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divorce mistakes

5 Common Mistakes People Make When Divorcing

By:  Bruce P. Matez, Esquire

Spouses who are considering divorce, are beginning the divorce process, or are in the process of divorcing, often begin to plan for the divorce and take actions that quickly derail settlement discussions, negotiations, mediation and the collaborative process. Sometimes they take such actions as a result of advice from counsel. The following are five common mistakes people make when divorcing which most often wreak havoc on the divorce process, cause unnecessary tension and mistrust, and make it very difficult to reach a resolution.

 

  1. Dating and new long-term relationships. When one spouse starts to date before spouses are divorced, especially if he/she begins a long-term relationship, often the other spouse, even if he/she wanted the divorce, is not emotionally prepared for that inevitability. New significant others also often interject their own values and judgments into the divorce, which tends to cause problems between the spouses. There is no law that prohibits a person who is divorcing from dating or engaging in a new long-term relationship, yet it has been my experience that this issue becomes a major road-block. It is also generally not a good idea to introduce a new significant other to children during the divorce. Aside from the emotional and mental impact this has on children, it causes all kinds of problems within the divorce process. From my perspective, it is really quite simple… be patient and just wait a while.

 

  1. Transferring funds out of joint accounts. One divorcing spouse sometimes transfers funds from joint accounts to individual accounts just prior to or after the filing of a complaint for divorce or upon the commencement of divorce negotiations, mediation, etc. While there may be limited situations in which such actions are necessary and appropriate, normally and generally this is not something that is necessary, especially without notice to the other spouse. The result of taking this action almost always creates tension and mistrust that lawyers, mediators and collaborative lawyers spend considerable time trying to resolve. It is extremely hard to undo the damage that is caused by such actions. If you absolutely MUST take such action, I urge you to notify your spouse immediately or in advance, and make sure to be able to show that the funds are safe and protected and will not be utilized without consent.

 

  1. Cut-off access to credit cards and home equity lines of credit. Similar to transferring funds out of joint accounts, spouses often close joint credit card accounts and/or home equity lines of credit so that the other spouse cannot incur significant debt during the divorce process. This is another action which is sometimes necessary and appropriate, but not always.

 

  1. Overspend on credit cards. Don’t start spending money and charging to credit cards. It is ok to keep spending in the same manner that you had been. Be reasonable, be smart, be rational. Don’t overspend!

 

  1. Engage your children (at any age) in the dispute. Children do not need to know “the truth”. Children have the right to be children and not be involved in parental disputes nor exposed to adult issues and discussions. Many adults who experienced divorce in their homes tell me that their parents shared adult information with them that they would have preferred not have been shared with them AND I have heard many times from similar adults that they believe their parents robbed them of their childhood as a result of involving them in their divorce disputes. This is true for adult children a well as young children; just LEAVE THEM OUT OF IT.

The Art of Forgiveness in Divorce

By:  Bruce P. Matez, Esquire

I spend most of my days with couples who are divorcing in mediation sessions, clients in the process of divorcing or who are divorced and continue to have ongoing disputes with their former spouses, and with couples who are seeking alternative ways to resolve disputes.  One of the major themes I have found in working with such people over the past almost 30 years has been the astonishing inability to forgive and let go. Sadly, that inability is one of the major reasons why I believe divorce is so expensive and why people spend so much money fighting in divorce and thereafter.

Betrayal in a marriage comes in many forms; some cheat, some overspend, some hide money, some lie about finances, and so on.  There are lots of reasons that trust becomes an issue in a marriage or other relationship; why anger, hurt, and all too often, vengeance rear their ugly heads and create impasse.  Forgiveness may very well be the key to unlocking the gateway to resolution, peace, and a happy life moving forward.

President Clinton once asked Nelson Mandela about inviting his captors and jailors to his inauguration, appointing his persecutors to government position.  He asked “Weren’t you really angry all over again?”  Mandela responded “Yes, I was angry.  And I was a little afraid.  After all, I’d not been free in so long.  But when I felt the anger well up inside of me, I realized that if I hated them after I got outside that gate when they would still have me. But I wanted to be free, and so I let it go.”

If Nelson Mandela was able to forgive his persecutors, jailors and captors and “let it go”, I have to wonder why spouses, parents of children, are unable to forgive each other and “let it go.”  One of the many goals I have in my mediation and litigation practice is to help my clients move on with their lives, to let go of the past and focus on the present and future.  Often that requires forgiveness and that is an extremely difficult thing to achieve in divorce.  I often wonder if divorce would be less expensive, less stressful, less acrimonious and less anxious for people if they were able to find forgiveness in their hearts.

Child Support Agreements Not Always Enforceable

By:  Bruce P. Matez, Esquire

In the recent case Cosco v. Cosco the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey determined that an agreement between divorced parents to terminate child support when their child attains the age of 18 is not enforceable if the child in question remains un-emancipated (in that case, the child is attending college full-time). The court relied upon case law which holds that child support is the right of the child and may not be waived or abrogated by the parents. Children who attend college on a full time basis after high school after reaching 18 years of age are entitled to the financial support of both of their parents even if their parents agree otherwise. There are six states, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands which require parents to financially support their children beyond reaching the age of majority and graduation from high school; New Jersey, Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Mississippi and Oregon. All others require the termination of child support at age 18 or upon graduation from high school in general, although there are few exceptions and most do not require any support after the age of 19 (in some states 21 in exceptional circumstances). This case clearly and unequivocally denies divorced or never-married parents the ability to negotiate between them how long they will be obligated to financially support their children, whereas married parents can cut-off support of their children at age 18 at their discretion. Currently, the law in New Jersey also requires that divorced or never-married parents contribute to their children’s college education expenses, a requirement that does not currently exist for married parents.

Twins from different fathers!

By:  Bruce P. Matez, Esq.

The wonders of nature never cease to amaze me.  In a case of first impression in New Jersey, a father was recently ordered to pay child support for only one of twins after DNA testing confirmed that he is, in fact, the father of only one!  The mother acknowledged that she had sexual intercourse with two different men in the same week during her menstrual cycle. The twins were conceived as a result of two different eggs being fertilized by two different men.  The result… twins with different fathers.  Sadly, I have to wonder how much litigation these twins and their parents are going to be involved in over the next 18 years or so, and there may be a very good likelihood of the twins being separated quite often as each spends time with his/her father, away from each other and their mother.  There are a lot of competing interests and probably a lot of competing studies about this.  Nevertheless, another new and interesting twist on the age old concept of parentage!

Court clarifies rules on reporting child support arrears to credit reporting agencies

by Bruce Matez, Esq.

A Superior Court judge in Ocean County has determined that arrears accrued as a result of a retroactive child support initial order or increase are not subject to reporting as a delinquency of the payor to credit reporting agencies. The law allows a judge to order child support to begin retroactive to the date that an application (complaint or motion) requesting child support is filed.  Often, therefore, when the order is entered there is automatically an arrears amount established.  N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.21(a)  requires the Probation Department (collection agency for child support in NJ) to report delinquencies to credit reporting bureaus and agencies.  However, sections d and e of the statute require due process be afforded to the delinquent payor before reporting.  A payor cannot be considered “delinquent” because of arrears set solely as a result of the timing of the order.  Judge Jones ruled that the statute applies, therefore, ONLY to arrears accumulated as a result of a current child support order.  Any portion of arrears which resulted from a retroactive order does not constitute the type of delinquency which would require reporting to the credit reporting agencies.  See Cameron v. Cameron, Ch. Div. 

Child Support- Is $100k Per Month Enough?

by Bruce Matez, Esq.

©  2014 TMZ

August 6, 2014

“Ex-MGM mogul Kirk Kerkorian just scored a knockout punch against his ex-wife Lisa Bonder. A judge just shut down her request to up monthly child support from $100K to $565K. It’s a spectacular defeat for Bonder, who claimed their 16-year-old daughter Kira needed $491,000 a month just for equestrian expenses. Kira is an accomplished rider who has Olympic aspirations, but apparently the judge found Bonder’s request ridiculous. The judge felt Bonder could make do with $100,000 a month [the largest child support award on record in the U.S.].”

“The judge scoffed at Bonder’s request in his written ruling — obtained by TMZ — saying, “There is a difference between the ‘needs’ of a child and the ‘wants’ of a child.” Here’s what’s really amazing.  Kerkorian and Bonder were married a grand total of 28 days back in 1999 and the child isn’t even his. When he agreed to pay child support,  he didn’t know Kira wasn’t his biological child.”

“Kerkorian, who is represented by attorneys Judy Bogen and Joe Mannis, will continue to pay $100K a month.”

Child Support

In New Jersey, BOTH parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children. Depending on the custody agreement, one parent is typically required to pay child support on a regular basis to the other until the child or children are emancipated, which may continue beyond the age of 18 if the child is a full-time student or there is some other reason that the child is not emancipated. The amount of child support paid varies, depending on the parent’s income and the needs of the dependent children. Child support is generally determined by the Child Support Guidelines which have been promulgated by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, unless the parents’ joint NET income exceeds $3600.00 per week.  If that is the case, the child support is determined based upon statutory factors.  Child support is paid either directly to the receiving parent or through the New Jersey Family Support Center (Probation Department) and often by income withholding (wage execution).  For more information about child support, contact our office.

When does child support end?

By John Jones, Esq.

In New Jersey, when a child reaches the age of 18, he/she is considered “emancipated.” That term means the child is deemed to have moved beyond his/her parent’s economic field of influence and is on their own. However, like virtually every other rule of family law, there are a number of exceptions.

The most important exception is that the child must not only be 18 but must have completed his/her education. In many cases, this means graduation from high school. However, child support can extend well beyond high school, provided the child is pursuing college or other post-high school education. Even graduate school, i.e. post-college, may keep a child unemancipated.

Common examples of when a child may be deemed emancipated are:

  1. Marriage, even if the marriage is void or voidable, and despite any annulment.
  2. Permanent residence away from the residence of a parent. (Residence at boarding school, camp or college is typically not deemed to be a residence away from the residence of a parent.)
  3. Death of the child.
  4. Entry into the Armed Force, whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
  5. Engaging in full-time employment after attaining the age of 18. (Employment of the child while continuing his/her education, or full-time employment during summer vacation periods, or participating in a work-study or a work-intern program in conjunction with the child’s education, is typically not deemed an emancipation event.)

In this day and age, many children do not complete their college education in the traditional four years. Perhaps they drop-out for a semester or two, or all the courses required for the child’s major are not available within the four year term. Can a child be emancipated and then “unemancipated”? The Family Part judges will look at such cases closely, because the judges want to make sure a child is not being penalized for legitimate interruptions of their education. If it is clear the child has a reasonable explanation for the interruption in their education, a judge can deny an emancipation application. Even if a child has been declared emancipated, a court can subsequently find the child is now no longer emancipated.

In any case, the court will want to make sure the child is a full-time student and getting passing grades. Full-time is generally considered to be twelve or more credit hours per semester.

Obviously, these cases are extremely fact sensitive. Your Family Law attorney should be able to advise you on the relative chances of success in the event you make an application to the court to emancipate a child.

How will my child support obligation be calculated if my spouse and I separate?

By John Jones, Esq.

In most family law matters, child support is determined by the application of the Child Support Guidelines (the “CSG”). The CSG are based on the assumption that the more mom and dad earn, the more they should be obligated to contribute to the support of their children.

A bare bones description of the CSG is as follows: Imagine a chart with seven vertical columns. The first column is the combined average weekly net income of mom and dad, going up in $10 increments. (The CSG tell us what deductions may be taken from the average weekly gross incomes.) The next six columns are one child through six children. To calculate child support, we go down the left column until we reach the total net income for mom and dad. We then go across until we come to the number of children we are dealing with. For example, if mom and dad’s combined net income is $750 a week and there are three children, the support number is $289 a week. To determine each parent’s responsibility, we look to see what percentage of the total income was contributed by each parent. In my example, if dad makes $500 a week and mom makes $250 a week, dad’s responsibility would be 67% of the $289 a week ($194 a week) and mom’s would be 33% of the $289 ($95 a week). If mom has custody of the children, dad would pay the $194 a week to mom. Presumably, mom would contribute her share and the children would get a fair and proper amount from their parents for their support.

The CSG for 2011 go up to a combined average net income of $3,600 a week. If the couple earns more than that, the child support is calculated up to that amount, using the CSG. To that is added an amount which is arrived at by the application of ten factors, which are set forth in the statute. These include such things as the needs of the child; the standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent; the income, assets and earning ability of the child and so forth.

As I said, this is a bare bones explanation. There are many other factors that come into play in the application of the CSG. You family law attorney will be able to explain to you all the factors that must be taken into account.