Archives: Parsippany Divorce Attorneys

Recently, I did a blog entitled Putting a Stop to Threatening, Bad Faith Negotiations.  In that same case, what preceded the threats, were bad faith diversions or refusals to provide even the most basic of information necessary to settle the case – in this case, "how much are you going to earn this year?" 

Alternating with the vagueness and misinformation about income ("confusing" gross with net to make the income seem smaller") was an outright refusal to address the issues we were discussing.  I get it – the guy doesn’t want to pay alimony.  Who does?  But alimony was a real issue in the case and the real issue that will make or break any settlement. Every time we tried to focus on the alimony issue, the adversary came back without a response on alimony, but raising an irrelevant (in the grand scheme of things), red herring side issue.  This happened time after time. 

After a few times, we ended the discussions for the day.  I am not saying that we wont address the issues raised, if they are truly an issue.  But just like the threats, these smoke screens were raised as a tactic to divert from the main issue, perhaps to wear down my client or otherwise confuse the issues. 

At the end of the day, you have to keep returning the negotiations to the central issues.  Otherwise, you are simply wasting time and allowing the bad faith negotiator use tactics to gain an advantageous settlement.  Stay strong and stay the course.  Don’t allow the negotiations to be hijacked by nonsense.

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Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

Going through a divorce can be overwhelming – equitable distribution, visitation, alimony, child support, division of retirement accounts, where to live, re-entering the workforce.  All of these are important, long-lasting decisions.  But there is one thing that many people fail to consider during a divorce………..divorcing your credit reports.

 

Today, your credit report can have a significant impact on all aspects of your life – obtaining a credit card, getting qualified for a mortgage, car loans, a job, the interest rates you pay, car insurance, life insurance.  Not having good credit can cost you thousands of dollars.  That is why it is important to address your credit report, and the lines of credit that your spouse can access as early in the divorce process as possible.

 

The key to divorcing credit reports is understanding the difference in the way a court views debt versus the way credit companies view debt.  A court views debts as either marital debt or non-marital debt, and will divide it according to a variety of NJ statutory factors, which can be found hereCredit companies view debt as either being joint or individual.  With joint debt, both spouses signed for the credit and both spouses are responsible for the debt. With individual debt, only one spouse signed for the debt, hence only one spouse is responsible for it. 

Continue Reading DIVORCING YOUR CREDIT REPORTS

When negotiating the payment of child support, I discuss with my clients the implications of paying/receiving support through Probation.  One of the major implications of paying child support through Probation is the anticipation of a Cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA.

Any child support order paid through Probation that was issued after September 1, 1998 is subject to a COLA increase every two years.  At around the two year mark, Probation provides both parties with a notice of the increase.  The increase is based on the "average change in the Consumer Price Index for the Metropolitan statistical areas that encompass New Jersey and shall be compounded."  Although Probation will calculate the percentage increase for you, you can calculate it yourself to anticipate what’s at stake:

1.  Visit the Bureau of Labor Statistics Website: http://www.bls.gov/cpi/

2.  At the bottom right of the screen, there is a "Regional Resources" tool.  Select your region.  If you live in any part of New Jersey other than Atlantic City, select New York.  If you live in Atlantic City, select Philadelphia.

3.  A table will appear, select the "more formatting" option.  Then select "12 month percent change".  Specify the 2 year range.  Select "annual data" for time period.  Finally, click on "Retrieve Data."  For example, the 2009 average change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was .4 and in 2010, it was 1.7.  Therefore, the total change was 2.1% for the 2 year period.  Considering this, a $100 per week obligation would be increased to $102.10 per week with the COLA. 

After receiving a COLA notice, the party paying child support has 30 days from the date of the notice mailing to contest the increase with Probation.  The increase may only be contested on the following grounds: (1) his/her income has not increased at a percentage at least equal to that rate; OR (2) the child support order already provides for an alternate method of periodic COLA adjustments.  After considering the objection, Probation will make a recommendation and notify the parties of the recommendation.  The party who is dissatisfied with Probation’s determination may request a hearing before a Probation hearing officer (not a judge).  If either party is dissatisfied with the hearing officer’s decision, that party may appeal to the family court judge.  In such circumstances, the family court judge shall consider all evidence presented, regardless of whether the evidence was presented to the hearing officer.  

The COLA increase was recently addressed by the Appellate Division in an unpublished opinion, Savini v. Triestman.  In this case, the father contested his 6.85% COLA, which would have increased his child support obligation by $218 per month, or $2,616 per year.  Probation agreed and determined that a COLA was "not warranted."  The mother requested a hearing, but the hearing officer ruled against her.  The mother appealed to a family court judge, claiming that the father was lying about his income.  The judge claimed she hadn’t satisfied "her burden" of proving this and ruled against her. 

The Appellate Division in Savini disagreed, holding that the trial judge improperly held the mother to the father’s burden.   Rather, the judge should have made specific findings as to the father’s income before and during the COLA time-period.  Finally, the judge should have calculated whether any increase in the father’s income was at least 6.85%. 

Considering the money at stake, it is important for a party to understand the procedure and be ready to use it if necessary. 

It is common and often unfortunate that I meet with clients who decided, for whatever reason, that they would represent themselves during a divorce proceeding.  There are cases where that decision may be perfectly acceptable.  More often than not, the people I have met are coming to me because they are totally unsatisfied and/or unhappy with the deal they’ve made for themself and are looking to an attorney to get them a better deal.  Sometimes this is a possibility.  However, when the ink is dry on that formal agreement, it makes things more complicated.

Recently, the Appellate Division affirmed a lower court’s decision regarding the enforceability and conscionability of an Agreement negotiated and reached by the parties and formalized by husband’s attorney.  Wife chose to remain self represented during the negotiations and execution of the Agreement.

After husband made a post-divorce application in the trial court to enforce the Agreement, wife challenged its validity, claiming unconscionability, inequity, unfairness and that it was obtained through fraud.  The trial court conducted a two day hearing during which both parties and husband’s attorney testified.  Thereafter, the trial court rejected wife’s arguments that the Agreement was invalid, unfair, inequitable and procured through fraud.

Continue Reading BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU BARGAIN FOR WITHOUT THE ADVICE OF COUNSEL

I have previously posted several blog entries about custody and parental rights where DYFS ("Division of Youth & Family Services"), NJ’s child protective agency, has involvement.  To read those posts click here, here, or here.

On September 29, 2010, the NJ Supreme Court issued an opinion addressing the standards to be applied to a sibling’s request for visitation after children are placed outside the natural family’s home and after they are adopted.  The opinion of In the Matter of D.C. and D.C., Minors provides guidelines for those siblings who seek to continue a relationship with their adopted and/or placed siblings and addresses a very important issue for families across this state.

The facts of D.C. can be summed up as follows: Nellie, the biological sister of Hugo and twins sought custody and visitation of her siblings after DYFS removed the children from her mother’s care and placed them in separate homes.  In 2005, Nellie, then age 23, resided in Va.  Hugo was 14 years old at the time.  In 2006, Hugo was placed with Nellie.  In 2007, DYFS discussed visitation of the twins with Hugo and Nellie.  In August 2007, Va.’s child placement agency ("RDSS") approved placement of the twins with Nellie and Hugo but expressed concerns about Nellie’s ability to support the children.  Based on that concern, visitation was recommended to ease the transition.  Then, in late 2007, RDSS rescinded its recommendation for placement of the twins with Nellie and Hugo because of Hugo’s poor grades and Nellie’s job loss.

The biological mother’s parental rights were terminated in December 2007.  In January 2008, DYFS approved Nellie as kinship legal guardian of Hugo, but not the twins.  At the same time, Nellie was informed visitation with the twins would stop.  In April 2008, Nellie filed an action seeking placement of the twins in her care or alternatively reestablishing the sibling visitation.  DYFS opposed her application.

Continue Reading NJ SUPREME COURT REVIEWS STANDARD FOR SIBLING VISITATION AFTER ADOPTION AND/OR PLACEMENT

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 -1) MAKE SURE YOUR CIS IS ACCURATE, AND 2) REHAB ALIMONY CAN BE TURNED INTO PERMANENT ALIMONY

Religion in both marriage and divorce is often a very delicate issue that can strain family relations and put family members at odds with each other.  The strain can be even greater when the parents are each of a different religion.   An interesting article from today’s Chicago Tribune by Manya A. Brachear called Religion Used as Weapon in Divorce focuses on the issue of a child’s religious upbringing post-divorce in light of increased interfaith marriages.  Notable figures cited in the article include a percentage increase of interfaith marriages in the Jewish community from 17% to 47% from 1970 to 2000, and that interfaith households are 3 times more likely to end in divorce as those where both parents share the same faith. 

In New Jersey, the primary caretaker of the child (the Parent of Primary Residence – defined as providing a residence for a child for more than 50% of overnights annually or, if sharing is equal, providing the residence for the child while the child is attending school) has the right to determine the child’s religious upbringing and education.  The rationale is to allow the primary caretaker to decide the issue should there be a disagreement because that parent might know the child better than the other based on greater day-to-day exposure with the child.  By contrast, the other parent (the Parent of Alternate Residence) may only choose to expose, but not educate the child in another religion.  What does expose mean as compared to educate?  Exposure generally includes taking a child to religious services during the non-primary caretaker’s parenting time, but not enrolling him or her in religious training or classes. 

Continue Reading RELIGIOUS UPBRINGING AFTER DIVORCE – WHICH PARENT DECIDES?

Post-judgment motions are common in family law, especially when it comes to paying for college tuition for the children of the divorced parties. Often times, older Property Settlement Agreements ("PSA") are ambiguous when it comes to which parent will pay a child’s college tuition. As was the situation in the recent unpublished decision in Orero v. Orero, App. Div., docket no. A-2230-08T3, decided on February 19, 2010.

The Orero’s were married in 1987 and divorced in 1996. In 1996, the parties entered into a PSA where they agreed that if the children were to attend college each party shall contribute “to the best of their ability.” Well fast forward 13 years and their oldest daughter is about to begin college in Colorado. Now, Mrs. Orero seeks Mr. Orero to contribute half of the daughter’s college expenses. Mr. Orero alleges that he was (1) not consulted regarding the daughter’s choice of schools, (2) doesn’t have the ability to pay because he has children from another marriage, and (3) if he must pay, than he is entitled to a plenary hearing (similar to a trial) to determine the relevant facts. As a result, Mrs. Orero files a motion with the court seeking to enforce the PSA. Notwithstanding Mr. Orero’s arguments, the trial judge ordered Mr. Orero to pay half the college expenses. Mr. Orero filed a motion for reconsideration, which is denied. So Mr. Orero appeals.
 

Continue Reading COLLEGE TUITION – WHO PAYS?

Every year at about this time, you hear a supposed "fact" that Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest day of the year for domestic violence.  I even saw something on this this week on either Twitter or some news service.  I figured that I was use this blog to pass along a public service announcement about this scourge to give a heads up to potential victims.

Funny thing is that when I went to research this, I found several articles suggesting that this was really urban legend.  No less than Snopes, the debunker of all rumors and urban legends says that this "fact" is simply not true.

I am not trying to make light of this or domestic violence in any way but what is true?  Well, what is true is that the use/abuse of alcohol often plays a role in domestic violence.  Common experience tells us that there is a lot of drinking when watching the Super Bowl.  In fact, people who don’t typically watch football may attend a Super Bowl party where alcohol is being served.  One need only watch the glut of Super Bowl beer commercials to see the almost overwhelming role of alcohol in Super Bowl culture. 

That all said, while their may not be a societal rise of domestic violence on Super Bowl Sundays, victims and potential victims need not simply accept domestic violence and should do what they need to to protect themselves, call the police and/or avail themselves of all domestic violence resources in there area. 

The recent act of domestic violence by singer Chris Brown on his very famous girlfriend, Rihanna, has brought new attention to the fact that domestic violence is not a socio-economic problem limited to the lower class.  Unfortunately, I often see the ugly side of relationships and not surprisingly domestic violence is an issue I also deal with.   New Jersey is attempting to help protect victims of domestic violence by protecting  the victims essentially from themselves. 

A new law that is pending in the New Jersey Senate would require that if a victim of domestic violence desired to dissolve or modify a final restraining order, a court would be required to make a finding and a record.  Assembly, No. 746, State of New Jersey, 213 Legislature.  Anyone who has been following the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga will tell you that within days of the incident where Chris Brown physically assaulted Rihanna, they were back together as a couple. (They have since split.) Unfortunately this is often the case.  Sometimes, it takes victims of domestic violence years to escape the cycle of abuse.

Continue Reading New Jersey – Is New Domestic Violence Legislation on the Way?