Mercer County Divorce Attorney

Passover begins this Monday night.  It is the commemoration of Jewish liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt. Some call it the season of freedom; many believe that, with the thawing of winter and transition into spring, it is a time to reevaluate the direction of our lives and have our own personal exodus from those people or experiences that are no longer healthy or beneficial.

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For many readers of the blog, that means transitioning from marriage to single life; from stability to shaky footing; and from loving your partner to…well…not.

However, just as you may take a page out of the Jewish tradition in this season of rebirth to finally shed those unwanted relationships, you may want to plod a little further on in history to learn another thing or two from traditional populations: arranged marriages.

A study conducted by the Harvard-educated Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, Dr. Robert Epstein (no relation to our very own esteemed colleague and blogger), found that feelings of love in arranged marriages tend to gradually increase as time goes on in the relationship, surpassing in intensity at the five year mark.  This is compared to the typical modern-day “love marriage” where attraction is based on passionate emotions, and a couple’s feelings of affection diminish by as much as 50% after only 18-24 months of marriage.  In fact, arranged marriages are twice as strong as “love marriages” after 10 years.

Epstein attributed this almost counter-intuitive (by modern standards) phenomenon, to unrealistic media portrayals that present love as an uncontrollable, spur of the moment force. “We grow up on fairy tales and movies in which magical forces help people find their soul mates, with whom they effortlessly live happily ever after,” Epstein stated in an article in a 2010 edition of Scientific American MIND. “The fairy tales leave us powerless, putting our love lives into the hands of the Fates.” Epstein theorizes that this unrealistic concept of marriage cause many “love marriages” to eventually fizzle.

But not all hope is lost.  Epstein theorizes that relationships are organic.  They can be infused at will with positive and loving feelings.  This can simply be accomplished by mimicking the concept of the arranged marriage, shedding the fairytale notions of riding off into the sunset and developing a more realistic concept of a lasting relationship.

“But what do warm feelings have to do with my divorce?” you may ask.  Well, in many situations, you can become lost in a concept of what you think that their feelings are supposed to be for your former partner.  You can forget all the good times and experiences you once shared together or the deep loving commitment you may have had.  This could be the result of the modern portrayal of divorce: a contentious, awful experience that leaves one party downtrodden and the other victorious.

But it does not have to be that way.  Epstein says relationships are organic.  Positive feelings can be created and learned.  People need not adopt an unrealistic and, frankly, incorrect concept of divorce.  I’ve seen it.  It is in fact possible for both parties to behave amicably, settle their differences and move on; all while keeping their somewhat positive relationship intact.

So perhaps the lesson from the Jewish season of redemption is to redefine your exodus.  Note the positive action required.  YOU need to be the one to shift your paradigm, to redefine your own notions of your divorce and your relationship with your former partner.  According to Epstein, you are the key to your own success.


Baer, Eliana T.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

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Herd mentality is an interesting thing.  It basically describes how people are influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors, follow trends, or purchase certain items.  While typically anthropologists thought of this as a survival instinct – i.e. people in groups who espouse common goals may survive longer in pre-industrialized society – it has gotten a bad reputation more recently.  Think about when your teenager comes home and asks you to buy her the $100 pair of boots that she just saw 10 other friends wearing – this is herd mentality – and you probably hate it.

But think about the flip side.  Humans have a need to fit in with their surroundings and with one another; to be an accepted part of a community.  This need could also encourage socially advantageous and morally accepted behaviors.

When I heard late Wednesday night that Avrohom Meir Weiss, the man responsible for Gital Dodelson’s status as an Agunah – a chained woman who has yet to receive a “Get” to grant her religious divorce – finally gave Gital a Get, herd mentality came to mind – but in a good way.

In the first articles that broke about the story on Wednesday, the victory was attributed to the community pressure that was unrelentingly placed on Mr. Weiss to give Gital her Get.


Shira Dicker, the publicist who has worked with the Dodelson family in their public campaign to compel Weiss to give the Get agreed. “The community pressure really just began to multiply, and then something changed,”  Dicker stated.

It is clear that in Weiss’ close-knit Orthodox community, the pressure was a great motivator, and perhaps in the end, was the primary motivator in his decision to finally give Gital her long-awaited Get.

Dicker said Dodelson will continue to advocate for the Agunot that still remain in the Orthodox Jewish communities.  Gital may be able to take lessons from her own story and use them to channel herd mentality to aid in her cause.

“The family wants to remain as agunah advocates,” Dicker said. “It doesn’t end with Gital’s get.”

Imagine you are drowning.  You don’t have a life jacket.  Your swimming companion is pushing you further and further under.  What do you do?  Do you stop and try to reason with your companion?  Do you fight back and run for your life?  Do you just lie down and die?

While the analogy is morbid, yes, it is an equation (on a less life-threatening scale) that those embroiled in “Get” litigation face every day.  Do they fight back in a protracted Court battle?  Do they just give up the farm and all its animals?  Or do they attempt to reason with their soon to be ex-spouse?

Anyone who follows my blog, knows that my interest in the Get crisis was fueled several months ago, when the story of Gital Dodelson, a 25 year old civil divorcee whose husband refused to give her a Get, came to light.

It is no surprise, therefore, that a recent article in the Huffington Post further caught my eye.   It was entitled “5 Ways That Divorce Mediation Can Help Resolve the ‘Get Crisis’” by Morghan Leia Richardson. The author’s proposition is that mediation may assist in resolving the get crisis in the following ways:

1.         It avoids Court drama, which Ms. Richardson feels, fuels the fire and lends to angry/hurt feelings on the part of the recalcitrant husband.

2.         It allows people to opt for creative solutions, which may in turn lessen the urge to withhold the get.

3.         It levels the playing field by precluding a husband from using custody as leverage in the giving of a get.

4.         It avoids public shame for the recalcitrant husband.

5.         It decreases “Double Trouble” by not adding insult – a court battle – to injury – the very request for divorce.

While aspirational, Ms. Richardson’s goals may not work in every “get” resolution case.  For example, in the case of Gital Dodelson, the civil divorce has long been resolved, yet her husband continues to withhold the get.

Further, it is my personal belief that in order to seek a solution to the problem, we need to understand WHY it is happening.

I see many similarities between the agunot – chained women – and a woman dealing with a narcissistic husband, which I just blogged about last week at the close of my Seven Deadly Sins series.  In both scenarios, one spouse is the unwitting victim of the other spouse, regardless of what they may do and what they may agree to.

Which begs the question:  If one spouse is victimizing the other, wouldn’t this spill over to the mediation process where the potential for strong arming is very real and indeed, far too common?  Would the victimized spouse lose their voice?  This also begs the question as to why someone should be forced to concede anything just to obtain a Get.

The proposition that mediation can address either of these scenarios, therefore, may be suspect.  Rather, prevention is key (and by prevention, I don’t mean not marrying the guy in the first place, although that would be nice…).

In both the case of the agunah and narcissists (perhaps sometimes one in the same), family court systems may be better served focusing on the following:

1.         Education for lawyers, judges, court staff and experts on the issues;

2.         Parsing through rhetoric to uncover that one spouse is leveraging custody or financial issues.  In those cases, the parties may benefit from the appointment of custody evaluators, guardians ad litem and other experts.  This may disempower the offending spouse by taking the decisions out of their hands;

3.         Penalties for using children as a bargaining chip in a divorce;

4.         Advance protection for the victimized spouse, including the normalization of documents such as the Halachic Prenup or regular prenuptial agreements;

5.         In the event of a divorce, getting your documents together, building a strong case and creating a strong legal teams.

To be clear, I am not advocating for the parties to discount mediation when there is an issue of narcissism or get abuse. I am simply proposing that perhaps it should be undertaken in the context of the above steps. Perhaps that way, some progress can be made for these aggreived spouses in family court.


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

They say that the grass is always greener on the other side.  Most of us are quite familiar with this sentiment, and maybe even with the feeling. Some of us want our neighbor’s fancier car; some of us yearn for our co-worker’s higher salary; some of us may even look on with great desire at the burger the guy at the other table is eating.   This is envy.

Envy is a resentment which “occurs when someone lacks another’s quality, achievement or possession and wishes that the other lacked it.”

250PX-~1(Wikipedia: Portrait of a Woman Suffering from Obsessive Envy; Jean Louis Théodore Géricault (1791–1824))

The British philosopher, Bertrand Russell is known to have said that envy was one of the primary causes of unhappiness. Not only that, but he also reasoned that the envious person also wishes to inflict misfortune on others.  While envy is generally seen as a negative trait, Russell also believed that envy was a driving force behind the movement towards democracy.

Indeed, psychologists have recently suggested that there may be two types of envy: malicious envy and benign envy; benign envy being proposed as a type of positive motivational force.

Evolutionary psychologists at Texas Christian University at Austin have suggested that the frustration and feelings of inferiority that come along with envy could act as a warning signal, alerting us to disadvantage and motivating us to outperform those who feel indifferent. To wit: a 2009 study in the Netherlands revealed that participants who experienced this so-called “benign envy” were more persistent and successful than their peers.

Back in October, I blogged about a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center suggesting that divorce may be contagious.  I concluded that actual divorce cannot spread from person to person like the plague; rather, it must be something else driving people to act in accord with their peers. I suggested that perhaps it was the courage to divorce that was contagious.

Now I come to you with another theory to ponder.  Perhaps it is the envy that is the driving force behind the uptick in divorce among certain peer groups.

To test this proposition, I scoured the blogs.  Google wasted no time in pointing me in the right direction.

On, I came across a blog post entitled – Divorce Envy:  Mothers Who Are Jealous of Their Divorced Friends’ Free Time.  The blogger suggested:

…for divorced mothers who have the luxury of a co-parenting ex, their weekends away from their children can read like spa vacations to some of their overworked, married counterparts. The passing of a divorced woman on her way to meet friends for coffee or enjoy a yoga class child-free can incite only one sentiment: divorce envy.

The blogger solicited anecdotes from readers, and highlighted one in particular, Jana, a full time working married mother of a 1 year old girl, who confirmed that divorce envy is common among her friends:

They are envious of the ‘me time’ that married mothers so often forgo for the health and happiness of their spouse and children,” she observes. “I get it, because I see so many women having to juggle the needs of both their kids and their husbands. Where are their needs being met?

The feeling is not limited to stressed-out mothers and wives, however.  About one in four men who have divorced or split up with their wives admitted their decision was influenced by friends who had recently done the same. Further, one in ten confessed they just wanted the same happiness as their single friends.

Envy. It can be “the ulcer of the soul” as Shakespeare has put it. But it can also be the driving force behind many a triumph.  But one thing is for sure – it is certainly contagious.

Next up: Greed.


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

Last week, I wrote several blog posts about the plight of so-called “Agunot,” which describes a woman whose husband has refused to grant her a Jewish divorce, via a get – the bill which the husband gives to the wife in order to free her to marry again.

In particular, I highlighted the plight of one agunah, Gital Dodelson, who has been fighting for over four years to receive a get from her husband.

ID-10014395(Photo courtesy of

In the midst of the publicity and attention that Gital received after publishing an op-ed piece in the New York Post, a case captioned Katz v. Katz came down from the New York Supreme Court (this is the lowest court of New York in which divorces are granted), telling a similar story.

In Katz, the parties separated in 2008.  They entered into a “Separation Agreement” on May 17, 2010 pertaining to support, and joint custody/parenting time of their-then five year old child.  In May of 2012, the wife filed for a civil divorce in New York Supreme Court.

On March 25, 2013, the wife filed a motion seeking an award of maintenance (New York’s equivalent of alimony), child support and counsel fees.  In response, the husband sought to enforce the parties’ “Separation Agreement” of May 2010 and contended that all of the issues addressed in the wife’s application were already addressed therein.

Now, this is where the case bears striking similarity to Gital’s:

The wife’s counsel further argues that the wife did not waive her request for maintenance because the agreement is not binding. She argues that the plaintiff was a “victim of extortion” in the sum of $70,000.00 in order to obtain a get, a Jewish divorce, from the husband.

She stated that she only conceded to joint custody and to the parenting access schedule detailed in the May 17, 2010 writing because she “was intimidated to give in to the Defendant’s unreasonable demands of custody, visitation and holidays” and that she believed that the husband would not grant her a get [a religious divorce] unless she did so.

Shedding light on the topic at hand, the wife stated that the “court is well aware of the uneven playing field for women in the Jewish orthodox community when negotiations are held to guarantee the giving of the get by the husband to the wife” and that the circumstances surrounding the husband granting her a get “were no different.”

To that end, she stated that she placed $50,000.00 in escrow to “guarantee performance” that the husband would grant her a get and that she has “not received [the escrow] money and believes that it has been given to the Defendant, and that he is using [her escrow] money to support this litigation.”  In the end, the Court invalidated the May 2010 “Separation Agreement” on procedural grounds.

Interesting, Gital’s story mirrors that of the wife in Katz v. Katz.  Gital obtained her divorce civilly, yet her husband still insists that arbitration to renegotiate the terms of their divorce be a precondition to granting the get.  Gital reported that attempts to arbitrate have failed, and that in their last attempt, her husband demanded that she renounce custody of their son and pay him over $300,000 in exchange for her get.

For that reason, it is no surprise that some view this “Agunah Crisis” as a woman’s issue; as one riddled with undertones of extortion and domestic abuse.

Indeed, Rabbi Jeremy Stern executive director of Organization for the Resolution of Agunot has stated of the issue “The refusal to issue a get is never justified and is defined in Jewish law as domestic abuse.” “It’s the last form of control the husband has over his wife,” added Stern. “The mentality is, ‘If I can’t have her, no one can.’ It’s fundamentally about control and spite.”

While not all cases of get abuse are reported, it begs the question as to how many Agunot exist with the same story as the wife in the Katz case or as Gital.


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

Just in case you find yourself rereading the title of this blog over and over thinking you missed something, I promise you read it correctly the first time. Every divorced/divorcing parent should be thankful for their ex (or soon to be ex) spouse. As a divorce attorney, I realize that such a lofty suggestion is a hard feat to accomplish year round, even for parents who are happily married.

Our lives have become complicated and chaotic.  The concepts of “multi-tasking” and “work-life balance” test our will each and every day.  We spend our days rushing through life from what seems to be one obligation after the other.  After people divorce, another layer of complications are thrown into the mix.  The spouse on whom you used to rely upon to have dinner ready at 6:00 p.m. or pick up Johnny from soccer practice is no longer there each day.  These now “single parents” are forced to fill, not only the daily multiple roles they already filled during the marriage (dinner maker, dog walker, homework helper, carpool driver, etc.), but now they are required to take on the daily roles of the other spouse as well.

I realize that because of our overly busy lives, it is easy to lose sight of how much your ex really does for the children you share.  Therefore, I suggest that on Thanksgiving, a holiday specifically dedicated to “thankfulness” for the many blessings in life, you should also be thankful for your ex.  I dare to go as far to say that you should consider sharing this thankfulness with your ex.  While you may not be able to the first Thanksgiving you spend apart, you will find that you may muster up the courage as the years pass and your children grow older.  The old adage “a little goes a long way”, in my experience, is therapeutic for divorced parents trying to co-parent.

To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that this “thankfulness” requires a grandiose gesture – in fact, just the opposite.  Even just a simple “thank you” in a short note or when you are dropping the children off for holiday parenting time with your ex, will work wonders to ease the strain on your relationship.  More importantly, these small gestures remind your children that even though their parents are no longer married that does not mean they should not be thankful for their family.

In the end, one simple important fact remains — without your ex, your children as you know them, would not exist.  Remind your ex the inverse of this is true as well.   You may even find yourself thanking them more than once a year.


Lauren K. Beaver is an attorney in Fox Rothschild LLP’s Family Law Practice Group. Lauren practices in the firm’s Princeton, New Jersey office representing clients on issues relating to divorce, custody, parenting time, support and equitable distribution.  Lauren can be reached at (609) 844-3027 or

Yesterday, I posted about the struggles of Gital Dodelson, a 25 year old New Jersey resident who is fighting to obtain a Get – the bill which the husband gives to the wife in order to free her to marry again.

Therein, I noted that remedies under New Jersey law are limited, at best, when a husband refuses to grant his wife a religious divorce.  Indeed, the court in Afalo v. Afalo (1996), stated that this was, in part, because to compel a Get would be judicial entanglement in religious affairs.  And that is where the Get laws in New Jersey stayed for some time.

Then, in 2011, the Appellate Division offered a glimmer of hope for the “Agunah (chained woman) crisis,” as it is commonly referred to.  Lowy v. Lowy held that orders that a husband give a Get are unconstitutional, unless the husband has contractually agreed to give the Get (or to abide by the outcome of a religious arbitration, which ends up ordering him to give a Get):

The parties were divorced on September 20, 2004 when the Family Part issued a dual final judgment of divorce, which, by agreement of the parties, incorporated the August 4, 2004 decision of a Bais Din (rabbinical court) located in Monsey, New York…. [But] the August 2004 decision of the Bais Din … did not … require defendant to provide his ex-wife with a Jewish divorce … [and t]he judge’s reliance here on the purported decision of the Bais Din was [therefore] flawed ….

Once the Bais Din decree is eliminated as a source of authority for the judge’s August 27, 2010 enforcement order — as it must be — the order cannot be sustained because it constitutes impermissible judicial involvement in a matter of religious practice. Simply stated, the judge lacked the authority to compel defendant to “give the Get” where, under the facts presented here, defendant was not bound by any contractual agreement to do so.

Essentially, the Court’s ruling in Lowy offered a prophylactic measure – a means to protect a woman from suffering the same fate as Gital, and hundreds like her.

The Jewish community responded, drafting what is called a “Halachic (Jewish Law) Prenup”, which is endorsed by rabbis throughout the United States, Canada and Israel.  On the website, which contains multiple forms of the prenup to conform to the laws of various jurisdictions, it is described as “The Single Most Promising Solution to the Agunah Crisis.”

Rabbi Jeremy Stern, of the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot (ORA), has stated:

From our perspective at the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, the Beth Din of America’s halakhic prenup has been extremely effective in assuring that a get is giving in a timely fashion. We do not have any cases at ORA in which a prenup that was properly signed and produced for the courts did not result in the issuance of a get in a relatively short period of time.

Once seemingly taboo (I’ve heard people describe it as “unromantic”), the concept entering into a Prenuptial Agreement has been more commonplace over the past several years. According to a recent survey of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), 63 percent of divorce attorneys said they have seen an increase in prenuptial agreements over the past.  Further, 46 percent reported an increase in the number of women requesting them.

While I would venture to say that the statistics are not as staggering when it comes to signing a “Halachic Prenup”, certainly the increase in prenuptial agreements generally could dispense with reservations couples may have if asked by their rabbi or lawyer to enter into one before marriage.

Of course, the “Halachic Prenup” does not offer any relief to the existing agunot, an infirmity which, unfortunately, is on the rise.  As reported in Newsweek yesterday, “a 2011 study by the Mellman Group reported 462 cases of agunot in the U.S. and Canada between 2005 and 2010, suggesting a marked increase in get refusals as well as a decline in resolutions, which can take anywhere from one to five years, sometimes longer.”

The picture may remain bleak for existing Agunot, at least in terms of the availability of legal remedies.  It is for that reason that the importance of the “Halachic Prenup”, from the perspective of organizations like ORA, cannot be understated.


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

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.


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:


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



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.


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

Last Friday, I was sitting in a courtroom, early for my case, when the judge called the two attorneys on the case before mine into his chambers.   As the time passed, what interested me was the reaction of both of the clients that were left behind. Both clients were disturbed that they were left alone in the courtroom while their lawyers and the judge were “in the back.” Oftentimes, judges will ask the attorneys to come back to his or her chambers, or office, for a multitude of reasons.  And I realized, that in an already stressful situation, not knowing what was going on was just another worry for the litigants.  

On many occasions, the reason can be something as simple as the judge wanting to schedule something in the case and needs to look at the court calendar. For that matter, most attorneys will have more than one case in front of the same judge and they may wind up speaking about another case entirely for a brief period ( for example, “ by the way, have you been able to settle the Doe v. Doe case you were here on last week?” “ Not yet, judge, but I think we are close to a resolution.”).  I was in a judge’s chambers several weeks ago, and it was nothing more than a scheduling conference as my adversary and I were trying to schedule a next day of trial. Between the two lawyers, we had five cases in front of the judge.  It took quite a while to find a common day that both lawyers and the court was available!


The court may want to get a sense of what discovery it still outstanding and what a realistic time frame is for getting a case ready for trial.  Other times, the judge wants to speak about an aspect of the case and ask the lawyers for their position on a legal issue, and may explore whether the issues should be the topic of further research. Priority of issues in a case may be a topic of conversation as well. Which issues are ones which will take a longer time at trial and which are not. Are there any issues in a case which may reasonably settle prior to trial? And speaking of settlement, the court may want to know how far apart the parties are to a settlement.


Some judges will become more involved than others when settlement is being discussed.  Most issues have come in front of a judge before, and he or she knows that “range” a decision will be in. If one side is being completely unreasonable, the judge may be able to help the parties move towards a settlement. The judge may have some creative ideas for compromise that it wants to share with the attorneys.  The court may want to give the attorneys his or her initial reaction in order to focus an argument.


My point is, there are many reasons why the judge may call the lawyers to chambers. Whatever the reason, it is not unusual for the lawyers to get into chambers, and the court’s staff has a pressing matter to speak to the court about, and the attorneys have to wait.  In any event, the lawyer, should, upon coming back to the client be forthright about the topic of conversation, however mundane it may have been.  It is just one of the ways an attorney should effectively communicate with the client.

A common misconception in New Jersey is that both spouses can use the same attorney for their divorce.  My local paper recently had an article about divorces in the current economy.  One attorney was quoted as intimating that this was true; the attorney was speaking of uncontested divorces in which the parties agree on issues and the seek the dissolution of their marriage. While I am certain that the attorney’s comments were taken out of context, as one of the points in the article was a concern about legal fees, this is a question that comes to me often.  A client will ask me if I can represent both spouses, even if they have an agreement.  The answer is a resounding, no.


The ethics rules in our state are very clear that one attorney cannot represent both spouses in a divorce.   Simply, it is a conflict of interest.  The New Jersey Supreme Court has said on many occasions, that “one of the most basic responsibilities incumbent on a lawyer is the duty of loyalty to his or her clients. From that duty issues the prohibition against representing clients with conflicting interests."( In re Opinion No. 653 of the Advisory Comm. on Prof’l Ethics, 132 N.J. 124, 129 (1993)).  Our state has a very strong policy in which there should not be even an “appearance” of a possible conflict of interest.  This is to protect the clients.


Imagine a scenario in which one spouse has been home raising children, and the other has been working throughout a twenty year marriage.  This is a situation in which alimony will be an issue.  Certainly, the non working spouse and the working spouse may have differing positions about the amount and term of alimony. Most people agree that in these circumstances, the parties will want to have their own attorneys.  But what about the situations where both parties are working, and they have a house and a couple of retirement accounts.  Many people believe that in this situation, they do not need two attorneys and both use the same lawyer.  Well, they can’t. 

Continue Reading One Client, One Lawyer