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.
New Jersey allows married couples to seek a limited divorce known as Divorce from Bed and Board. This action is often taken by parties who have religious objections to divorce, or for economic reasons such as maintaining eligibility for health insurance through their spouse’s health insurance coverage, social security and retirement benefits. While Divorce from Bed and Board offers certain advantages, there are also pitfalls which couples should consider before pursuing a Divorce from Bed and Board.
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.
Marital settlement agreements often provide that a party can suspend, modify or terminate the obligation to pay alimony if the recipient spouse “cohabits” with another person. Currently, cohabitation under New Jersey law is defined as “… a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship in which a couple has undertaken duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union but does not necessarily maintain a single common household.” The reality under New Jersey law is that proving cohabitation can be difficult as noted in the recent New Jersey appellate case of Landau v. Landau.
New Jersey law allows the award of attorneys’ fees in divorce and other family actions in certain circumstances. Courts looks at several factors including the parties’ behavior in terms of the positions they take in litigation. Acting in bad faith in pursuing or defending an action can have a significant influence on a court’s decision to award attorneys’ fees in favor of one party and against the other party.
Although New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA) specifically allows for restraining orders in the event of harassment, proving that harassment has taken place is one of the most challenging aspects of a domestic violence trial. It is difficult as New Jersey law requires proof that the aggressor actually intended to harass the party seeking protection.
If your divorce involved children, the New Jersey Courts required you and your former spouse to resolve legal custody and parenting time issues. No matter how much thought went into your custody and parenting time plan, however, it is not unusual for parents to seek modification(s) after the divorce. A recent New Jersey Appellate Division case highlights the challenges that come with modifications of parenting time Orders.
A recent New Jersey case addressed a disturbing scenario for any parent. In E.S. v. C.D., a nanny was fired for assaulting a child. After being fired, the nanny began harassing the child’s parents. The parents sought a restraining order against the former nanny under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (hereafter, the “PDVA”), even though the PDVA does not specifically include parent-nanny relationships. Before the trial Court could even address the merits of the request, it had to determine for the first time whether the PDVA applied to solely economic relationships.
Matrimonial law generally encourages couples who separate and divorce to resolve their disputes amicably. However, New Jersey Courts will not blindly enforce agreements, and the Courts have the authority to completely disregard agreements, as demonstrated by a recent New Jersey case involving a separation agreement.