Author: Stephanie Frangos-Hagan
As part of the divorce process, spouses must resolve various financial matters, including support and division of assets and debts. The resulting marital settlement agreement is enforceable in a court of law, even when one party declares bankruptcy after the divorce has been finalized, as illustrated by a recent New Jersey decision.
Many people think of domestic violence incidents as occurring between parties who are in an active relationship, but that is not a requirement. New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) protects against acts of domestic violence that occur between a spouse, former spouse, household member or individuals involved in a dating relationship, including past relationships. Such a relationship also does not have to be exclusive. Even casual dating may give rise to a claim under the PDVA, as affirmed in a recent Appellate Division case.
New Jersey law provides that both parents must pay basic child support plus certain add-on expenses. While a Court or the parties may decide how much each parent pays initially, that amount may later be modified if a party has experienced “changed circumstances,” which include job loss or obtaining a higher paying job. When the Court finds that a party is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed without just cause, the Court has the discretion to impute income to that parent based on certain criteria. A recent appellate decision illustrates this point.
When alimony is agreed upon in accordance with a Marital Settlement Agreement or awarded by a Court order, it is a legally enforceable obligation. As a result, if the payor-spouse refuses to pay or pays less than the agreed upon amount, the recipient spouse can file an application with the Court to enforce the support award. The Court has the power to order the payor spouse to pay the amount owed and may use other tools to deter the spouse from future nonpayment.
Parental relocation is a difficult issue for parents and courts to resolve. If one parent wants to move over the objection of the other parent, the moving parent must convince the court that he/she should be able to relocate with the children over the non-custodial parent’s objection. Until recently, there was a significant difference in New Jersey law for custodial parents intending to relocate out-of-state versus custodial parents intending to relocate within New Jersey. Now, according to the Appellate Division in the case of A.J. v. R.J., a custodial parent who intends to move must demonstrate that the move is in the child’s best interest, regardless of whether the move is in-state or out-of-state.