Category: Family Law

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.

The “Penalty Rule” as a Way to Ensure Compliance with a Divorce Settlement in NJ

Although there may be an MSA that has been signed by both parties and clearly understood, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the penalty provisions within it will be approved in court.

Appealing to Penalty Provisions in Divorce Agreements in NJYou and your ex are in the final stretch, breathing a sigh of relief because your divorce settlement is over. But is it?  Unfortunately, it may not be the end of the process. In some circumstances, former spouses do not follow the divorce agreement, and they have to go back to court because one ex has violated the other’s rights by not following the agreed-upon settlement.

Purpose of a Penalty Provision in a Divorce Settlement

A penalty provision in a divorce settlement is a clause in the MSA (Marital Settlement Agreement) that penalizes a party for not completing all of the statutes in the agreement.  For example, if the father has to take the children to school every day at 7 AM but frequently is late, affecting their attendance scores, he is obligated to pay $40 for every day he is late. But if his ex is late getting the children ready for school, she is required to pay the fine.

Divorces and MSAs can include penalty provisions to prevent any breaches of the agreement. The penalty usually calls for the breaching party to pay their ex’s legal fees if the incident merits going to court.  Until recently, the courts haven’t given much credence to this practice, taking the power out of its ability to deter a breach in the agreement.

Role of NJ Courts in Penalty Provisions

The jury is still out when it comes to penalty provisions.  They are popular with many couples who want to have more control over whether or not their ex completes what is stipulated in the Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA). Still, there are some circumstances where the court will not support the provisions.  The MSA is not the same as a traditional contract for the court. For example, if an ex is behind on child support, a penalty provision that sets a daily fine of $50 for every day the payment is late, the person affected is the child, a minor, and therefore unable to enforce the provision.

Learning from Holtham v. Lucas

After five years of marriage, the couple entered into an MSA to resolve their divorce. Although there was a prenuptial agreement, other details had not been included, and the MSA was necessary to tie financial loose ends such as property and insurance issues. The couple agreed to follow the prenuptial agreement as stated in the MSA and acknowledged they voluntarily accepted making the MSA agreement, and it was therefore legally binding.

The MSA indicated that any obligation Holtham did not effectuate that was stated in the agreement, he would be obligated to pay his ex-wife’s legal fees needed to pursue the matter and a daily fine of $150 for every day the action was not completed.

Holtham was an extremely affluent man and certainly had the means to pay any fine. That being the case, he still did not pay the car note or sign over a car’s ownership to his ex-wife.  He did not deny his two-week tardiness after Lucas filed a motion for his non-compliance but said he would not pay any penalties because his ex-wife owed him money in the fees.  Opposing Lucas’s move, he declared the daily charge was not enforceable.  The trial court applied the 4-month penalty finding that Holtham was perfectly able to pay but refused to do so because there were sections of the MSA that he felt were unfair.

What is a Penalty Provision in a NJ Divorce Agreement? Holtham took his case to the Appellate Court, which was somewhat surprising. Lucas had retained custody of the vehicle while waiting for the note to be paid and the ownership to be transferred. She had no proof which justified a loss of $18,450 ($150 daily), she was not owed compensation for emotional distress, and the sanction was unreasonable given the damages were not proven.

However, the court said that the penalty rule does not bind the family court. Lucas was not subject to financial harm, but because Holtham decided to fly in the face of their settlement agreement, his deliberate breach was intentional and without justification coming from someone of great wealth who had signed the MSA knowingly and aware of the penalty provision, thusly breaching post-divorce peace.

Interpretation is Key for Penalty Provision Enforcement

This tells us that it isn’t always just the written agreement that can determine a divorce settlement. Sometimes an analysis of the documents and their intent can provide a more equitable decision. If penalties are included to cause the other emotional or economic harm, the court can modify the agreement to be equitable and fair.

If You Think Your Ex Has Violated Your Agreements, Contact Divorce & Family Lawyers representing clients in Marlboro, Sea Girt, Freehold, Brick, and towns in Monmouth and Ocean Counties

Finalizing a divorce is akin to running a marathon.  But eventually, all of the I’s will be dotted, and the t’s will be crossed.  You will move forward with a new life full of possibilities. Sometimes, exes do not follow the MSA, which means you must go back to court. Having your rights violated and experiencing the resulting damage can be exasperating. At the Bronzino Law Firm, we have the skills to make sure your rights are protected.

Even in this emotional situation, you can count on us to listen to your concerns and speak with you directly, confident that our years of courtroom experience will provide you with the representation you deserve. Our divorce and family law practice covers Stafford, Lacey, Beach Haven, Middletown, Toms River, Monmouth Beach, Sea Bright, and Southern New Jersey.

Call our Sea Girt or Brick offices at (732) 812-3102 for a free confidential consultation today or fill out our online form to make an appointment right away.  You can’t afford to wait for your future to begin.

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

Advantages of Having a New Jersey Parenting Coordinator 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

Custody & Divorce Lawyers in Ocean County, NJIt 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.

Contact us at (732) 812-3102 or online for a no-cost consultation. We know this is a difficult time for you and will do everything to help.

Correlation Between Divorce and Disability Benefits in Brick, NJ

Divorce Lawyers in Monmouth and Ocean Counties representing clients in towns like Manasquan, Jackson, Rumson, Marlboro, and Holmdel

When you can’t work because you are hurt, concerns about how you will pay your bills and take care of your family are at the forefront of your mind. Likewise, counting on your share of your social security disability payments, or your spouse’s, can lead to additional questions when you are considering filing for a divorce. SSI and SSDI benefits are essential to you, but unfortunately, divorce can affect your right to receive those benefits.  It is essential to have knowledgeable representation to help you understand how divorcing from your spouse impacts your social security benefits, what happens if you remarry or they do, and other ways things can change in the future based on changes in your respective life circumstances. The whole process can be complicated to follow if a knowledgeable family lawyer who understands the impact that a divorce can have on your benefits does not represent you.

If you are seeking help for social security and divorce matters in Monmouth, Ocean, and Southern New Jersey, contact the Bronzino Law Firm for a free confidential consultation at (732) 812-3102.

Two Different Roads to Access Disability Benefits

Impact of Divorce on Social Security Disability Payments in NJSSI (Supplemental Security Income)  is 100% based on economic needs by calculating the income and assets of the applicant. It isn’t funded by the SSI trust fund but by general tax funding.  It is based only on financial need, not work history.  To qualify, the holder cannot have more than $2,000 ($3,000 jointly) and an income of $841 a month (one person) or $1,261 (two people).  They usually receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as Food Stamps. Several years ago, food stamps were physical dollar-like pieces of paper. Still, as technology has advanced, the amount they qualify for is placed on a government-issued card similar to a credit card. The monthly stipend amount depends on where a person lives and the monthly income they receive.  People with a disability are also able to receive healthcare through Medicaid.

SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) is paid for through payroll taxes.  Applicants must be younger than 65 and have worked for a certain number of years, making contributions to the Social Security Trust Fund in Social Security taxes (FICA) and having earned work credits. You can earn up to 4 credits yearly. A disabled person will be eligible for Medicare after two years or receiving SSDI. A disabled person’s family will be eligible after two years. There is a five-month waiting period which can be longer depending on how much your salary is.  Typically, acceptance rates for SSDI are higher than SSI benefits because the latter requires nearly zero assets and earnings.

Conditions to Receive Disability Benefits of a Deceased Spouse

If you were married for at least ten years, are at least 60 years old, older than 49, are disabled, and you aren’t eligible for a more significant benefit under your own Social Security record, you may qualify for your late spouse’s Social Security benefits, barring haven gotten remarried.

If an ex-spouse had full benefits at the time of death, a living ex-spouse with disabilities must be at least 50  years old and have been married for ten years. The ex-spouse can seek eligibility for SSDI based on the ex-spouse’s work record.

Dealing with Disability Benefits in the Middle of Divorce

Diminished Capacity Although it is sad to consider, as one gets older, our ability to reason and comprehend procedures such as these, some states will allow a guardian to make decisions for a party based on the person’s interpreted wishes. Some jurisdictions won’t allow a divorce to take place if a party lacks capacity in any way.

When a divorce is friendly, an ex-spouse frequently wants to play a supportive role in their ex’s life, especially when minor children are in the relationship.  Unfortunately, more help could be required, such as round-the-clock care. Other family members could offer care services or apply for Medicaid waiver programs. The court will determine child custody if need be.  Sadly, what is wanted by the parent or child is not always what happens.

SNT (Special Needs Trust)

Getting a divorce will change someone’s needs-based eligibility for government benefits.  An SNT (Special Needs Trust) should be created by the court to hold alimony payments or marital assets. According to federal regulations, a first-party SNT should be part of the divorce judgment.  The court created a type of shelter to hold an individual’s share of the divided assets and alimony payments. It is not available for the ex-spouse who needs government benefits and is 65 or older. Funds resulting from a personal injury settlement or inheritance are protected.

Will Your Divorce Be Affected If You are a Recipient of Social Security Disability?

Monmouth County Divorce and Family Lawyers Addressing Disability Benefits When you get divorced, a spouse can receive part of the ex-spouse’s SSDI benefits for a retirement plan, pensions, or anything else that counts for equitable distribution.  Since SSI acceptance is based on several requirements, benefits may not be granted unless you are 62 years old, you and your ex-spouse had been married for more than ten years, or you aren’t receiving a higher SSDI benefit on your record.

Dependents’ Benefits If One Spouse Gets Remarried

You won’t have benefits if the work history of the person with whom you were married is used to secure your benefits.  A disallowment is made if your present consort perishes, dissolves the marriage, or you submit an abrogation and your second nuptials transpire within a distinct age as considered above. However, if your current spouse is suitable for certain auxiliary Social Security benefits or survivor’s benefits, your benefits may be unfaltering. When your former husband or wife is procuring benefits based on your labor report, neither their benefits nor those of your dependents change. Suppose you choose to get married again, and your first spouse acquires benefits grounded in your work record. In that case, the person to whom you were married will not lose their benefits, nor will your other eligible people who rely on you.

If you remarry and your benefits are based on your ex-spouse’s work history (SSDI), often, your gifts will no longer be continued.  There is an exception if your second spouse dies, divorces, or seeks an annulment from you, and the age requirements listed above apply; you can keep your benefits from your first marriage.  If your former spouse is receiving disability benefits based on your work record, your benefits will be eligible to your dependents.

A parent’s benefits will not depend on whether or not a disabled or retired spouse is receiving gifts. Getting remarried will not change benefits either.  The requirements are that you take care of a child between the ages of 0-16, and that child belongs to your spouse or ex-spouse or a disabled child 22 and older who has been disabled since before they were 22. SSI payments cannot be garnished due to alimony or child support, even if an individual’s benefits increase.  You can receive benefits on an ex-spouse’s record if the child is younger than 16.

Consult with one of our Family Lawyers to Discuss the Different Scenarios for your Disability Benefits in Ocean County, NJ

Divorce is never easy, and even the most amicable ones can leave you concerned about your future and your dependents. At the Bronzino Law Firm, our highly respected divorce and family lawyers are prepared to answer all of your questions about divorce-related society security disability issues, outlining all of the possible scenarios clearly and compassionately.

With vast knowledge and many successes representing clients in the divorce process, our attorneys are at your disposal in Red Bank, Manchester, Beach Haven, Lacey, Lavallette, Bayhead, and towns in and around Monmouth and Ocean Counties. If you need legal help and representation regarding your divorce and your benefits, contact us by calling (732) 812-3102 or online for a cost-free consultation.

All You Need to Know to Draft a Sound Separation Agreement in New Jersey

Writing a detailed separation agreement that covers all ends will help you save time and money before making a final decision.

Draft a Complete Separation Agreement With the Help of Our Family Lawyers in Monmouth NJNot all marriages work out. When a marital union between two spouses no longer is in the best interests of one or both parties or their children, the couple will take steps to create space and perhaps terminate the marriage permanently. Read on to learn more about the different types of separations that a couple who is considering divorce can take and how to navigate that period between marriage and divorce in a mutually recognized, coherent, and legally recognized way.

The First Step of the Separation Agreement

There are many reasons a couple may separate, and there are many forms this separation may take. In order to preserve stability for young children, for example, a couple may separate but still live in the same house. In this situation, the couple may separate certain marital assets and finances and move into separate rooms in the marital home. Another of the many separation arrangements is that one partner or both move out of the marital home temporarily or permanently. There are various arrangements that address the unique needs and circumstances of each couple. Learn more about how spouses can organize and legalize their separation through a Separation Agreement.

Separation Agreement as a Transition Stage

When a couple is exploring the possibility or certainty that they will not remain together, they may undergo separation. Separation means that a couple is not functioning as a marital pair, but they are not yet legally divorced. Spouses may separate in order to provide space for both while they determine whether they wish to reconcile; they may separate while they are preparing to move forward with a divorce; a couple may even legally separate – a marital status of its own that means the couple is neither married nor divorced but has submitted a legal court order to validate their separation.

Because in a separation, the spouses will, for all intents and purposes, be living separately, a Separation Agreement will outline how the couple’s marital assets and responsibilities will be temporarily separated, en route to a legal divorce or to reconciliation; or en route to permanent legal separation.

Important Information to Consider When Writing a Separation Agreement

A Separation Agreement covers the distribution of certain marital assets, including financial accounts, the marital home, properties, and investments. It also outlines how the spouses will be responsible for outstanding marital debts. Additionally, if one spouse has been the breadwinner in the family while the other has tended the home or focused on raising the children, terms of temporary spousal support for the duration of the separation may be outlined in the Agreement. If children are involved, a shared custody agreement and temporary child support will be addressed as well.

Is a Separation Agreement Binding?

Though a Separation Agreement is not submitted to a court, it is a binding document because it is a written legal contract between individuals. It is, therefore, legally binding under New Jersey contract law. It is important to note that if one party were to file a legal claim stating that the other spouse was in breach of their Separation Agreement, the court could reject the legality of the contract if the terms of the Agreement were not fair, one or both partners hid assets, or the Agreement was not in the best interests of involved children.

Is It Mandatory to File a Separation Agreement?

As noted, a Separation Agreement is a legal contract; as such, it is not necessary for a couple to file the Agreement in court. However, if one partner is in breach of the contract, the other spouse will need to file a claim in civil court.

Consensual Termination of a Separation Agreement

If a couple decides to reconcile, the Separation Agreement can be terminated. Because it is a legal contract, a written Termination Agreement will need to be signed by both parties to end the binding nature of the Separation Agreement. Additionally, a Separation Agreement will end when a divorce agreement is finalized with the Superior Court: Family Part, if the couple decides to take the divorce route.

Advantages of Retaining a Family Lawyer to Prepare a Separation Agreement

Because a Separation Agreement could be rejected by a court for failure to suitably address certain legal necessities, including being drafted in full transparency and mutual agreement, serving the best interests of children, and being signed before a legal witness, having a lawyer familiar with the contract law support the process can be an invaluable asset. Are you considering separation from your spouse? Our creative, educated family lawyers with offices in Monmouth and Ocean, New Jersey are happy to facilitate the legalization of that process for your best interests and those of your family.

Talk to our Divorce and Family Law Attorneys if you are Considering Drafting a Separation Agreement in Brick and Sea Girt, NJ

At the Bronzino Law Firm, our family lawyers know how to properly approach a legal separation agreement that complies with New Jersey Family Law, ensuring that your document is legitimate if it eventually needs to be discussed in court. We can provide the information and the support you need. Whether you and your spouse reconcile down the road or if you need to escalate your separation to a divorce level, our lawyers will provide the foundation to move one way or the other facilitating the process moving forward.

To have a more in-depth personal conversation about your case, don’t hesitate to get in touch with either of our Brick or  Sea Girt NJ offices at (732) 812-3102 for an initial free and confidential consultation with our lawyers. We service towns such as Little Silver, Manchester, Beach Haven, Lacey, and Eatontown in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, and across Southern New Jersey.

Considerations for Reimbursement Alimony in Ocean County, NJ

Determining if Reimbursement Alimony is Right for You in Toms River, Lavallette, Point Pleasant, Beach Haven, and Seaside Heights

Key Information to Understand Reimbursement Alimony in New JerseyOf the many agreements that are decided upon in a New Jersey divorce, determination of alimony is one. There are multiple types of alimony: pendente lite alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and long-term alimony. Read on to learn more about one specific type of spousal support, reimbursement alimony.

Reimbursement Alimony Definition

Reimbursement alimony is a type of spousal support that is paid by a partner who, during the course of the marriage, received financial or other support from the other in order to further their educational studies and attain an advanced degree, such as a law degree, medical degree, masters degree, or doctorate. Although it is not commonly used, reimbursement alimony can help the stay-at-home or supporter spouses receive compensation while the other spouse pursued an academic degree. For example, if one partner enrolls in law school during the marriage and the other either pays part of their tuition or is the primary breadwinner while the other studies, they may be required to pay reimbursement alimony for the support their spouse provided.

In some states, advanced degrees that are obtained during the course of the marriage are considered marital assets, appraised in value, and subject to equitable distribution between spouses. In New Jersey, however, because advanced degrees obtained during the marriage are not considered assets, the spouse who obtained the degree at the financial and energetic expense of the other spouse must pay reimbursement alimony.

The Intention Behind Reimbursement Alimony Payments

The purpose of reimbursement alimony is to provide a repayment for financial and other support offered during one spouse’s pursuance of an advanced title during the marriage. Because such an endeavor likely had financial, time, and energetic repercussions for the other spouse, their receipt of reimbursement alimony returns the ‘debt.’

How Often is Reimbursement Alimony Awarded?

The circumstances of a marriage that would lead to one spouse paying the other reimbursement alimony as part of the divorce settlement vary. That said, reimbursement alimony is much less common today than it used to be. Why? Well, these days, there are a number of federal financial supports that allow a person to pursue an advanced degree. One example of this is federal student loans. Generally, the student takes out a student loan in their own name; therefore, their spouse does not have to bear the financial burden of covering tuition. Equally, because of the technological capacities of the day that allow for distance learning and online work, married students are able to contribute to the marital income while pursuing an advanced degree.

Calculating Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony is very much like a payback. As such, in order to calculate it, one must consider the tuition payments, educational resources and travel support, and household expenses that the other spouse contributed during the course of the studies. While most types of alimony end after a certain period of time, reimbursement alimony is completed when the expenses paid by the breadwinning spouse are reimbursed.

The Mahoney v. Mahoney Case

Mahoney v. Mahoney (1982) set the precedent that in New Jersey, an advanced degree obtained during the course of the marriage is not considered a marital asset and is therefore not subject to equitable distribution during divorce. Through Mahoney v. Mahoney, reimbursement alimony became the means through which the financial contribution of one partner to the other’s educational pursuits would be financially repaid without an appraisal of the degree’s value being necessary.

Can Reimbursement Alimony be Given with Other Forms of Spousal Support?

Reimbursement Alimony Lawyers in Toms River NJ Reimbursement alimony can be combined with other types of alimony. Because reimbursement alimony is much like a payback, it can absolutely be combined with other spousal support payments if they are applicable. Because obtaining an advanced degree usually leads to more prosperous professional opportunities, spouses who have received this type of support during marriage are often financially secure and do not require spousal support. This, however, depends entirely on the circumstances surrounding the marriage and each party’s professional status.

A Forked River, NJ Alimony Lawyer will Counsel on Reimbursement Alimony Options and Solutions

If you are in the process of getting a divorce, and you have provided your ex with financial support during their advanced studies during the marriage or they have financially supported you, it is important to seek the advice of an alimony lawyer to determine how to correctly calculate necessary reimbursement for advanced studies, so that you end up with your fair share.  At Bronzino Law Firm, our lawyers’ experience and familiarity with New Jersey divorce law will provide an invaluable resource when facing important alimony decisions on the road ahead.

Have you provided or received support regarding participation in advanced studies during your marriage and are now proceeding with a divorce settlement? We’ve successfully represented clients across Ocean Township, Middletown, Beach Haven, Manalapan, Freehold, Monmouth County, Ocean County, and along the Jersey Shore in all matters of divorce including reimbursement alimony.

Contact us at (732) 812-3102 for a free consultation to discuss your divorce case and spousal support concerns today.

Much-Needed Documents for Getting a Divorce in New Jersey

Having an Outline with the Most Important Divorce Documents to Find will Help You Save Time and Money in Your Divorce in Freehold and Toms River NJ

Assemble these Documents before Your NJ DivorceThere are many ways to get a New Jersey divorce ‘right;’ and there are just as many ways, if not more, to get it ‘wrong.’ Not preparing or executing a divorce proceeding properly leads to the emotional and financial drain on both sides and can even mean a settlement in which your rights to an equitable share of marital assets, spousal support, child custody, and child support are not met.

Proper preparation for your divorce in New Jersey is a multifaceted process that can mean the difference in months of discovery and thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. When faced with beginning this process, there are a variety of different documents you need to organize. The sooner you start to gather them, the better it will be for your divorce. Keep this helpful outline in mind when considering how best to prepare for your divorce before you file, particularly when it comes to collecting all of the documents you’ll need.

Benefits of Preparing the Necessary Documents for Your Divorce Before You File

There are many benefits to collecting appropriate marital and financial documents before you file for divorce. One such benefit is that you’ll save time and money preparing what you can before you meet with a divorce lawyer. The more work you do beforehand, the more they’ll have to work with. Another benefit is that you’ll lessen the risk of one or more important documents disappearing if and when your spouse becomes disgruntled with the divorce.

Documents Considered a Must in a NJ Divorce

The key documents that you must have at the ready in a divorce can be divided into marital documents, financial documents, and assets documents.

Marital documents include both legal marriage documents and informal records about your marital affairs.

The legal marriage documents are must-haves: your marriage license and any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements you and your spouse have, as well as current copies of living wills and trusts.

Financial documents are an equally important and much vaster part of the information you must have at the ready. Obtain the following financial documents for each spouse, as possible:  statements for all personal and joint accounts, W-2s and other income statements, tax returns for the previous five years, marital property tax statements, retirement accounts, stock options, shared capital and property investments, outstanding joint debts, and stock options. Other financial documents that it will be helpful to have at the ready, organized in digital and hard copy form, are shared bills, joint credit card statements, and online account statements.

Assets documents are essential to the case information and include a complete itemized list of all joint assets with ownership documents such as titles. Marital assets include the marital home and other shared properties, automobiles, home decor and furniture, valuables, and even individual retirement accounts that were contributed to during the course of the marriage. Gather deeds and vehicle titles. Shared investments and rental properties that were purchased or invested in during the marriage are also considered marital assets. When creating the list of marital assets, it is helpful to gather all receipts and titles that show that the item was purchased during the marriage.

Creating delineation between separate and marital assets is important. Create a list of assets that you purchased before the wedding, as well as inheritances that you have not used with your spouse. Locate as many time-stamped purchase receipts as possible. If you received an inheritance, it is important to protect it as a separate (not marital) asset. Include documentation proving that it has been set aside untouched. Additionally, if your spouse received an inheritance and that asset was used for joint purposes, it could be considered a marital asset. Gather as much documentation proving its joint use as possible. Other assets documents include home and car insurance policies, mortgage statements, wills and trusts, and all insurance policies for you and your spouse.

Uses for Your Divorce Documents

These documents will be used in part to determine what an equitable distribution of assets would be in your divorce. Additionally, they will be used toward the determination of spousal support payments and even child custody. As such, it is essential to provide a comprehensive set of marital documents. It is best to provide your lawyer with hard copies of each document, well-organized and ordered according to a table of contents. Make sure you make copies of each document for your files and scan digital copies of the documents as well. Ask your lawyer if they would prefer a digital copy of the collection for their records and ease of access.

How Hard or Easy is it to Gather these Documents?

Depending on how well you have organized your assets and finances over the years, the ease with which this documentation can be obtained varies. What is most often difficult to gather is your spouse’s (separate) personal information, such as W-2s, their work contracts, and their tax statements. For this reason, it is important to get a head start on requesting this information, as they may be less likely to allow its availability later into the divorce process.

What About International Documents?

A marriage that is legally recognized in another country is legally recognized in New Jersey. As such, gather as much documentation from your overseas marital life as possible to be included in your case information.

Divorce and Family Lawyers for Your Divorce Initiation Questions in Lacey NJ

With proper documentation, a well-qualified divorce lawyer can develop a compelling case that best represents your wants, needs, and the true value of what you deserve in your divorce. The more equipped they are with applicable material, the more robust their support can be.

Count on Bronzino Law Firm, LLC, for your questions about documents and tasks for initiating the divorce process. Our experienced lawyers know what it takes to bring a solid case to a divorce proceeding. Our firm deftly guides individuals in Freehold, Howell, Mantoloking, Bayhead, Beach Haven, Stafford, Point Pleasant, and other towns and across the Jersey Shore in preparing them for a successful divorce.

Contact our offices in Brick and Sea Girt today for a free consultation to discuss your divorce. You can call us anytime at (732) 812-3102.