One of the most common post divorce litigation issues that I see involves the selection and contribution toward college costs. Usually divorce agreements fall into two categories; those that specify exactly what the parties’ contribution toward college will be and those that indicate that a determination of the parties’ contribution will “abide the event,” and be based upon a consideration of the parties’ abilities to pay and the other common law factors found in the seminal case Newburgh v. Arrigo.
As you can probably guess from some of my blog posts, I’m a big proponent of practicing good self-care. And there are many different ways we can practice self-care; regular exercise, meditation, a healthy diet, and one of my personal favorites (and the subject of my REST blog post)- a habit of good sleep. But over the years, I have come to realize there is another really important aspect of self-care that many of us don’t exercise frequently enough that is critical not only to our health but to our enjoyment of our lives, and that is practicing healthy boundaries with unhealthy people.
Summer is supposed to be the most relaxed time of the year and for many of us the time of year when we can enjoy vacation time with our kids. But planning summer day trips, camps, activities, get-togethers with family and summer vacations can be difficult. Plus figuring how to pay for all of this can be stressful. Especially, for those of us who are divorced or separated. Here are my top tips for navigating summer parenting time issues:
One of my daughter’s favorite holiday books is Llama Llama Holiday Drama, about a little llama who gets overwhelmed by the holidays. Unfortunately, getting caught up in “holidrama,” isn’t just for little llamas. Almost everyone experiences some form of their own “holidrama.” This is especially true if you are going through divorce or are sharing the holidays after a divorce. With competing personal, work, family and holiday obligations, the cost of gifts and entertaining as well as our emotional expectations around time with family and holiday traditions- the holidays can be overwhelming. They can also create situations ripe for arguing over parenting time with your spouse or ex-spouse. My best advice is DON’T, if you can avoid it. Not only will it cost you money in attorney’s fees, but it can also ruin your holidays and maybe your children’s holidays as well.
Yes, they can be seen as unromantic and unsexy, but they are SMART and not just for the mega-wealthy either. Pre-nuptial or pre-marital agreements can help couples establish what happens in the event of divorce, death or how they want to handle the payment of expenses or the treatment of assets during their marriage. For example, in a divorce setting these agreements can protect assets from being subject to equitable distribution (including later developed businesses or professional practices), they can establish a pre-determined amount of spousal support that can both limit liability for the partner paying but also offer assurance to the partner entitled to support and most of all they can offer certainty and reduce costs in the event of divorce or death.
This year I realized that I was ready for a new beginning. That new beginning was the creation of my own law practice after many years in private practice. New beginnings can be scary and filled with anxiety. They require us to step into the unknown. What I realize from my personal experience, and in my work as a family lawyer helping others, is that in order to step into a new beginning you have to be ready to face uncertainty and change. Some of us choose to step into a new beginning for ourselves, while others get forced into it by circumstance; tragedy, painful endings, betrayals, or crisis. But either way, we all have to become “ready,” at some point to face a new beginning.
Generally speaking, unless the parties have otherwise agreed, spousal support obligations are always modifiable based upon a showing of a material change in circumstances. (Lepis v. Lepis). Obviously, the loss of employment by the paying spouse can constitute such a material change in circumstance. The issue of modification of spousal support when an obligor loses employment and obtains lesser employment was specifically addressed in the September 10, 2014 amendment to the alimony statute. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(k) in order to create uniformity in how courts deal with this issue.
The Appellate Division opinion of A.M.C. v. P.B, released for publication on October 21, 2016 finds that a Trial Court misapplied the two-prong test for determining whether the issuance of Final Restraining Order is necessary (set forth in the landmark domestic violence case Silver v. Silver which requires in its second prong that the Court find that a domestic violence restraining order is necessary to protect a victim from future abuse). The Trial Court had found that the defendant had perpetrated acts of domestic violence, in this case, the assault of the victim on two separate occasions in a three- week period, including a physical assault that took place to prevent the victim from leaving the marital residence. But then determined that a Final Restraining Order was not necessary because it was not necessary to protect the victim from further acts of domestic violence because they believed that the parties’ relationship had ended when the victim left the marital residence because there were no children of the relationship and the fact that the defendant had no violated the TRO (which had not been served upon him) after the victim left the marital residence.
On September 26, 2016 the New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Thieme v. Aucoin-Thieme involving a dispute over whether a $2.25M post-divorce bonus was subject to equitable distribution in a short term marriage of fourteen months, due to the fact that the parties had lived together eight years before the marriage and the bonus had been “earned” during that period. Among the issues to be considered by the Supreme Court is whether an asset acquired during the period of cohabitation should be subject to equitable distribution. Although not presently contemplated under the equitable distribution statute, defendant’s counsel has argued that this is an issue of “equity.” Stay tuned for the outcome of this very interesting case, which may potentially change the nature of equitable distribution in cases involving a period of cohabitation prior to the marriage.
Last year’s change in the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”) and two recent New Jersey cases are expanding what can be considered an “act of domestic violence,” for purposes of obtaining a Temporary and Final Restraining Order. In 2015 the New Jersey legislature amended the PDVA to include a defendant’s violation of a no contact provision of a restraining order as an act of domestic violence. This provision of the PDVA was intelligently analyzed by Judge L.R. Jones (Ocean County) for the first time in the recent case of DS v. BC (unreported August 2016). In this case, the Court indicated that a “knowing violation of a restraining order,” meets the first prong of Silver v. Silver (whether the victim has “proved by a preponderance of the evidence that one or more acts of domestic violence have taken place”) and then laid out a thoughtful analysis of this new provision of the PDVA.