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The “D” word is a scary one. However, when considering the idea of a divorce, whether you are unhappy in your marriage, or your spouse has informed you that he or she is, giving into the urge to hide under the covers is a really, really bad idea. Knowledge is the fuel you need to power through this process—from the “I am thinking about it” stage to the “OMG I was just served divorce papers” stage.

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Despite the fact that family courts are trending towards making divorce filings public records, there are certain documents that should not, and cannot be disclosed. The most important of these are evaluations that are conducted in custody disputes.

A California appeals court recently ruled that the Los Angeles attorney representing singer Paul Anka’s ex-wife, Anna, in a custody battle acted “maliciously” and ” recklessly” when she disclosed information contained in a confidential custody evaluation from a prior case during a deposition.

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Towards the end of 2018, all talk was about the 2018 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and its changes to the treatment of alimony. The deductibility of alimony for payors (and the inclusion of alimony in income for the recipients) ended in 2018. There were rushes to the courthouse in order to complete divorces. Attorneys were burning the midnight oil to finish settlement agreements, and judges were staying late, often forgoing planned vacations in order to accommodate litigants who settled prior to the New Year.

Now that 2018 is over, it is time to focus on the other changes to the tax code which significantly impact family law cases. These were sometimes overlooked as the focus of the last 12 months was alimony. But the other changes in the law have equally, and in some cases more, important repercussions for families.

Mind you, this blog is in no way a substitute for sound advice from an accountant. It is, however, intended to open eyes to issues which should be raised in a family law case.

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In an environment of uncertainty for transgender individuals, New Jersey is on the forefront of creating laws which are aimed to support New Jersey’s transgender community. In July of 2018, Governor Phil Murphy signed a package of bills into law which make important changes to records of vital statistics which are effective February 1, 2019.

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I was in the middle of writing a blog about the 2018 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act and the non-alimony changes, when a friend of mine posted something on Facebook. This is friend who contracted a virus when we were in junior high school which left him in a wheelchair. Yet, he has always been one of the most upbeat and inspirational people I have ever known. He posted a list of 8 things to quit in 2019, and I realized it was the basis for my first post of the New Year. The tax laws will just have to wait.

The top 8 things to Quit in 2019, from a Family Lawyer’s Perspective:

Trying to please everyone: I think this is on the top of the list for a reason. It simply can’t be done, so stop trying! It’s impossible in the best of situations, and when a person is going through a divorce or other family law matter, the guilt of unsuccessfully trying to please everybody is simply going to drag you further into morass. Moreover, the reason it’s impossible even in the best of situations is that it’s not your responsibility to please everyone. It’s your responsibility to act fairly, listen to the other person’s perspective with an open mind, and be the best parent, son, daughter, former spouse or partner you can be.

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Credit Card Miles and Points in DivorceIt is well known that when parties divorce, there will be an equitable distribution of the marital assets and debts that the parties acquired during the marriage. Many people also know that it rarely matters whose name that the asset or debt was acquired in.

I cannot stress enough that the preparation of a financial statement, or a Case Information Statement, is perhaps the most important step of the entire divorce process. Getting bank balances and mortgage payoff statements is easy, and tasks that no one thinks twice about. However, there are other assets, or benefits in a marriage that are easily overlooked, and can result in an inequity to a spouse if not considered.

Most of us have a credit card (or two, or three) that accumulate miles which can be traded in for airline tickets, hotel points, or some ability to trade points for something of value.

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The world seemingly resolves around our credit scores. The difference between a good, a fair, and a bad credit score can make a significant difference of hundreds of dollars in monthly payments, and in some cases, being accepted or rejected for loans. Credit is an oft overlooked issue in divorce cases. A positive credit rating is critical to establish a new residence, purchase vehicles, and start a new, single life.

In some instances, the actions of one party can have the effect of damaging the credit rating of the other. This often happens in the context of one party failing to pay the mortgage on the home or other joint responsibilities. This can be due to financial stress of a divorce, such as maintaining two residences, or as a result of intentional, malicious actions of a party.

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College and Divorce in NJIt’s college application time and parents across the state are praying for the essay fairy to arrive and save them. Having gone through it twice, I am sympathetic to all of those who are now going through what is a rite of indoctrination in parenting. Then, just when you think you get a break, now you have to figure out how to pay for it!

Even though those acceptance letters won’t be in the mail until April (unless your student is applying early action, or to a school with rolling admissions), it’s not too soon to start thinking about it. This takes on a whole other level of stress when you are divorced or separated from your child’s other parent.

New Jersey law clearly provides that a divorced or separated parent’s obligation extends to higher education. Unlike our neighbor to the west, support does not stop after high school when a child has the capacity to attend college, or a trade school. Not only is there an obligation to contribute towards college, child support does not end when your child goes off to the dorms. It may change, but it does not end.

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It’s hard to believe that summer is over and I’m already following behind school buses on my way to work. Believe it or not, while fall has barely started, and it’s still almost 80 degrees outside, winter and the holidays are just around the corner. If you don’t believe me, just walk into your local CVS and see all the holiday displays!

Fall also means one other thing: now is the time to start thinking about holiday parenting time and making sure that you and your ex are “good” on the schedule. Most divorced or separated parents do not realize how much lead time is necessary to have a dispute decided by a judge in the event a resolution is not reached between the parents or caregivers. That’s why it’s time to start thinking about these issues now rather than waiting until the end of November, right before Thanksgiving.

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