Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

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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Here in New Jersey, divorced parents may be legally compelled to contribute towards their child’s college tuition and certain related expenses. However, the attorneys at our family law and divorce law firm embrace that the non-custodial parent has a right to receive documentation verifying that their child is in fact continuously enrolled in college on a full time basis as well as the grades and any other pertinent information. If the custodial parent (or child) refuses to disclose this information, our lawyers shall file a motion in the Superior Court of New Jersey to compel the production of any and all documents that would disclose these essential facts. Below we dissect a recent case from a New Jersey Family Court that verifies these rights. Following is a legal analysis of a recent case that was just handed down by a New Jersey Family Court regarding this red-hot issue.

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In Van Brunt v. Van Brunt, the Honorable Judge Jones of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Ocean County was tasked with deciding whether a parent obligated to pay child support or contribute towards college costs, has a right to ongoing verification of the child’s collegiate status, and whether the responsibility to provide the non-custodial parent with ongoing proof of college attendance, credits, and grades lie s with the student, the custodial parent, or both. After a thoughtful deliberation, Judge Jones held that a court order that requires a college student to submit proof of attendance, credits, and grades as a requirement for ongoing child support and college expenses does not in fact violate the privacy rights of that student under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and both the student and the custodial parent have a duty to make sure that the supporting parent receives proof of the student’s college attendance, credits, and grades.

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Due to the nature of divorce and family law cases, experienced lawyers understand that many cases are decided on the testimony and the credibility of witnesses. As many of the trials and plenary hearings that the attorneys at our law firm have handled, it is well known that New Jersey Family Court judges are given broad discretion in evaluating witness credibility when rendering their divorce decrees. In turn, the New Jersey Appellate Division with afford deference to Family Part judges with respect to the credibility of witnesses that they observed during the divorce trial.

In J.K. v. M.T., a mother, M.T., appealed from two orders of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part of Hudson County, dated February 20, 2013, and July 12, 2013. She challenged the decision to award her ex-husband, J.K., sole legal and physical custody of their three child, a provision in the judgment of divorce that restricted her from traveling outside of the United States of America with the children, and the limited duration alimony award that required J.K. to pay her $ 120,000 every year for six years. The New Jersey Appellate Division reviewed her contentions and found that she did not present any valid legal points, and that the trial court properly decided the issues of the case. The trial courts conclusions were based on witness testimony and credibility, which the New Jersey Appellate Division found were supported by credible evidence, and consistent with the law.

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