discussed, but it is the lawyer who submits the motions.
Bronzino Law Firm has vastly experienced family lawyers whose goal is to make your experience as straightforward and productive as possible. Every family has its own needs and concerns. Our committed attorneys are empathetic and will listen to your unique issues in Toms River, Mantoloking, Stafford, Beachwood, Berkeley, Lacey, Ocean Township, and along the Jersey Shore.
Discuss with Our Family Lawyers the Advantages of the Early Settlement Panel in a Divorce Process in NJ
Learn how an Early Settlement Panel can be a helpful tool for mediating a divorce in New Jersey.
The process of divorce in New Jersey is a taxing one. Couples who have a respectful relationship with one another are likely to move through the divorce proceedings – which in New Jersey include the equitable distribution of assets, determination of spousal support if required, child custody when children are involved in the divorce, and child support payments – fairly swiftly and without too much back-and-forth requiring expert facilitation. However, not every divorce is amicable. Medium- to high-conflict divorces can cause the proceedings to drag out for many additional months, exacerbating expenses, stress levels, and exhaustion.
For couples who are able to collaborate in a respectful way during divorce but have been unable to reach a divorce settlement alone, the Early Settlement Panel is a helpful strategy to reach an agreement without costly litigation. Explore with our Divorce & Family Lawyers what a Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (ESP) is and how this process can be advantageous for your divorce.
The Early Settlement Panel Program in NJ
A couple that has reached a divorce settlement agreement through facilitation by their family law attorneys or another divorce mediator will present the settlement agreement to the Family Part Court for approval. If they have been unable to come to an agreement, the Court will refer them to an Early Settlement Panel for continued mediation in service of avoiding litigation.
Panelists include experienced family law attorneys. These lawyers work pro-bono to support the Court in helping couples reach a divorce settlement agreement without ending up in litigation.
Purpose of the NJ Matrimonial Early Settlement Process
As noted above, the Early Settlement Process is a Court-mandated divorce mediation process that attempts to support couples in coming to a divorce settlement without having to go into a lengthy litigation. The Early Settlement Panel process is mutually beneficial for couples and the Court because litigation backs up the availability of Court judges to attend to other important matters regarding the welfare of New Jersey citizens, including children.
Because couples who have been referred to the ESP program are required to participate, they can face financial penalties if they do not appear.
What Happens During an Early Settlement Panel?
As part of the earlier Court appearance, each party will have submitted a case information statement to the Family Part Court judge. This information is reviewed by the Early Settlement Program panel at the time of the hearing. In addition, each party is required to submit a memo that outlines where they stand on elements of the divorce agreement, including equitable distribution of assets and debts, child support, spousal support, and additional information that is appropriate to the specific case.
The panel reviews the information and recommends a divorce settlement. This recommendation carries their insights into the fair application of New Jersey divorce law and their interpretation of how the Superior Court: Family Part judge is likely to rule the case if it goes to litigation.
Types of Divorce Issues Handled by the Early Settlement Panel
The Early Settlement Panel addresses the financial elements of a divorce settlement. Many of the issues that arise in a couples’ divorce proceeding involve the equitable distribution of marital assets, the distribution of outstanding shared debts, child support payments, and spousal support payments. The experience of the family lawyers on their panel supports their recommendation of a fair arrangement that both parties are likely to consider viable.
Advantages of the Early Settlement Panel
One primary advantage of presenting your divorce case before an Early Settlement Panel is that it provides an alternative to what will likely be a very costly and timely litigation. Couples who cannot reach an agreement regarding their divorce prior to being referred to an Early Settlement Panel have an opportunity to advantage the insight and experience of a group of skilled family lawyers who can interpret New Jersey’s equitable distribution laws fairly and provide a read on what the judge would likely rule if the case were to go to litigation.
Are Early Settlement Panel Recommendations Binding?
While couples are required to participate in an Early Settlement Panel mandated by the Family Court, the couple may decide whether to accept or reject the recommendations of the panel.
Steps After the ESP Recommendations
A couple who chooses to accept the Panel’s recommendations faces a very swift road to divorce. Often on the same day that the couple’s case goes before the Early Settlement Panel, the recommended settlement will be placed before a Family Part judge, at which point the judge will hear the evidence, and both parties will affirm under oath that they understand and agree to all elements of the settlement.
Are you going through a divorce and have been referred to the Early Settlement Panel? Contact a Divorce & Family Lawyer Serving Freehold, Toms River, and Surrounding Areas Today
Having the support of a skilled family lawyer makes all the difference when preparing for an Early Settlement Hearing. Because an ESP could be seen as a ‘practice round’ for litigation, the recommendations of the panel based on what you present will provide insight into how a divorce settlement is likely to play out, with or without your cooperation. Your family law attorney can help you prepare the documentation and memo you are required to submit to the panel and ensure that it is comprehensive.
At Bronzino Law Firm, we understand the importance of ensuring your terms are met in divorce while moving along the settlement process. We’d be happy to represent your best interests and those of your children. Our talented lawyers successfully represent clients across Lakewood, Tinton Falls, Toms River, Rumson, Howell, Freehold, Middletown, and towns throughout Monmouth and Ocean County to prepare them for an Early Settlement Panel. No matter what the case may be, whether the ultimate avenue is mediation or litigation for your divorce, our goal is to ensure that a viable settlement is reached in your case.
Family Lawyers Discuss Steps to Secure Your Child’s Best Interest When Transitioning to a Second Home After Divorce in Middletown, NJ
A Child Calling Two Places Home? It’s Possible. Here’s How.
The transition for a child from a two-parent home to two one-parent homes can, understandably, be difficult and emotional for a child. In addition to getting used to shifting family dynamics, there are new environments and communities to navigate. All of this can be overwhelming for a child. For this reason, a divorcing couple with children must take special care to work as a team to support the child’s transition experience.
Creating a Positive Environment for the Kids After Divorce in NJ
The key to creating a positive environment for children after divorce is co-parent communication and collaboration. Moving from one home to two homes is hard enough for a child; conflict between parents adds an unnecessary stressor for them. Through a little planning, collective effort, and organization, co-parents can create a stable transition for their child that honors the child’s needs for consistency and participation in their changing life. Read on to learn specific tips for supporting your child through this time.
Essential Tips Parents Can Follow to Support Their Children in the One to Two-Home Transition
Have you ever felt the disconcerting feeling of walking through a dark space? You must continue forward, but you don’t know what to expect around you or whether there is danger at the next turn, leaving you in a constant state of uneasiness. This is one of the main feelings a child experiences when moving to a second home due to their parents’ divorce. They are unfamiliar with the home itself, the new school and community, and even with how the relationship with their parent will continue in this new reality. For this reason, supporting your child through this transition stage into two homes revolves around creating transparency and consistency.
Just like walking through a dark room, a child experiencing a post-divorce home transition will likely feel unsafe in the face of uncertainty. So, involving the child in as many of the transitional plans as possible is crucial for their sense of security. Inviting the child to help select furniture for the living room and their bedroom, inviting their new teacher and some neighbors or classmates over for a getting-to-know-you luncheon in their own (new) backyard, and creating a calendar of parenting time for them to keep track of their movements will all make the child feel more secure in their new reality.
Co-parents can also work together to create a sense of fluidity between separate-home experiences. For example, they can each agree to read to the child before bed, so the child can always count on that nighttime ritual, as well as agree on other daily routines that will occur in both households. Because a child is highly sensitive to stimuli and susceptible to an aggravated nervous system during this time, co-parents can decide on a calming scent such as lavender or rose geranium and each has candles or essential oil diffusers in the home to emanate that comforting and familiar smell.
Smoothing out the Split for a Child’s Adjustment to Multiple Homes
Just as the New Jersey Family Courts who oversee divorce and custody cases hold as their central pillar for action the best interests of the child, co-parents transitioning into life after divorce with their young ones would hold their child’s best interests as paramount to their decision-making. Far and away the most supportive way a parent can consider the child’s best interests in the transition to a two-home living situation is maintaining a sense of collaboration, respect, and consistency between the two parents and two homes.
If there is a conflict between parents, it should be addressed outside of the presence of the child; a child is not a pawn with which any parental conflict is played out. Do not put the child in the middle, and similarly, include the child in the expectation that one parent will not be pitted against the other so that the child gets what they want in a situation. Set up clear household rules for each home as well as shared guidelines and routines for both. Set a clear expectation with the child that what one parent says goes: the other parent will respect their co-parent’s good judgment and will trust consideration of the child’s best interests in their decision-making; as such, they will not undermine the other’s decisions.
Contact a Talented Brick Divorce & Child Custody Lawyer for Help Preparing for a Successful Split
A family lawyer can be invaluable support for the process of transition between one home to two homes and the enforcement of parenting time agreements and custody arrangements. If one parent is not respecting the court-enforceable agreements laid out in the divorce settlement, a family law attorney can advise the other in the best way to move forward with enforcement. In the best interests of the child, a skilled family law attorney will provide detailed advice regarding how to come to a mediated solution with the co-parent that maintains peace in the homes and consistency for the child. They will also be prepared to ensure that, for the child’s best interests, the custody arrangement and parenting time agreements are upheld by taking additional measures swiftly if necessary.
A skilled family law attorney is an important ally in the divorce transition process. Are you separating and have children? We successfully support divorcees across Manalapan, Rumson, Howell, Toms River, Freehold, Holmdel, Point Pleasant, Middletown, and towns throughout Monmouth and Ocean County to ensure that their family’s transition into a two-home situation is conflict-free.
At Bronzino Law Firm, we understand how important it is to maintain consistency for your child in big transitions. Contact us at (732) 812-3102 or through our online contact form for a free consultation to discuss your divorce.
Mediation Offers Several Advantages You Can Discuss With an Experienced Mediation Lawyer in NJ
There are several benefits to mediation, whether it is voluntary or court-ordered.
Mediation is consistently being chosen by couples seeking to divorce in a less combative and hostile manner. It consists of the couple and a mediator who will direct discussion around the critical points such as child custody, child support, alimony, and distribution of debts and assets. The mediator is usually familiar with family law and financial matters. Several sessions are typically paid for down the middle by the couple. The mediator prepares a “Memorandum of Understanding” to be given to each party’s lawyer. They will write up the PSA (Property Settlement Agreement), a binding document in the divorce.
Mediation Advantages Over Litigation in New Jersey
Cost is one of the biggest advantages when it comes to mediation. It is substantially less expensive as opposed to litigation. A mediator is paid per hour, per session, and the cost is split between two people. Many mediators do not require a retainer as lawyers do (from $2,000 to $10,000) and charge about $200 per hour instead of a lawyer’s fees which can run from $250-$600 per hour. If the Carrisons choose to mediate their divorce settlement, on the first day, they spend 4 hours with their mediator at the cost of $150 per hour. That means each spouse paid $300 for that session. If the Greens went straight to litigation and spent 5 hours waiting for their turn in court, they have just spent $1,250 each and haven’t even started their case. Of course, there will be times when mediation can stall and become more expensive, but even then, it is less than litigation.
Private mediation sessions can be scheduled at the convenience of everyone involved. This provides ample time for preparation and reflection instead of court sessions which are subject to availability on the calendar. The efficiency of mediation takes much less time in terms of conflict resolution than litigation.
Rest assured that litigation leaves no stone unturned, no matter how delicate the subject matter. What is left of your dignity disappears as every text message, and email rapidly becomes common knowledge and on the record. Mediation is a confidential process that allows couples to be upfront and sincere, their minds eased by the fact that the sessions and their contents are private.
Anytime a relationship ends, emotions are running high. Mediation is effective at turning points of contention into points of consideration. This is not to say that sensitive subjects suddenly become inconsequential. Still, the ability to speak in confidence in a meeting room instead of putting on a show of sorts in an extensive, formal courtroom provides an opportunity for sincerity and flexibility in a safe space of mutual respect.
And the Kids
The less conflict, the better for everyone involved, especially the children. It isn’t just about “winning” when you are both hurting your kids. It is essential that you set an example of how to reach a compromise, even when you may not like each other very much right now. Children should never be forced to choose sides or to “tattle” on the other parent as fodder for mud-slinging in court. Adult issues should stay between the adults, but children will overhear or perceive discord. There is no doubt that there will be questions, but it is an excellent opportunity to talk about peaceful conflict resolution.
Benefits of NJ Court-Mandated Mediation
There are times when mediation is not voluntary. The NJ Courts frequently send couples to mediation before settling the divorce in a courtroom to allow the couple an opportunity to resolve their disputes through mediation rather than hashing them out over a lengthy, contentious trial. Parents focus on the best interests of their children more often than not, putting their well-being ahead of any personal agenda against their ex. Divorce is a scary time for everyone, and when children see the grown-ups acting as such, they feel more confident and less anxious. Another plus is that court-mandated mediation for child-related issues is free.
The MESP (Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel) is one kind of obligatory mediation. This panel will look into all of the financial disputes holding your divorce settlement back. Each spouse creates a memo with their lawyer that indicates where they stand on the economic area of the settlement. The lawyers will present the positions to a panel of two family law attorneys who will then recommend. This is not mediation because the couple does not settle the matter directly through a mediator, but their proposals are considered. If the suggestions are accepted and there is no custody problem, the divorce can be finalized the same day as the MESP. If not, the divorce will be scheduled for trial.
Whenever child custody is involved in a split, the couple is ordered to participate in mediation. The couple must construct a parenting plan in mediation to present to the Court. Not all plans are complete because sometimes the relationship breaks down and will not move further, but custody mediation gets the ball rolling. Parents who take an active role in the choices made regarding their parenting plan and child support are more likely to work together when future situations require it.
If You Want to Know More About what Mediation can do for You, Contact Our Family Law Offices in South Jersey
Mediation is not for everyone, but it can be a quicker and less expensive way to settle your divorce. Also, couples who go through mediation have more success in their relationships with new partners thereafter. There is nothing easy about getting a divorce, but you can be given negotiating tools that you can use moving forward by using mediation.
Bronzino Law Firm knows that there are many issues on which you need to decide. We do not believe in a cookie-cutter divorce. Our goal is to map out a plan with you, listen to what you want for your family, and help to implement that plan. The alternative dispute resolution options are there for the taking, if that is the most suitable venue for your family law matter. Whether you choose to litigate or go to mediation, we will be behind you all of the way.
If you want to discuss the possibility of mediation with one of our mediation lawyers in Sea Girt, Toms River, Berkeley, Stafford, Howell, Holmdel, Jackson, Freehold, or any town in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, contact us at (732) 812-3102 to schedule a consultation or fill out our online contact form to get back to you.
Learn How to Deal with Criminal Interference in Child Custody Cases in NJ
Abduction of children by their non-custodial parent is happening with more frequency in the United States. In fact, authorities find that more than 90% of child abductions are the deed of one of the parents.
One reason for the increase is that people from different countries are marrying each other more often, and the divorce rate for them, and for everyone, is very high. And if one parent changes his or her mind about the custody agreement, they may decide on their own to change the situation. As a consequence, more than 200,000 parents kidnap their children every year in the U.S. Though we may feel sympathy for the offending parent, what they’ve done is actually a crime with serious consequences. The people most hurt are the children themselves.
The act of kidnapping by a parent is not merely a custody issue. It’s a crime under NJ law. And no, the courts do not agree with the old saying that possession is nine-tenths of the law.
In this article, we’ll define parental kidnapping in New Jersey, the options a parent has who is afraid a kidnapping might occur, the legal consequences for the person convicted of it, and the viable defenses a person might have for doing it.
Delineating Parental Kidnapping Under New Jersey Law
According to the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice – Title 2C, Section 2C:13-4, passed in 2013, kidnapping by a parent is defined as interference with custody and includes:
1) Taking a child (a minor, that is) with the intent to hide him or her and thereby deprive the child’s other parent of custody and parenting time with him or her;
2) In the gap of time between becoming aware of an upcoming action or order affecting custody but prior to the action or order becoming official, a parent takes or hides the child, either in New Jersey or in another state, with the intent of depriving the other parent of custody and parenting time or to evade the ruling of the courts of New Jersey;
3) After a temporary or final restraining order that spells out custody rights, one parent takes or hides a child in violation of the order.
Absconding with a child to a foreign country with no intent of return is actually not a state crime but a federal crime, punishable with up to three years in prison, according to the U.S. Justice Department.
How Can I Protect My Child from Being Kidnapped by their Other Parent?
For some families, a restraining order may be what’s needed to keep a parent who presents a real threat from getting in the vicinity of the child. Or a comprehensive custody order might need to be in place to limit or even to deny the other parent’s visitation rights.
In both of these scenarios, the burden of proof is on the parent seeking to restrain the other parent from seeing the child. You will need a convincing body of evidence to persuade a judge that there should be close restrictions on visitation, or no visitation at all, to protect the child. Judges are reluctant to keep a child from seeing both parents. If necessary, our lawyers can help you gather the right evidence.
Legal Ramifications of Kidnapping my Child in NJ
A person convicted of parental kidnapping can be charged with a third degree crime or a second degree crime in New Jersey, depending on the circumstances of the case. For a second degree crime, applicable to taking a child outside of the U.S. for more than 24 hours, a defendant may be forced to pay a fine of as much as $150,000 and to spend time in prison, specifically between 5 and 10 years. In cases involving criminal interference with custody that occurs in the United States, the charge is considered a third degree crime and thus, subject to a prison term ranging from 3 to 5 years. As an important aside, even a third degree crime for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:13-4 does not benefit from the presumption of non-incarceration that other third degree offenses typically have attached.
Viable Defense Options if you are Accused of Kidnapping Your Child in New Jersey
You and your lawyer will need to prove clearly and convincingly that:
- You truly believed that the abduction was necessary to protect the child from abuse and danger. However, you will have no defense if you did not notify authorities within 24 hours, either the police of the town your child lived in, or the county prosecutor’s office in the county your child lived in, or the Division of Child Protection and Permanency in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
- You reasonably believed that the other parent, or a state agency with authority, had consented to taking or detaining the minor child.
- The child is age 14 or older and was taken with his or her own volition, with no intent on the parent’s part to commit a criminal offense either with or against the child.
In a Parental Kidnapping Case, it’s Critical to Seek Legal Representation from a Firm Well-Versed in Both Family and Criminal Law in Monmouth and Ocean County, NJ
There are a number of factors that go into an indictment for parental kidnapping. The Bronzino Law Firm has in-depth knowledge of all the factors that have to be proven in order to prosecute someone charged with parental kidnapping successfully. To avert kidnapping from ever happening, talk to us about custody agreements and restraining orders. Get in contact with our firm, and we’ll discuss your options with you if you’re concerned about a kidnapping happening.
Our lawyers can also use our expansive defense experience to defend a parent accused of kidnapping. In the past, we have made such convincing cases for defendants that sentences have been reduced or dismissed. If you’ve been arrested for parental kidnapping, you will need an expert criminal defense lawyer to present your case in court. Don’t ever talk about the incident without a lawyer present. If and when the police question you, politely refuse to answer and ask for your attorney. Bronzino Law Firm will discuss your options with you if you’re in this predicament.
If you are involved in a parental kidnapping or interference with custody case in Manasquan, Sea Girt, Jackson, Belmar, Marlboro, Beach Haven, Tinton Falls, Toms River, and nearby towns in Ocean and Monmouth Counties, contact us at (732) 812-3102 to connect with one of our lawyers, who will listen to your case, explain the process, and how we can help you.
How to Get Ready for an Upcoming Child Custody Trial in NJ
When contentious child custody conflicts head to court, an experienced family lawyer can provide pertinent information to protect your rights and help you prepare.
You and your ex have attended informal meetings with a third party to resolve your child custody dispute to no avail. You have also participated in court mediation to reach an agreement but failed. Since your ex filed papers with the court to resolve the dispute, you now face a trial. At trial, the judge will allow each of you to present your case for the custody arrangement that you propose is in your child’s best interest. But to convince the judge, you need to present evidence to support all that you assert as true at trial. For example, if you claim that your child is doing well in school when they are with you, you might introduce evidence of your child’s report cards. The family court judge is not going to take your word without proof. Thus, you need to take several steps to prepare for a child custody trial.
Hiring an Experienced Family Lawyer Becomes a Decisive Step To Help You Prove Your Case
Since you want to convince a judge that your argument is better, you must present an organized picture of your version of the situation with supporting evidence. As child custody trials can be lengthy and contentious, you want legal help and support. Hiring a family law attorney with trial experience is your first and one of your most critical steps in convincing the court during an often-contentious child custody dispute. Though you can prepare a case for a trial by yourself, you may find yourself at a disadvantage if your ex has a lawyer, and the opposite is also true.
At Bronzino Law Firm, our experienced New Jersey family lawyers have extensive experience and knowledge of the applicable laws, providing us with the know-how and tactical strategies to shape your evidence into a coherent, compelling picture that the family court judge can accept and weigh in their decision. We can also advise you about what not to do in preparation for a custody trial, like prompting your child to say or do things to hurt the other parent or otherwise publicly disrespecting your ex in person or on social media. Our team is prepared to examine your case and handle all of the necessary phases of the process to successfully resolve your child custody case and surrounding issues that may be in contention between you and your child’s other parent. Contact our offices in Brick and Sea Girt, NJ to speak with an attorney who can help in a free consultation.
Importance of Gathering Supporting Evidence for Your NJ Case
Our child custody lawyers can also help you prepare the necessary paperwork for trial and pre-trial requirements. You will need supporting evidence, which may include witnesses, police reports, criminal records, counseling reports, school documents, photos, videos, health records, financial records, and a proposed custody and visitation schedule. The court may require a brief or a pre-trial conference statement with this information. The court wants to know the witnesses you intend to bring to trial, including their names, relationship to you or your children, and the substance of their testimony. Your witnesses are those individuals who can bring relevant, convincing information that the court should consider in decision-making. For example, if your child has a daycare provider, their testimony may bear on the issue of behavior and social relationships. A school psychologist could testify to your child’s mental and emotional state if they have seen your child professionally at school.
Take a Step Ahead by Preparing Your Witnesses
Since your child’s other parent or their lawyer can cross-examine your witnesses, you and your attorney should prepare the questions for your witnesses and anticipate the questions your opponent will ask them to discredit or fluster them. Preparing your witnesses before trial is paramount. It allows your witnesses to know what you will ask them and enables you to understand how your witnesses will respond to your questions. Focus on what statements, stories, or observations you want each witness to bring to the court’s attention to support one or more of your assertions. So, if you’re going to show the court that your child suffers extreme anxiety when they visit the other parent, the school psychologist who met with your child on several occasions may report their observations and professional opinion about your child’s visitation fears.
To further prepare your witnesses, your lawyer will explain how the court conducts a trial and what they can expect. Since neither witnesses nor children are allowed in the courtroom except to testify, they must understand that they will wait for a call into the courtroom, including when they should arrive in court. Child custody trials can take a few days, so you can approximate when you need each witness by order of evidence presentation. The first day of a trial typically involves preliminary discussions about administrative and other issues with the judge. For example, a witness may have to appear out of order to accommodate their schedule. In addition, the judge must know about and approve changes or special proceedings.
Understanding What Happens at the NJ Court During the Trial Process
After preliminary procedural matters, the plaintiff begins the trial with their opening brief, laying out what they intend to prove and how. A court reporter transcribes every word spoken in open court. Then, they present evidence, including witnesses, who swear an oath, to tell the truth. The plaintiff may be the first witness. After the plaintiff’s lawyer asks their witness questions, called direct examination, the respondent’s attorney can cross-examine them. Cross-examination aims to question a witness’s memory, observation, or truthfulness regarding the facts and opinions. A cross-examination aims to extract damaging evidence of character or points that hurt your opponent’s case. Of course, the opposing lawyer will try to do the same with your witnesses. The court may allow redirect examination for a witness to clarify and rehabilitate their statements. Finally, the plaintiff gives their closing argument that summarizes the highlights of their case.
After the plaintiff finishes presenting their evidence, the respondent opens and closes their presentation the same way as the plaintiff. The entire trial may take a few days, but the court’s calendar dictates how long and when the hearing occurs. Often, three days of testimony occur over a month or more due to a crowded court calendar. Fortunately, you have time to prepare for a trial beforehand as courts ensure that several months elapse between the discovery cut-off date and the start of the trial. Discovery is one method of gathering evidence. You can assemble documents, like bank records from banks, or you can request your ex to provide them in a formal request for documents. Discovery responses are signed under oath and admissible at trial. Other forms of discovery exist to acquire additional evidence too. Both sides must complete discovery before the cut-off date preceding the trial. Once the trial is over, the judge pronounces their judgment at trial or within a specified time afterward, and each party has 45 days to appeal the decision.
Rely on the Experience of a Child Custody & Family Lawyer at Bronzino Law Firm when Preparing for a Child Custody Trial in Monmouth and Ocean County NJ
Since you have many deadlines to meet before which you must complete many critical legal and procedural tasks, you should talk to a child custody lawyer as soon as your custody issue arises, whether you are the plaintiff or the respondent. If you choose to hire Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, our dedicated lawyers not only prepare your paperwork, plan, and prepare with you and your witnesses for trial, but we can also steer you in the right direction all along the way. Especially with heated debates over what’s best for your child, your ex and their lawyer may aim to rattle you with emotionally charged accusations and insinuations about your parenting, your character, and your past. Our team offers support and takes the burden from your shoulders in fighting your custody battle.
Having a lawyer with a background handling custody trials and disputes can prove invaluable to your success at trial. Do not risk making irreparable mistakes with a devastating outcome by going alone. Contact our office to speak with a member of our team about your case; we serve clients in Jackson, Colts Neck, Toms River, Stafford, Sea Bright, Rumson, Point Pleasant, Lakehurst, and towns along the Jersey Shore.