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Frequently Asked Questions

I've been served with a divorce complaint. What do I do now?

Once you have received a divorce complaint, you have 35 days to answer the complaint or else there will be a default judgment, which means that the court may grant your spouse the relief he or she is seeking in the complaint. If the two of you do not have children together, neither of you owns property, and neither of you will be seeking support, then allowing the divorce to go to default judgment may not be a bad idea. However, divorces are complicated. Many legal issues are implicated in the divorce process, including child custody and support, spousal support and alimony, and property division, to name just a few. It is important that when you are served with a divorce complaint you contact your lawyer to discuss your options and rights going forward. Keep in mind that you only have 35 days to answer the complaint, so the sooner you contact your attorney, the better.

Since my divorce, my children and I have lived in New Jersey. However, I want to relocate to another state. Can I move?

In order to relocate to another state, you will need permission from the children's other parent. If the other parent refuses consent, then you must get permission from the court. To do this, you must file a motion asking for permission to relocate with the children. The relocating parent has the burden of proving to the court that there is a good faith motive for the move and that the move will not be inimical to the children's interests.

There are 12 factors, called the Baures factors, that the court will take into consideration when deciding whether or not to grant permission for the move. The Baures factors are as follows: (1) the reasons given for the move; (2) the reasons given for the opposition; (3) the past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it bears on the reasons advanced by both parties for supporting and opposing the move; (4) whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here; (5) any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation and whether such accommodation or its equivalent is available in the new location; (6) whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the non-custodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child; (7) the likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child's relationship with the non-custodial parent if the move is allowed; (8) the effect of the move on extended family relationships here and in the new location; (9) if the child is of age, his or her preference; (10) whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent; (11) whether the non-custodial parent has the ability to relocate; (12) any other factor bearing on the child's interest.

If you wish to relocate and your children's other parent opposes the move, it is important that you contact your lawyer to help you file your motion. Your lawyer will be able to work with you to figure out what your strongest factors are for the relocation and use those factors to help you meet your burden of good faith when petitioning the court.

My spouse cheated on me and now we're getting divorced. I want to make him pay - can I get alimony?

First of all, alimony is not punitive, meaning it is not used to punish a spouse for "bad behavior." The purpose of alimony is to provide financial support to a spouse who depended on the money during the marriage in order to help that spouse maintain a similar lifestyle. There are many different kinds of alimony and it is only awarded in certain kinds of cases.

The four different types of alimony are permanent, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement alimony. Generally, alimony is given to a spouse who was financially dependent on the other. Permanent alimony is generally only given in long duration marriages, but in cases where permanent alimony is not warranted, limited duration alimony may be awarded. Rehabilitative alimony is awarded in order to allow the dependent spouse time to be able to support himself or herself. Reimbursement alimony is awarded to a spouse who financially supported the other through education, assuming that he or she would enjoy the financial benefit that the supported spouse would provide upon completion of the education.

The factors the court must take into consideration for determining alimony are laid out in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) and are as follows: the need and ability of the spouses to pay; the duration of the marriage; the age and health of the spouses; the standard of living during the marriage and the ability of each party to maintain a comparable standard of living; the earning capacity, education, skills, and employability of the spouses; the length of absence from the job market of the filing spouse; the parental responsibilities; time and expense needed to acquire education or training to enable the filing spouse to find employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisition of income; the history of financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each spouse; the division of property ordered and any payouts on the equitable distribution; the income available to either spouse through investment of any assets held by that person; the tax treatment and consequences to both spouses of any award of alimony; and any other factor the court deems relevant.

Many factors are taken into consideration in the decision of whether to award alimony. However, the decision is primarily based on need and the past financial dealings between the parties. Alimony will not be awarded simply because one spouse behaved badly. If you are seeking alimony, contact your attorney, who will be able to assist you in determining whether you qualify and will be able to represent to the court the financial dealings between you and your spouse during your marriage.

How do I modify my child support order?

A child support order can be modified with an upward or downward modification, the former increases the payments and the latter decreases them. In order to request a modification, you must file a petition with the family court. In your application, you must show that the modification is necessary because there is a substantial change of circumstance. The court will not grant a modification if the change in circumstance is only temporary. For example, a party who is not currently employed and has filed for a downward modification will likely be required to show the judge that he or she is actively seeking employment and is not choosing to be unemployed.

If you wish to modify your child support order, you should contact your attorney, who will be able to determine whether you qualify for a modification and will be able to represent your substantial change of circumstance to the family court.

How can I get joint custody of my children?

When determining custody, the family court looks to the best interests of the child. When examining the best interests of the child, the court takes into consideration a multitude of factors that are listed in N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c). These factors include: the parties' ability to agree, communicate, and cooperate in matters regarding the children; the parties' willingness to accept custody and history of unwillingness to allow parenting time; history of domestic violence; safety of the children and either parent from physical abuse by the other; the preference of the children when of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent decision; the needs of the children; the stability of the home environment; the quality and continuity of education; parental fitness; geographical

proximity of the parties' homes; extent and quality of time spent with the children; parties' employment responsibilities; and the age and number of children.

When you are involved in a custody dispute, it is important that you contact your attorney. A family lawyer will be able to work with you to assist you in obtaining the kind of custody order that you are seeking and will represent your strongest case to the court.

I have been in a relationship with the same person for 20 years. We are not married, but he has always supported me financially. Do I have any right to support payments if the relationship terminates?

The support you are referring to is called palimony. The New Jersey legislature amended the law a few years ago, and now, in order to receive palimony, you and your partner must have a written support agreement that your partner has signed. Additionally, the writing must be made with the independent advice of counsel for both

you and your partner. Therefore, to protect yourself in the event that the relationship terminates, contact your attorney to find out what you should have in writing to ensure that you will be awarded palimony and advise your partner to do the same.

I am a victim of domestic violence. What are my family law rights against my batterer?

In New Jersey, for an action to qualify as domestic violence, you must first fall into one of the categories of victims provided by the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act. Under the act, the word victim includes any person over 18. However, a victim is also a person who is an emancipated minor who was subjected to violence by a spouse or former spouse, or a present or former household member. Regardless of age, a person is a victim if subjected to violence by someone with whom the victim has a child in common or anticipates having a child in common because one of the parties is pregnant. Finally, a victim is someone who, regardless of age, is subjected to violence by a person that the victim has a dating relationship with if the batterer is over 18 years old or is emancipated.

Even if a person qualifies as a victim under the Act, the violence must fall under one of the categories outlined in the Act. The following qualifies as domestic violence under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act: homicide, assault, terroristic threats, kidnapping, criminal restrain, false imprisonment, sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, lewdness, criminal mischief, burglary, criminal trespass, harassment, and stalking. If a person falls into the category of victim as provided by the statute and the violence constitutes an act of violence under the statute, the victim can apply for a temporary restraining order at the family court. When applying for the temporary order, it is important to be detailed and to include past incidents of violence and the

most recent incident of violence. The more detailed the application, the more likely the judge will be to award the order. Just because it is detailed, however, does not mean the order is awarded. The issuance of the order is to the judge's discretion. The judge can offer a variety of remedies with the temporary restraining order, the

most important being that the accused batterer must stay away from the victim. Among other remedies include ordering the accused batterer out of the joint home, granting temporary custody, and occasionally an order of financial support. However, the remedies that are awarded with the temporary order are to the judge's discretion.

A final restraining order hearing will be held after a few days, where both parties will be present and the judge will determine whether a final restraining order will be granted. In New Jersey, final restraining orders are permanent unless there are grounds to vacate the order in the future. If you are a victim of domestic violence, contact your attorney immediately. An attorney can help you through the restraining order process and ensure that you receive the best protection possible. An attorney will also be necessary to assist with other legal issues that may come with the restraining order process, such as divorce, property division, child custody, and financial support.

Am I billed for every phone call/email?

Some firms’ billing policies provide that you are billed for each individual call/email.  YES EACH.  We do not charge clients for each call or email.  We attempt to bundle or group series of communications together when setting forth a charge on a bill.  For example, if a call with the court lasts two minutes, emails are sent to the client back and forth regarding the call and the letter that is granted.  Some firms may view this as four separate billing events.  At a minimum of .2 per event that is .8 or almost 1 hour charged for something that took less than 10 minutes of time. 

When I hire you am I going to get you or are you going to pass me off to one of your associates?

This is an important question that should be asked of any attorney you are considering hiring.  Unless the client requests otherwise, the attorney/partner retained works the case with an associate.  The two work in tandem to streamline the process and extend the life of the retainer fee.  Most every action in a case requires the lead partner.  Associate attorneys and/or paralegals have an important role when utilized correctly.  There will not be a time in the case where the lead partner is not aware of a decision or choice or strategy made in the case.  You are never pawned off.

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