Divorce in New Jersey
When a marriage or domestic partnership comes to an end, the ensuing divorce proceedings can be extremely complex. Each family is different, and every state has its own set of regulations surrounding divorce. When contemplating a separation or divorce in New Jersey, it is important to enlist the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer to reach an amicable solution.
Lyons & Associates, P.C. provides representation from certified matrimonial attorneys. A matrimonial attorney must be in good standing with the New Jersey Bar, have five years of experience, and take a written exam. Because of this, we understand how everything in the divorce process works from child support to alimony and beyond. Some clients may think they can hire any lawyer to help, but this is not the case. If a divorce is contested or becomes contentious, our lawyers can help navigate the process. We take charge of each case by applying our vast knowledge to help clients reach an amicable resolution.
How Does New Jersey Rank?
At of the end of 2017, New Jersey had the second-lowest divorce rate in America, just behind North Dakota. Even so, a divorce rate of 8.2 percent means that some relationships do not stand the test of time. There could be a variety of reasons for a divorce, and we will not judge when clients come in for a consultation. We simply help them understand how to navigate a divorce in New Jersey, especially when generating divorce paperwork and presenting a case to the court.
Grounds for Divorce
A couple may file for divorce in New Jersey if one of the spouses has lived in the state for at least one year. When filing a petition for divorce, the couple must establish the reason for the divorce. In New Jersey, either fault or no-fault grounds can be accepted. In no-fault cases, a divorce may be granted if the couple has irreconcilable differences or has lived apart for more than 18 months. Fault grounds may include adultery, extreme cruelty, deviant sexual behavior, substance abuse, desertion or institutionalization for a period exceeding one year, or imprisonment for over 18 months. When applicable, fault grounds can make a difference when awarding alimony, but rarely when dividing assets.
In some cases, there may be religious, financial, or health-related reasons why a couple would need to remain married but live separately. New Jersey does not recognize legal separation but does recognize divorce from bed and board. Divorce from bed and board is the stage between legal separation and absolute divorce. Today, most couples who choose divorce from bed and board do so to preserve the right to be covered by a spouse’s health insurance. There are other benefits derived from divorce from bed and board, such as pension and social security rights. Aside from these limited benefits, the couple is economically divorced. Lastly, divorce from bed and board can only be agreed upon by the couple, otherwise a judge will not grant it. Our lawyers will help clients choose the appropriate method of separation for their divorce.
If a couple chooses to merely separate, they can enter into a separation agreement. Separation agreements are legally binding and can cover issues such as child custody, temporary spousal support, or child support and bill payment. This agreement can protect one spouse from responsibility for any debt incurred by the other spouse after the separation, but since New Jersey does not have legal separation, a spouse cannot dissolve marital assets without the other spouse’s consent.
What Types of Divorces Does Lyons & Associates, P.C. Handle?
When getting divorced in New Jersey, clients may be involved in unique cases that require representation from one of our lawyers. We handle cases such as:
High asset divorces: These divorces involve quite a lot of money, property, and even business succession interests. We ensure that clients are given the settlement they deserve based on New Jersey law. This may include alimony, a percentage of the marital assets, and other concessions an ex-spouse may agree to.
Religious divorces: These divorces can be difficult to manage because they require the couple to follow certain rules and practices that have been handed down for thousands of years.
Military divorces: These divorces include cooperation with the Department of Defense and the branch of the military in which our clients or their spouses have served. We work diligently to ensure that divorcing military parents pay alimony and child support when required, receive proper visitation rights, and do not abuse the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. While servicemembers may receive special accommodations in court, we ensure that the divorce proceeding is not held up unnecessarily. This is especially important when children are involved.
Same sex or LGBT litigation: These divorces or dissolutions of civil unions are just as painful, and we ensure that our clients are given the best representation as they attempt to move on with their lives.
Uncontested divorces: These divorces include paperwork that we can complete for each client, and we will help the couple handle any court-mandated courses, hearings, or payments that come about as part of the divorce. While this is a simple divorce, we ensure that it goes smoothly.
Division of Assets
Marital property to be divided in a divorce includes any income or other property obtained by either spouse over the course of the marriage. New Jersey is an equitable division state, which means that marital assets will be divided in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. A judge considers numerous factors when determining what is an equitable division of assets, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, the income or property contributed by each spouse, and the current financial state of each spouse at the time of the divorce. Assets acquired by one spouse through gift or inheritance are not subject to division, as long as the asset remains separate and apart. However, other property held in one spouse’s name may not necessarily be retained by the other spouse. If a client assumes they will walk away with what they believe they are entitled to, they are sorely mistaken.
If spouses can come to an amicable agreement about asset division, we will draft those documents to make the divorce easier on all parties involved. We can prevent the court from getting involved, and a divorce decree will reflect the agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, we will help mediate the negotiations or argue the case in court, where a judge will make the decisions.
If a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement was signed by both parties, we will enforce that agreement as much as possible under New Jersey law. We help couples complete these documents when they get married, and we also review these agreements to ensure they are lawful. In some cases, our clients have been duped into signing unfair agreements or may not have signed at all.
Spousal or Child Support
In many cases, one spouse may be ordered to provide temporary or permanent spousal support to the other. A judge will determine alimony requirements based on the standard of living during the marriage; each spouse’s earning capacity, education, and employability; non-monetary contributions to the marriage, such as caring for children; and how long it would take either spouse to become self-sufficient. Alimony orders can be changed if there is a shift in either spouse’s economic circumstances.
When determining child support, a judge considers many of the same factors as alimony, in addition to evaluating the child’s financial needs and the age and health of both the child and parents. If necessary, the judge will ask to speak to the children about their living situation. The state calculator is a good source to determine the amount of child support one should pay and to agree with the other spouse on an appropriate amount without getting the court involved. When this is the case, we can draft these documents and file them accordingly. The state would rather the client come to an agreement than fight in court.
A child support order may outline which parent is responsible for the child’s health insurance, medical expenses, and/or education costs. These orders can also be modified if there is a change in one parent’s financial state, and our lawyers will argue the case in court if an agreement cannot be made after a life changing event.
Unless proven otherwise, New Jersey courts assume that it is in the best interests of the child to have both parents present in their life. Parents are encouraged to come to a parenting agreement on their own, but the court may step in if they are unable to reach a solution. A custody order is laid out based on each parent’s ability to communicate, cooperate, and provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs. The judge will also evaluate the child’s relationship with parents and siblings and the ability of each parent to provide a stable home.
When creating a parenting plan, parents should generate a basic schedule that explains how the child gets to school, how the child is picked up from school, and which home the child will sleep in each day of the week. The custodial parent will have the child with them most of the time, and the other parent will take the child on certain days of the week, weekends, and holidays.
The schedule created with an ex-spouse should alternate holidays, explain any travel plans, and make sense for each parent’s schedule. This document is legally binding, and it will be filed with the divorce paperwork. If the schedule must change, we will help amend the document to avoid any confusion with the court. Clients can also hold an ex-spouse accountable if they intentionally violate the custody agreement.
If an ex-spouse plans to live out of state, clients may need to add travel plans and expenses to the custody agreement. Laying out airfare, travel schedules, and who is allowed to pick up the child will smooth over any unpleasantness that might result from the child traveling long distances for holidays or visitation. Create an emergency plan that explains what to do if a child is stuck in one home and a parent cannot abide by the custody agreement because of natural disasters or acts of God.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Offer Representation for Clients Going Through Divorce in New Jersey
If you live in New Jersey and are considering a divorce, reach out to our New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online for a free consultation. With offices in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we assist clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.