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How Can I Celebrate My Child’s Birthday after Divorce?

Among all the changes that come when a couple goes through a divorce, parents often say sharing their child’s birthday is one of the biggest adjustments they must make. If you are newly divorced, you may be wondering how to celebrate your child’s next birthday as coparents. Even if you want to spend the day with your child, it may fall during your ex-spouse’s parenting time, or they may have different ideas about how to spend the occasion.

This discussion offers solutions to this common roadblock to make the day special for your child, peaceful for you, and memorable for friends and family.

Include Birthdays in Your Parenting Agreement

One of the most effective ways to prevent arguments and battles about children’s birthdays is to plan ahead. If you have not already, ask your divorce lawyer about including something in your parenting plan about what to do for your child’s birthday. If you can agree to the terms in mediation, great. If not, the courts will decide if you switch child custody on birthdays from year to year or share the day.

Even if your parenting plan has already been created, you can ask your ex-spouse to agree to revise it with a formal plan for birthdays and other special occasions. If they do not agree, you must file a motion in court. You should weigh the advantages and disadvantages to determine if legal action is worth the time, money, and stress in this case.

The hope is you and your ex-spouse can agree on one of the options below out of court, under the guidance of your divorce lawyers.

Have One Party

This day is about your child. It would probably make them happy to spend their birthday with both parents. If you have a good relationship with your ex-spouse and are certain you can avoid conflict, consider having one party.

This works best in a neutral location such as a movie theater, bowling alley, park, or favorite restaurant. If you want to invite extended family, remind them to be on their best behavior as well. You child’s special day is not the time to bring up past hurts and resentments.

Take Shifts during the Party

One adjustment to the single party idea keeps things simple but gives ex-spouses space from each other. Some coparents host one party at an outside location and take shifts at the event. Therefore, perhaps Dad attends for the first hour and Mom takes over for the second. This way, the child spends time with both parents and does not have to travel from location to location. Parents can also split the cost of the party and supplies.

Opt for Separate Parties

Although a single, family birthday party is a great idea in theory, it just is not practical for many divorced couples. Some divorces are more contentious than others. If spending the day together is likely to lead to arguments, avoid a joint party at all costs.

If you and your ex-spouse live nearby, consider hosting two birthday parties. For example, Mom can take the child out for bowling and pizza in the afternoon, and Dad can host friends and family for birthday cake and ice cream in the evening. This way, the child can see both parents and both sides of the family on their actual birthday.

The disadvantage to this option is it can be a long and tiring day, especially for younger children. Teens and tweens who invite friends to their birthday may not want to leave them to go the other parent’s home. What works one year may not work the next.

Alternate Year to Year

Another option for scheduling parenting time around your child’s birthday is to switch who gets the child for the birthday from year to year. Mom might get odd years, while Dad gets the even years. Coparents who do not get along, live at a great distance from each other, or just want the entire day with the child can use this schedule.

Of course, the downside to this plan is that one parent does not get to see the child on their birthday. In that case, they can celebrate another day that week. Although it may be hard for you, you might be surprised how easily your child adjusts. They might prefer to spend their birthday with both parents, but they may not be opposed to having two birthday parties in one year.

Questions to Ask When Planning Your Child’s Birthday

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how to handle birthdays after divorce. It really depends on your relationship with your ex-spouse. How you interact, communicate, and coparent your child will help you determine the best arrangement for your youngster.

Before you make a plan, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there animosity between you and your ex-spouse?
  • Will you permit new partners to attend the party?
  • Are either one of you likely to pick a fight at the party?
  • How do you each get along with your in-laws?
  • Will your behavior change around each other?
  • Will your child sense tension between you and your ex-spouse?
  • How involved is your ex-spouse in the child’s life?
  • How long has it been since your divorce?
  • When is the last time you both attended something together, and how did it go?
  • Does your child want to spend their birthday with both parents?

Put Your Child First

This last piece of advice is really the most important. When thinking about how to celebrate your child’s birthday, follow their lead. After all, it is their day. Ask them what they want to do for their birthday and work with your ex-spouse to accommodate their wishes, within reason of course.

As children get older, it is even more important to give children some input in the plan, understanding their needs change over time as peers and socializing become more important. The schedule in your parenting plan for your five-year-old’s birthday may not work when your child turns 14 or 15.

Your Feelings Matter as Well

Your child’s best interests should always be the motivation for decisions about custody, visitation, and parenting time in general. But before you commit to spend the day with your ex-spouse, check in with yourself and your own feelings.

Divorce is a major life event, and one that requires time and space to heal. If it is hard to see your former spouse, or if they have moved on and you are not quite there yet, sharing the day may not be the right option, for now. Your child is likely to pick up on your pain and sadness, and that can overshadow their day.

The last thing you want to do on a day that is supposed to be joyful is pretend to be okay if you are not. If your feelings are still raw and you would rather not see your ex-spouse, it is okay. Choose a plan that allows you to be there for your child but offers some space from your ex-spouse.

However you choose to celebrate your child’s birthday after divorce, it is always smart to start discussing the day at least a few months ahead. This way, you have more time to make a plan and iron out any kinks ahead of time. When your child’s special day rolls around, everyone will be in a good place and ready to have fun and make memories.

Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Help Clients Create Fair and Effective Parenting Plans through Mediation

Birthdays and holidays are just one piece of the coparenting puzzle you will deal with during divorce. The Somerville child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., understand that sharing custody for these special events is not always easy. That is why we do all we can to resolve child custody matters peacefully and effectively to reduce conflict and legal battles going forward. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

What Should I Know about a Midlife Divorce?

Midlife divorce, or so-called gray divorce, rates are on the rise. In fact, the divorce rate among people over 50 has doubled over the past two decades. For many people, midlife is a catalyst for making major life changes. It is a time when many people take stock of their lives and feel a sense of urgency to make the most of the years ahead.

For some couples, that means taking a closer look at their marriage and deciding if they really want to spend their golden years with their spouse. This discussion explains why so many married people opt for a midlife divorce and the first steps to take if you are considering ending your marriage in your 40s or 50s.

The Midlife Transition

Everyone who lives to a certain age will experience a midlife transition. It is simply the passage from one’s young adulthood into the middle years of life. Also, people have different perspectives on aging. Some are confident the best days are yet to come. Others see getting older as a gift and feel gratitude for the chance to experience all life has to offer.

Still for others, hitting the late 40s and early 50s is more challenging, even a crisis.

Am I Having a Midlife Crisis?

To understand why midlife is a common time for divorce, it is helpful to understand the psychology behind the midlife crisis.

A midlife crisis is a period of transition that, for many people, comes with a range of uncomfortable emotions and behaviors that seem out of character. A midlife crisis affects people differently and can last anywhere from a few months to as long as a decade. Generally, they occur between the ages of 45 and 65.

Although it is normal to feel ambivalent about the aging process, a midlife crisis comes with actions and symptoms that are more intense than the expected wistfulness about one’s passing youth. 

Some signs of a midlife crisis include:

  • Fixating on past mistakes and regrets
  • Feeling unsure about what direction to take
  • Changes in eating habits and sleeping patterns
  • Increase in anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Impulsive and reckless decisions
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Obsessing over one’s appearance
  • Tasking sudden or drastic measures to look more youthful

It is not uncommon for people going through a midlife crisis to experience a mental health disorder at the same time. Anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, and substance use disorders can appear or worsen during a midlife crisis.

It is important to note that if you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of self-harm, reach out for help immediately.

How a Midlife Crisis Can Lead to Divorce

Knowing the common signs and behaviors of this transition will help you determine if you are in the throes of a midlife crisis so you can be proactive about getting help and protecting your marriage from the fallout. 

Person pulls away from their spouse. There are a few reasons why a midlife crisis leads to a late-in-life divorce for some couples. First, when someone is in the throes of a personal crisis of any kind, they tend to focus a good deal of their time and energy on themselves. Friends, family members, and their spouse sense them withdrawing and retreating into their own world. That emotional and physical separation leaves the spouse feeling rejected and alone. 

Person questions their life choices. During a midlife crisis, the sudden reality of a person’s own mortality causes them to question their life choices. Am I stuck in a rut? Did I take the right career path? Do I want to spend the rest of my life with my partner?

These are all valid questions. After all, there are no guarantees the choices we make at 20 will reflect the person we are at 50. People change over time, along with their goals, needs, and general views on life. Our own roles begin to change. Adult children need their parents less, whereas aging parents need them more.

Spouses tend to grow together or grow apart over the years. Sadly, many couples no longer recognize the person they fell in love with so many years ago. They decide to divorce and see if there is someone more compatible out there waiting for them.

Person experiences a significant life event. Some people notice feelings of boredom, restlessness, or dissatisfaction developing gradually over time. Yet for others, it is solitary and sudden life event that triggers a midlife crisis and divorce. These milestones can be joyful or traumatic, but either way, they are powerful enough to cause the person to question their own identity and their priorities.

The loss of a job, death of a loved one, a major illness, or a big number birthday are all reminders that life is precious and time is a gift. For someone in an unhappy marriage, a major life event if often the final straw that pushes them toward divorce.

What to Consider When Divorcing Over 50

With divorce at any age, certain legal and financial details need to be resolved. Those details vary, depending on the age of the spouses and the length of the marriage. Here are some issues to consider if you are divorcing later in life.

Fewer child custody issues. Couples in middle age may not have to navigate the complexities of child custody, visitation, and child support if their children have reached the age of adulthood and are independent.

Complex marital estates. Marital assets tend to be more substantial for couples in their 40s, 50s, or 60s because one or both partners have been working for several decades. Along the way, they may have made investments or inherited assets from other family members. In a gray divorce, the marital portfolio tends to be larger and more complex, requiring more time and legal guidance to distribute. 

Retirement accounts. Middle-aged couples are closer to the age of retirement, making retirement benefits a pressing matter during midlife divorce. Spouses have less time to replenish these funds, so it is imperative to accurately account for what is available and distribute retirement accounts according to any pre- or postnuptial agreements, state divorce laws, and terms specific to each account.

Updating beneficiaries. Estate planning is the process of making certain legal, financial, and medical arrangements and completing certain documents to protect one’s assets in the event of their incapacitation or passing. Although estate planning is important for adults of all ages, it becomes even more critical during midlife.

Generally, a married person names a spouse and/or children as executors or beneficiaries in wills, trusts, life insurance policies, and other accounts. In many cases, a spouse asks their partner to make crucial medical decisions for them if they cannot do so for any reason.

During divorce, individuals should review all estate planning documents to remove a former spouse as a power of attorney, executor, or beneficiary when appropriate. A lawyer focused on estate law is the best resource to make these changes.

First Steps to Take When Divorce Is Inevitable

Getting older is easier for some than for others. Although the growing pains in one’s 40s and 50s can be difficult to navigate, they can also provide invaluable clarity about what a person wants, and does not want, for their golden years.

Think about the person married to an unfaithful, abusive, or just incompatible spouse. Coming to terms with a dysfunctional marriage can be quite liberating, and the possibility of true happiness on the other side of divorce can be invigorating.

If you are considering divorce, the first thing to do is to get organized and gather important financial documents. It is surprising how many spouses are in the dark about their family’s financial picture.

Gather account statements for investment and checking accounts, recent pay stubs, and at least three years of tax returns. This information will be helpful when it is time to make that first appointment with the divorce lawyer.

Hire a Lawyer with Midlife Divorce Experience

A midlife divorce comes with its own unique concerns and challenges. Someone divorcing in their early 20s is going to have very different needs and goals than someone in their 50s. When divorcing in midlife, it is vital to hire a divorce lawyer with a proven track record of success resolving gray divorce matters in a way that protects their client’s interests above all else.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Represent Clients Divorcing Later in Life

Midlife divorce is becoming more common that you might realize. The Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., want you to know there is hope and a new beginning on the other side of a gray divorce. As a firm, we understand the unique challenges that come with a midlife divorce, and we use every legal tool available to resolve your divorce matters quickly and effectively. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

What Can I Do if Something Was Overlooked in My Divorce Settlement?

Divorce is a complex undertaking, one that involves many details and documents. It is not as simple as just signing on the dotted line. There are matters of division of property, alimony, and child custody and child support that must be determined. And the reality is, it is not uncommon for one or both parties to discover that something has been overlooked in the divorce settlement. 

Omissions or errors in divorce proceedings happen for a variety of reasons. Either spouse may neglect to disclose important financial information. The judge can make a mistake. Or more commonly, the terms to which both parties agree at the time no longer reflect their home, job, or financial situation months or years later. 

If something is missing or incorrect in your divorce settlement, you have two primary options to make it right. This discussion explains how to appeal a judge’s decision or file a motion for a post-divorce modification in New Jersey. 

Post-Divorce Modification 

When you divorce, the terms of your settlement reflect your current life circumstances, including your job, income, expenses, debts, and custody arrangement. 

But of course, the only constant in life is change. A remarriage, new job, health crisis, or drastic change in income can significantly impact how you live your life. It may be possible to modify your divorce settlement, if you can show there has been a major change of circumstances for either party or for your children.

The most common reasons to change a divorce settlement include the following: 

Alimony. If the spouse paying alimony or the spouse receiving it has a substantial change in income or circumstances, it may be necessary to adjust the amount of alimony accordingly. In some cases, the paying spouse seeks to terminate spousal support altogether, particularly if the receiving spouse is living with a new partner or has remarried. 

Child support. Modifications to child support usually occur when the parent paying support, the non-custodial parent, has a significant income change or has another child. It is unlikely that child support will be terminated, unless the child becomes emancipated, but it can be recalculated to reflect both parties’ new financial circumstances. 

Division of property. If a spouse hides or undervalues certain marital assets during the divorce process, that is considered fraud. Fraud is a valid reason for changing a divorce settlement to reflect the true value of all joint property. 

Child custody and visitation. Child custody and visitation are granted to fit parents who are able and willing to actively parent their children financially, emotionally, and physically. Child custody and visitation arrangements can be revised if a parent becomes unfit, or if the custodial parent attempts to move the child out of state. 

This list of reasons for a post-divorce modification is simply an overview. If your concern is not listed above, contact a trusted divorce lawyer for guidance on your individual situation. 

How to Modify Your Divorce Agreement 

If you believe you have cause for a post-divorce modification, you can file a motion, usually in the same court where you were granted the divorce. A motion is just a written request for the change and an explanation of what why you are asking for it.

It is not enough to simply say you want to revise your divorce agreement. You need to show a major life change has occurred and provide documentation to prove the change and support your request. 

Here are the specific steps to file a motion to change or enforce an order in your divorce case: 

  • Complete all the required forms. 
  • Select a motion date at least one month away in the Family Division of Superior Court where your divorce was granted. 
  • Make three copies of all the documents and five copies of the proposed order. Keep a copy of each for yourself in a safe place. 
  • Upload the documents into the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. Mail the originals to the Family Division of Superior Court where your divorce was issued. 
  • Pay the filing fee.
  • Deliver or mail a copy of all the documents to your ex-spouse at least 24 days prior to the motion date you selected. 
  • Your spouse has 15 days prior to the motion date to file a certification, or a response, with the court and send you a copy. 
  • The motion date arrives, and the judge makes a decision based on all of the information provided. It usually happens “on the papers,” meaning no hearing is necessary, unless one or both parties request an oral argument and the judge agrees it is necessary. 
  • The motion is decided, and each party receives a copy of the signed order stating the decision on the initial request for a post-divorce modification. 

Note: Although the process for filing a motion in New Jersey is described above, the procedures may be slightly different if you reside outside of New Jersey. Contact an experienced divorce lawyer and the family court in your county for more information. 

Appealing the Court’s Decision 

The other option to have your divorce settlement changed when something has been overlooked is to appeal the court’s decision. 

Unlike a post-divorce modification, you only have 45 days from the time the divorce decree is filed to appeal the judge’s decision, and you can do so only if the judge made a mistake. The appellate process can be quite time consuming and costly, and appellate courts tend to review appeals with a bias in the original court’s favor. 

Even if an error has occurred, it is unlikely the original divorce settlement will be dismissed or modified. Instead, it may go back to the original judge for reconsideration. 

How to Prevent Mistakes in Your Divorce Settlement 

Obviously, no one can predict the changes their life will take in the future. That is why the courts allow divorced individuals to request changes to their settlement after the fact. However, in the case of glaring mistakes, it is always better to catch them during mediation or before the trial court issues the divorce judgement. 

Here are some tips for avoiding costly and stressful mistakes in your divorce settlement. 

Put your divorce settlement in writing. Couples who have a relatively amicable breakup often make the mistake of handling things verbally. They wrongly assume a formal settlement is not necessary because they get along. 

But as any experienced divorce lawyer will tell you, that harmonious relationship can change quickly. If one parent remarries, has another child, or wants to relocate with their child, the once cordial relationship can quickly become quite bitter. 

Always protect you, your child, and your interests with a formal, written divorce agreement that clearly and correctly names all parties involved and outlines all the terms of the divorce. Never assume your ex-spouse will always be agreeable. Things change and people change, and you need that layer of protection. 

Disclose and discover all marital assets. Most mistakes in divorce settlements involve finances. A spouse can forget to account for an account or asset, or they may undervalue it for their own benefit. However, it benefits both parties to be fully transparent when disclosing assets, debts, and liabilities. The courts do not take fraud lightly. 

Hire the right lawyer. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer knows common settlement mistakes and how to avoid them at every stage of the divorce process to save their clients from additional litigation after the divorce is final. 

Because there is a lot at stake, especially when it comes to custody or visitation changes, it is best to defer to a seasoned divorce lawyer to oversee the motion or appeal process, gather the appropriate documents, and ensure all deadlines are made. If you skip any of these steps or miss important deadlines, it is unlikely you will get the change you are seeking. 

Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Assist Clients with Post-Divorce Modifications 

Mistakes or omissions in divorce settlements can have a big impact on your legal and financial situation. If you believe the judge made a mistake or your circumstances have changed since your divorce was final, the Somerville divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help. We will review your agreement and recommend the best course of action based on your situation. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

How Does Parental Alienation Affect Child Custody Decisions?

An unmarried parent who uses lies and manipulation to turn their child against their ex-spouse can face harsh consequences in child custody decisions. Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) is a real and serious disorder that not only damages the parent-child relationship, but also severely impacts the child’s mental health.

If your ex-spouse has tried to undermine your relationship with your child, you should take immediate action. Talk to your lawyer about reviewing your child custody arrangement to ensure it makes sense considering the circumstances. It may also be a good idea to discuss further legal action to protect your child from an emotionally abusive parent.

What Is Parental Alienation Syndrome?

PAS is a disorder most often seen in the context of child custody disputes. It manifests in the child criticizing and even vilifying one parent exclusively, seemingly without justification.

The behavior arises from another parent’s brainwashing, or programming, combined with the child’s own proclivity to denigrate the parent who is the target of their disapproval.

PAS should not be confused with rational anger toward a parent who has legitimately abused the child in some way. In that case, the child’s hostility is justified and would not be considered PAS. 

Parental Behaviors Intended to Alienate a Child from the Other Parent

A parent will do many things to create a division between a child and the child’s other parent. All are damaging, and all can impact child custody litigation. Social workers and therapists often refer to these behaviors as a campaign of denigration.

In cases of parental alienation, the abusive parent might: 

  • Refuse to change parenting time to accommodate the child’s schedule
  • Share painful or inappropriate details about the breakup of the marriage or divorce with the child
  • Refuse to permit the child to bring items from one parent’s home to the other
  • Complain to the child about their ex-spouse’s perceived failures, including financial missteps, infidelity, breaking up the family, or dating a new partner
  • Use the child to spy and report back on the other parent’s comings and goings
  • Act hurt or sad when the child spends time with the other parent
  • Act as though they are emotionally or physically rescuing the child even if no real threat exists
  • Withhold vital medical or school records and other documents from the other parent
  • Deny their ex-spouse visitation time, whether court ordered or not
  • Encourage the child to ask to skip visitation with their other parent
  • Outright ask the child to choose them over their ex-spouse

Signs of Parental Alienation in Children

There are several common signs of parental alienation in children. Often, the child will have excessive anger toward one parent without being able to express why they are angry. The child may be spiteful, rude, cold, or ungrateful toward the targeted parent, again seemingly without cause. If they do give a reason for their disgust, it is often irrational or untrue.

The child will not show gratitude or appreciation for kinds acts from the alienated parent. They do not often feel any guilt or ambivalence about mistreating this parent because they have been so conditioned to believe they are bad.

The so-called independent thinker phenomenon is another hallmark of PAS. This means the child believes their opinions are solely theirs, without realizing they have been carefully crafted and influenced by the alienating parent.

When you see just how this condition manifests in children, you can grasp how damaging it can be to the bond between a child and a parent who has been targeted by their ex-partner.

Long-Term Impact of Parental Alienation on Children

Research on the long-term effects of parental alienation on children is concerning. Adult children who have experienced this dynamic in their youth describe substance abuse, depression, and very often a pattern of failed relationships including multiple divorces. Many even say they have become alienated from their own children, perpetuating the family cycle of emotional abuse.

What Can I Do if My Ex-Spouse Is Turning My Child Against Me?

If the descriptions of alienating behavior are throwing up red flags for you, it is vital that you take swift and powerful action to protect your relationship with your child as well as their emotional health and well-being.

New Jersey Laws Concerning Parental Alienation

New Jersey Revised Statutes Section 9:2-4 states it is New Jersey public policy to: Assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage.

In other words, it is the opinion of the state, and most child therapists and psychologists, that the involvement of both parents in a child’s life is beneficial for healthy growth and development. To that end, child custody determinations in New Jersey are designed and entered to maximize the participation of both parents in the life of the child.

Unless one parent is endangering the child or subjecting them to abuse in any form, family law judges in New Jersey frown on a parent’s efforts to alienate a child from their other parent.

The First Hurdle: Proving Parental Alienation Exists

Although it may be obvious to you that your ex-spouse has poisoned your child against you or denied you parenting time, it is not always easy to prove parental alienation has occurred. It is common for divorced parents to dislike each other, and many divorces devolve into the classic he said, she said battles. The courts may not believe family conflict rises to the level of psychological alienation.

For that reason, it is important to save any direct evidence that confirms your allegations. That can be texts, emails, or recorded phone calls where your ex-spouse is actively engaging in alienating behaviors.

If your child attends therapy, their counselor can possibly speak to any signs of alienation they have encountered. Although there are privacy laws that protect therapists from speaking about their clients, the judge can order them to provide evidence directly without disclosing it to the parents or the public.

Parental Alienation Syndrome and Child Custody Proceedings

Family courts are increasingly recognizing the existence of PAS and have allowed experts to testify on the subject. Some courts have gone as far as to transfer custody of the child to the alienated parent.

Although there are currently no published cases on the books in New Jersey that specifically discuss PAS, any attempt to manipulate a child against another parent is not taken lightly.

Criminal Charges for Interference with Custody

Any person, whether they be a parent, guardian, or lawful custodian, who takes the child with the purpose of concealing them and depriving the other parent of custody or visitation can be charged with a crime.

Interference with custody is considered a third-degree crime in New Jersey, punishable by heavy fines and possible jail time. If the child is taken out of the country, interference with custody becomes a second-degree crime bringing more severe penalties.

Civil Sanctions for Interference with Custody

In addition to criminal charges, the courts can also impose civil sanctions for interference with custody. The parent who has been denied custody by deception can seek relief under R. 1:10-3 for contempt or R. 5:3-7(a). Some of the possible remedies include:

  • Economic sanctions for costs resulting from a parent’s failure to adhere to custody arrangements
  • Compensatory time with the child
  • Counseling paid for by the parent who violated the custody plan
  • A temporary or permanent modification of the child custody agreement

In New Jersey, parents do not have a course of action for parental alienation. That means the targeted parent cannot sue for damages if their ex-spouse turns their child against them. Instead, the most practical course of action is to seek a child custody modification.

If you sense your ex-spouse is turning your child against you, or if they have already disregarded your custody arrangement, contact a child custody lawyer to learn your rights and remedies to prevent further alienation.

Morristown Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advocate for Victims of Parental Alienation

The Morristown child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. have seen the devastating impact of parental alienation syndrome on children and the parents who love them. We use every legal tool available to break the cycle of abuse and secure child custody orders, and help you rebuild that bond with your child. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

How Do I Divide a Family Business during Divorce?

The path to divorce is never simple. And when spouses own a family business together, the process becomes even more complicated. Couples contemplating divorce often think about the family home, bank accounts, and retirement funds.

However, they often overlook their family-owned business, which can be the most challenging asset to distribute. It takes exceptional legal counsel to protect your family business so it can continue to grow and thrive even after you and your spouse divorce.

Generally, you have a few options. You can hand over the business to your soon-to-be ex-spouse, buy out your ex-spouse’s interests, or sell it altogether. A lot depends on how much the company is worth and the marital property rules in the state where you live. Here are some things to consider if you and your spouse share a business and are considering divorce.

Understanding Marital Assets

Marital assets are considered property that belong to both spouses in a marriage. Generally, it involves property acquired after the marriage was finalized. That can include anything from homes, cars, and jewelry; to bank accounts and investment portfolios. In New Jersey, unless a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement states otherwise, when a couple divorces, their marital assets are distributed according to equitable distribution.

Equitable distribution does not mean couples share assets 50-50. Rather, it means joint property is distributed in a way that is fair based on a variety of factors including how much each spouse earns, their expenses, and the duration of the marriage.

Conversely, nonmarital assets are considered property that belongs to either one spouse or the other. These are items or accounts that one spouse owned before the marriage. They are also considered nonmarital property, or separate property, if they were gifted to one spouse by someone outside of the marriage, such as an inheritance.

Each spouse leaves the marriage with whatever nonmarital assets they started with, unless they agree to different terms during mediation or have a prenuptial or postnuptial contract saying otherwise. 

Is My Business Considered Marital Property?

Now that the difference between marital and nonmarital assets has been examined, it is time to determine how to classify the family business.

To figure that out, the courts will consider many details, including:

  • The date the business was established
  • Source of the funds to start the business
  • Each spouse’s contributions to the business
  • The skills and expertise required to run the business
  • How much the business was worth before and during the marriage, and at the time of divorce

Unlike physical assets such as art or jewelry, a business is not quite as easy to classify for equitable distribution purposes. For example, if a couple launched the business before they got married using both their savings, it is likely to be considered marital property through a concept called transmutation in which personal separate property evolves into joint assets.

Conversely, if one spouse acquired a business on their own through purchasing it or through inheritance during the marriage, it may actually be considered separate property. In some cases, some parts of the business are considered nonmarital property, whereas others are considered marital assets. Some spouses have a written agreement that designates one spouse as the owner of a family business.

As can be seen, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to deciding how to deal with a family business during the distribution of property.  It varies from couple to couple and business to business. A consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer can offer clarity on your individual situation.

Determine the Value of Your Family Business

To treat the business like a marital asset, you need to first determine its worth. That is a complex endeavor. You need to hire an unbiased expert to provide a formal appraisal of the company. Your divorce lawyer can recommend one in your area.

To assess the value of your business, the appraiser looks at the following:

  • Tangible assets: This includes machinery, in-stock supplies, office equipment, and any vehicles and buildings that are owned outright. Cash in bank accounts is also considered tangible property.
  • Intangible property: These include things less easy to value, things such as customer relations and goodwill that affect how the public views the company and the brand.
  • Liabilities: These are things that take away from a company’s overall value, things such as scheduled outgoing payments including credit lines, or rent for office space or equipment.
  • Profits: Profits are the final piece of the valuation puzzle. Expect the appraiser to conduct a detailed examination of your company’s financial records.

Options for Dividing a Family Business in a Divorce

Once the business valuation has been conducted and if the company is subject to equitable distribution, the next step is to decide what happens to the company after the divorce.

When it comes to a family-owned businesses, there are few options:

One spouse keeps the family business. For couples who have no interest in working together after divorce, this is the most common option. Typically, the spouse more involved in running the day-to-day business operations buys out the other based on the appraised value.

If that spouse cannot afford to buy the other out outright, they might consider setting up a structured settlement note to be paid out over time.

Another possibility works when each spouse has shares in the company. The company can buy back shares from the spouse who wants out. In this case, it is smart to work with a financial advisor who can structure the sale efficiently to avoid steep capital gains taxes.

Both spouses keep the family business. There are situations in which both spouses have invested so much blood, sweat, and tears into a family business, they are not willing to step away even after divorce. If their business relationship remains amicable despite their personal issues, they may consider keeping the business together.

Although this is the most straightforward option financially, it does tend to be less common because many couples find it hard to work together after the romantic relationship ends.

Both spouses sell the business. The third option is for both spouses to sell the family business and split the proceeds. Some couples go this route because it allows them to cut all ties and pursue their own business and career interests. However, selling a business takes time, and that will prolong the divorce process.

Protecting a Family Business with a Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreement

If you are newly married or recently started a family business, divorce is probably not on your mind. However, it is always a good idea to be proactive when it comes to protecting your assets in case of the unexpected. A prenuptial agreement is the most effective way to protect your business.

A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract both partners sign before getting married. It describes what happens to income, property, and other assets should a separation, divorce, or death occur in the future. A prenuptial agreement is a simple and straightforward way to protect a family business.

Both partners sign a prenuptial agreement freely, free of coercion, and usually with a lawyer present. Beyond the legal protections provided by a prenuptial agreement, discussing these important financial issues can be quite beneficial for couples. Frank and honest conversations about money early on can help prevent painful conflict in the future.

If you married without getting a prenuptial agreement, you have another option. A postnuptial agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement but is created after marriage. A postnuptial agreement is a legally binding mutual contract that determines how the family business and other assets will be distributed if the couple divorces or one partner passes away.

A postnuptial agreement can also be used as an update to an existing prenuptial agreement, reflecting changes in income, assets, and the family business during the marriage.

For many married couples, deciding what to do with a family business after divorce is a significant challenge. Both spouses need to decide if they want to keep it in the family, sell it to their ex-spouse, or sell it outright and split the profits. When a divorcing couple owns a business, the guidance of a skilled divorce lawyer and a proven financial advisor is recommended to prevent costly mistakes that may impact the business’ bottom line. 

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients and Business Owners Protect Their Interests During Divorce

The distribution of assets is part of the divorce process. And when a family business is at stake, that process becomes more complicated. The Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. understand the unique challenges of couples who own a company. We carefully review your situation and explain all your legal options so you can make informed decisions for you, your business, and your family. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

Which Parent Gets Custody on Halloween?

For many children, Halloween is one of the most beloved holidays of the year. Between costumes, parties, and candy, what is not to love? Yet when it comes to families in which parents have gone through divorce, Halloween is often overlooked in many child custody proceedings and parenting schedules. If your custody agreement does not include a visitation plan for Halloween, you have a few options.

Halloween is Left Out of Many Parenting Plans

During custody proceedings, parents tend to tackle the major holidays and special occasions such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and birthdays, as they plan where the child will spend each from year to year. But Halloween often goes unnoticed until it approaches, leaving parents to figure out who should spend the day with the child.

Halloween is usually an exciting day for children, and one for which parents often want to be a part. Because children tend to show less interest in participating in Halloween activities as they get older, parents want to soak in the joy of watching them dress up in costumes and trick-or-treat while they are little. 

How you resolve this issue depends in part on how effectively you coparent with your ex-spouse, and how much each parent wants spend Halloween with the child. One thing is certain: The earlier you plan for the day, the smoother it will go.

Holiday Parenting Schedules in New Jersey

In an ideal world, parents can work through important divorce issues such as child custody and visitation using a collaborative process called mediation. Mediation allows both parents to achieve some of the goals that matter to them, if they are willing to budge a bit and concede to others in their ex-spouse’s favor.

However, mediation simply does not work for every couple. In that case, the courts are left to determine custody, visitation, child support, and other matters. Parents who cannot agree on how to split the major holidays, birthdays, and other occasions are required to use a court-issued holiday parenting schedule.

Most court schedules alternate parenting time for holidays between even and odd years, with holidays considered to begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 7:00 p.m. Halloween is considered a special day when the non-custodial parent is with the child from noon or the end of the school day until 6:00 p.m.

Keep in mind that parents are free to deviate from the court’s parenting plan, but only if both agree to the change. If not, the parenting plan in place stands.

Consider These Options for a Peaceful and Fun Halloween

If you and your ex-spouse prefer to work together out of court to plan for holidays and birthdays, you have a few options to consider.

Split the day. One option is to share the day. For example, one parent attends the school party, while the other takes the child trick-or-treating in the evening. This allows both parents to spend some time with the child on Halloween and make memories without having to wait their turn for an entire year. This is practical for parents who live relatively close to each other.

Spend the day together. Although many divorced parents disagree on some issues, they may still see eye-to-eye when it comes to coparenting. If this is the case for you, consider spending Halloween together as a family. You can choose a time to meet up and go trick-or-treating together, carve pumpkins, and share a meal.

Children who see their parents are a united front often feel a sense of security and continuity during and after divorce.  This is an ideal option for parents who get along and can put past hurts and resentments aside for the day. If one or both parents have a new partner, it is important for these new adults to be cooperative and accepting of the coparenting relationship.

Alternate from year to year. In some cases, divorced parents do not get along or do not live close enough to share the Halloween holiday. Or, they just want to have the child for the entire day without having to include the other parent. That is not unreasonable for someone who divorced their ex-spouse because they could not get along.

Coparents in this category would do best to alternate holidays from year to year. Maybe Dad has the child for half of certain holidays and birthdays on odd years, and Mom has the child on those days during the even years. To make it fair, all the special days such as Halloween would be divided equally between both parents.

Generally, holidays and special days take precedence over regular parenting time, and extended periods of parenting time can be scheduled to coincide with these events.

Plan on a separate celebration. If you do not have your child for Halloween this year, that does not mean you cannot celebrate. Some people love Halloween so much, they celebrate throughout October. There are so many fun activities and events you can enjoy with your child even if they do not fall on Halloween itself.

Consider these Halloween festivities during your parenting time: 

  • Hayrides
  • Haunted houses
  • Baking fall treats
  • Community trunk-or-treat events
  • Pumpkin picking and carving
  • Decorating your home
  • Designing and creating a Halloween costume
  • Assembling goody bags for friend and neighbors

Create new traditions. Along those lines, why not use your parenting time to create a new Halloween tradition for you and your child? Divorce is the end of the familiar family structure, but it is also a brand-new beginning. New traditions are a great way to usher in the next chapter for your family.

Maybe you can start a few months ahead and work with your child to design and assemble a Halloween costume from scratch. Or you can pick out some recipes for Halloween cakes and cookies, bake them together, and deliver them to neighbors, friends, and family members.

Why not host a Halloween party for your child and some friends where they can play themed games and vote for the best costume? Make the most of your parenting time by savoring the special moments and making new traditions you can enjoy for years to come.

Updating Your Custody Agreement can Make Next Year Easier 

If you have not addressed certain holidays in your parenting plan and they seem to be a sticking point, it is a good idea to update your agreement and avoid future disputes. It is not uncommon for to modify a parenting plan over time, as children get older and their needs and circumstances change.

Halloween is a good example. Younger children look forward to dressing up and going trick-or-treating for candy. They want their parents to be a part of their celebration. Yet as they get older and hit the teen years, they may not be as interested, or they may go off with their friends to do their own thing. Therefore, planning parenting time for Halloween when your child is four or five years old is going to be more of a priority than when they are 16 or 17.

It is okay to update your visitation schedule. Just weigh the advantages and disadvantages to ensure it is worth the time and effort, especially if you expect your ex-spouse to put up a fight.

What is the First Step in Changing a Parenting Plan?

In New Jersey, parents have two avenues to modify a child custody order. They can either file a motion or use a consent order if both parties agree on the changes. If the judge approves the revisions, they will enter the consent order, making it official. If one parent opposes the change, the other parent must file a motion with the court and prove the change would be best for the child.

The parent seeking to modify the parenting plan must prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification. In the case of Halloween, a substantial change of circumstances may be:

  • A parent who refuses to comply with the existing parenting agreement
  • A parent who abuses alcohol or drugs in the child’s presence
  • An older child who prefers to spend Halloween with their friends rather than go to the non-custodial parent’s home 

If you believe that it is time to change your New Jersey child custody agreement for any reason, the first step is a call to your divorce lawyer. Like family court, the lawyer’s job is to act in the best interests of your child and to advocate on their behalf under the law.

Bridgewater Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Create Fair and Reasonable Parenting Agreements During Divorce

Halloween should be fun and stress-free. If your ex-spouse is making that difficult, contact the Bridgewater child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We are happy to review your current parenting plan and see if changes make sense. If you are just starting the divorce process, we will work tirelessly for you and your child to ensure your parenting agreement meets your child’s needs. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

Sole vs. Shared Custody

By Jake Jenkinson

            Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s contentious divorce matter is not new news; however, there has been a recent update regarding their acrimonious custody dispute. Specifically, it was recently reported that Brad Pitt’s request for joint custody has been granted over the objection of Angelina Jolie who sought sole custody based on alleged prior domestic violence by Brad. If a similar situation arose in New Jersey, how would the court decide a custody application in which one parent seeks sole custody?

            In New Jersey, to obtain sole custody of a child a parent must prove that it is in the best interest of the child and the child’s welfare. There are two different types of sole custody, sole legal custody and sole physical custody. Sole legal custody of a child allows the designated parent to have the final and sole decision-making ability regarding the health, education, and welfare of the child. Sole physical custody is when the child lives with one parent while the other parent can still have visitation with the child.

            While a parent can seek sole custody of their child, courts start with the presumption that joint custody is in the best interest of the child.  Courts start with this presumption because under a joint custody arrangement, both parents are sharing the responsibilities and rights of raising their child and the child has the benefit of maintaining a relationship with both parents. Like sole custody, there are also two types of joint custody, joint-legal custody and joint-physical custody. Joint-legal custody allows for both parents to make decisions with consultation for major decisions regarding the child such as education and health. Joint-physical custody allows for the child to live with both parents and each parent is also responsible for the care of the child.  

Regardless of the type of custody arrangement sought, to determine custody in any custody case, the court decides the matter based on the best interest of the child. The determination of what is best for the child is decided by the courts on a case-by-case based on the statutory factors delineated under N.J.S.A. 9:2-4 which include: the parents’ ability to communicate, operate, and agree in matters that relate to the child, the relationship of the child with their parents and siblings, whether there is any history of domestic violence, the safety of the child and safety of either parent from abuse form the other parent, the preference of the child if they are at a sufficient age to reason and form an intelligent decision, the needs of a child, the stability of the home environment available, the fitness of the parents involved, the age and number of children, the proximity to the house of the parents, and the employment responsibilities of the parent. Further, the court ultimately has the final decision in determining who has custody of the child based on any factors they deem relevant to the case.

If you or someone you know is fighting for sole custody or joint custody of a child, please contact one of the attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We place a premium on personalized attention for your family law matters and pride ourselves on giving the appropriate guidance and information no matter how obscure the subject matter may be. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Rights of Birth Parents

There are many reasons why people make the difficult decision to give their baby up for adoption. Some of the most common reasons include age, a lack of financial resources, and issues with drug addiction. Regardless of the reasons for putting a child up for adoption, it is important that the birth parents understand how the adoption process works and what their legal rights are during and after the adoption process.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that the birth parents hire an experienced lawyer who can walk them through each step of the process. A lawyer will address all of the birth parents’ questions and concerns, ensure that they are in compliance with all state laws, and advocate for their legal rights.

What are the Different Types of Adoption?

There are two types of domestic adoptions that people may pursue, including the following:

  • Independent adoption: In this type of adoption, the birth parent or parents choose the adoptive parents directly rather than going through an adoption agency. Oftentimes, the birth parents and the adoptive parents are connected through friends or relatives. The birth parents then agree to give the adoptive parents legal custody of the child. The process will be managed by the lawyers who are representing the birth parents and the adoptive parents. In some cases, an adoption agency may be used to conduct home studies of the adoptive parents or provide counseling to the birth parents.
  • Agency adoption: These adoptions are handled entirely by an adoption agency. The birth parents will first relinquish the child to the agency, and the agency will then give the adoptive parents physical custody of the child. The agency will retain legal custody of the child for several months so that they monitor the adoptive family. If the adoption agency believes that the adoption is in the best interest of the child, they will consent to the adoption. Even if the birth parents are using an adoption agency, they can still choose the adoptive parents, but they will have to choose from a list of prospective parents that are on a waiting list.

When can the Birth Mother Provide Consent to Adoption?

In New Jersey adoption cases, the legal rights of the birth parents are strongly protected, which means that they must legally consent to the adoption before the child can be placed with another family. The adoption process cannot proceed until the birth parents have relinquished their parental rights. In New Jersey, the birth mother can sign the legal consent form 72 hours after the child is born. This timeline applies to the birth father as well. If the birth father denies paternity at any time, this will be considered a surrender of his parental rights.

Can the Birth Mother Change Her Mind?

If the legal consent to adopt has not yet been signed, the birth mother can change her mind at any time. However, if the adoptive parents covered the birth mother’s medical expenses during the pregnancy, the birth mother may be held liable for those expenses if she decides to keep the baby. If the birth mother has signed the consent to adopt form, she no longer has the right to change her mind about the adoption. The state will terminate the birth parents’ rights and remove them from visitation and custody matters.

Once the adoption is final, the adopted parents have the right to allow the birth parents to be involved in the child’s life. The extent of involvement will be entirely up to the adoptive parents. For example, if either parent has a serious drinking problem, uses drugs, or is involved in any other illegal activity, the adoptive parents may decide to terminate all contact with the birth parents if their presence is going to have a negative impact on the child.

One of the few valid reasons that an adoption may be revoked in New Jersey is if the adoption agency engaged in fraudulent activity, caused duress or misrepresented themselves, or if the revocation is in the best interests of the child. If that is the case, the adoption will be considered invalid, and the birth parents will retain their parental rights. During this revocation period, the birth parents maintain custody of the child. If the adoptive parents agree to the revocation and all parties involved are focusing on what is best for the child, the birth parents may retain visitation rights if the adoptive parents are open.

Who is Eligible to Adopt a Child in New Jersey?

In order to be eligible to adopt in New Jersey, a person must be 18 years old and at least 10 years older than the child who is being adopted. A married person must provide the written consent of their spouse when petitioning the court to adopt a child. If a couple does not live in New Jersey but was born in the state, or the couple is using a New Jersey licensed adoption agency, they may adopt in New Jersey, assuming they meet certain requirements and can demonstrate that they will be good parents.

One of the requirements that adoptive parents must meet is an adoption home study, which is the adoption agency’s formal assessment of the prospective parent’s ability and readiness to adopt a child. The home study will include interviews with the parents and any other children or family members that live in the home, health assessments of the parents, a review of all personal and professional references, a verification of employment and income, and other personal information about each parent. The main purpose of the home study is to ensure that the adoptive parents will provide a safe and loving environment for the child.

Can a Child be Placed for Adoption if the Birth Parents Do Not Consent?

If the birth parents’ legal rights have been terminated through a Termination of Parental Rights court proceeding, the child may be placed for adoption without consent. Consent from the birth parents is not required if their rights have already been terminated or if the parents failed to meet the child’s basic needs for six months or more. In addition, if the birth father denied paternity at any point, if the parent’s identity cannot be confirmed, or the known parent refuses to identify the identity of the other parent and the court cannot locate the parent, the parent’s consent to adoption will be waived.

What Happens after a Child is Placed in an Adoptive Home?

The first step that the adoptive parents must do is to file a petition for adoption. This complaint for adoption must be in their county of residence or the county where the adoption agency that has custody of the child is located. If the child is younger than three months of age, the petition must be filed in the county where the child was born.

Depending on the circumstances of the adoption, including whether the child was placed independently or through an agency, the timing of the filing of the company for adoption may differ. For example, in an independent adoption, the complaint must be filed within 45 days of the adoptive parents’ receipt of the child. After two to three months, a preliminary hearing is held by the court, and the birth parent’s rights are terminated. The adoptive parents also appear at the hearing, where they will provide testimony to the court. A final hearing will be scheduled approximately six months later to allow for post-placement visits by the adoption agency. A judgment of adoption will be entered at the final hearing, at which time the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.

If the adoption is done through an agency, the child must reside with the adoptive parents for at least six months before the complaint of adoption can be filed. However, the complaint may be filed sooner if doing so would resolve certain issues, such as the termination of a birth father who has not consented to the adoption. Once the complaint has been filed, the court will schedule a date for a preliminary hearing. In cases in which there is a preliminary hearing and a final hearing, New Jersey requires the adoptive parents to appear in person at the preliminary hearing, but they are not required to attend the final hearing where the court enters the judgment of adoption.

What Happens to the Records after the Adoption is Finalized?

In New Jersey, adoption records as well as the original birth certificate are sealed once the adoption has been finalized. In some cases, adoption records can be accessed, but a court order is required. According to New Jersey law, individuals who were born and adopted in New Jersey can obtain information about their birth as well as their biological parents. The following people may secure a copy of their original birth certificate:

  • An adult adoptee
  • A direct descendant of the adoptee
  • A sibling or spouse
  • An adoptive parent, legal guardian, or other legal representative
  • A New Jersey state of federal government agency for official purposes

In order to obtain a copy of an original birth certificate, the applicant must fill out the Application for an Uncertified Copy of an Adopted Person’s Original Birth Record form and mail it to the Department of Health’s Office of Vital Statistics and Registry. The applicant must also include proof of identity, proof of relationship, proof of name change, and payment.

What is an Adoption Facilitator?

An adoption facilitator is a person or entity that matches birth parents with adoptive parents. They are not associated with a licensed, non-profit adoption agency. In New Jersey, it is illegal for birth parents or adoptive parents to pay adoption facilitators for their services. If the birth parents or adoptive parents are considering using an adoption facilitator to help with the adoption process, they should consult with a lawyer first in order to avoid facing any serious legal repercussions.

How Long Does the Adoption Process Take?

Adopting a child is a complex process, and the amount of time it will take to finalize the adoption will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • Whether it is an independent adoption, or the parties involved are using an adoption agency.
  • Whether the adoptive parents are open to a range of ethnicities and age ranges.
  • How willing the adoptive parents are to allow the birth parents to have contact with the child after the adoption has been finalized.
  • Whether the adoptive parents are emotionally and financially willing to accept the legal, financial, and emotional risks associated with the adoption process.

Other factors that can affect the amount of time it takes to finalize the adoption is the adoptive parents’ personal situation, including their age, their marital status, if they have other children, and whether they are financially able to support the child. The birth mother’s first impression of the adoptive parents can also impact the timing of the adoption process. For example, if the birth mother finds the adoptive parents to be warm, engaging, responsible, and kind, she is more likely to consider them as potential parents for the child.

It is important for both the birth parents and the adoptive parents to understand the steps that are involved in the adoption process, including the legal documents that must be processed and signed, the court hearing, and the home visits. The process can take time. For example, it can take several months to learn about the different ways to adopt and to select an adoption agency. Completing the adoption requirements, including the home study and the preparation of a profile for the expectant mother review, can take six to nine months. Finally, it can take anywhere from nine months to two years for the adoption to be finalized. The process can be emotional, but the steps are in place to protect the legal rights of all parties involved and to ensure that the child is placed in a safe and loving home.

New Jersey Adoption Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Protect the Rights of Birth Parents

If you are considering putting your child up for adoption, it is in your best interest to contact the New Jersey adoption lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our experienced and compassionate legal team will walk you through every phase of the adoption process. To schedule an initial consultation, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Based in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

What are Some Reasons for Child Support Modifications?

Child support is not just a legal obligation, it is an integral part of retaining healthy, sustainable relationships between parents and children following a divorce. Making payments creates strong bonds and offers additional support to separated families. It should also help parents manage situations together, with or without shared child custody arrangements.

Child support arrangements usually stem from the initial divorce or separation proceedings, which allows parents to determine how much should be paid from one side to the other to help the child maintain their existing quality of life. The amount paid is usually subject to change, as some states like New Jersey will increase the award every two years to adjust for cost-of-living increases.

Federal law also mandates a review of child support every three years. This is automatic for those receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, while other cases require one parent to demand a reconsideration. Unlike the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA), reviews do not guarantee a change in award.

What Gets Considered When Determining Child Support Amounts?

There is no uniform way to determine child support awards. Each state has a different process or formula to calculate monthly payments. New Jersey bases their system around gross income, mandatory expenses like rent and taxes, the child’s costs of health care, education, and other necessities, along with other constant expenses.

Judges have substantial leeway in determining awards by using deviations provided in established divorce laws. The objective is usually to at least maintain the affected child’s standard of living enjoyed before the separation. Courts will ask parents to submit forms with financial information backed by evidence, like pay stubs and bills, to determine current situations and how to proceed.

How can a Parent Modify Child Support?

Either parent can file a motion with the court to modify child support payments. However, that party must cite changed circumstances as reason for the request. These changes must be permanent, significant, and unanticipated when the original agreement took effect. These could range from a work-related injury, new marriage, or another event that affects income.

The parent seeking the relief must be able to show this with proof once the event happens, not in anticipation of something happening in the near future. If the request satisfies the legal requirements, the judge will request the other parent submit financial information to the courts in response to the motion.

The paperwork for filing the motion should include a copy of the original agreement, copies of prior and current proceedings or statements, financial documentation, affidavits to support the claims, legal briefs to show prior usage of the attempted arguments, and any other pertinent supporting information. In these instances, it is best to provide as much information as possible, especially if has been requested or accepted by the court in prior proceedings.

What Does the Judge Consider When Adjusting Child Support?

The presiding judge will go over some factors to decide on adjusting the award in addition to the paying parent’s ability to make a higher payment:

  • The standard of living, economic situation, and financial needs of each parent.
  • The needs of the child.
  • All forms of income for each parent.
  • All debts and liabilities for each parent.
  • The age and health of the child and each parent.
  • The education, current and future, of the child, including the likelihood of higher education.
  • The responsibility of parents for the court-ordered support of other individuals.
  • The earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, and custodial responsibilities.
  • Other pertaining factors.

The court will usually base modifications, along with any original agreements, on the obligor’s ability to earn. If an obligor is unemployed or underemployed for resolvable reasons, the judge can mandate that person find better work to increase payment ability. Employment potential usually gets decided on education level, work qualifications, previous employment, local wage expectations, and local job opportunities. Attempts to earn less to minimize payment obligations will not be tolerated.

There are some protections for obligors from unreasonable expectations. That party can request a decrease in payment if there has been a job loss or health crisis that adversely affecting work opportunities. Some states may also allow parents to reduce their obligations if pursuing higher education, especially when seeking increased earning potential.

Negotiations

Parents, depending upon their relationship, can attempt to negotiate changes to child support on their own. However, this usually also requires approval from a judge to take effect. States may vary on specific circumstances, but these are some of the more common situations that lead to child support modifications being granted:

  • A change in the child’s needs.
  • A child’s medical emergency.
  • The paying parent’s temporary inability to pay due to a medical emergency or loss of job.
  • The recipient parent’s temporary economic or medical hardship.
  • Either parent’s disability.
  • Either parent’s employment change.
  • Either parent’s change in income due to remarriage.

Approval From a Judge

If pursuing a new arrangement outside of court, it is necessary to get final approval from the judge assigned to the case. Failure to do so will void the independent agreement and could cause the obligor to owe a large amount of unpaid support, which can cause additional legal problems.

Should the relations sour, the paid parent can also go after the payer for the extra money and have substantial legal leverage. Conversely, New Jersey does not allow for the retroactive modification of payments, so any deal made without a judge’s approval cannot be enforced for prior months. This could mean the obligee may have to return the higher amounts to the obligor if the agreement goes awry and disagreement occurs.

If the garnishment of wages is involved in the procurement of child support, that cannot be altered without a judge’s order. Attempting to compensate or circumvent this process can create a new series of problems for both parties that may go beyond the realm of family court.

Judges are not obligated to accept a new award amount without input. Usually, an increase tends to receive favorable consideration with little resistance. However, asking for a substantial decrease in payment almost always requires extensive documentation and reasoning to receive approval.

Does Remarriage Change Child Support Payments?

One of the major reasons to request a modification of child support is one of the parties involved gets remarried. Sometimes, that will come with new children in the new relationship, or the new marriage may produce new children. If the obligor remarries, it might lead to an increase in child support. If the obligee remarries, that usually leads to a decrease in payment as there is now a second income in the child’s main residence.

Child support payments end when the child in question turns 18 years old and is no longer in school. If the child continues into college, payments still may be needed to cover costs. Emancipation of a child can also terminate child support, but this is a rare occurrence.

Joint custody also can affect how much a parent must pay in child support, as expenses incurred during visits can affect awards. Each state will consider those overnights and weekend custodies differently.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Resolve Child Support Modification Arguments

 

Family court can be daunting, and emotional situations can derail productive negotiations. There are a lot of specific rules and nuances that can be missed by the untrained individual. It always helps to have a trusted partner by your side to advocate for your position and protect your interests. The Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. have the experience to handle your case. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

What Should I Know About Social Media Amid My Divorce?

Most adults use some form of social media on a regular basis. It is always a good idea to be mindful of what one posts. Prior to social media platforms, it was easier to have privacy in a divorce. Nowadays, people are more inclined to document their lives online, and social media activity can impact divorce proceedings.

Anyone considering divorce or going through divorce should know about the impact of social media activity on child custody and other divorce-related matters. Listed below are some common ways social media creates conflict in a divorce case.

Infidelity and Other Types of Marital Misconduct

Changing one’s relationship status or posting photographs with a new significant other before the divorce is finalized may imply infidelity. In some states, infidelity is a factor when determining alimony, child support, and custody. In a legal context, marital misconduct can be abandonment, substance abuse, and physical or emotional abuse. Posts, messages, or photographs documenting any of these behaviors may lead to consequences.

New Jersey is one state that allows fault divorce on the grounds of adultery and other forms of misconduct. For example, an innocent spouse who can show evidence of their ex spouse’s infidelity might receive a greater amount of alimony. If marital misconduct interferes with safe and responsible parenting, the parent who engages in questionable behaviors can lose custody or visitation of the children.

Financial Impact of Social Media Activity

Social media also impacts the financial transactions that come with divorce. Property division is a key element of every divorce. Homes, vehicles, personal items, and financial accounts are carefully tallied and scrutinized to determine who gets what when the marriage ends. Both parties must be completely transparent for the process to be fair and reasonable. Posting on social media about property and other assets that were not disclosed during the divorce will likely have consequences. At a minimum, hiding assets will affect the outcome of a divorce.

During mediation or in court, alimony and child support are calculated based on a different factors, including both spouses employment status, lifestyles, expenses, and debts. If a spouse claims that they cannot pay spousal support because they are broke but posts extravagant vacations online, their actions will likely be further investigated.

Child Custody and Visitation

In New Jersey, divorce matters are determined based on the best interests of the children. A parent who posts photographs or videos of excessive drinking, drug use, and other dangerous behaviors will jeopardize custody and visitation. The courts wants assurance that any parent with legal or physical custody of the children is fit. Parental fitness is the intention and ability to provide financial, emotional, and physical support to the children. Social media activity suggesting otherwise can be used to prove the other parent should not have custody or should only visit the children with supervision.

Is Digital Content Considered Evidence?

Social media content is evidence in many court cases. In family law, digital activity reflects a person’s lifestyle, spending habits, and romantic liaisons. Since online activity has become a primary source of communication, how people use it and what they post are often admissible in court.

Even if a person’s social media accounts are private, there are no guarantees people who can view the posts will not screenshot or share them. Anyone using social media should presume their ex-spouse, their ex partner’s friends and family, and their ex-spouse’s lawyer can access their posts.

Additionally, it is not always the person going through a divorce who posts something damaging. It is easy for another person to include others in social media content. While the poster may not have bad intentions, inadvertently tagging a person during their divorce can be detrimental to their family law case.

Tips for Using Social Media During Divorce

Anyone who continues using social media during the divorce process should remember these tips to prevent their online activity from negatively impacting their case.

Do not criticize the ex-spouse online. It is never a good idea to discuss any legal case online or quarrel with an ex-spouse. Someone who tends to post often about their personal life should stick to the 24-hour rule. When feeling agitated, wait at least 24 hours and reconsider whether posting is a good idea.

Monitor children’s social media activities. Children can inadvertently post content that leads to divorce disputes, especially if it shows a parent’s activities in relation to assets, travel, or new relationships. During divorce, it is a good idea to talk to children about smart social media activity. Even when a couple splits, children are likely to stay in contact with grandparents, aunt, uncles, and family friends. Children’s social media posts are an easy way for a parent to find out what their ex-spouse is doing.

Ask to be excluded from digital activity. As mentioned above, someone who does their best to stay off social media can accidentally end up in another person’s social media post. Social media posts may reveal more than someone getting divorced wants to share. To prevent unwanted exposure, ask friends, family, and co-workers to refrain from tagging or including one in any digital posts.

Consider the impact of a social media post in court. Imagine a family court judge presiding over the divorce proceedings reading or viewing a post. Could it reflect poorly on the poster? If so, it is best not to post about it online.

Should I Delete My Social Media Accounts During the Divorce?

When it comes to divorce, it is best to limit activity on social media platforms. If the idea of deleting social media accounts is unappealing, take the following steps instead:

  • Never discuss the divorce or the ex-spouse online.
  • Adjust all settings to make accounts as private as possible.
  • Remove anyone connected to an ex-spouse, including mutual acquaintances and their co-workers and family members.
  • When in doubt, think about what a divorce lawyer or judge would think of a post and how it could impact custody, spousal support, and asset distribution. It is always better to err on the side of caution.

There is no doubt that social media has revolutionized the way people communicate. When it comes to divorce proceedings, some information is better left offline. Before filing for divorce, consider how online activity can alter an outcome and have a lasting effect on a family’s future.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Make Informed Decisions During Their Divorce

Social media management is important during a divorce. Our experienced Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help you with all aspects of your divorce case. Our job is to protect your interests and ensure you get a fair settlement. We are here to guide you through every step of the way so you can avoid costly mistakes. Call us at 908-575-9777 or complete our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.