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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.
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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
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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.


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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.


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Two Department of Defense appropriations bills before the House and Senate will, if enacted, rewrite the law governing division of military pensions upon divorce by revoking the power granted to states to divide military pensions and cutting back the share which a former spouse will receive.

For example, assume that John Doe retires as a sergeant major (E-9) from the Army after thirty years of service. He and Jane Doe were divorced ten years ago. Since John and Jane were married for twenty years of service, under the current law Jane would receive 50% of 2/3 (20/30) of John’s actual retirement pay.


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The Social Security system permits a divorced person who is eligible for social security benefits to receive the greater of (a) a calculation based on 100% of his/her earned benefit amount, or (b) provided the parties were married for at least ten years, the claimant has not remarried, and the spouse is at least 62 years old, a calculation based on 50% of his/her ex-spouse’s earned benefit amount. This award does not negatively affect the ex-spouse—he/she will still collect 100% of his/her earned benefit.

New Jersey law generally holds that the marital partnership terminates upon a filing for divorce; however, the parties do in fact remain legally married until the subsequent entry of a Judgment of Divorce. For Social Security purposes the latter rule applies—the date of the judgement will be used to calculate benefit awards and adjustments.


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Many divorce cases include a determination of the value of a business for purposes of equitable distribution between the parties. Whether the business in question is a sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation, establishing a sound and supportable value is essential.

The first step is to engage a skilled valuation analyst. The second and equally important step is to determine the appropriate level of service to be provided; that is, whether the analysis should be, in technical parlance, a “calculation of value” or a “full valuation.”


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