When parties get divorced, usually neither party is totally satisfied. The goal in formulating an agreement is to have an end result that is fair under the law.

A lot of work can go into a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), also known as a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), because it is the framework by which parties will be guided post-divorce. The parties may not be thrilled with the PSA, but if a party discovers that they entered into the agreement due to fraud, there is a way to right the wrong.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division stated that upon the discovery of fraud, and the ensuing motion to vacate the parties’ PSA, the moving party was entitled to discovery and a plenary hearing.

If you have been harassed or feel threatened by your spouse, a family member, or another person, you have a right to seek a restraining order that prevents the person from coming near you. These legal tools, unfortunately, can come in handy in divorce and related cases. New Jersey’s Superior Court recently explained some of the issues that judges consider when a person subject to a restraining order tries to get the order lifted.

wedding ringHusband and Wife had two kids before they divorced in October 1999. A court granted Wife a temporary restraining order against Husband nine years later. That decision was based largely on a six-page email that Husband had sent to some 30 family members and friends. Husband’s email was apparently in response to Wife’s claims that he wasn’t paying child support and was a bad parent. Although the exact statements made in the email were unclear, a trial judge found that the message was intended to harass and threaten Wife. As a result, the judge granted Wife’s request for a restraining order.

A court held a brief oral argument in 2014, when Husband went back to court and asked that the restraining order be lifted. The judge noted that Wife opposed scrapping the restraining order. Although the judge didn’t allow anyone to testify, she also said Wife’s filing in opposition to Husband’s request clearly showed that Wife still feared him. Wife spoke at this point in the proceedings, saying “Yes, I do.” The judge ultimately held that Husband’s request was “too early” and “not warranted at this point.”

Continue reading

A spouse in a divorce case has certain responsibilities, including presenting evidence in support of his or her positions on the issues and showing up in court. A recent case out of Connecticut is a good example of what can happen when a person doesn’t meet those responsibilities. Although this case happened in another state, it is a good example for people considering a divorce in New Jersey. It’s also a reminder of just how important it is to fully consider the terms of a settlement agreement – with the help of a lawyer – before signing your name on the line.

binocularsHusband and Wife divorced in October 2009, following some 17 years of marriage in which the couple had two children. They entered into a divorce settlement agreement, resolving custody, property division, and other issues. Husband agreed, as part of the settlement, to pay Wife $400 per month in alimony. The agreement also stated that those payments could be modified or terminated in the event that Wife cohabitated with another person. Husband also agreed to transfer his interest in the family home to Wife, on the condition that she be responsible for paying the mortgage, taxes, and maintenance and repair expenses.

Wife moved from Connecticut to New Jersey and filed for bankruptcy in 2013. When Husband filed a motion for contempt, arguing that she had failed to pay the mortgage and other property expenses, Wife said she simply didn’t have the money to do so. Husband also asked a Connecticut court to terminate his alimony payments, asserting that Wife was now living with another man.

Continue reading

Many couples beginning the divorce process are often concerned, and rightfully so, about how they will be able to maintain their “standard of living” once the single household is divided in two and doubling many expenses. How will they maintain the standard of living? Sometimes there is enough wealth and equity that the separation and divorce with have a minimal, if any, effect on the spending habits of the parties. On the other hand, quite often, what worked when the parties were together, cannot possibly be accomplished once they are apart.

In a recent written opinion by New Jersey Superior Court Judge Lawrence R. Jones, J.S.C., the Court addressed the issue of pendente lite alimony, and whether parties should be expected to maintain the marital standard of living.

In light of the recent amendments to New Jersey’s alimony statute – N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) – the Court held that 1) Retention of the “marital lifestyle” is not the sole criteria in pendente lite alimony analysis and 2) In many divorce cases, it is mathematically probable that following separation, neither party will be financially able to maintain the former “marital lifestyle.” Real numbers have to be used.

It’s almost back-to-school time and many area students rely on their parents to cover all of their college-related costs that remain after scholarships, grants, and loans. This can be a very stressful situation for kids and parents, particularly those in divorced families committed to contributing to their child’s college costs. There will be some parent who will decide that he/she is unhappy with that commitment and will often leave the child in a lurch while the two parents argue as to how the costs will be covered.

A recent unpublished New Jersey Appellate Division case has dealt with the parents’ obligations for the payment of college-related costs and expenses when one party has decided she doesn’t want to follow the terms of the parties’ Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). In Polcari v. Polcari, Docket No. A-3538-14, the Court not only evaluated the factors under Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982), and N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23, the Court found that a plenary hearing “was not necessary in light of the specified terms of the PSA and the certified financial information the parties had submitted.”

The Trial Court had allocated, by percentages, the amount each parent was to be responsible for based strictly on their respective incomes. The Appellate panel found that, considering the circumstances, the findings were fair and just.

The issue of cohabitation can be a tricky one for divorcing spouses in New Jersey. State law currently allows one former spouse to ask a court to terminate his or her obligation to pay alimony to the other spouse if that person cohabits with another person. In other words, the money may stop if the former spouse lives with a romantic partner in a relationship that’s similar to a marriage. Although that legal principle was recently criticized by two sitting members of the New Jersey Supreme Court, the state’s highest court nevertheless enforced an agreement between former spouses to stop alimony payments upon cohabitation.

wedding ringWhen Husband and Wife divorced in 2006, they signed a property settlement agreement (PSA) resolving issues like how the former spouses would divide their assets. They also agreed that Husband would pay Wife more than $1,300 per week in alimony. The PSA stated that the payments would continue until either spouse died or Wife remarried or cohabitated with another person.

Husband asked a court to terminate his alimony obligation roughly two years later, arguing that Wife was now living with another man. Wife acknowledged that she was in a committed relationship with the man for 28 months leading up to a trial on the issue. But she also asserted – and the court agreed – that the relationship had since ended. As a result, the trial court suspended Husband’s alimony obligation during the length of the relationship. It allowed him to pay Wife half of the regular amount of the alimony payments until he recouped the money paid while she was cohabitating with the man.

Continue reading

POSSESSION OF DRUGS

The statute for a violation of Driving While Under the Influence does not require identifying the amount of narcotic, hallucinogen or habit-producing drug required in order to establish a violation.  A police officer’s observations of the fact of intoxication is admissible.  The police officer’s opinion about cause of intoxication other than from alcohol consumption is not admissible.  This is because there is a general awareness of the signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication which is not the same as a drug impairment.

DRIVING WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL

If you want to get a child support or alimony order changed in New Jersey, you have to show that the circumstances have changed in a way that justifies the change. As the State’s Superior Court recently explained, judges are expected to compare the circumstances in place at the time the award was set to those in place at the time the request is made.

workersHusband and Wife divorced in 2012, following 11 years of marriage in which they had two kids. Husband was working as a loan officer at the time, bringing in about $24,000 per year. He was ordered to pay $231 a month in combined alimony and child support. That order was still in place two years later, when Husband went back to court and asked a judge to modify the arrangement. He said he’d been laid off due to an economic downturn and was unable to find a new job. Husband also said he’d lost his professional license as a result of poor credit and had lost money in real estate investments.

The trial court denied Husband’s motion to modify the support order. The judge said she wasn’t inclined to change the order so soon after an eight-day trial on the issue. She also found that Husband remained “capable of working” and “doing more.” As a result, the judge said Husband had not proved a sufficient change in circumstances to justify reducing the support award. Although Husband argued in a motion for reconsideration that Wife was living with her new boyfriend and had the capacity to make more money, the court said he didn’t present enough evidence to prove those claims.

Continue reading

When a couple with kids decides to divorce, they often consider how they might pay for their children’s potential college costs down the road. In New Jersey, a parent’s responsibility to pay child support and college expenses past the child’s 18th birthday is standard. However, As New Jersey’s Superior Court recently explained, the law requires courts to follow specific procedures in considering the arrangement.

school kidsHusband and Wife divorced in 2002, following more than nine years of marriage. They entered into a settlement agreement as part of the divorce, under which the couple agreed to share legal and physical custody of their two daughters. They also initially agreed that Husband would pay Wife about $140 a month in child support, and they later agreed to kick that amount up to $800 per month in 2009. The agreement further provided that each former spouse would be equally on the hook for their kids’ net college expenses, or the expenses after any available financial assistance like loans, grants, and scholarships.

The former spouses wound up back in court after a dust up over their oldest daughter’s college expenses in the fall of 2012. Daughter was awarded an extensive financial assistance package from her school, but additional loans were also required to make up the difference. A trial court granted in part Husband’s request to modify the child support arrangement. The court found that a certain PLUS loan being used to finance part of Daughter’s schooling was only available to parents and that Husband and Wife were jointly responsible for paying it.

Continue reading

New Jersey divorce cases often raise complicated issues about how to divide property and calculate income. The Superior Court recently handled.  The Court was called on to decide whether certain payments one spouse received from his employer after a divorce should count as bonus money to be shared with his ex-wife under the terms of a settlement agreement. The answer? It depends.

writing checkHusband and Wife were married for 19 years and had four kids before divorcing in 2012. They eventually reached a settlement agreement, under which they resolved child support, alimony, and other issues. Husband agreed as part of the deal to give Wife 30 percent of any bonuses as supplemental alimony. He also agreed to pay an additional two percent of each bonus in child support.

Wife later went back to court to enforce the agreement. She claimed she was entitled to 32 percent of certain compensation that Husband received beyond his salary. Husband explained that he was let go from his job in 2013. He said the additional money wasn’t bonus payments but instead payments for severance and stock options in the company. He also submitted documentation from his former employer to back up this argument.

Continue reading

Contact Information