Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Yes. Over the past 20 years as a child custody attorney I have observed New Jersey law transform in alignment with modern technology. When I first became a lawyer in the 1990s, when two parents had a significant distance between them, the telephone was the primary manner in which a child could hope to remain in contact with a parent who lived in another state.

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Over the years, I have observed an evolution in which court orders concerning visitation began to allow for contact ranging from email to texting to even social media contact between a child and their parents. Today, technology such as Skype and FaceTime has allowed for unprecedented opportunities for a child and parent to truly stay part of one another’s lives. Any parent who has ever been away for their child loves being able to see them on their phone, computer or tablet while communicating and sharing. As all parents embrace, the difference is truly night and day (as opposed to a mere phone call). Today, the attorneys at our law firm seek court orders in which judges allow for FaceTime or Skype even when both parents are still living here in New Jersey. The motto at our law firm has always been, “Kids First.” Clearly, a child’s ability to actually see their mom or dad when chatting dramatically enhances the child-parent bonding experience.

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When it comes to the division of your assets in a divorce, that is. Under New Jersey law certain orders relating to alimony, child support, child custody, and parenting time may be modified upon a showing of changed circumstances. Therefore, you and your lawyer may return to a New Jersey Family Court to have these types of issues reviewed.

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However, Court Orders from the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey regarding equitable distribution of assets are not subject to change absent fraud, misconduct and the like (and even then you have only one year to seek such relief). That is another reason that you should only hire an attorney with a law firm that only handles divorce cases because, as the saying goes, you only get one bite at the apple.

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Throughout my career as a divorce and family law attorney, I have seen many folks who feel that they can, “play the system.” Many times, this involves the high conflict issue of alimony. Let’s call it the way it is; no one wants to pay alimony to their “ex.” While the lawyers at our law firm sympathize, we always give our client’s an honest assessment of their case throughout the divorce process, including the “hot button” issue of alimony. However there are times that, notwithstanding our advice to the contrary some folks proceed, pro se, thinking that they can “play the system” and avoid their alimony obligation. Some folks quit their jobs thinking that this will allow them to circumvent alimony payments. Others hurry right back to court immediately after the divorce thinking that they can convince a judge that alimony is unfair. All told, a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey can see right through these vain and fruitless attempts to avoid paying alimony. Sometimes, these folks make the situation only worse for themselves when they have to pay their “ex’s” attorney’s fees if the court finds that they are acting in bad faith.

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This is an excellent example of why you should consult with a law firm who only handles divorce and family law. The lawyers at our law firm stand prepared to assist you or a loved one if they would like an honest assessment regarding potential or ongoing alimony payments. Following, please find a recently decided case the illuminates the foregoing.

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No. If you voluntarily become unemployed and go back to college, New Jersey law is clear that this voluntary decision is temporary in nature. Moreover, a judge of the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey shall not relieve a parent of their legal obligation to be responsible for supporting their children when making decisions and changes concerning their occupation. This is another example of why folks should consult with a lawyer (or law firm) who only handles family law related matters before making significant changes to their income or filing an application to reduce their child support.

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Child support is the right of every child, and during my many years of practicing family law I have seen first-hand that New Jersey Family Part courts will enforce a child support obligation in almost any situation. That said, a child support obligation may be modified upon a showing of a valid change of circumstance. One such change of circumstance might be unemployment, but only under certain circumstances. The unemployment must not be voluntary or temporary. A parent with a child support obligation cannot just choose to quit his or her job and expect to no longer have to pay child support. Sometimes people leave their jobs to enroll in college full-time. While a parent attaining a college degree may be beneficial for a child in the future, that does not mean that a parent can just leave his or her job to study, and expect that his or her child support obligation will be terminated. Leaving work to get a degree is a voluntary decision, and is only temporary. Doing so will not relieve a parent of his or her child support obligation.

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No. Pursuant to New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination, an employer may not chastise, obstruct promotions or terminate an employee simply because they are getting divorced when it has no impact on the quality of their work product or adversely effects the atmosphere at their place of employment. About 10 years ago, an employee was fired because his supervisor was concerned that he was about to begin an “ugly divorce.” This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court handed down a decision clearly stating that it is discriminatory to fire an employee based upon their marital status.

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As an attorney for the past 20 years with a law firm in my hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey, any and all new decisions are emailed to all lawyers at my office on a daily basis. This ensures that we stay on the cutting edge of divorce or family law in order to best protect our clients.

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For over the past twenty years as an attorney practicing divorce law here in New Jersey, I have had countless folks ask me about my opinion regarding post-nuptial agreements (as opposed to a pre-nuptial agreement, which is obviously negotiated, drafted and executed before the marriage). On the other hand, a post-nuptial agreement is executed during the marriage in an attempt to resolve any and all financial issues between the husband and wife just in case a divorce occurs in the future.

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Simply put, I am not a big fan of these types of agreements. First, the very fact that this is part of the conversation between a husband and wife is clearly not a good indication of the viability of the relationship. Frankly, this lawyer would suggest either marriage counseling or, in the alternative, to start preparing for a divorce before I would recommend a post-nuptial agreement. This is also because, more times than not, such agreements are “thrown out of court” (legally known as vacated). This is due to the fact that, under New Jersey law, a judge of a New Jersey Family Court is mandated to meticulously and thoroughly analyze post-nuptial agreements. Consequently, it is greatly dubious whether the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey will ultimately deem such an agreement enforceable.
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In September 2014, New Jersey’s alimony laws became “modernized” in many respects. Consequently, lawyers who only handle divorce and family law cases have been monitoring how the courts interpret many aspects of the New Jersey’s modified alimony laws. To wit, in the past, an attorney would have to advise their client that it may be best to wait until they actually retire before filing a application to terminate or lessen the amount of alimony. Sadly, this would often become a “no-win” situation, as the retired person had to keep paying the alimony until a New Jersey family court judge would relieve them of this obligation. However, Judge Jones recently decided that the “new” alimony law allows for a court to order termination (or modification) based upon probable retirement instead of waiting until the individual has already retired. Following please find a detailed analysis of how the issue of retirement and alimony have become much more fair.

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In Mueller v. Mueller, the Honorable Judge Jones of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Ocean County explored what exactly “prospective” means in New Jersey’s recently amended alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A-34-23(j)(1-3), in terms of terminating or modifying an alimony obligation on the basis of retirement. Judge Jones held that N.J.S.A. 2A-34-23(j)(1-3), the amended alimony statute, does not state a specific maximum or minimum period of time for getting a ruling in advance on a prospective future retirement. That said, the intent of the statutory amendment is for the prospective retirement to happen reasonably close to the when the motion is filed, not several years later.

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One of the most challenging issues facing this New Jersey divorce attorney is when a previous client comes back to our law firm to reduce alimony. The lawyers at our firm must then immediately examine whether or not the decrease in our client’s income (or compensation package) is permanent or temporary in nature. New Jersey alimony law is clear that any change must be permanent in nature (amongst other factors). Otherwise, a motion to a New Jersey Family court seeking to modify or terminate alimony shall not succeed if the situation is deemed to be temporary in nature. The recent New Jersey Appellate Division case of Grier v. Grier, illustrates that a court will require a showing of permanent changed circumstances before modifying any alimony obligation.

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In Grier v. Grier, Theodore Grier appealed from a November 20, 2014 order of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Sussex County, that denied his motion to modify his alimony obligation. Theodore and Wendy Grier divorced on July 15, 2012. A property settlement agreement was incorporated into their final judgement of divorce. The property settlement agreement stated that Theodore was required to pay alimony to Wendy, in the amount of $500 every week, as well as child support for one child. The property settlement agreement explained that the $ 500 a week amount was based on Theodore’s average income during the three-year period before the property settlement agreement was signed. This average income amounted to $ 100,000. $15,000 was also imputed on Theodore for the purpose of calculating alimony. Sometimes courts will impute income on one spouse when calculating a modification. Income imputation is a matter of discretion, and is not a precise or exact determination. Instead this inquiry requires a Family Part judge to analyze the individual’s capacity to earn income, and job availability.

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As a New Jersey attorney for the past few decades, I embrace that alimony is the most contentious financial disputes that litigants’ face when a divorce occurs. Moreover, after the divorce has been concluded, anyone who has to pay alimony to a former spouse that is living with a new partner becomes almost unbearable for that person to tolerate. This is yet another reason you must have a lawyer who only practices divorce and family law related cases. This is because you are most likely bound by whatever you agree to in your divorce settlement. To wit, if you (and your attorney) agree that cohabitation with an unrelated person shall result in an axiomatic termination of alimony, you are bound by that language. This is notwithstanding the fact that that alimony law here in New Jersey do not allow for an “automatic” end of alimony due to cohabitation absent full discovery of the facts and potentially a trial on the matter. In the decision rendered on May 4, 2016 case of Quinn v. Quinn, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that a mutually agreed to provision in a property settlement agreement to terminate alimony upon cohabitation by the spouse receiving alimony is enforceable.

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David and Cathleen Quinn got married in the summer of 1983, and had two children together. When they divorced on January 3, 2006 they incorporated a property settlement agreement into their final judgment of divorce. At the time, David earned $ 208,900 a year. Cathleen earned $ 21,643 a year. According to the property settlement agreement, David would pay $2,643 in alimony, every two weeks. The property settlement agreement also stated that alimony payments would terminate upon either person’s death, Cathleen’s remarriage, or her cohabitation, whichever happened first.

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Yes, under certain circumstances, the parent paying child support may pay part of their support obligation directly to a child who is an adult yet unemancipated under New Jersey law. As child support lawyers, the attorneys at our law firm understand that special conditions are required in order for a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey to approve such an arrangement.

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First, not only must the child be at least 18 years of age but a judge must also find that the child has a past that demonstrates that they are very mature and responsible young adults. Second, the money paid towards particular expenditures for the child, that must be approved beforehand, absolutely must go towards that expense. The child must also provide proof that these monies went towards the expense in question. Third, has the parent who pays child support been historically consistent with their child support payments in the past. Finally, a New Jersey Family Court would analyze how the direct payments may impact the parent receiving the child support as far as their ability to sustain a home for the child as well.

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