This article is intended to give general information only. It is not intended to give legal advice to any person on a specific case or controversy, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are facing a family law problem, you should consult an experienced family law attorney.
NEW JERSEY FAMILY LAW LAWYER
Serving Atlantic and Cape May Counties
Are you going through a divorce or thinking about filing for divorce? Are you experiencing marital difficulties and want to know what to expect if you decide to file for divorce? This article is intended to give you some practical tips on how to survive the divorce process in New Jersey with a minimum of stress and anxiety.
Tip 1: Hire an experienced family law attorney. In today’s economy, the cost of hiring an attorney to handle your divorce may seem daunting, but professional legal guidance is invaluable to making sure you obtain a divorce judgment which protects your rights (and even more importantly the rights of your children). I’ve heard lots of stories from people who just wanted to get the divorce over with, and ended up giving up rights to marital property and support to which they were legally entitled. An attorney can help expedite the divorce process and still make sure your rights are protected. With an attorney’s help, most divorces are finalized within six (6) months, even complicated cases involving child custody disputes, business valuation issues, self-employed spouses, real property, etc.
Tip 2: Consider divorce mediation. For some divorcing spouses, the separation process is amicable and the parties just need help negotiating a final settlement agreement. A qualified and experienced New Jersey divorce mediator can help divorcing spouses to negotiate a fair and binding settlement agreement. A divorce mediator is familiar with New Jersey family law and how judges normally handle custody and parenting time issues, alimony disputes, child support calculations, equitable distribution issues, etc. A divorce mediator cannot make decisions for the parties, but can help parties reach an agreement which is consistent with New Jersey family law, and is fair and reasonable to both parties. Divorce mediation is generally faster and less costly than traditional divorce litigation.
Tip 3: Understand your rights. When going through a divorce, it is important to consider your economic future and how you will support yourself (and your children) after the divorce. Depending on various factors, you may be entitled to spousal support (also referred to as alimony). Even in short term marriages, you may be entitled to “limited duration” alimony. The amount and duration of alimony is dependent on numerous factors, including the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of the parties, the child care responsibilities of each of the parties’ during the marriage, the disparity in income between the parties and various other factors. Also, any property acquired during the marriage (or in anticipation of the marriage) is considered marital property and is subject to equitable distribution regardless of how the property is legally owned or titled. For example, if a spouse establishes an investment account during the marriage and funds the account solely through his/her earnings, this account may be subject to equitable distribution even if the account is held in only one spouse’s name.
Tip 4: Have reasonable expectations. Divorce can be one of the most stressful experiences in a person’s lifetime. Psychologists have compared the stress caused by a divorce to the death of a parent or loved one. When people are experiencing high levels of stress, it is sometimes difficult to maintain reasonable expectations. Some parents insist that they want “sole” custody of the children because they cannot bear the thought of not seeing their children every day. But, the reality is sole custody is generally only granted in cases of documented physical or emotional abuse of the children. New Jersey’s custody statute specifically states “The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the public policy of this State to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy.” When going through a divorce, it is important to discuss with your attorney the likely outcome of your case, and to try to maintain reasonable expectations throughout your case.
Tip 5: Learn to communicate. If you have children, the divorce is NOT the end of your relationship with your ex-spouse. You will need to learn how to communicate with your ex-spouse about the children. If you are the custodial parent (also referred to as the parent of primary residence or “PPR”), you should communicate regularly with the non-custodial parent (Parent of Alternate Residence or “PAR”) regarding the children’s schooling, extra-curricular activities, doctor visits, etc. If you are the non-custodial parent, you should make sure to attend parent-teacher conferences, the children’s sporting events or other extracurricular activities, and share in the responsibility to take care of the children when they are home sick from school. The emotional and psychological well-being of the children can be severely impacted by a divorce. If you can communicate with your ex-spouse in a cooperative and civil manner, the impact of the divorce on the children will be minimized.
Tip 6: Be flexible. A custody or parenting time agreement does not need to be “written in stone.” Be respectful of your ex-spouse’s parenting time with the children and understand the importance that the children have a meaningful relationship with both parents and their extended families on both sides. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries, the birth of a new sibling are all important family events. Do not be too rigid in adhering to the parenting time schedule. Be flexible and do your best to make sure the children can participate in important family events on both sides of their family. Similarly, if your spouse wants to take the children to a Phillies baseball game or a play in New York during your parenting time, let him/her. In the long run, your children will appreciate your efforts in allowing them to spend time with the other parent, and will learn how to compromise and consider the needs of other people in their own lives.
If you are having marital difficulties or are thinking about filing for divorce, feel free to contact an experienced family law attorney at the Law Offices of Ford, Flower, Hasbrouck & Loefflad for a free initial consultation.
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