Divorce Attorneys

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.

Family Focused Legal Solutions dedicates itself 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:

  1. Child custody, which is broken down into physical custody and legal custody.
  2. Support and maintenance, which consists of alimony and child support; and
  3. Equitable distribution, which is the division of assets and debts;

Child Custody

Child Custody is broken down into two parts — legal custody and physical custody.

Legal 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/Residential Custody

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.

For a more detailed explanation of New Jersey custody matters, please visit our Child Custody page.

Support and Maintenance

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.

Alimony

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:

  • The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither having a great entitlement to that standard of living than the other;
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills and employability of the parties;
  • The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
  • The parental responsibilities for children;
  • The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
  • The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
  • The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
  • The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
  • The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment;
  • The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
  • Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.

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.

Child Support

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:

  • The parents' respective incomes from all sources;
  • Alimony paid or received by either parent;
  • The number of overnights each parent has with the child(ren);
  • The child's share of health insurance premiums;
  • The cost of work-related childcare; and
  • Whether a parent is also supporting another child or children from another relationship.

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:

  • Needs of the child;
  • Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
  • All sources of income and assets of each parent;
  • Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;
  • Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;
  • Age and health of the child and each parent;
  • Income, assets and earning ability of the child;
  • Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others;
  • Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and
  • Any other factors the court may deem relevant.

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

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:

  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • The income or property brought to the marriage by each party;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage;
  • Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning an arrangement of property distribution;
  • The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
  • The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage or civil union;
  • The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
  • The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, or the property acquired during the civil union as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
  • The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
  • The present value of the property;
  • The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence and to use or own the household effects;
  • The debts and liabilities of the parties;
  • The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse, partner in a civil union couple or children;
  • The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
  • Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.

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, as our attorneys 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. Our attorneys 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. Our attorneys 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 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 attorneys are 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.