Deciding whether to move forward with a divorce is a huge step. It can be overwhelming, stressful, and mentally exhausting. There are so many things to consider — finances, assets, liabilities, and most importantly, what will happen to your children when you get divorced. The divorce attorney team at Family Focused Legal Solutions dedicates themselves to positioning our clients and their families for long-term stability after their divorce is finalized. In doing so, we draw on our years of legal and life experiences to accomplish our clients' objectives in an effective, efficient manner.
There are three main parts to a divorce:
Child Custody is broken down into two parts — legal custody and physical custody.
When you have legal custody of your child, you are responsible for making all major decisions regarding your child’s life. These include, but are not limited to, decisions about your child’s health, education, religion, and general welfare. Generally, separated parents will share joint legal custody of their child, meaning you both have equal decision-making power. In very rare circumstances, a court will grant sole legal custody to one parent.
Physical custody (sometimes referred to as residential custody) refers to where the child resides a majority of the time. The parent who has custody of the child more than 50% of the time is considered the “Parent of Primary Residence” and the other parent is considered the “Parent of Alternate Residence.” The most important factor in considering where a child will reside is the child’s best interests. The courts now lean towards an equal parenting time schedule for both parents so long as it is in the best interest of the child. In these circumstances, there is no Parent of Primary Residence.
A Family Focused Legal Solutions divorce attorney will guide you through the custody process. For a more detailed explanation of New Jersey custody matters, please visit our Child Custody page.
One of the biggest questions you may have when contemplating a divorce is how much support you may have to pay, or be eligible to receive. When going through a divorce, the income you had to maintain one household must now be utilized to maintain two households, which can be a difficult transition.
Support and maintenance consist of two parts – alimony and child support. Alimony is support that one spouse pays to the other spouse for their own support, whereas child support is payments made by one parent to the other in order to help cover the cost of the child’s expenses.
We are often asked how alimony is calculated in New Jersey. Unlike child support (which we will detail below), New Jersey does not have a set formula for calculating alimony. Rather, alimony is determined by analyzing the following 14 factors under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23:
Many people are surprised to learn that, subject to very few exceptions, marital fault does not play a role in the determination of alimony.
Because every case is different and every family is different, some factors deserve greater weight in particular cases than others. The most commonly considered factors tend to be the duration of the marriage, the disparity in the parties' incomes, the age of the parties, and the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. A Family Focused Legal Solutions divorce attorney will guide you through the process.
Child support in New Jersey is determined by a formula utilized by all attorneys and judges, called the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. Over the years, the formula has become so detailed and comprehensive that almost everyone uses a software program to perform the calculations rather than attempting to do it by hand.
The figures that must be included in a child support calculation include:
In some circumstances, the Child Support Guidelines will not apply. Some examples of times the Child Support Guidelines will not apply are when the child is living away at college or the parents’ joint net incomes is in excess of $187,200 per year. The court can also make a determination that the Child Support Guidelines do not apply based on the facts and circumstances of your case. When the Child Support Guidelines do not apply, the following factors are considered to determine a child support award:
A parent is obligated to continue to support their child until the child is deemed emancipated. Emancipation occurs when the child is considered to be outside the sphere of influence of their parents. The most common emancipation events are graduation from high school without attendance at post-secondary education, graduation from a four year college, marriage, living away from the home of either parent, or joining the military.
Equitable distribution is the division of marital assets and liabilities. Dividing marital assets and liabilities is a very complex process that will have a substantial impact on your finances now and going forward.
There are various factors the court considers when equitably distributing assets. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 provides that the court must consider the following when dividing marital assets:
In New Jersey, marital assets and liabilities are divided in an equitable fashion. Equitable distribution does not mean that all property is simply divided 50-50. Rather, the judge will determine what is fair and equitable under the law. When determining the equitable distribution of marital property, the first step is to classify property as marital property or separate property.
Examples of separate property are premarital assets, gifts from third parties, and inheritances. However, your divorce attorney will explain to you, the distinction between marital and separate property is often clouded by the details of a particular case. This is particularly true when property that would have otherwise been considered separate property and, therefore, exempt from equitable distribution is "commingled" into a marital asset.
The next step is to determine the value of the marital property. When parties have substantial or unique assets, such as a family-owned or closely held company, multiple homes, stock holdings or other executive compensation, this step can be quite challenging and you may need to get an expert involved to value the property. Your divorce attorney will work with experts as necessary to establish the correct value of all marital assets to provide you with the information you need to reach a resolution.
The final step is to equitably divide all marital property. Your divorce attorney team will explain and help you understand the legal options and strategies available to you. In doing so, we make it our job to advise our clients candidly and frankly as to which options, in our professional opinion, best protect their rights and further their individual goals. We can provide this high level of individually tailored legal advice because we have dedicated our entire practice to family law.
We recognize that most of our clients are going through a difficult transition. At our law firm, we strive to make the legal process as painless as possible. Our lawyers will empathetically and compassionately advise you regarding all of your legal options so we can reach a strategy that works best for you and your family.
Our purpose and goal during our representation is not just to help you obtain a divorce, but also to arm you with the knowledge, protection and confidence to peacefully navigate the next chapter of your life with as little unnecessary conflict as possible.
Our divorce attorney team is here to help guide you through the New Jersey divorce process to ensure you are protected. For assistance with your divorce matter, we invite you to contact Family Focused Legal Solutions online or schedule an initial consultation by calling us at 973-993-9960. Our firm serves the greater part of North and Central Jersey including but not limited to Morris County, Union County, Passaic County, Somerset County, Bergen County, and Sussex County. All communications are strictly confidential.