Case Information Statements (CIS)

The immortal George Carlin once said, “That’s the whole meaning of life, trying to find a place for your stuff. That’s all your house is, just a place for your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

In the context of Family Law, the topic of personal property is rarely discussed and consistently dismissed by the court and counsel. It is clear that both view personal property as being simply stuff. In fact, it has been assigned multiple euphemisms to it in order to deflate its relative importance. We have all heard the dismissive terms: chachka; accoutrement; trinket; fixture; knick knack; and of course, whatnot- a word specifically designed to describe all the things the item is actually not. In addition, there is often such contempt for personal property that we have created an amalgamation, personalty, simply in hopes of accelerating the process of distributing it by reducing the length of the term, itself.


Continue Reading Personal Property: From Picayune to Precious, Distributing the Immaterial Possession

Perhaps its the stress of family life during the holiday season, but many clients of late have claimed that the supporting spouse has stopped supporting the family as he did during the marriage.  The reasons are varied, but often of the same cloth – i.e., the payor spouse claims that he is now earning less money than before, the payor spouse claims that the payee spouse is overspending (despite there being no change from the marital lifestyle) and believes that the supported spouse should get a job after having never worked during the marriage, or, most egregiously, that they simply believe that the marriage is over and a support obligation is over unless a Court directs otherwise.

These situations often leave the supported spouse afraid and wondering how they are going to meet everyday expenses for herself and the kids, while also litigating a divorce matter against their financially superior spouse.  Often this is part of the supporting spouse’s underlying strategy – economic coercion, i.e., essentially trying to force the supported spouse to settle under his terms without going through a protracted litigation.


Continue Reading Fears of a Supported Spouse – Maintaining The “Status Quo” During a Divorce Proceeding

I tell virtually every client I work with that the Case Information Statement which must be completed by anyone going through the formal divorce process in NJ is one of the most important documents to be completed – arguably, the most important document.

The recent unpublished decision of Raesky v. Brody, A-6148-08T1, decided May 26, 2010, reinforces my mantra.  When completing a Case Information Statement it is important to be honest (it’s a document signed under oath with the risk of penalty for perjury), realistic, and thorough.  The budget, assets and liabilities listed on this document will assist a judge in determining the issues of spousal support and the division of assets.  These statements are the maps which judges follow to lead them to a final determination of these issues.

By over inflating  your budget, you give the other side the ability to poke holes at your credibility.  Sometimes the thinking that the higher my budget the more money I can get may backfire, as it appears to have done for Ms. Brody.  Also, in the case where the budget is artificially low, the payor spouse’s credibility will be questioned.  If it is the payee spouse with an inaccurately low budget, they run the risk of receiving inadequate support and thus they’re unable to meet their needs let alone maintain even a semblance of the marital standard of living.


Continue Reading Alimony Lessons from Raesky v. Brody

When determining an alimony award, New Jersey courts look at a variety of factors that are listed under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b).  At the very top of that list is "The actual need and ability of the parties to pay."  Similarly, when determining child support, one factor that courts in this State consider is "All sources of income and assets of each parent."  When determining a payor spouse’s income, courts will consider both the supporting spouse’s present earnings and potential earning capacity.

The question becomes more complicated when the payor spouse owns his or her own business.  Oftentimes tax returns do not tell the whole story and cannot be relied upon as the sole source for rendering an income determination.  For instance, that spouse may have a bank account under the business name, but uses it nevertheless for personal expenses.  Oftentimes such personal expenses are not accounted for on a tax return as income and it then becomes a matter of determining what the actual income level is.  Another example may involve the spouse being reimbursed through the business for personal travel expenses. 


Continue Reading Appellate Division Examines a Spouse’s Ability To Pay Support