Category: Divorce

Main Reasons for Court-Ordered Home Selling in NJ Divorce

A Judge Takes Multiple Factors into Consideration when Making a Decision to Require the Sale of a Home as part of a Divorce or Post Divorce Proceeding in New Jersey

Can a House Sale be Forced During or After Divorce in NJ?If you are currently going through a divorce in New Jersey or experiencing post-divorce issues related to arrears of payments ordered by the court in your divorce, you may be wondering if the judge can force a sale of your home.

The short answer is yes. Courts have broad discretion in these cases to divide marital property equitably or provide an appropriate remedy for non-payment of alimony or equitable distribution, both of which may involve the liquidation of real estate property including the marital home, even if one of the spouses is living there. In some situations, the court may even order a spouse living in a home to vacate the property and appoint an attorney to effectuate the sale of the home, if necessary.

It is imperative to get a knowledgeable attorney to assist you with your divorce, before or if the court gets involved, and you lose a good chance to make the most empowered decision about your property. We are dealing with significant issues here—possibly one of your most valuable assets—and consulting with an experienced lawyer at the Bronzino Law Firm can have a profound impact. Before, during, and especially after your divorce is finalized, our team of family and real estate lawyers have the skill and motivation to guide you through these challenging times.

As you continue on to learn more about how divorce may have a direct impact on the sale of the home where you live or previously lived with your spouse in New Jersey, remember that you can always contact our offices in Brick and Sea Girt at (732) 812-3102 or send us an online message to go deeper into your particular situation. An attorney on our team is prepared to provide you with personalized assistance in a free initial consultation.

Specific Scenarios in which a Judge Can Force a Home Sale in a NJ Divorce Case

There are two primary situations in which a New Jersey judge might force the sale of a home as part of a divorce or post-divorce: to equitably distribute the marital assets during a divorce or to liquidate an asset to pay a spouse’s alimony or equitable distribution arrears. It is important to note that just because you are going through a divorce does not mean the judge will force a sale of your home to divide the proceeds. There are many other factors that go into determining how to equitably divide your marital assets including available liquid cash, stocks, bonds, money in retirement accounts, other property owned, and future income.

The parties may work out a settlement in which one spouse keeps the marital home and then pays the other scheduled payments of equitable distribution over a designated period of time in the future. However, if there is no other way to equitably divide and distribute the marital property or the parties cannot agree how to do that, the judge may order the marital home to be sold and the proceeds of the home to be equitably divided.

Forced Sale of Real Estate to Equitably Divide Assets during a Divorce in New Jersey

Judge's Decision to Sell a Home for Divorce in New JerseyUnder New Jersey law, the court is allowed to tailor a remedy to fit the needs of the situation and achieve an outcome that is just and reasonable. The court can order the sale of a home before a divorce is final to liquidate and equitably distribute marital property. It is very important to understand that in New Jersey property in a divorce is distributed equitably not equally.

Equitable means that the division must be fair and just based on the totality of the circumstances, which includes many different factors like length of the marriage, income of the parties, age of the parties, standard of living during the marriage, economic situation of each party at the time of divorce, and more. Therefore, one spouse may be given a greater portion of the assets during the divorce but the division is deemed to be fair and just based on the circumstances.

Two Previous Cases Shed Light on Mandatory Sale of a Marital Home in NJ

Bautista v. Bautista

In a New Jersey divorce case, Bautista v. Bautista, the wife received the marital home in a divorce. She was ordered to take the husband’s name off of the mortgage within a certain period of time, but failed to do so. Then, an enforcement order was issued requiring the wife to refinance the home and remove the husband’s name or the court would force the sale of the property.

The wife failed to comply with the order and was ordered to vacate the property unless she sold the property by an extended deadline, reasoning that the house might sell faster if the wife was not living there. On appeal, the court held that while the court has broad discretion, it must state its factual findings and correlate them to its legal conclusions, and that, in this case, the lower court failed to find any evidence that the wife intentionally delayed the sale of the house or that the house would sell more quickly if the wife was not occupying the property.

W.S.H. v. V.L.P.

In another New Jersey case involving the forced sale of a home, W.S.H. v. V.L.P., the court ordered a wife to sell a beach home that she retained in her divorce, after she failed to make alimony and equitable distribution payments and fell into arrears. Given her previous repeated failure to comply with the court’s orders, it also appointed an attorney-in-fact to sell the house.

Other Assets Besides the House that You May be Forced to Sell

As stated above, the court has a lot of discretion in deciding how a marital estate should be equitably distributed when the parties cannot otherwise agree or to enforce an order that is violated by one of the parties, as long as the remedy is just, fit, and reasonable. In addition to forcing the sale of a home, the court may order a party to cash out or liquidate other assets like stocks, bonds, vehicles, boats, and even other types of personal property like artwork or jewelry if it is marital property or property acquired during the marriage.

If You are Facing Divorce or Post-Divorce Issues with Real Estate, Do not Delay in Contacting our Brick & Sea Girt Locations

If you are going through a divorce or dealing with post-divorce issues with your former spouse, it is critical that you have the assistance and expertise of an exceptionally informed and creative New Jersey divorce attorney. The forced sale of a home either to equitably distribute assets or to pay alimony arrears can create a huge legal and financial burden. There may be another way to resolve the situation, but those solutions are very fact-specific. Before losing your home, contact our team of experienced attorneys at Bronzino Law Firm today.

On the other hand, if you are facing challenges with your spouse or former spouse in receiving the funds you are entitled to, our divorce lawyers are prepared to do the work to ensure that you are properly compensated. Contact us to address all of your divorce and real estate-related needs in Wall, Lacey, Holmdel, Toms River, Ocean Township, Red Bank, Sea Bright, Freehold, and other towns in Ocean and Monmouth County for a free consultation at (732) 812-3102, or complete our online form about your case and take the first step toward successfully resolving your home sale difficulties. We are here to answer and address all of your concerns and craft the best strategy to reach your goals during and on the road after divorce.

Be Aware of the Implications of Getting a New Job While Divorcing in NJ

An Experienced Divorce Lawyer Will Navigate the Pros and Cons of Getting a New Job in Monmouth and Ocean County, New Jersey

Changing Jobs While Engaged in a New Jersey DivorceThere’s no doubt about it; the process of divorce is a draining one. Not only can it drain your finances, but it also can have an adverse effect on your emotional and mental health. Even physical repercussions can take their toll due to loss of sleep and tension. So could it even be considered possible to add one transition to another by starting a new job or career during the process of reaching a divorce settlement? And even if it feels energetically possible, is it legal, and what effects would it have on the divorce process in New Jersey? Read on to learn more about changing jobs during divorce, and what its impacts are.

It is Possible to Change Your Job During a Divorce, but Take the Time to Consider the Implications

The technical answer is yes, you can change your job while in the middle of a divorce proceeding. Whether it’s a suitable option for you, however, depends on a number of factors. There are definite benefits to switching professional ships during a divorce; and, on the other hand, there are some potentially costly drawbacks. If you’re considering changing careers or jobs at this transitional time in your life, consider the following.

First, Let’s Take a Look at the Benefits of Having a New Job

There are some definite boons to a job change during the tumultuous transition between married and divorced. One of the primary upsides is that you can harness the energy of change in marital status to re-create yourself and align with a more authentic version of you that catapults you into a fulfilling future. While there is a lot of energy being zapped through multiple elements of the divorce, including often emotional engagement with your ex, financial stressors, disregulated children, and the fear of the unknown; such a time can be harnessed for your future benefit, including a more fulfilling job or a higher-paying gig.

Now, Let’s Consider the Disadvantages of Starting a New Job

Just as there are benefits to changing jobs during divorce, there are definite setbacks. One of the most obvious is the amount of energy that is required to navigate a divorce, and the limited amount that then leaves you with to make a good first impression in a new role. One key to successfully transitioning into a new job while undergoing divorce is to prioritize self-care and sleep during this important time. A new job could mean more time available to spend with your child, which will be looked upon favorably by the Superior Court judge in the case of litigation and your ex in the case of out-of-court settlement. Any additional finances through a new income may be considered as marital assets before the divorce is finalized, so your spouse, their lawyer, or a judge may require a more in-depth review of your finances, extending the settlement or litigation process and costing you in the meantime.

Additionally, there is a risk that, if you opt to switch to a career that provides a lower salary, the judge may consider this move an attempt to shirk your responsibilities as parent or ex-spouse when it comes to child support and alimony payment. More about that now.

How New Salary Conditions Impact Alimony and Child Support in NJ

Advantages and Disadvantages of Changing Jobs in the Middle of Divorce in Ocean County, NJIf you opt to take a job that pays a higher salary, your new income may trigger augmented spousal support and/or child support payment. On the flip side, if you move to a job with a lower salary, the court may still require that your former income be utilized to calculate your spousal and child support responsibilities.

Child Custody and Visitation Time Can Also be Affected by Switching Jobs

The court will take into consideration all elements of each spouse’s living circumstances before and during the divorce process to determine what is in the best interests of the child in the divorce, which is the central focus of the Superior Court. As such, your new income, location, work hours, and availability for parenting time will all play a role in what custody award you receive and how much visitation you are allowed with your child. If you are moving into a new job during a divorce and have children, it’s essential that you take into account whether the new job will allow you ample time to attend school and extracurricular functions and spend regular time with your child on afternoons, weekends, holidays, and summer vacations.

If You are Considering Changing Jobs or Have Recently Accepted a New Position, Contact Our Brick Divorce and Family Lawyers Today

Having the support of a family lawyer is essential to any divorce, especially when there are fluid related elements such as a changing salary and professional role. If you are considering a new job or career while in the process of divorce in New Jersey, let us at Bronzino Law Firm guide your way to a smooth transition. We successfully represent clients in divorces, custody cases, post-divorce modification matters, and other related family law issues in Howell, Manchester, Belmar, Manalapan, Wall, Freehold, Red Bank, Point Pleasant, Eatontown other communities in Monmouth and Ocean County, and across Southern New Jersey.

Call our Brick or Sea Girt offices for free consultation today at (732) 812-3102, or complete our contact form. We look forward to being on your side in all elements of divorce.

Seeking Alimony Termination Based on Upcoming Retirement in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Alimony Reform Act of September 2014 Significantly Changed Alimony Conditions and Retirement Effects on Terminating It

Alimony Termination Using Prospective Retirement for Motions in NJAlimony reform laws hit the books in September of 2014 in New Jersey, attempting to make alimony determinations fairer across the board. Before the reforms, a judge could award permanent, durational, rehabilitative, or reimbursement as spousal support. However, after Governor Christie signed Bill A-845 into law, the circumstances under which a payor could modify alimony and the impact of unemployment, cohabitation, and retirement on modifications changed. Also, some of the reform measures were time limits for the alimony period in open durational alimony awards.

The experienced alimony lawyers at Bronzino Law Firm can answer your questions and concerns about retirement and other factors that affect alimony in New Jersey. Call our offices in Brick or Sea Girt at (732) 812-3102 or connect with us online for a free consultation.

Before and After Alimony Reform in NJ

Before the reform, though rare, permanent alimony was based on a judge’s discretion, and the basis for the award was not clear by case law, so the courts lacked uniformity in their decisions regarding permanent alimony awards. After the reform, permanent alimony became open durational alimony. The typical permanent or open durational alimony award anticipates a stay-at-home parent who raised kids and did not work during 20 to 30 years of marriage. At the time of divorce, the parent who left the job market was unlikely ever to be employed to maintain or regain the marital lifestyle, especially if they were near retirement age. Open durational alimony has no termination date for the support order and applies to marriages longer than 20 years. Typically, courts ordered alimony for long-term marriages of 10 to 15 years to assist a spouse in becoming self-supporting. Today, the long-term or intermediate marriages are 20 years, and for marriages shorter than 20 years, the alimony duration rarely exceeds the length of the marriage.

Limited durational alimony is also distinct from permanent alimony, in that limited means alimony has a definite termination date. The other two types, rehabilitative and reimbursement alimonies, describe their purpose. The first is support for a spouse to become employable and self-supporting, perhaps with vocational rehabilitation or education. The alimony period is limited to the time it takes for lower-earning wage earners to support themselves. Reimbursement goes to the spouse that supported the other spouse while they built their career through school or training. Reimbursement is appropriate for those who supported a spouse while developing a career. However, the marriage did not last long enough for the supporting spouse to benefit from the other’s employment or the standard of living during the marriage was low due to the supportive spouse’s sole income. The criteria judges use to award alimony are laid out in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b), and one of the defining factors is the standard of living the spouses maintained during the marriage. It measures or gauges the need for support. Thus, reimbursement makes sense when the standard of living was depressed due to one spouse’s devotion to building a career from which both spouses stood to gain had they stayed together.

Finally, pendente lite or temporary alimony is to maintain the status quo pending the final divorce judgment and a final alimony order. The court does not award temporary alimony on the factors used to award alimony in a final judgment, such as standard of living during the marriage, future earning potential of each spouse, marital property division, and special medical or other needs of each party. Thus, the legislature sought to clarify alimony orders other than pendente lite orders after the reform with limits and criteria for determining when those limits do not apply due to exceptional circumstances. The reform bill also allows judges to terminate or pause limited-duration alimony when the supported spouse is determined to be living with their significant other, or the supporting spouse is unemployed for three months or more. And finally, alimony presumptively ends when a payor spouse reaches retirement age at 67.

Courts Address Nearing Retirement for Motions to Terminate Alimony in New Jersey

Mueller v. Mueller

In Mueller v. Mueller, the court discussed the reform measure that allows the termination of alimony upon the paying spouse’s “prospective or actual retirement” (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j)). The court ruled that a paying spouse could end spousal support on a future retirement date if there is detailed evidence of a retirement date and the means for the payer spouse’s support after retirement. So long as the retirement is imminent, the court can end alimony prospectively. In Mueller, the retirement was five years away, which was too far for the court to terminate alimony prospectively.

Mulholland v. Sweigart

In Mulholland v. Sweigart, however, the Appeals Court decided in 2022 to apply the alimony reform terms to a pre-reform divorce. The divorce judgment included permanent alimony based on annual salaries, $35,000.00 for the wife and $416,000.00 for the husband. Husband sought to terminate alimony given his retirement after selling his business. Initially, the trial court denied his motion without specific sale plans for the company. The following year, he filed another motion alleging that he was retiring on a particular date, at 68 years, given his age, reduced work hours and salary to transfer the workload and financial gains to his employees over the years. He also alleged that he had a business sale closing date. However, the sale never occurred, and the ex-wife opposed the motion. She asserted that the husband represented that he would work until he died (contrary to his assertion that his ex-wife knew he would retire) and that the sale was a sham transfer to an employee who was his right hand man. The court denied the motion as the sale was speculative and told the husband to come back when it was complete.

Handling Alimony Termination in Ocean County, New JerseyThe husband filed a motion to reconsider the ruling, which the court also denied. Reconsideration motions arise when a change of circumstances warrants the court to change the decision, but the court ruled that there was no change of circumstances. The husband alleged that he could not sell his business and lose his income if he did not know where the court stood regarding alimony. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision stating that the lower court ignored the language in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j)(3) that allows modification or termination of alimony based on the prospective or actual retirement of the payor. According to the appellate court, the trial court erred in only considering the actual and not the prospective retirement.

The court discussed the type of marriage under consideration, as older adults divorce after long-term marriages, maybe only several years from the retirement of one or both parties. Long-term marriages were permanent alimony cases, but permanent is not accurate since a change of circumstances always merited a trip back to court for a modification. Loss of income, retirement, disability, and cohabitation have always been changes of circumstances warranting an alimony modification. The implications for divorces are clear. The ex-wife in Mulholland complained that she would never have agreed to the alimony terms in the property settlement agreement had she known the agreement would only last for seven years. Thus, agreements regarding open duration alimony may be illusory, given older adults are nearing retirement age.

An Attorney Can Help You Deal with Future Retirement Concerns during and after Divorce

Attorneys drafting marital agreements in a divorce must beware of the spouses nearing that 67 age marker when drafting settlement documents. For instance, an experienced divorce lawyer may advise a client in need of support to negotiate more property in the division of assets rather than rely on support from a soon-to-be-retired spouse. Other creative solutions to avoid the alimony modification based on change of circumstances and retirement may also be available, whether it involves retirement funds and benefits, unvested stock options, businesses, or homes and investment properties. When you face divorce in a long-term marriage, it is paramount to retain a divorce lawyer with vast knowledge and experience in alimony reform and its influence on divorcing couples nearing retirement.

Facing Alimony after a Long-term Marriage? Contact Our Seasoned Ocean NJ Divorce Lawyer

At Bronzino Law Firm we are intimately familiar with alimony issues pre and post-retirement, including how to reach the best agreements and right solutions for our clients, seeking alimony termination based on retirement, and addressing future retirement concerns during the divorce process and thereafter. For help and further guidance about your particular situation, contact our divorce and alimony lawyers in Middletown, Brick, Wall Township, Ocean Township, Lacey, Rumson, Bay Head, Colts Neck, and elsewhere in Ocean and Monmouth County at (732) 812-3102 or online. We are pleased to offer free initial consultations.

With local offices in Brick and Sea Girt NJ, we can also set up an appointment to meet with you at our office nearest you. Simply reach out today to get started.

Conflict Doesn’t Always Have to be the Rule When Dealing with NJ Divorce

There are important pieces of your life that can be prioritized above conflict such as finances, children, and even yourself.

Top Reasons for Having a Low Conflict Divorce in New JerseyDivorces have been on an upward trend in the US since the 1970s and New Jersey is no exception. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Census Bureau, nearly half the married couples in the U.S. will end up divorced.

Numerous studies and provisional data point to divorce rates rising in the coming years due to domestic conflicts, tensions, and financial difficulties stemming from the changing economic times. It is undeniable that the US is one of the top ten nations with the highest volume of divorces each year and often appears in the top five for the world’s highest divorce and separation rates.

Although divorce can sometimes occur amicably, many marriages end bitterly, resulting in divorce proceedings often characterized by conflict and hostility. Even if there have been tensions between spouses, animosity-driven divorces are avoidable. Implementing specific methods can achieve a divorce with as little conflict as possible. An experienced divorce attorney can help mitigate these proceedings resulting in a “low-conflict divorce.” Here are some of the top reasons for having a low conflict divorce and key considerations for when aspiring to achieve one in New Jersey.

Comparing a Low Conflict Divorce to a High Conflict Divorce

Getting divorced will almost always involve a serving of stress and other taxing emotions. We are all human, right? However, a high conflict divorce doesn’t need to be your ticket to freedom and a fresh start. High conflict divorces are often ones in which spouses argue, struggle, and battle it out with their exes over critical matters such as dividing substantial assets and fighting over inconsequential or minor points (such as who gets what furniture). Even in cases where one spouse is less than cooperative, divorce proceedings can still be straightforward if the right approach is taken and combined with skilled legal counsel.

A “low conflict” divorce is when both parties are open to mediation and prepared to part ways equitably. A low conflict divorce still divides marital assets, discusses and establishes alimony whenever applicable, separates retirement plans, and examines life insurance policies and other areas of financial concern. In addition, a low conflict divorce includes devising custody agreements and other details affecting children: scheduling time spent with each parent and determining child support (to name a few).

Key Advantages of a Low Conflict NJ Divorce

Reason #1: Beneficial for Your Mind and Emotional Health. First and foremost, a low conflict or non-hostile divorce is far less of an emotionally draining experience than combative or hostile proceedings. Stress and other related negative emotions associated with such a divorce can likewise manifest into physical symptoms and ailments in your body. For example, losing some sleep before and during your divorce is unnecessary, but it isn’t unheard of either. However, developing insomnia is a tell-tale sign of increasing stress due to a hostile divorce. Further transformations that one may experience due to a high conflict divorce are depression, anxiety, and even developing panic disorder. Contrarily, low conflict divorces have moderate ups and downs, but they are not debilitating.

Reason #2: Beneficial for Your Finances. Aside from your body and mind, your bank account can reflect any strain in your divorce. A non-hostile divorce can be far less costly with fewer legal fees and less time-wasting than a high-conflict “dragging your feet” style of divorce.

Reason #3: Beneficial for Your Children’s Best Interests. A low conflict divorce concerning minor children is easy to identify; spouses prioritize their children’s needs and best interests. For example, those who divorce in a low-conflict manner understand that their children are more important than personal differences or disagreements with their spouse. They can differentiate their feelings about their ex from those their children harbor for either of their parents. In low conflict or non-hostile divorces, both spouses encourage their children’s relationship with their other parent.

Despite the ending of one union, parents work together to begin a co-parenting plan and partnership. In high conflict situations, spouses may participate in bad-mouthing one another to their children, engaging in arguments through text or other forms of electronic communication, and ultimately revenge and having the last word take precedence over all else.

Acceptance as the First Step for a Low Conflict Divorce in NJ

Essential Information to Handle a Low Conflict Divorce in New JerseyIn your divorce, you can learn and practice various skills and strategies that can help disarm conflict situations, resolve disagreements, and arrive at a place of compromise and even peace. Embracing the process and circumstances of your divorce while learning to practice acceptance can assist the proceedings and protect your emotional and physical well-being. Those who refuse to accept the realities of their divorce or separation may harbor unhealthy emotions that can surface unpredictably and at inappropriate times. Anger is one unhealthy emotion that could negatively affect your divorce proceedings. In accepting the divorce, you take control of your situation and have sounder judgment resulting in better decision making.

Compromise and Communication: the Standards for your Low Conflict Divorce Process

Compromise and flexibility are two of the most central elements in achieving a low-conflict divorce. When approaching points of discord with an open mind and a willingness to compromise, both parties can come to agreements quicker and move on to the next step.

Honest and open communication can help accelerate your divorce process and help avoid legal issues from arising in the future. For spouses who didn’t practice this type of communication during the marriage, it can save them a lot of time and money if they do so during these proceedings. In addition to the above, concentrate on yourself, and try not to concern yourself with your spouse and any unfavorable or disrespectful remarks they may make. Your lawyer can help navigate any turbulence you may encounter but try to take the high road and manage your emotions whenever possible. Additionally, avoid unnecessary and hurtful communication.

Low Conflict Divorce can be Yours. Make it a Reality with a Qualified Divorce Lawyer on Your Side. Contact our Family and Divorce Lawyers for Guidance in Toms River, NJ

The right lawyer is essential when you’re going through a separation or a divorce. For compassionate and proficient divorce representation, contact our experienced law firm today. Every step of the way, we are here to advocate on your behalf.

As a respected Family Law firm, our team at Bronzino Law Firm has earned a reputation for excellence and personalized client attention and service in Little Silver, Spring Lake, Manchester, Sea Girt, Toms River, Tinton Falls, and elsewhere in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Call (732) 812-3102 or send us a message online to talk to a lawyer free of charge about your divorce, find the answers to your pressing questions, and discuss the options and alternatives that may prove valuable to you along the way.

Meaningful Information You Need to Know to Protect Your Privacy in Divorce

An Experienced Family Lawyer Can Help You Draft a Solid Non-Disclosure Agreement in New Jersey

Nondisclosure Agreements in a Divorce Context in NJWhen you hear about a non-disclosure agreement, you may consider businesses and potential investors or employees exploring a company for its worth, workplace environment, or culture as a prospective interested party. The company wants to introduce the investor, vendor, or employee to a future relationship without risking company information exposure. Thus, a business may require a person of interest to sign a non-disclosure agreement to protect the company’s sensitive secrets. However, businesses are not the only parties seeking to protect their interests from public disclosure. For example, divorcing parties may also want to enter into a non-disclosure agreement to prevent either party from revealing sensitive personal information about finances, children, and other marriage secrets to the public.

With so much about your life open for public inspection and consumption during a divorce, it is important to understand the role of a non-disclosure agreement, weigh the benefits for your unique situation, and know how to make sure your NDA is solid and comprehensive from a legal standpoint.

Non-Disclosure Agreements “NDAs” in a Divorce Context in New Jersey

A non-disclosure agreement is a contract that the parties agree to abide by regarding private information and public exposure. It may contain clauses prohibiting each party from publicly criticizing or exposing personal behaviors and facts. In the divorce context, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) may also include non-disparagement clauses that forbid a party to bad-mouth the other on social media or in other public spaces.

Like a prenuptial agreement, the NDA can be a planning tool to anticipate protections each party may need in divorce. For example, a famous politician, businessperson, or actor may fear a hostile divorce will harm their reputation. An angry spouse bent on destroying the other might publicly reveal nasty habits or behaviors that would tarnish the other spouse’s reputation. And when that reputation means obtaining or losing work, like a movie star, spiteful malignment could mean monetary loss and a destroyed career.

For example, the public would love to know that a celebrity known for their macho persona keeps their childhood teddy bear in their room for comfort. While seemingly harmless, the social media machinery could have a field day with private details that could tarnish someone’s reputation. An NDA is a forward-looking tool to prevent bad social media and press reviews should the parties break up. However, the NDA is not just for the wealthy and famous. Anyone can face ruin when an ex-spouse or estranged spouse sets out to reveal dirty secrets.

Clauses Included in a Non-Disclosure Agreement

If an NDA is necessary, couples contemplating marriage, already married, or divorcing can enter an NDA. Young couples marrying in the social media age could foresee a divorce getting nasty and becoming a public fight. They may want an NDA expressly forbidding social media wars. Even those in a marriage already with one or both spouses using social media as venting spaces could enter into a postnuptial agreement. In divorce, they may be part of a marital settlement agreement. Divorcing couples may want to protect their reputations and their children. Thus, the NDA terms may prohibit the publication of details about their children without permission.

The NDA may also prevent each spouse from posting information about immediate or extended family members. Other terms may include non-disparagement rules, like prohibiting negative social media posts about the other spouse or private marital matters, such as finances or employment details. Clauses forbidding each party to publicly disclose embarrassing or compromising information, such as past or present criminal or civil legal matters. And for celebrities and other famous people, an NDA may ban press or media contact by one spouse against the other. However, an NDA must also balance each spouse’s legal rights, such as seeking protection when domestic violence or child abuse occurs. In other words, the NDA terms must be legal and not contrary to public policy. Otherwise, one illegal term threatens to invalidate the entire agreement.

The Role of Social Media in Non-Disclosure Agreements

Like Facebook and Instagram, social media are prime sources of tell-all diaries. When you’re upset with your ex and tell it on Facebook or post degrading photos on Instagram, you risk harming your spouse. For example, a woman can rant on Facebook about how her husband gets drunk every night and terrorizes her and the kids, and before you know it, his employer wants an explanation. A police officer, CEO, or other person entrusted with public safety and personal financial protection can lose their jobs over disparaging social media posts. Likewise, a woman shamed and ridiculed by her husband on social media could suffer cyber-harassment and embarrassment, jeopardizing her community standing and employment. Social media rants can also affect divorce proceedings and harm children. Bearing this in mind, some choose to utilize the non-disclosure agreement as a mechanism for maintaining confidentiality in the digital age.

Cases in Which an NDA May Not be Necessary

For some people, an NDA is not necessary. Their jobs are not those that they could lose by poor public perception. Some people have little to lose with their private lives on display, no reputation that needs to be clean or businesses to protect. They have no children to fight over or criminal records to keep secret, and the divorce, if there is one, is anticipated to be amicable. Perhaps both parties respect privacy and so are not the types to air dirty laundry on social media. Some people don’t use social media. Those married couples may not feel the need for an NDA going into marriage or somewhere along the road in their marriage.

Importance of Nondisclosure Agreements in Divorce in Monmouth and Ocean County, NJNon-Disclosure Agreement Enforceability in NJ Marital Cases

New Jersey honors NDAs in contemplation of marriage that are not against public policy (N.J.S.A. 37:2-34(h)), and the parties fully disclosed all relevant details affecting the agreement. All NDAs must be legally enforceable contracts and specific. All contracts, including NDAs, must be between two willing parties who can enter into contracts. Since contracts are voluntary meetings of the mind, those who exercise undue influence over another or commit fraud to get the other spouse to sign an NDA cannot expect to enforce their agreement. Fraud and undue influence invalidate a contract. Not disclosing important facts or the incapacity of a party to the agreement also invalidate it. Minors and those mentally impaired or otherwise incompetent to understand the nature of a contract may not legally enter an NDA.

Contact our Family and Divorce Lawyers for Help Preparing Your Non-Disclosure Agreement in Toms River, NJ

To ensure your NDA is enforceable, choose a family lawyer with experience handling NDAs to draft one for your specific situation and needs. You want to make sure that the terms are not vague, contrary to public policy, or are so one-sided that a judge would throw them out. Also, you want to make sure that the terms are fully legal so you are not infringing on your spouse’s First Amendment rights to free speech or other legal rights.

An experienced family law attorney at Bronzino Law Firm knows what can and cannot be included in an NDA to ensure its legitimacy. Our divorce and family lawyers have vast experience handling non-disclosure agreement drafting, reviews, negotiations, enforcement, and all aspects of NDA’s on behalf of clients in Neptune, Toms River, Brick, Freehold, Middletown, Red Bank, Rumson, Wall, Holmdel, Sea Girt, and throughout Ocean and Monmouth County. Consult with a reputable family lawyer at our firm who cares about doing the best possible job for your NDA needs.

We can assist you immediately by calling (732) 812-3102 or requesting a free consultation online.

Building Bridges between Parents & Parents and Children

Family Reunification Therapy is a Court-Ordered Intervention That Demands Family Members’ Commitment.

NJ Family Court Ordered Reunification Therapy

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

What to Expect for Family Reunification Therapy in Monmouth NJTherapy 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

Top Reasons You Shouldn’t Represent Yourself in Divorce NJYou 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

Aspects to Consider Before Representing Yourself in a Divorce in NJYou 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.

Married for More Than 20 Years? This Type of Alimony May Apply to You

New Jersey replaced permanent alimony with open durational alimony, which can last for different periods of time depending on the specific case.

Analyzing Open Durational Alimony as an Option in New JerseyAlimony refers to payments of support made by one spouse to another by court order following a divorce or dissolution of a civil union. The purpose of alimony is to support a spouse who was financially dependent on the other during the marriage.

Under New Jersey law, there are four types of alimony: open durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, and reimbursement alimony. This article will explore the basics of and most commonly asked questions about open durational alimony.

What is Open Durational Alimony?

Open durational alimony refers to an alimony arrangement under New Jersey law available when the couple was married for at least 20 years. There is no fixed end date for this type of alimony besides the payor reaching retirement age. Open durational alimony will not end until the court terminates the alimony, the parties agree to terminate the alimony, or the payor reaches retirement age (with some exceptions). It is only awarded in specific circumstances.

Open durational alimony was created in New Jersey’s new alimony law which passed on September 10, 2014. It replaced “permanent” alimony with some key differences described below.

Is Open Durational Alimony Permanent?

Open durational alimony is not permanent. It was created to replace and do away with “permanent” alimony under New Jersey law. In the past, permanent alimony was commonly awarded upon divorce. However, in recent years, it was only ordered if the court believed it was unlikely that the supported spouse would ever be able to support themselves at the same standard of living they had during the marriage.

The creation of open durational alimony continued the feature of no fixed end date for support payments to a spouse, making it often the longest lasting type of alimony awarded.However, the replacement of permanent alimony with open durational alimony also added some significant limitations, including that this type of support can only be awarded in marriages that lasted for 20 years or longer.

Furthermore, open durational alimony generally ends when the paying spouse reaches retirement age, though this is a presumption that can be rebutted by the supported spouse.

How Long Do You Need to be Married to be Eligible for Open Durational Alimony?

To be eligible for open durational alimony, the parties must have been married to each other for at least 20 years. Under New Jersey law, if a marriage lasted less than 20 years, then the duration of alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage unless exceptional circumstances apply.

How Long Does Open Durational Alimony Last?

Open durational alimony lasts from the time the order is issued until the payor becomes eligible for full-time retirement benefits from Social Security. Currently, the age of eligibility is 67. In certain circumstances, the term of open durational alimony can be shortened or extended by the court or by agreement of the parties.

Can the Court Vary the Termination Date for Open Durational Alimony?

The court can terminate open durational alimony before the payor reaches the age of retirement or extend the support order past retirement if the petitioning spouse can demonstrate that such an order would be proper given the circumstances. Under New Jersey law, there is a presumption that open durational alimony will continue until the age of retirement. Therefore, it is the burden of the payor to overcome this presumption to terminate alimony before that time and the burden of the supported spouse to overcome this presumption to extend the length of alimony past retirement age.

If the payor retires before the age of Social Security benefit eligibility, they may petition the court to terminate the open durational alimony by proving termination is proper based on factors including but not limited to:

  •  The age of the parties
  • The average age of retirement in payor’s field
  • Expectations of parties about retirement age during the marriage
  • Ability of payor to maintain support payments
  • Supported spouse’s financial situation and independence
  • Can Open Durational Alimony Continue After Retirement?

Open Durational Alimony Lawyers in Rumson NJIf the payor has reached retirement age, but the supported spouse petitions to extend the open durational alimony, the supporting spouse must overcome the presumption of termination by demonstrating to the court that the circumstances warrant continuing support. These factors may include:

  • Supported spouse has not yet reached the age of retirement
  • Supported spouse is not financially independent
  • Supported spouse’s income is very low
  • Payor is financially able to continue support payments

If the supported spouse demonstrates to the court that a continuation of support is proper, the court may continue the alimony after the payor’s retirement.

How Can a Lawyer Assist Me With Open Durational Alimony in My Divorce in New Jersey?

An order for open durational alimony typically results in a high amount of alimony paid overall during the term of support. Therefore, if eligible, a supported spouse can greatly benefit from this type of alimony compared to rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, or reimbursement alimony. Conversely, an award for open durational alimony will often be more burdensome to the paying spouse.

Whether you believe you may be eligible and entitled to receive open durational alimony or potentially liable to make such payments to your spouse after a divorce, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable family lawyer in Sea Girt, Monmouth Beach, Red Bank, Manalapan, Marlboro, Beach Haven, Toms River, Little Egg Harbor, Holmdel, and across the Jersey Shore.

While some eligibility requirements for open durational alimony are established by statute under New Jersey law, there are many factors unique to the circumstances of the spouses involved. It is crucial to understand these factors and how they may apply to your case so that you can craft a persuasive argument that best serves your interests.

Our team of experienced divorce lawyers at Bronzino Law Firm would be happy to set up a free consultation to speak with you about your case. Please contact us today at (732) 812-3102  or fill out our online intake form for more information.

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

Can Visitation Rights be Denied for Delayed Support Payment in NJ?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.

Withholding Visitation due to Late Child Support in Ocean County NJWhat 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.

Guardian ad Litem Intervention in NJ Custody BattlesIn 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

Key Information Gathered by a Guardian ad Litem in NJWhen 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.