During a divorce, many topics are covered in the Marital Settlement Agreement, and many more when the divorcing couple have children together. This can include child support as well as future college contributions. Depending on the agreement, the divorcing parties may specifically determine the percentages that each will pay for college costs, or will—if the child or children are young—defer setting any percentages until the child is in their senior year of high school. Within these agreements, there is often language that stipulates the children are required to apply for any available financial aid, grants and/or loans. However, does this mean children must be forced to take out loans for an obligation that is intended to part of their parents’ obligation?

A recent New Jersey Appellate Division opinion tackled this complicated question in the matter of M.F.W. v. G.O. In the case, the parties divorced in 2003 when their daughter was 5 years old, and their settlement included an agreement to pay for college and included language requiring that the daughter “…shall apply for all loans, grants, aid and scholarships available to her, the proceeds of which shall be first applied to college costs.”

Continue Reading Can College Loans Be Required In a Marital Settlement Agreement?

The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court has affirmed a Domestic Violence Restraining Order which had been levied against a husband in the midst of a divorce. The decision, captioned, E.D.B. v. D.S. for privacy reasons, came about when the wife discovered the husband had placed an iPad in their shared home office and an iPhone under his bed in order to monitor his wife’s activities when he was not home. The couple was in the process of a divorce prior to this discovery, but was still living together in the same house with their children.

Continue Reading Appellate Division Affirms Stalking with iPad in Restraining Order

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