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Marlton Family Law Blog

Dividing future securities interests in a New Jersey divorce

Getting a divorce can be difficult. Between the emotional stress of a marriage termination and the anxiety of dealing with legal issues, such as property division or child custody and support, it can make one just want to get it over with. However, it is usually a good idea not to rush into a settlement, especially when there is a lot of property to divide.

In these situations, just getting it over with can end up costing a person a lot of money. These high-asset divorces can be more complicated than most not just because of the number of assets involved, but also the type of assets.

What to do and avoid to create a valid prenuptial agreement

Like most other states, New Jersey allows couples contemplating marriage to enter in to prenuptial agreements. These agreements, which, incidentally, can also be beneficial even to couples that have never been divorced and have no plans to divorce, help with important property division issues and can also be an important tool for estate planning.

To create a valid prenuptial agreement, one generally has to put it in writing and make sure it gets signed by both parties before they marry. Given the importance and sensitivity of prenuptial agreements, it is also important not to give any appearance that either spouse was put in to a situation where the agreement was take it or leave it.

The rules of New Jersey property division

Asset division can be a hot-button topic for many divorcing couples, especially in a high-asset case. Understanding the fundamentals of how New Jersey law approaches division can help you know what to expect.

New Jersey numbers among the states following the equitable division approach. This method focuses on dividing debts and assets in the way that would be most fair given the couple's particular circumstances. While in some cases this may indeed work out as a 50/50 split, in many other cases it does not.

State Supreme Court changes custody relocation standard

New Jersey divorce issues, such as child custody, are not necessarily resolved with the decree or settlement. These issues sometimes resurface after the end of the marriage. The state Supreme Court addressed one of these issues and reversed its legal standard for ruling on contested parental relocation that it issued back in 2001.

In the 16-year-old case, the court approved an application for permanent relocation by reviewing the parent's changed circumstances, whether the relocation would harm the child and whether the parent can establish legal cause for the relocation. Relocation was permitted even if it reduced visitation for the objecting parent. Relocation would be denied if it had the negative effect of harming the noncustodial parent's relationship with the child.

Preparing for divorce mediation

Divorcing spouses who are willing to cooperate may play a larger role in resolving divorce legal issues through divorce mediation in New Jersey. When they mediate disputes, they do not have to accept a judge's decision and can reject any proposal that they do not support. This process may alleviate some of the emotional stress and expenses associated with litigating divorce and other family law matters. However, mediation has a greater likelihood of success when spouses undergo preparation.

First, spouses must prepare to suppress or control their emotions on particularly emotional matters, such as their children, alimony and child support. Even though a qualified mediator is prepared to deal with anger or crying by either spouse, certain outbursts can slow down or disrupt a mediation. Even with preparation, these outbursts can occur. When a spouse is having difficulty, a recess or other opportunity that provides time for composure may prevent the mediation from collapsing.

Working to keep divorce from affecting your job performance

Many legal, financial and emotional challenges accompany divorce in New Jersey. Limiting the impact of these matters on your performance at work is difficult but essential to avoid lost employment or income at the end of a marriage.

Work should be restricted to work, and personal matters should be handled on personal time as much as possible. Documents should be kept and filled out at home. There may be times that legal proceedings or phone calls interrupt work. This should be limited and appointments should be scheduled around work when possible. Going through a difficult time is not an excuse for avoidable work absences that inconvenience co-workers and harm productivity.

New Jersey changes relocation laws for divorced parents

When a couple with children divorces, one parent may be granted primary custody of the child while the other gets visitation and is asked to pay child support. A major post-divorce issue for many of these couples is relocation. The custodial parent may want to leave New Jersey and take their child with them, but the other parent may oppose their decision.

For almost two decades, since 2001, custodial parents in New Jersey who want to relocate with their child have been required to prove to the court that the child would not suffer harm from the move and that there was a good faith reason to move. This standard was based on the idea that children are better off when the parent is happier. However, studies have shown that this is not always the case. Instead, experts have found that children benefit when they are in regular contact with both parents.

Mediation lowers conflict

Divorces in New Jersey that proceed to the courthouse are often overly-adversarial and conflicts may escalate. Divorce mediation, on the other hand, may bring the spouses into a collaborative process that allows them to settle divorce issues that are the most meaningful to them on their own terms.

The mediation process may reduce conflict and provide opportunities to improve trust and relationships among the parties. The process involves a mediator who is a neutral party and who tries to reduce conflicts, improve the spouses' relationship, focus on their problems and encourages them to carry on a candid and smooth negotiation.

Ending a bad marriage earlier can save on alimony

In recent years, New Jersey reformed its alimony laws in a manner that relates the amount of alimony to the duration of the marriage, particularly for marriages that were less than 20 years in length. As such, if a person is in a marriage that clearly is not blissful and there are disparate incomes and assets of the two spouses, he or she may want to consider what anniversary they are approaching. This factor may have an impact in terms of choice of dates to file for divorce and future alimony obligations.

Some critics argue that this newer law should have gone further to define how long alimony may last and to provide less discretion to judges. However, it clearly added a stronger component related to limiting the duration of alimony to more closely reflect the length of the marriage.

What are some essentials for prenuptial agreements?

When a couple in New Jersey is planning their wedding, they may be consumed with finding the right caterer, florist and venue. However, they should also give some thought to their post-wedding lives before they walk down the aisle, including drafting a prenuptial agreement. Well-drafted prenuptial agreements can expedite property division and other matters should the marriage end in divorce. In addition to the car, house and investments, a prenup should also govern other assets which are often overlooked.

Any property that a spouse owns before marriage needs to be listed as separate property. As such, these assets would not be marital property that may be divided during divorce.

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