In an effort to bring more content to our popular family law blog, the Fox New Jersey Family Law group is proud to introduce the first installment of our New Jersey Family Law Podcast Series – The Perils of Social Media in Family Law Disputes.  Based on one of our earlier blog posts, Eliana Baer and I discuss the dangers of posting on popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and the like, as such information can later be used as evidence in your ongoing matter.  This is just the first in our group’s series, as several more episodes will be released in coming weeks, each of which will discuss a different area or issue in family law.

Listen to the podcast.

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The above link will allow you to listen to the podcast, while the you can also Download the transcript here for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy!

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Robert Epstein and Eliana T. Baer are associates in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Robert practices in the firm’s Roseland, New Jersey office and can be reached at (973) 994-7526, or repstein@foxrothschild.com.   Eliana practices in the firm’s Princeton, New Jersey office and can be reached at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

Sheilah O’Donnel tells herself that her new home, a townhouse in a development in Chevy Chase, Md., just a stone’s throw from a Safeway, isn’t really all that bad. Sure, it’s near a gas station. And the front window, with its cheerily upholstered cushions, overlooks a dreary parking lot. And yes, it’s kind of small — “an apartment,” O’Donnel, who is 44, sometimes says bitterly, when she’s reminded of her former life with her ex-husband in their custom-built, six-bedroom home. But then again, it’s perfectly maintained and impeccably furnished, and most important, it’s rented with her own money, from the first real job she has had in almost a decade.

The above is an excerpt from the New York Times Magazine Article entitled “The Opt-Out Generation Wants Back In.” 

The article explains how sixty years after the flock of women released themselves hungrily into the workplace, a different story began to unfold.  It was the story about women wanting it all; women who believed that feminism was just as much about choosing to build a successful career as it was about choosing to stay home.  And stay home they did:

In 2000, for example, with the economy strong and books like “Surrendering to Motherhood,” a memoir about the “liberation” of giving up work to stay home, setting the tone for the aspirational mothering style of the day, almost 40 percent of respondents to the General Social Survey told researchers they believed a mother’s working was harmful to her children (an increase of eight percentage points since 1994).

This collective mentality gave rise to a new kind of revolution, explored in 2003 by media outlets such as “60 Minutes” the New York Times and Time Magazine, was ultimately dubbed it the “Opt-Out Revolution.”

But some years later, many wanted to “opt back in.” As the article explains, this was not always easy for many women – some of whom were featured in the expose.

(Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net)ID-100174449

While certainly the stories provided a glimpse into the darker side of the mantra repeated in our youths that “women can have it all”– whether that be at home or in the workplace – as a divorce lawyer, I, of course looked at it from a different perspective.

I considered the alimony recipient who is oftentimes thrust back into the workforce after a long absence.  This is because of the manner in which Courts award alimony.

For example, in New Jersey, when determining the amount and duration of an award for alimony, the judge will look at several different factors, including:

  • the requesting spouse’s actual needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay
  • the duration of the marriage
  • each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health
  • each spouse’s income, earning capacity, education level, and employability
  • the standard of living during marriage
  • parental responsibilities
  • the time and expense necessary to obtain education or training for the dependent spouse to become self-supporting,      and
  • each spouse’s financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage.

It is important to note the factor that courts consider the “earning capacity” of each spouse rather than his or her actual income.  As a result, a family’s decision for one spouse to “opte out” does not necessarily entitle him or her to alimony, or alimony at the term and amount anticipated.

Many times, this will mean that the non-monied spouse may return to work following the divorce.  But at a price.

The NY Times article, and in particular, O’Donnel’s story, highlights the difficulties of “opting-in” post-divorce.   While O’Donnel was previously earning $500,000 per year at Oracle, the technology company, after her decade-long absence from the workforce, she opted back in at a salary that was one-fifth of her prior earnings.

But as the story suggests, she was “in,” for better or for worse.  What O’Donnel really took to heart were the words of her attorney when she told him that she had been advised not to re-enter the workforce to obtain a more favorable support award:

He said, ‘You have to look at the next 30 years of your life, and if you’re in control of the situation, and you have a job that’s paying you money, he’s going to be far less powerful over you in the process.’

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Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world – Chaos Theory

This is one of those “butterfly effect” theories, which I always love.  It tells us how a woman flapping her proverbial wings in the 1950’s and entering a university and then the work force may have led to the current “Gray Divorce” trend (the increased divorce rates among the baby boomer generation), which I blogged about several weeks ago.

Despite the fact that I attributed the phenomenon generally to the fact that baby boomers were trend-setters – bucking tradition in favor of their own self-created norms – I wasn’t satisfied.   Indeed, can a mere change in attitude account for a divorce rate that has increased by about 150% within just twenty years?

Maybe that was part of it; but I suspected there was more.  So I did some more digging.

I started by examining what changed in those twenty-years, between 1990 and 2010, that would account for the jump from a 10% divorce rate among ages 50+ to 25%. But in order to do so, I had to look back in time to examine the root cause of the issue.

That is when I stumbled across a working paper by Raquel Fernandez and Joyce Chen Wong of the National Bureau of Economic Research entitled, The Disappearing Gender Gap: The Impact of Divorce, Wages, and Preferences on Education Choices and Women’s Work.

The paper notes increasing divorce rates between 1935 and 1955. Rising divorce rates, of course, disproportionately affected women who usually had responsibility for keeping the home and raising the children (hence, alimony laws, but that is a different discussion for a different day). So women took matters into their own hands to protect themselves and their families from financial ruin.

The paper posited:

The increased probability of divorce faced by the 1955 cohort, in particular, is a key driver of the increase in women’s work and it produced the desired asymmetric reaction in the education choices of men and women, helping to reduce the education gender gap significantly.

Thus, whereas women born in 1935 participated in the workforce at a rate of only 40% between the ages of thirty and forty, those born in 1955 averaged 70% work force participation over the same ages.  University enrollment also tripled for women during the same years.

170px-We_Can_Do_It!  (“We Can Do It! by J. Howard Miller)

But here’s the missing link – a possible connection between increased education, workforce participation and divorce.

Author Stephanie Coontz, in an essay entitled “The Future of Marriage”, has argued that marriage has historically been a product of the economic environment at the time.  A number of goods and services, such as homemaking were historically not a fungible within society. The household responsibilities thus fell on the women of the 1930’s and 1940’s.  In exchange, the men provided the financial support, health insurance and security.

However, that all changed in the 1950’s and 60’s when women significantly increased their entry into the workforce.  The baby boomer generation was thus the first to experience greater gender equality, both in the home and in the workplace, thereby obviating the need for this social contract.  This could account for the trend, but it is not the end of the inquiry I suspect.

Interesting how a flock of women stepping through the doors of a university in 1950s may have created a venerable tidal wave which led to a shift to our economic, social and familial landscape.

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Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

Last week, I blogged about the Information Asymmetry and how important it is for you to educate yourself going in to the divorce process so that you can meaningfully assist your attorney with your case.  But what about your attorney? And what about your Judge?  Isn’t it important for them to also be as informed as possible during the course of your case?

That is where experts come in.

ID-10095105 (Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.)

In divorce cases, there are oftentimes issues that arise that require the input of an expert.  For example, perhaps there is a dispute as to how much money your spouse is able to earn, how much his or her business is worth, or which one of you would be better to assume custody of the children.

Experts can assist your attorney present your case, and it can greatly assist the Court in deciding the case in your favor.  In fact, so important may an expert be in your situation that a Court may take it upon itself to appoint one on your behalf.

Below are the most common types of experts that you should consider when moving forward with your divorce, if appropriate given the facts and circumstances of your case:

1.         Vocational Expert:  This will tell the Court whether one spouse is underemployed and whether he or she is capable of making more money.  This expert will be important for the issue of support, which in New Jersey, is awarded in accordance with your earning capacity rather than your current income.  Also, if you or your spouse has been absent from the workforce for a period of time, a vocational expert will assist the Court in determining how realistic it will be to obtain employment consistent with prior earnings.

2.         Real Estate Appraiser:  If there is a dispute as to the value the marital home – which is typically the largest marital asset – or other property, such as a vacation home, second home, timeshare, etc., a real estate appraiser will be key.  This expert will assign a value to the property so that the equity can be appropriately divided.  He or she will also provide a detailed report outlining comparable sales prices for similar properties in your neighborhood, any improvements to your home which increase its value and make it unique, and an explanation of how the value of the property was decided. If this issue is not too hotly contested, it is typical to use a joint appraiser – that is, the parties will share the expert and the cost, subject, of course, to each party’s right to obtain a second opinion.

3.         Forensic Accountant:  A forensic accountant will take that mess of documents – bank statements, credit card bills, canceled checks – from your filing cabinet and turn it into a report that will tell your attorney and the Court about your marital income, assets, liabilities and expenses.  In short, this is the key document that will elucidate what your marital lifestyle was.  This will be important for the issue of alimony – which, in New Jersey, is awarded based in large part upon the lifestyle of the marriage – and equitable distribution.

4.         Business Valuator:  If one spouse has an interest in a business, it will be important to understand its value for equitable distribution purposes.  This does not only apply to commercial businesses.  It also applies to doctors’ practices, law firms and accounting firms.

5.         Custody Evaluator:  If custody is contested in a divorce, a custody evaluator will almost always be necessary.  The custody evaluator will make a recommendation, usually contained in a lengthy report, as to which parent is better suited to assume custody of the children following a divorce.  We often see cases with three custody experts: a joint or court appointed expert, the father’s expert and the mother’s expert – all with differing opinions.  It is therefore important to choose an expert that is highly qualified, well-respected in his or her field, and will command the attention of the Court.

Experts are not only helpful if your case goes to trial.  They are also helpful in settling your case.  For instance, if one party receives a favorable report, it may be used as a tool to obtain a advantageous settlement.  The opposite is also true.  If a party receives a report that is not as favorable, he or she may be more apt to settle the case rather than proceed to a hearing.

In sum, it is important not to underestimate the importance of experts when it comes to divorce.  They can be a great tool in settlement and a great asset on the stand.

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Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

Baby Boomers have always been trendsetters.  They were the first generation to rock out to bands such as the Beatles and they were the generation that was on the front lines of the feminist and civil rights movements.  Baby Boomers are culturally associated with rejection and redefinition of traditional values. And holding true to their reputation, Baby Boomers as a group are now trending toward later in life divorces.

Until recently, it was fair to say that the couple down the street, married for 40 years with three adult children, were not separating any time soon.  Indeed, in 1990, fewer than 10% of divorcing couples were over age 50.  Now, it’s one in four.

In an Op-Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times entitled A ‘gray divorce’ boom, the author attributes this trend to the dramatic changes in the meaning of marriage over the last several decades:

Today, we live in an era of individualized marriage, in which those who wed have high expectations for marital success. Americans expect marriage to provide them not simply with stability and security but also with self-fulfillment and personal satisfaction. Roles are flexible; the traditional breadwinner-homemaker model is no longer the status quo. Good spouses engage in open communication and are best friends. This is a high bar for many to achieve, let alone maintain over decades while juggling work and child-rearing.

The above-described cultural trends toward individualism, independence and gender role reversal have shaped the Baby Boomer generation.  It is no surprise, therefore that in a recent HuffPost Divorce piece by blogger Joy Cipoletti, the tag line read “What’s it like to be divorced in midlife? In a word, freeing.”

Baby boomers are not a generation that settles.  After all, as a generation, they are idealists, genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. Now, after raising their families, it is their time to fly out of their empty nests.

As Cipoletti concludes:

With all the challenges in the early years after divorce, I wondered if it was possible to enjoy life as a midlife divorced breadwinner mom, and to my delight, it is. By strengthening my spiritual connection and letting go of the picture I had for how my life “should” look, I have created a life I love today. I have rewarding work and time for things that are important to me: spirituality, great relationships with my kids (two now in college), friendships, exercise and nutrition, reading and more. From surviving to enjoying -– that’s what happened after my midlife divorce.

______________________________________________________________________________ Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

Oftentimes I hear from clients that gathering their financial information is the most daunting task they will face during the divorce process. They picture being buried in an avalanche of documents, account numbers and canceled checks.

The New Jersey Divorce App’s Finance Tracker can help.  In fact, I have recommended it to my clients before, with great results.

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The Finance Tracker is designed to help you focus in on the necessary information that you will need throughout the divorce process.

It is split up into 4 categories:

Income

Assets – like your house, car, bank accounts, retirement accounts, etc.

Expenses

Liabilities

Each section is then split into subcategories, which allows you to categorize the information in a way that makes sense.

Here is the best part: you can send the information directly to your attorney – straight from the app!

While the divorce process can be overwhelming at times, the New Jersey Divorce App, along with its Finance Tracker and other great features make things a little bit more manageable.

For more information and to download the New Jersey Divorce App, click here.

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Eliana T. Baer is a frequent contributor to the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Eliana practices in Fox Rothschild’s Princeton, New Jersey office and focuses her state-wide practice on representing clients on issues relating to divorce, equitable distribution, support, custody, adoption, domestic violence, premarital agreements and Appellate Practice. You can reach Eliana at (609) 895-3344, or etbaer@foxrothschild.com.