The Impact of COVID-19 on Family Law in New Jersey
By Scott Danaher on May 29, 2020
In the family law context, COVID-19 has had a profound impact on how most issues are addressed. For example, in the divorce context, there are four primary issues that are addressed in each matter if applicable: (1) custody and parenting time of minor children; (2) equitable distribution of marital assets and debts; (3) alimony; and (4) child support.
Custody and Parenting Time – Facilitating the best interests of the children is the benchmark. However, parents who were otherwise exercising regular parenting time with their children may now be forced to exercise virtual parenting time only during a period of self-quarantine or even longer if it is deemed that the children are at risk.
Equitable Distribution of Marital Assets and Debts – Valuation of those assets and debts is often the most difficult aspect. Many assets, such as businesses, have seen their values plummet. Similarly, many families are experiencing unemployment or reduced incomes, forcing them to deplete their savings and increase debt. Thus, the value of marital assets may be at a low and the value of marital debts may be at a high, making this a good time for some individuals to divorce and a bad time for others.
Alimony and Child Support – Two of the factors to be considered in establishing or modifying alimony and child support are the needs of the recipient (e.g., former spouse or children) and the ability of the payor to pay. Many individuals have either lost their employment or their income has been reduced. In those situations, the needs of the recipient of alimony may have increased and the ability of the payor to pay may have decreased, causing an even greater discrepancy. The needs of the children may have increased in some respects (e.g., increased costs being at home) but may have decreased in other respects (e.g., decreased costs of private school, summer camp, or extracurricular activities).
Each family law matter is different and must be analyzed on its own facts. The impact of COVID-19 adds a new wrinkle. Please contact Scott D. Danaher, of Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa LLC, for any questions regarding family law. To schedule a consultation you may call (973) 274-5200 or email SDanaher@snydersarno.com.
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