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In today’s ever-increasing mobile society, divorced or separate families find themselves relocating for a variety of reasons, including employment opportunities, new relationships, financial incentives and to be closer to family.

But what happens after families relocate out-of-state and child custody issues arise? Which state has jurisdiction to hear the matter?

Background

In 1968, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (UCCJA) was promulgated in order to prevent parental interstate kidnapping and forum shopping by the non-custodial parent (i.e. attempting to secure a more favorable forum to litigate child custody and parenting time issues in order to obtain a better result) by creating a uniform system for states to determining interstate custody and parenting time jurisdictional issues. By 1981, all 50 states had adopted their version of the UCCJA.

However, in December 1980, prior to all 50 states adopting the UCCJA, Congress enacted the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (PKPA). The PKPA was enacted to address interstate custody jurisdictional problems that continued after the enactment of the UCCJA, but ended up being largely inconsistent with the UCCJA and created almost 30 years of conflicting case law.

To address both the problems stemming from the UCCJA and the PKPA, the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created in 1997. To date, the UCCJEA has been adopted by 49 states and the District of Columbia (except for Massachusetts) and various U.S. territories.

Two of the major revisions made to the UCCJEA were the prioritization of home state jurisdiction and the vesting of exclusive, continuing jurisdiction in the State that entered an original/initial child custody order.

Home State Jurisdiction

The first major revision to the UCCJEA was the establishment of Initial Child Custody Jurisdiction or “home state” jurisdiction. “Home state” is defined as, “the State in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. In the case of a child less than six months of age, the term means the State in which the child lived from birth with any of the persons mentioned. A period of temporary absence of any of the mentioned persons is part of the period.” See Section 101 (7) of the UCCJEA.

Pursuant to Section 201 of the UCCJEA, in interstate child custody matters, a state is granted jurisdiction to make a child custody determination only if:

(1) The state was the “home state” of the child on the date of the commencement of the judicial proceedings, or was the home state of the child within the six (6) month period before the commencement of the judicial proceeding, and the although the child is not residing in the state, a parent or person acting as a parent continues to live in the state;

(2) A court of another state does not have jurisdiction, or the home state of the child has declined to exercise jurisdiction on the basis that this state is a more appropriate forum, and:

(a) The child and the child’s parents, or the child and at least one parent (or person acting as a parent) have a significant connection with the state, other than physical presence.

(b) Substantial evidence is available in this state concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.

(3) All courts having jurisdiction have declined to exercise same on the basis that this state is the more appropriate forum.

(4) No Court of any other State would have jurisdiction under the criteria set forth in (1), (2), or (3).

Exclusive, Continuing Jurisdiction

The other major revision to the UCCJEA was the addition of “exclusive, continuing jurisdiction”. Pursuant to section 202, the continuing jurisdiction of the original decree state (i.e. the state that made an initial custody determination) is exclusive, and will continue until one of two events occur:

(1) If a parent or person acting as the child’s parent remains in the original decree state, continuing jurisdiction is lost when neither the child, the child and a parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent continue to have a significant connection with the original decree state and there is no longer substantial evidence concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships in that State.

(2) When the child, the child’s parents and any person acting as a parent no longer reside in the original decree state.

This means that, even if the child has acquired a new “home state”, the original decree state retains exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, so long as the “significant connection” requirement of Section 201 (See 201(2)((a) and (b)) is met. However, if the original decree state determines that the relationship between the child and the person remaining in the original decree state has diminished, thus precluding a finding of significant connections and substantial evidence, jurisdiction in the original decree state would no longer exist.

Additionally, when the child, the parents, and all persons acting as parents physically leave the original decree state and live elsewhere, exclusive continuing jurisdiction ceases. In this event, either the original decree state or the new state may decide whether the original decree state has lost jurisdiction.

Jurisdiction to Modify Initial Determination

But what happens where an original decree state finds that it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over a matter? How does it relinquish jurisdiction to a new “home state”?

Pursuant to Section 203, a new state may not modify a child custody determination made by the court of another state unless the new state has “home state jurisdiction” under Section 201 and

(1) the original decree state determines that it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, or the original decree state determines that the new state would be a more convenient forum (See Section 207); or

(2) a court of the original decree state or a court of the new state determines that the child, the child’s parents and any person acting as a parent do not presently reside in the original decree state.

Thus, a new state is prohibited from modifying a custody determination made by an original decree state unless the original decree state has determined that it no longer has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction or the new state has decided is it a more convenient. The new state is not authorized to determine whether the original decree state has lost its jurisdiction; only the original decree state can make that determination. The only exception to this is when the new state finds that the child, the child’s parents and any person acting as a parent no longer reside in the original decree state.

It is clear from section 203 that when an interstate child custody issues arises, the original decree state and the new state must communicate and cooperate to determine the proper jurisdiction of a matter; but how often does this occur?

 

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Application of the UCCJEA in New Jersey

While the new revisions and clarifications made to the UCCJEA were supposed to make it easier for courts to determine who could hear interstate child custody matters, as discussed in the recent unpublished (not precedential) decision of C.G. v. A.D. it is clear that the courts are still struggling over jurisdictional issues.

In the aforementioned case, the mother A.D., lived with the parties’ daughter in Delaware for 5 years, until the child temporarily moved to New Jersey to live with her father, C.G., due to A.G.’s medical condition.

Shortly thereafter the mother filed a petition in Delaware for custody of the parties’ daughter. In September 2012, the Delaware judge entered an order awarding the mother sole custody after determining that Delaware was the child’s “home state” pursuant to the UCCJEA, finding that since the mother filed the petition less than six months after the child left Delaware and went to New Jersey, Delaware retained jurisdiction.

The mother then filed a motion in New Jersey, requesting that the court to enforce the custody order entered by the Delaware court.

In June 2014, a New Jersey judge, after conducting oral argument, denied the mother’s application without making any findings of fact as to the child’s residency leading up to the mother’s petition for custody in Delaware and without communicating with the Delaware court regarding the original order. Additionally, despite failing to follow the procedural requisites of the UCCJEA, the New Jersey Judge entered an order requiring the mother to attend therapeutic intervention to aid her parenting time with her daughter.

Thereafter, the mother then returned to the Delaware court seeking again, an order of custody of the parties’ daughter. The Delaware court affirmed its original September 2012 custody order asserting, among other things, that Delaware had jurisdiction to enter the initial order due to the fact that Delaware was the “home state” of the child at the time the mother filed the application.

The mother then appealed the June 2014 New Jersey order, challenging the intervention of the New Jersey court in light of the original Delaware custody order entered in September 2012.

The Appellate Division made it clear that the dispute at bar was subject to UCCJEA and that an initial custody order was properly issued in Delaware. Thus, the subsequent order entered in New Jersey was a “modification proceeding” and in order to modify the initial order, New Jersey was required to make a two-tiered finding as to whether (1) New Jersey was the child’s “home state” and (2) if it was not, whether Delaware was.

If the New Jersey court concluded that New Jersey had “home state” jurisdiction, the next step would be to determine whether custody proceedings had been commenced in another state. If so, New Jersey must stay its proceedings and communicate with the other court to seek an agreement as to whether New Jersey is a more convenient forum or Delaware retained jurisdiction.

If New Jersey concluded that Delaware remained as the child’s “home state”, then all proceedings should have been deferred to Delaware.

Unfortunately, in this matter, the New Jersey court did not follow the proper procedure under the UCCJEA, despite being presented with an existing custody order from Delaware, and the subsequently entered June 2014 order requiring the mother to attend therapeutic intervention to aid her parenting time with her daughter was reversed and remanded.

Parting Words

When it comes to the interstate child, the first order of business before filing a custody or parenting time application, it to determine the proper jurisdiction for doing so. In a matter where two (or sometimes more) courts must communicate, it may be prudent to file an application in all possible jurisdictions, requesting that the possible courts communicate with one another to determine the appropriate forum. This step will (presumably) avoid the inconsistencies that arise when multiple orders are rendered by multiple jurisdictions. Taking this simple step before filing an application may also avoid extensive litigation to correct jurisdictional errors, which could elongate matters and drive up fees unnecessarily.

When most people hear the horrific phrase “domestic violence”, they think only of the physical abuse or threats of physical abuse inflicted upon another; however, financial or economic abuse exists in approximately 98% of all domestic violence situations, according to the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Financial or economic abuse is defined as “making or attempting to make a person financially dependent”. In order to accomplish this form of dependency, an abuser may resort to the following tactics:

  • Maintaining sole title and control over bank accounts, real property or other assets;
  • Withholding or restricting access to money;
  • Making all major financial decisions without consulting the victim;
  • Refusing to put the victim’s name on joint assets or removing the victim’s name from previously joint assets so that the victim does not have any knowledge of the family’s resources, or own any assets/property;
  • Using the victim’s personal identity information (such as Social Security number) to open credit card accounts or obtain loans, which are then never paid (destroying the victim’s credit);
  • Forcing the victim to co-sign credit card accounts or loans;
  • Forcing the victim to sign a power-of-attorney so that the abuser can sign legal or financial documents on the victim’s behalf, without their knowledge;
  • Forcing the victim to cash-in assets in his/her name only, and turn them over to the abuser;
  • Placing the victim on an “allowance”;
  • Forcing the victim to account for all money spent, including providing proof such as receipts;
  • Forcing the victim to beg for money to meet basic needs, such as food, clothing or shelter, yet spending money freely on him/herself;
  • If the victim is employed, forcing him/her to turn over all earned income/paychecks to the abuser;
  • Harassing the victim at work or threatening the victim’s employer with the intention to get/have the victim fired (and therefore cannot work and earn money);
  • Isolating the victim from the family, friends and support system and/or turning others against the victim;
  • Preventing the victim from attending school or job-training programs;
  • Preventing the victim from obtaining employment, thereby forcing the victim to be totally dependent; and/or
  • Threatening the victim that if they leave they will never see the children again and will never win a custody dispute if they go to Court.

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Financial abuse typically starts out slowly, and may not even be recognizable at first. Simple statements such as “let me handle the finances, you have enough to worry about” or “since I’m better at saving, let me maintain our bank accounts”, evolve into situations where the abuser has gained a total financial stronghold over the victim.

The number one reason victims of financial abuse remain or return to abusive relationships is because they do not have the financial resources to escape. Thus, victims of financial abuse are caught in an inevitable Catch 22: either they stay in the abusive relationship (physical, emotional and/or financial abuse) or they leave and risk becoming impoverished and/or homeless because they do not have the financial wherewithal to even obtain a bus ticket. Worse, if the abuser has incurred debt under the victim’s name and/or destroyed their credit, the victim will not even be able to obtain housing, a credit card, a cell phone or even certain jobs. It’s no wonder victims choose to stay in unhealthy situations.

Moreover, abusers often manipulate the victim into believing that they cannot leave because they will not survive without them; however, the situation becomes even more contentious when children are involved. Abusers often threaten victims that if they leave, they will “never see their children again”, they will call child protective services and/or utilize the court system to gain custody. Unfortunately, victims have no reason to believe otherwise. Contacting a knowledgeable family law attorney can help alleviate some of the fiction perpetrated by abusers, which usually has no basis in law, and a skilled practitioner can help you take the first steps into protecting yourself and your children, and rebuilding your life.

Victims of domestic violence should be aware of their legal and other options. Below is a list of some New Jersey based resources:

If you or someone you know is a victim of financial domestic violence, below is an excerpt from the Forbe’s article ‘I’ll Take Care of the Bills’: The Slippery Slope Into Financial Abuse (see citation below) that provides a strategy for victims of financial abuse to start breaking the cycle:

  1. Learn more about it to see if your situation matches the description. Find a checklist online, such as this onethis onethis one or this one.
  2. If you believe you are a victim, start organizing important financial and personal documents such as bank statements, birth and marriage certificates, etc., and store them with friends or family or in another secret, safe location outside of your home.
  3. Earn extra money however you can, and keep it with a trusted person or in a secret location, so you can rely on this when you leave.
  4. Get a free copy of your credit report at Annual Credit Report. Report or dispute any fraudulent charges.
  5. Create a budgetso you know how much your housing, food, transportation and other expenses will cost when you leave.
  6. Change your PIN codes and passwords so your abuser can’t access your financial information or track your activity.
  7. Check out resources like URI NYCThe National Domestic Violence Hotline(1-800-799-Safe (7233)) and Safe Horizon.

Resources used for this article:

  1. Shin, Laura. “‘I’ll Take Care of the Bills’: The Slippery Slope Into Financial Abuse.” Forbes. 19 March 2015. Web 05 Feb. 2016.
  2. Triffin, Molly. “The Warning Signs of Financial Abuse.” Daily Worth. 20 July 2015. Web 05 Feb 2016.
  3. Purple Purse; http://purplepurse.com/

 

Many of you have heard the term “parental alienation.”  The term is a lightening rod and the accusation made all too often for conduct, while terrible, that is not parental alienation.  In fact, I have heard a few judges say that they get allegations of parental alienation in a large majority of their cases – creating a “boy that cried wolf” effect whereby judges don’t take seriously real alienation.

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That said, in many cases, what is being labled as “alienation” is the improper involvement of the children in one way or another.  Some times, the improper conduct is direct, and sometimes it is more insidious and indirect.  Here are some examples of improperly involving the children in the case.

  • Badmouthing the other parent to the children
  • Badmouthing the other parent in the children’s presence
  • Badmouthing the other parent in the community in a way where it could either get back to the children or stigmatize the other parent making their attendance at public events that the children are involved in uncomfortable.
  • Attempting to buy the children’s affections.
  • Telling the children that you give mommy all the money so you can’t buy them anything.
  • Telling the children that daddy doesn’t give you enough money so you can’t buy them anything.
  • Telling your children to go ask the other parent to buy them what they want because you can’t afford it.
  • Making the children messengers
  • Portraying your self as a victim, all of the time and in front of the children such that you are asking explicitly or making the children feel that they have to protect you, if not protect you from the other parent.
  •  Exhibiting so much anger for the other parent, in the presence of the children, such that the children feel that they have no choice but to be hurt or angry at the other parent too – not because they feel that way, but to not disappoint you (and/or because they feel that you will be angry at them if they don’t act the same way that you do to your spouse.)
  • Sharing adult information with the children.
  • Telling the children (or doing it in their presence) about your spouse’s indiscretions
  • Bad mouthing your spouse’s new significant other to and/or in front of the children
  • Empowering the children to make decisions that they have no business making and then saying you are abiding by the decisions that they children should not have been put in the position to make in the first place.
  • Telling your children that you would love to see them but the other parent isn’t letting you (when you are really down the shore with your new girlfriend)
  • Acting like the children’s friend instead of a parent
  • Appearing hurt if the children show affection to the other parent
  • Going overboard in telling the children that you will miss them and be sad without them before they go with the other parent on parenting time

I am sure that I can go on and on and I welcome readers and other family law attorneys to add to the list in the comments.

Some of the time, the parent is doing these things because they want to hurt the other parent.  Much of the time, they don’t realize or understand the potential damaging impact that such behavior, especially if repeated, can have.  You are a parent for a lifetime but childhood is fleeting and it is over before you know it.  Time wasted or worse yet time lost having to deal with the impact of this conduct can never be recovered.  Moreover, do not understimate the harm to the child and to the parent-child relationship.  In fact, I have heard that it is not uncommon for a child who has been affected by this in childhood, to turn on the guilty parent in adulthood when they gain perspective and see for themselves what that parent did to them.

As such, think twice before involving your children in your divorce.

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Eric SolotoffEric 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 is resident in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland and Morristown, New Jersey offices though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or esolotoff@foxrothschild.com.

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Recently I posted about questioning whether your own attorney knows what he is doing and, as part of that question, whether the attorney knows the law surrounding your divorce or related family law matter.  A related question worth discussion is whether you know and understand the law and how it impacts your case.

With busy schedules filled to the brim with jobs, childcare responsibilities, and other daily stressors, I do not want my clients to undertake the unnecessary burden of purchasing a family law textbook and learning its contents front to back.  I do, however, encourage my clients to at least become familiar with the main points of the law.  For instance, most clients seem to know the general principles of equitable distribution in New Jersey – i.e., most assets, under the law, are subject to a 50/50 distribution absent any other factors, credits, or details; most clients also know, and readily offer, his or her awareness of New Jersey’s permanent alimony option. 

It was a recent incident that brought this issue to my attention.  During a first meeting with the parties and a custody expert in a very acrimonious matter, the expert asked one spouse whether her lawyers had explained to her the law of relocation.  She answered "no," despite relocation being one of the primary issues in the case and her desired result.  The expert then asked if her attorneys had made her aware of the Supreme Court of New Jersey’s decision in Baures v. Lewis, and the Appellate Division’s decision in O’Connor v. O’Connor, each of which are seminal cases on the issue of relocation.  The wife answered "no" to each.  Our client, by contrast, was aware of these cases because we took the time to advise him of the cases, and explain their underlying principles.  The expert then directed the wife to ask her attorneys to explain to her the law and those cases.

What is the lesson to be learned here?  If your client is going to spend tens of thousands of dollars, if not more, litigating an issue, make sure that he or she understands the law.  If there is a lack of understanding, or lack of awareness, then how is he or she supposed to know whether their position is reasonable, whether it is worth litigating over, and whether to settle?  An informed client better knows the risks, perils, pitfalls, and chances of success, no matter what area of law is involved.  In family law, where the stakes are often higher and more emotional, it is even more critical. 

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Robert Epstein is an associate 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.   

An interesting decision on the issue of support modifications came down last week from the Appellate Division in the unpublished (not precedential) matter of Schechter v. Shechter.  There, the husband in 2004 agreed via settlement to pay child support and 12 years of limited duration alimony.  In July 2010, he filed a motion to modify his support obligations on the basis of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances (he had been unemployed since March 2009).  

The motion judge denied the parties’ request for oral argument and, in ruling "on the papers," added several paragraphs to the husband’s proposed form of order.  As part of the order, the judge, among other forms of relief, temporarily reduced the husband’s child support obligation due to a finding of changed circumstances, but then denied his request to modify his alimony obligation. 

The husband appealed, arguing that the trial judge erred by (1) denying his request to modify alimony despite finding that changed circumstances warranted a temporary reduction in child support; (2) denying the parties’ request for oral argument; (3) failing to make requisite findings of fact and conclusions of law; and (4) failing to conduct a plenary hearing. 

The Appellate Division reversed and remanded the matter because the motion judge failed to make proper findings of fact and conclusions of law.  As a result, the Appellate Division was unable to reconcile why the motion judge modified child support based upon a finding of changed circumstances, while also denying a modification of alimony.

Notably, while the husband was successful on having the matter reversed and remanded, it was a hollow victory because the motion judge had since retired.  The matter, as a result, was remanded to an entirely new trial judge for a "fresh look," especially in light of the parties’ "possibly evolving financial circumstances."  Thus, while the prior motion judge had made a finding of changed circumstances (at least as it applied to child support), the new motion judge would no longer be bound by such a finding.  The husband, by unfortunate result, was essentially left with no choice but to start over.  While we have discussed on several occasions the issues raised by denying oral argument and failing to make proper findings of fact and conclusions of law, the result in this matter seemed particularly inequitable to one party under somewhat unique circumstances beyond his control.

Harassment under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act can take on many forms, one of which, under a given set of facts and circumstances, can involve an individual placing a victim in fear of losing her job.  Recently we handled a matter where the defendant was contacting the victim’s employer and threatening to tell the employer very private details about the victim’s personal life.  Whether the victim would have actually lost her job was one thing, since, more importantly, she had a reasonable fear based on the defendant’s harassment that it would occur.

The facts in J.J. v. J.M. were relatively similar (as each case carries its own details and nuances), as the Appellate Division affirmed in this unpublished (not precedential) case that the defendant’s actions in placing his former girlfriend in fear of losing her job constituted harassment meriting issuance of a Final Restraining Order. 

Continue Reading HARASSMENT AFFIRMED WHERE FORMER GIRLFRIEND FEARED SHE WOULD LOSE HER JOB

Following on the heels of Melissa Ruvolo’s blog entry discussing the need for detailed proofs to fulfill one’s threshold burden required to modify support, the Appellate Division’s unpublished (not precedential) decision in Bonaventura v. Bonaventura tells the tale of a supporting spouse who unsuccessfully (and surprisingly) tried to reduce his alimony obligation after losing his job in the financial industry.  With the Dow having dropped 500 points yesterday as widespread economic jitters continue three years after the bottom fell out of the economy, and unemployment rates soaring at around 19%, job losses, especially in the financial industry are to sure to continue. 

With that, our jobs as matrimonial practitioners will continue to require creativity to convince courts that a given case is different from the "run of the mill" Lepis applications and, at the very least, necessitates a period of discovery and subsequent plenary hearing.  Bonaventura reveals, however, that not only is each case fact-specific, but also each trial judge can rule differently on a similar factual scenario.

Continue Reading ON THE OTHER HAND, MODIFYING SUPPORT CAN BE A STEEP HILL TO CLIMB

Lately, it seems as if everywhere I turn I am representing a party in a domestic violence matter, whether in relation to or separate from an ongoing divorce matter.  With these recent experiences fresh in my mind, I thought I would take the time to blog about the lawyer’s role in representing a defendant in such matters.  While it is easy to sympathize with the victim, oftentimes it is the defendant who is falsely accused or caught up in a situation where the victim is trying to get a "leg up" over the other party in the context of a divorce. On of our prior post entited the The Abuse and Misuse of the Domestic Violence Statute, published almost 2 years ago, is perhaps our most commented on post.

Whether the person is the victim or defendant, each passing moment is critical in the compressed time between the filing of the domestic violence complaint and the final hearing to determine whether a temporary restraining order should be converted to a final (permanent) restraining order.  I paraphrase one recent client’s opinion as to his wife obtaining a TRO against him – with one call by her to the police, his entire life began crumbling before his eyes as his family and career had been put at risk.  

Continue Reading ONE APPROACH TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION OF A DEFENDANT IN A DOMESTIC VIOLENCE MATTER

The protections afforded by New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act are deliberately liberal for the benefit of abuse victims. Those protections, however, have seemingly expanded to an even greater degree under a new published (precedential) decision from the Appellate Division released on January 26, 2011. In S.Z. v. M.C., the Appellate Division ruled that an adult male visitor who resided at the plaintiff’s home for less than a year constituted a “household member” as defined by the Act.

Briefly, the plaintiff had testified that defendant, who was a bookkeeper for plaintiff’s business in need of a place to live, resided in plaintiff’s home with plaintiff, his wife and three children from October 2008 through April 2009. Plaintiff claimed that defendant was engaging in acts of harassment and stalking against him under the Act, adding, important to the Court’s conclusion, that he was also not in a “dating relationship” with defendant, as that term is defined under the Act.

The trial court declined to exercise jurisdiction, finding that defendant was not a “household matter” under the Act because he was akin to a mere “social guest” of a “transient,” rather than permanent status in plaintiff’s household. As a result, the trial court concluded that the parties lacked the “familial, emotional and financial ties” between them that would merit the Act’s protection.

The Appellate Division disagreed, finding that defendant was a “household member” under the Act, similar to a college dormitory suitemate, which was found to be a household member in another matter relied upon by the Court in its decision. Rather than focusing on the duration of time the parties spent together, which the Court found sufficient nevertheless, the Court more notably focused on the “qualities and characteristics” of the parties’ relationship, and how such qualities and characteristics made plaintiff susceptible to defendant’s abuse. 

The Appellate Court’s decision suggests that other individuals one would previously not consider to be “household members” would now fall under the Act, such as nannies, au pairs, housekeepers, and in-home care providers. Thus, the Act’s broad protections for the benefit of victims have appeared to expand even further than before.

A divorce action generally results in a Final Judgment of Divorce which dissolves the bonds  of matrimony – including the part about "in good times and bad . . . "  This however, is not always the case.  Certainly if two people have children together their relationship with each other, although different, will have to continue if they are to co-parent.  But what about a long term marriage at the end of which a Judge orders permanent alimony?  Through permanent alimony the financial relationship of two individuals live on "in good times and bad."

In a recent appellate division case, Knips v. Knips, the Court reversed the trial Court’s determination regarding alimony where, after thirty-four years of marriage and an award of $175 per week in permanent alimony, the plaintiff could not afford to lead a "legitimate middle-class" lifestyle.  As the Court in Knips states, "alimony is intended to allow the dependent spouse to live at the marital standard of living, not just ‘bare survival’" [emphasis added].  The idea is that If the parties enjoyed a middle-class lifestyle during the marriage, then the parties should be able to enjoy a similar lifestyle after the marriage.  If one party was mainly responsible for financially supporting that lifestyle, then a Court will likely order that they continue to be financially responsible (in the form of alimony payments).  And, if among other factors, the marriage was long enough then then Court will order that this financial responsibility be permanent (i.e. permanent alimony). 

Continue Reading Permanent Alimony: In Good Financial Times and In Bad