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Earlier this month, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and his wife Mackenzie announced their plans to divorce, setting off speculation as to what would occur with their estimated $138 billion in net worth.

From a first glance, you may assume that the Bezos divorce would be much more acrimonious and hard fought than a case involving the typical John and Jane Doe case as the thought may be that there is more to fight for financially.

However, wealth in these incredibly high net worth cases actually removes many of the most challenging issues in divorce like payment of legal and expert fees or trying to continue the lifestyle for both parties with insufficient income from both parties to same to occur. The world’s richest couple will not have these challenges.

Instead, high net worth divorces have a whole different set of challenges that middle-class families typically do not need to consider.

Continue Reading Amazon 2-Day Free Shipping to Serve Divorce Papers: The Bezos Divorce through the Lens of New Jersey Law

Many parents are confused in the midst of their divorce when the topic of “college contribution” comes into the conversation.

“My parents didn’t pay for my college expenses and I didn’t think I would have to pay for his (or hers)!”

In all likelihood, most people did not previously think of the possibility of being divorced, so it is not surprising that most people do not know how the courts deal with whether parents should contribute to their children’s college education costs and how they will be able to do so. New Jersey courts generally view college education as a necessity, and the trend in New Jersey is to require parents to pay the college costs for their children in line with their ability to do so.

This is surprising to many parents, especially if they paid their own way through college or other higher education themselves. I hear from many parents that they want their children to pay their way through for character building, or simply because the parent does not believe they can contribute and maintain their lifestyle. However, most divorced parents in New Jersey will be required to contribute to the costs of their children’s higher education regardless of their personal views.

Continue Reading College Contribution after Divorce

Social media surrounds almost all of us. Statistically speaking, over 70% of you reading this article are probably social media users, whether you utilize Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, MySpace, Google Plus, various dating websites, a combination of several of these, or numerous others. In this digital age where cell phones and tablet devices are so common place in everyday living, most with photo and video capturing capabilities, personal privacy has been extremely constricted, voluntarily or not. Continue Reading Safeguard Your Online Presence Before It’s Too Late

Filing the Complaint for Divorce often signifies the end of a marriage. It carries with it a certain stigma that the notion of love has gone and that a married couple will never be together again. However, it is not uncommon for parties in divorce to eventually reconcile and continue their marriage, whether because they did not want to get divorced before but felt forced in some way and/or they have decided to give the marriage another try.

 

Whatever the reason, reconciliation is possible, but parties should be wary of pitfalls that could ultimately hurt them if their attempt at reconciliation fails.

 

First, in many cases, the filing of the Complaint for Divorce is the date that, combined with the marriage date, is seen as the bookends of the marital period. Defining the marital period is very important, both for division of assets as well as for a support analysis.

 

If you and your spouse choose to attempt to reconcile after the Complaint was filed, the Complaint will be withdrawn. While this withdrawal is "without prejudice," meaning that you would not be precluded from later filing another Complaint for Divorce if needed, you may lose that cut-off date bookend and the marital period will be extended to the second Complaint. The consequences could be very detrimental.

 

The second issue, which is related to the first, is that sometimes a party wishes to inappropriately alter the various analyses in the divorce process under the guise of an attempt to reconcile. As stated above, if the Complaint for Divorce is withdrawn and the parties continue the marriage, the cut-off date for the marital period disappears.

 

However, this reconciliation in lieu of continuing the divorce litigation may also allow your spouse to avoid scrutiny while he/she inappropriately hides money or other assets, reduces or negates their income, or perform other actions in efforts to improve their outlook in the divorce. These actions, often referenced as "divorce planning," may lead to your ultimate detriment when you find out your spouse had no intentions in reconciliation after all, and you end up in a less advantageous position in the divorce.

 

When both parties are acting in good faith and wish to remain married for the right reasons, it could lead to success and happiness. However, you must be wary of the sad alternative.

 

Protect yourself! Often the signs of divorce planning may be visible to experienced counsel, and, if there is any doubt, you can be protected. A reconciliation agreement may be drafted which could counteract any potential negative consequences should your attempt at reconciliation go awry or if your spouse intends on "divorce planning."

 

Each agreement is unique and is specially tailored to the specific issues in each case. As with all blogs on this site, none of the above represents legal advice. If you encounter any of these issues, I strongly advise you to consult with experienced legal counsel immediately. 

Divorce often means very large changes in a parent’s life.  One day you are married and live with your children, the next day you are in the midst of a divorce. Invariably, the breakup of your marriage also means that the time you may have spent with your child or children as a family unit now must be split with your ex-spouse.  Suddenly, in most instances, you must come to terms with the fact that you will not see your children every day.

 

Unfortunately, this is unavoidable.  Children live with their parents as a family while their parents are married.  When parents can no longer live together, both parents must inevitably sacrifice time with their child or children so both parents can retain.

 

There is no magic formula or set schedule for each family.  Sharing parenting time with the children may be as creative as both parents can live with, and ultimately revolves around what is in the child or children’s best interests. 

 

The question is, “What schedule is in the child or children’s best interests?”  To gauge this question and to determine the schedule that is right for you and your children will depend on many factors, including the following:

  • The relationship of each parent with the child or children;
  • The history during the marriage of caring for the children (providing meals, helping with homework, getting them ready for bed, etc.);
  • Whether the child or children have special needs or disabilities and each parent’s ability to provide special care for the same;
  • Each parent’s work and social schedules and their availability to care for and spend time with the child or children;
  • The age of the child or children (children of all ages have differing needs);
  • The gender of the child and their stage of development;
  • The level of animosity and conflict between the parents and any history of parental alienation;
  • The distances between the residences of both parents;
  • Whether day care or other caregivers are available to care for the child or children when necessary;
  • The prevalence of any domestic violence, abuse, or neglect;
  • Cultural and religious factors;
  • Among many others.

 

The above list is far from exhaustive.  After all is said and done, you should know that a good parenting plan evolves with the child’s needs.  A plan that is best for your child now may not be in their best interest next year, or the year after that.   

 

In developing and modifying your particular parenting plan, both parents should always weigh the positives and negatives of all facts within their particular set of circumstances and decide what is best for their child or children.  After all, no matter the level of animosity in your marital situation, your child’s needs are paramount.

 

As with every blog on this site, none of the above constitutes legal advice in any way.  Should you find yourself in the midst of these issues, I strongly suggest you consult with experienced counsel to help you find the parenting plan that is right for your family. 

Child custody is commonly the most important issue to a parent going through a divorce.  However, when parties do not have children, and are going through a divorce (or break-up, if never married), what do they consider the most important issue to resolve?

 

Often, a beloved animal is considered part of the family, and a divorce or break-up results in questions about who gets to continue enjoying time with the pets.  Courts, and the laws around the country, often consider pets to be property. New Jersey is not much different.  Because pets are considered property, a pet’s worth may be determined by their market value.  If you are reading this article, I doubt you feel this is adequate.

 

Recently, New Jersey courts have taken a step in a different direction with its decision in Houseman v. Dare.

 

Doreen Houseman and Eric Dare were an engaged couple with a dog they jointly owned and cared for, Dexter.  When Houseman and Dare decided to separate and end their engagement, Houseman left their joint home and brought along Dexter.  However, the parties had an oral agreement that Dare would be entitled to spend periods of time with Dexter, and after which, he would return the pet to Houseman. 

 

The former couple utilized this arrangement for several years, and both parties consistently spent time with Dexter.  Under this arrangement, Houseman went on vacation in February 2007 and left Dexter with Dare.  However, upon her return, Dare refused to return Dexter to Houseman.  Houseman subsequently sued Dare for enforcement of their "shared custody" agreement.

 

The Trial Court held in favor of Dare, holding that Dexter had a value of $1,500 (what the parties paid for the dog years earlier), and that because Dexter was now in Dare’s possession, he would have to pay Houseman $1,500 for the dog.

 

Houseman appealed, and the Appellate Division reversed the Trial Court’s decision.  The Appellate Division held that pets were in an extraordinary class of property with "special subjective value", of which monetary compensation may not be adequate.

 

The case was then remanded to the Trial Court, where the judge reversed his initial decision and granted the parties, for all intents and purposes, a shared custody and parenting arrangement, which provided specific periods that Dexter would be in both parties’ care.  In making this decision, the judge took into consideration both Houseman and Dare’s relationships with Dexter, and the way they shared caring for the dog during their previous relationship.  Both parties equally cared for the dog, and, accordingly, they both were entitled to spend time with him.

 

So, while dogs and other pets are still considered property, in light of the Houseman case, it seems apparent that New Jersey at least recognizes the special value pets have to their owners that money cannot replace, unlike a coffee table, car, or home.

Either party in a post-judgment divorce action may make an application to modify alimony and/or child support based upon a perceived substantial change in circumstances.  The party seeking the modification has the ultimate burden of demonstrating that a change in circumstance has occurred which would warrant a modification or termination of that support obligation.  A reduction or lack of income is a prominent reason why litigants believe they are entitled to relief.  Courts often hold that persons are not entitled to a reduction or termination of their support obligation for two reasons:  The reduction or lack of employment (1) cannot be shown to be permanent in nature, and/or (2) was voluntary, at least in part.

Continue Reading The Effect of Social Security Disability Determinations on Child Support and Alimony