Teaneck Divorce Attorneys

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 etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

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 freedigitalphotos.net)

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 etbaer@foxrothschild.com.

On Friday, I blogged on the judicial estoppel aspect of the Romano case decided last week by the Appellate Division. While that was the major issue in that case, there was another part of the case that jumped out at me, when I read this line related to the court’s valuation of the husband’s business and calculation:

John also maintains that Judge Becker should not have accepted Dana’s expert testimony with regard to the value of his business and the income it generates. John did not provide sufficient reliable information to allow Dana’s expert to use valuation techniques based on tax reporting, so the expert was forced to consider the family expenses as a means to gauge the income generated by the business.

This scenario is not uncommon in divorce matters where a sole proprietor provides neither complete business records nor reliable Internal Revenue Service filings. We defer to Judge Becker’s fact-findings concerning the value of the business and its revenue.  (Emphasis added).

Unfortunately, when dealing in cases with small (and some times not so small) businesses, this is a common occurrence.  Often, it becomes a game of "tell me how much you can find and I tell you how much I have."   In this case, the non-owner has the laboring oar to try to reconstruct the exact income.

Continue Reading Court Says Incomplete Records and Inaccurate Tax Filings from the Self Employed Common in Divorce

About a month ago, I blogged on a case that held that putting a GPS in a spouse’s car was not an invasion of privacy because cars travel on public roads and there is no expectation of privacy.  That said, invasion of privacy is a tort so this case really did not address the domestic violence/stalking implications of the conduct.  In fact, at the end of the post, I said:

Now, should people going through a divorce take this as a green light to start placing GPS devices in their spouse’s vehicle. Perhaps not. There have been some that have argued and some judges have found that that conduct would amount to domestic violence – perhaps harassment or stalking. Of course, that begs the question of how the alleged victim could demonstrate the requisite fear or be alarmed, if the did not know of the placement of the GPS and similarly, how it would be stalking if the person did not know that the GPS was recording their movements.  I have no doubt that there will be more to come on this.


Little did I know that more was going to come so soon.  That is, until I read L.J.V.H. v. R.J.V.H., an unreported Appellate Division opinion decided yesterday.  In that case, the court found that the putting a GPS device in an ex-wife’s new boyfriend’s car was stalking and thus domestic violence. 

Apparently, this was not the defendant’s first foray into the use of a GPS.  At the commencement of the original divorce a year prior, the defendant had put a GPS on the wife’s car.  She obtained a TRO which was ultimately resolved by a consent order in the divorce case for restraints, including restraints on stalking.


Continue Reading So Maybe Using a GPS is Domestic Violence After All

While there are many similarities between the states when it comes to family law, there are also many differences.  That fact was recently highlighted in the context of business valuation, specifically, what things should be considered to arrive at a value for equitable distribution, in a post recently seen on our firm’s Pennsylvania Family Law Blog.  Specifically,Aaron Weems is an attorney in our Warrington (Bucks County), Pennsylvania office and editor of the Pennsylvania Family Law Blog wrote an interesting post entitled "Superior Court Changes How Businesses are Valued."

In the Balicki case that Aaron discussed, at issue was the valuation of an insurance agency.  It was understood that the business would not be sold, therefore, in deciding the value of the business, the Master excluded expenses of sale, transfer, or liquidation which could include broker commissions, finders fees, attorney fees and accountant fees. The appellate court reversed finding that this was improper.  Moreover, the appellate court found error in the fact that the Master failed to take into consideration any taxes that may be associated with the sale or liquidation of a business.


Aaron noted that the appellate court held that Pennsylvania statutes 23 PACSA § 3502(a)(10.1) and (10.2) required that for the purposes of equitable distribution of marital property, the Court must consider the Federal, state and local tax ramifications even if they are not “immediate and certain”, and similarly, the sale, transfer, or liquidation of an asset need also not be “immediate and certain,” either.


The practical effect of this reducing these hypothetical expenses is that it reduces the marital estate, and therefore, the other spouses overall equitable distribution award. Would the same result be reached in New Jersey?

Continue Reading In Business Valuation, Are Hypothetical Costs of Sale Considered to Reduce Value? Court in NJ vs. PA Disagree

We have blogged about the issue of relocation (removal) with children after a divorce and the standards that a court must follow.  To see our prior posts, click here, here and here.  The considerations are different if the parties have a truly shared parenting plan or if the non-custodial parent has something less than 50-50.  In the latter instance, the move must be made in good faith and not inimical to the child(rens) best interests (and there are numerous factors set forth in the Baures v. Lewis case that a court must consider. For true shared parenting cases, moves are more difficult because a more stringent best interests analysis is employed. On top of that, it is not enough that the parties designate their arrangement as joint or shared custody, the case law post-Baures made clear that it was the actual parenting time that mattered not what the parties described to to be.

Against that backdrop, we turn to the unreported (non-precedential) Appellate Division in the case of Walsh-Morales v. Morales decided on November 5, 2010.  In this case, post-divorce, the mother sought to re-marry and move to Texas with the parties’ daughter.  The father moved to bar the move, seeking sole custody if the mother moved.  The mother asserted that she was the primary residential parent- the father asserted that there was true shared parenting.

The trial court determined that there was true shared parenting, denied the mother’s request to relocate and directed that the father be the primary parent if the mother moved.  The mother appealed not necessarily as to the law applied, but rather, as to the factual determination that the parties had true shared parenting.

Continue Reading When True Shared Parenting Isn't 50-50 for Relocation Analysis

In an interesting unreported (non-precedential) decision released on October 13, 2010, the Appellate Division held that it was error to dismiss a case simply because a litigant was not ready to proceed on the date of a final hearing because they sought their own expert in a custody matter. 

In McCain v. Schultz the court, which had a detailed if not convoluted procedural history that delayed the matter somewhat, the court had appointed a custody expert to prepare a report.  When the report came in about 3 weeks before the final hearing date, the father’s lawyer wrote to the Court requesting an adjournment so that the father can obtain his own expert, as is his right under the Rules of Court.  The mother opposed the request allegedly given the age of the matter (but probably because the report was favorable to her position).  Rather than adjourn the matter, citing "rules" regarding timing for completion of "non-dissolution" (typically family court matters regarding custody or support between unmarried litigants) matters, the judge dismissed the matter without prejudice.  This appeal ensued.


In January 2010, on his way out of office, Governor Corzine signed a bill requiring palimony agreements to be in writing.  We previously blogged on the enactment of that law.  The question that arose is whether the bill was prospective in nature or whether it applied retroactively.  At a seminar I attended in May, I heard a judge say that the policy at that time was to only allow cases to proceed if they had been filed before the enactment of the statute.  Conversely, even if the palimony promise had been made pre-statute, if the law suit was not filed, it would be dismissed.

As noted on the front page of the July 19, 2010 New Jersey Law Journal, there are several motions now pending in the Appellate Division, including one filed by this firm, addressing whether there should be retroactive application of the statute.  A judge in Atlantic County has held that the statute should be retroactively applied.  Judges in Monmouth and Somerset Counties came to the opposite conclusion.

When the issue is resolved one way or another, we will update this blog.

On June 28, 2010, the Appellate Division released the unreported (non-precedential) opinion in the case of "O.R. v. H.S."  In this case, the Appellate Division reversed the trial court’s Order, rendered without a plenary hearing and where there were disputed facts, granting the defendant joint legal custody. 

In this case, the parties were never married. While the plaintiff was pregnant with the parties’ child, she obtained a domestic violence final restraining order against the defendant.  Four years had passed and the parties were now in court dealing with emergent custody and parenting time issues.  The defendant’s attorney requested that joint legal custody be ordered and plaintiff’s attorney objected, contradicting defendant’s account of his support of the child and noting defendant’s history of drug use.  Plaintiff also noted the FRO, her fear of the defendant and that defendant presented no proof regarding his relationship with the child.  Notwithstanding, the Court issued an Order granting the parties joint legal custody and designating the plaintiff the parent of primary residence.

Plaintiff appealed and the Appellate Division reversed noting that a decision like this, where there was contradictory information presented, required a plenary (evidentiary) hearing.  The Appellate Division also noted that the parties’ relationship had been strained for year, as noted by the FRO, and that along with the FRO goes a presumption in favor of awarding custody to the non-abusive parent.  In addition, the Court noted that the plaintiff’s fear as well as the defendant’s drug use need to be considered at the hearing. 

This case reminds us of two things.  First, court’s cannot decide major issues without having plenary hearings if there are material facts in dispute.  Second, court’s must be mindful of findings of domestic violence when addressing the issue of custody, including legal custody, considering the statutory presumption of custody favoring the non-abusive parent.  Fundamental to the notion of joint legal custody is the parties’ ability to communicate and cooperate which is why a review of the history of domestic violence is so important.

Once again from the Windy City, another article from Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune reports on a child’s religious upbringing post-divorce in an interfaith context, this time discussing a decision from a Cook County judge who decided that a father could take his daughter to church services to "expose" her to his religion during his parenting time.  From my search of this case on the Internet, it seems to be making headlines in Chicago.  Apparently, the parents divorced, the mother was Jewish and the father then returned to his Catholic roots (after having converted to Judaism once the child was born).  As part of this return, he began taking the three-year old child to church with him, even having her baptized without mom’s permission.  Dad argued that they never agreed to raise the child Jewish, did not keep kosher at home and infrequently observed the Sabbath.

The court ruled in favor of dad in what it deemed was in the child’s best interests.  In so doing, it also ordered that dad could have parenting time with the child on Christmas and Easter each year.  Notably, the order also stated that mom would always have parenting time on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover.  The order lifted restrictions on the father from a prior restraining order preventing him from exposing the child to any "non-Jewish" religious activity.  Apparently dad still faces potential penalties for violating the restraining order.

As we blogged earlier this week, also discussing an article from Ms. Brachear on the substantially higher rate of divorce amongst interfaith couples, in New Jersey it is the child’s Parent of Primary Residence – the primary caretaker – who makes the ultimate decision of a child’s religious upbringing/education.  While the other parent – the Parent of Alternate Residence – can expose the child to their own religion, similar to what the father in the Cook County case can do, there may not be an educational aspect to such exposure without the primary caretaker’s consent.