In rapid succession, the New Jersey legislature has managed to come to an agreement on an alimony reform law that has been debated and hotly contested for approximately three years. The new law, which was passed at the close of the legislative fiscal year, is a compromise of a previous bill that imposed strict guidelines for the award of alimony. While there are new regulations that apply under general circumstances, the court still has discretion to consider other issues and deviate from the guidelines in the interest of fairness, but these deviations are only in unusual and unique cases.
There are many issues that arise during a divorce, but what can make the entire process extremely difficult is when one spouse has a personality disorders that influences the path of the marriage dissolution. One of the major problems with this situation is that the public perception of the spouse with the personality disorder may be that he or she is charismatic and charming, while the reality behind the scenes is someone who is manipulative and dangerously aggressive, lashing out when the facts challenge the reality that he has created. It is a challenge to convince the court that the public persona is not the real individual. This is particularly stressful if there are children involved in the divorce.
The alimony reform act that has been contemplated and debated for a long time now has just passed the New Jersey State Assembly at the end of the legislature’s fiscal year on June 30 and it presents significant changes to New Jersey divorce laws. The passage was swift following approximately three years of arguments and compromises. The bill is now heading to the desk of Governor Christie for his signature. This reform marks a significant change in alimony laws, although it will not be retroactively applied to alimony agreements that already are in place. However, it will apply to divorces that presently are pending in the courts, as well as new divorce cases that are filed.
Grandparents across the State of New Jersey can take comfort in the fact that New Jersey is one of those jurisdictions that provides them with a legally enforceable right to see their grandchildren if those visits are in the best interest of the child.
Having made the decision to move forward with a divorce, it seems rather counterintuitive, and perhaps a waste of time, to sit down with a marriage counselor, but this may be one of the best decisions that a person can make in going through the steps of dissolving a marriage.
Even in the most amicable of divorces, there is a termination of one of the most important relationships in a child’s life. Therefore, it is not surprising that many children need some form of therapy to adjust to their new "post-divorce" reality. Otherwise stated, it is important to recognize the circumstances in which these children do require the assistance of a professional counselor.
The overarching determination of what custody plan is in the best interest of the child governs child custody cases in New Jersey. In order to make that decision, a judge may decide to conduct an in camera interview with the child to learn what the child wants. However, these interviews are rare and it frequently is the appointed guardian ad litem who speaks on behalf of the child.
The process of setting a custody arrangement is often very thorough. Therefore, the justification for a requested modification must be compelling. There are different things that a person can do to increase his or her chances of succeeding in a modification request.
How to Protect Premarital Assets When Going Through a New Jersey DivorceWhen two people are going through a divorce, the equitable distribution of property is going to be one of the main focal parts of any dispute. The question often arises about what property should be part of the marital estate and subject to this distribution versus separate premarital property that should remain with the party who owned it prior to the marriage.One of the main ways to protect premarital assets is through the execution of a prenuptial agreement that outlines the separate nature of the property and makes it clear that it will not become marital property. Of course, if a divorce already is a possibility, this no longer is an option. In addition, many couples contemplating marriage find it difficult to foresee a time when this type of agreement will be necessary, even though fifty percent of marriages end in divorce.The law in New Jersey does protect premarital property. Under New Jersey law, N.J.S.A 2A:34-23(h), there is a clear rule that premarital assets are not subject to equitable distribution. However, it often is not this simple when the property in question has been heaped in with the property acquired during the marriage. There are several different types of analysis that may be applied to determine whether the property is subject to distribution.If an asset was purchased in contemplation of marriage, then it may be pulled into the scope of marital property. The court will look at the behavior of both parties surrounding the acquisition of the property. For example, if one person purchases a house while the couple is dating or engaged, but not married, and the title only is in the name of the purchasing party, the court will review whether the other spouse had input into the purchase and how much time and resources have been invested in maintaining or improving the property. A determination that the property was purchased in contemplation of marriage means that it is now a marital asset.Another scenario involves when one party to a marriage had an asset prior to the relationship and that asset increased in value during the course of the marriage. The court will take a hard look at the value increase. The analysis will turn on whether the asset was passive or active. A passive asset will increase in value without any contribution from the other spouse. When one person owns $100,000 in stocks before entering into a relationship that eventually leads to a marriage and that stock increases to $150,000 during the marriage, the analysis is whether the other spouse had anything to do with the increase. The stock did not require any contribution of time or money, and its increase in value was due to forces outside of the control of either party, so it likely will be ruled a premarital asset that is not subject to distribution.If the asset were not stock but instead was a condo that increased from $100,000 to $150,000 and the condo was not purchased in contemplation of marriage, then the court may look at whether the non-purchasing spouse exerted physical or financial effort towards maintaining or improving the property. If the court deems this an active asset, then the $50,000 increase in value likely will be subject to equitable distribution.Another problem that confuses the issue of whether an asset is subject to equitable distribution is when the parties have co-mingled premarital assets with marital assets. Placing funds into a joint account could transform the asset. Selling stock and using the funds to purchase a family home likely will result in the conversion into marital assets.In order to protect premarital assets, the person possessing the property should never:* Comingle the assets with marital property;* Permit the other spouse from investing time or effort into improving the asset or otherwise increasing its value;* Add the name of the spouse to any title, account, or any other indicator of ownership.It is important to keep premarital assets as separate as possible. Any inheritance should be maintained as separate assets, with funds in separate accounts and property outside the marital home. Distancing certain property prior to a divorce action may prevent it from being part of the equitable distribution, but this should not be done in such a manner as to make the court suspect that a fraud is being perpetrated.The Micklin Law Group Advocates Zealously for Clients Going Through DivorceWhen there is a dissolution of marriage, there is going to be emotional turmoil and arguments over who gets what. If you came into the relationship with significant personal property, it may be possible to protect some of the assets during the distribution of property. The Micklin Law Group will provide an honest evaluation of what items may reasonably remain separate from the marital property. To schedule an appointment with a skilled and hard-working divorce attorney at The Micklin Law Group, call us at (973) 562-0100 and we will work with you to protect your interests.
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