Are you going through changes in your personal life? Getting married or divorced? Fighting over the custody of your children? Life-changing decisions can not only be stressful but costly as well, both financially and emotionally.
If you’re facing a difficult legal matter with family – whether it’s a new marriage, divorce, adoption, spousal support case, child custody case, or more – it is imperative that you receive sound legal advice to protect yourself and make sure your rights are protected.
If you’re located in the New Jersey areas of Middlesex, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, Essex, and Bergen Counties, or anywhere else in the state, contact the family law attorneys at Schwartz, Hanna, Olsen, & Taus, P.C. With over eight decades of combined legal experience, our team of attorneys can advise you of the legal options at your disposal and how best to employ them.
One or both partners entering into a marriage may have assets they wish to control should anything happen, such as marital difficulties, separation, or divorce. A prenuptial agreement is one that is entered into before taking the marriage vows. A postnuptial agreement can also be negotiated after the marriage has been finalized. That is really the only difference, except that many postnuptial agreements are entered into after one partner receives a large inheritance.
Otherwise, the legal requirements for both are the same. There must be full and fair disclosure by both parties, and each partner must employ separate and independent legal counsel. Courts have held that these agreements are only enforceable if they are “fair and reasonable.” In other words, you can’t hide assets or try to otherwise deceive your spouse.
At the other end of the spectrum is the matter of divorce, which is also called dissolution in New Jersey. To file for divorce in New Jersey, one or both of the spouses must have lived in the state for at least 12 months, and state law provides for both no-fault and fault divorces. You can file a no-fault divorce based on “irreconcilable differences” if:
You have been living apart for at least 18 months and
You can attest to have experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months before filing for divorce
A fault divorce requires showing that one spouse’s actions or behavior caused the marriage to dissolve, which can include desertion for at least 12 months or extreme cruelty lasting at least three months.
Once a decision to divorce has been made, the couple — preferably working with knowledgeable attorneys — can agree on all the details, including financial arrangements, custody and parenting time with the children (if applicable), and any other issues that arise over the course of separation. If these issues can be resolved by both spouses, this is called an uncontested divorce. It still has to go through the court system, but it saves major time and resources.
A contested divorce, on the other hand, is the result of any divorce with lingering disputes that cannot be settled outside of court. This typically results in a drawn-out battle in court in front of a judge. Court battles like these can often escalate emotions and legal costs, which can further complicate matters as both spouses try to move forward. Representation by an attorney is absolutely essential if you wish to protect yourself and exercise all of your full legal rights in court.
Financial issues are often a major cause of marital conflict and of divorce itself. Unfortunately, divorce may only complicate financial matters, especially if one spouse is unemployed or less financially secure than the other.
Alimony, or spousal support, can be requested during divorce proceedings. Should you choose to pursue alimony, there are five different types of alimony available:
Temporary: Awarded during divorce proceedings to one spouse if he or she is dependent financially on the other.
Limited-Duration: Awarded to one spouse while he or she strives to become self-supporting after divorce.
Rehabilitative: Awarded while one spouse acquires the job training or education necessary to become employed and financially independent.
Reimbursement: If one spouse paid for the other’s education in hopes of sharing financial benefits together but divorce occurred before the financial gain could be realized, the spouse who paid for the education might be reimbursed.
Permanent: Perhaps the least common of the five, awarded when the dependent spouse is unable to ever become self-supporting.
When children are involved, the courts will typically ask the parents to resolve custody and parenting time issues. If the parents fail to do so, they will be ordered into mediation. If that fails, the court can order an investigation into the parents’ character, financial condition, and other issues. If need be, the court itself will then decide custody based on the best interests of the child.
When all is said and done, the couple can be awarded joint or sole legal custody. Joint custody means both parents participate in major decisions for the child (or children). Sole custody means one party will retain the right to make all major decisions for the child’s welfare.
The parents can also be awarded joint or sole physical custody. Joint custody can assume many forms: sharing the child on certain days each week, or splitting the year into segments when one parent has the child while the other parent does not. Sole physical custody means one parent provides a permanent residence for the child, while the non-custodial parent is allowed visitation or parenting time.
When deciding issues of child support payments, New Jersey courts use the model of the family and its finances in supporting the child prior to divorce. The court will use the parents’ combined net income to determine how much the non-custodial parent should pay to the custodial parent, mimicking how income and expenses were shared during the length of the marriage.
No matter what specific issue you may be facing, major family decisions are tough enough when you face a sudden life transformation. Whether it’s getting married, ending a marriage, paying alimony or child support, or starting life all over again without a partner. All of these decisions have various legal components and ramifications, especially if you end up in court trying to resolve issues regarding children and finances.
If you’re located in the New Jersey areas of Middlesex, Somerset, Morris, Passaic, Essex, and Bergen Counties, or anywhere else in the state, rely on the family law attorneys at Schwartz, Hanna, Olsen, & Taus, P.C. Call or reach out to our office immediately for a consultation. We can provide reliable legal counsel and help you explore all of your legal options to help you move forward.