Changing American Families

Changing social norms and biological advances in reproductive technology have changed the face of the family, in turn creating legal consequences and implications.

Families formed by non-traditional marriages, same-sex couples, and individuals intending to parent alone may use assisted reproductive technology. Assisted reproductive technology and adoption can help create families who may not be biologically related.

Continue Reading Tri-Parenting Arrangements and Custody

Baures v. Lewis Standard for Relocation

For just over 16 years, Baures v. Lewis was the standard in New Jersey for allowing a parent to permanently relocate out-of-state with a child against the other parent’s wishes. N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 provides that a parent seeking to relocate and remove a child from New Jersey without the other parent’s consent must show “cause.”

Pursuant to Baures v. Lewis, a parent designated as the Parent of Primary Residence (PPR) could show cause to relocate the children out of state by: 1) demonstrating a good-faith reason for the move, and 2) that the move would “not be inimical to the child’s interests.” The New Jersey Supreme Court has now abandoned that standard in favor of a best interest of the child standard.

Continue Reading New Standard for Child Relocation Applications in New Jersey

Traditional fault divorce is generally viewed as a time consuming, expensive, and very public way to end a marriage. Couples who once shared homes, finances, and families suddenly find themselves as adversaries, fighting to divide the life they built together. Finances, and families, are often shattered by divorce. Divorce arbitration has been used for many years to resolve various legal issues.

Divorce attorneys are increasingly viewing arbitration as a viable alternative to a court divorce trial. Divorce arbitration can help couples avoid a time-consuming, expensive, public trial in return for the efficiency, privacy, cost-effectiveness, and informality of arbitration.

Continue Reading Are There Alternatives to Traditional Divorce?

In a case of first impression in New Jersey, the mother of a 16- year-old minor has been granted the right to legally change his first name from Veronica to Trevor. The court’s decision in the matter of Sacklow v. Betts was approved for publication on June 28, 2017 which gives it enhanced status in the legal community.

Because the case involves a minor child and his parents share legal custody – and disagree to some extent as to whether he should be permitted to change his name from Veronica to Trevor – the court exercised its role as parens patriae. In doing so, the court made its own findings of fact to determine to whether the name change is in Trevor’s best interests.

Continue Reading Can a Transgender Minor Legally Change His or Her Name?

Many people contemplating divorce do not realize that if they are unable to reach a settlement, the result is a full trial before a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey.

It is critical to understand what occurs during a divorce trial – and what does not occur – and to be prepared.

First, a trial is not is not like a television drama or reality show. It is a highly structured event, subject to state laws and local rules. Witnesses testify and documents such as financial statements, appraisals, and other records are entered into evidence as exhibits, subject to the New Jersey Rules of Evidence. Not all evidence or testimony is admissible as evidence at trial. The most common example is hearsay testimony; that is, testimony concerning a statement made outside of court that is being offered for the truth of the statement. Continue Reading What Happens if a Divorce Goes to Trial?

Divorce arbitration is an effective method of dispute resolution which has been recognized by the New Jersey Supreme Court as an alternative to conventional litigation. Given the severe backlog in the New Jersey court system and the difficulty obtaining consecutive hearing dates and receiving timely decisions, more divorcing parties are turning to arbitration to resolve their disputes. As a certified divorce arbitrator, I will describe what arbitration is (and isn’t) and explain how it functions.

First, it is important to distinguish arbitration from mediation. While mediation involves the assistance of a third party “neutral” to encourage and facilitate a resolution, arbitration is akin to litigation on an expedited basis. In other words, at the conclusion of an arbitration hearing the arbitrator renders a decision just as would a judge hearing the case.

Second Continue Reading Divorce Arbitration – How it Works and Why it’s Right

In a case of first impression entitled D.W. v. M.W., the Hon. Lawrence Jones, J.S.C. (Ocean County), has warned parents that their right to attend their child’s Little League games was in potential jeopardy due to “inappropriate public criticism and disparagement of coach decisions.”

The case, which has not concluded with a formal legal opinion, brings to attention a pattern of conduct referred to by Judge Jones as Little League Parent Syndrome. The “syndrome” goes beyond Little League and has in fact reared its head in a variety of children’s sporting events—sometimes with devastating results.

Continue Reading Little League Parent Syndrome

As some readers may know, our Social Security system permits a divorced person (once eligible for benefits in the normal course of events) to receive the greater of (a) the amount he/she would be entitled to in their own name or (b) 50% of their ex-spouse’ benefit provided that the parties had been married for at least ten years and the person has not remarried.

Although New Jersey law generally holds that the marital partnership terminates upon a filing for divorce, the parties remain legally married until the subsequent entry of a Judgment of Divorce.

Continue Reading Ex-Spouse May be Able to Maximize Expected Social Security Benefits after Divorce

It is a common misconception that children automatically emancipate upon reaching the age of eighteen in New Jersey. In reality, there is no specific age when a child emancipates and child support payments terminate.

In fact, New Jersey law is clear that such findings are always fact-sensitive based on the circumstances of each case.

Continue Reading The Termination of Child Support Law—Benefit or Burden?