Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Articles Posted in Divorce Mistakes

Throughout my career as a divorce attorney here in my hometown of East Brunswick, New Jersey, I have had many folks come to visit my office after their divorce has already been concluded and are now seeking my advice. Sadly, sometimes the lawyer who represented these folks did not exclusively practice divorce and family law. Consequently, myself and the associate attorneys at our law firm often find poorly written Property Settlement Agreements (“PSA”) that do not protect the client to the fullest extent. Many times this lawyer’s lack of experience in New Jersey divorce cases inhibits their ability to see problems down the road and therefore the PSA does not contain the proper language required to best protect the client.

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On the other hand, if the client had a more savvy divorce attorney in the first place, the PSA would extremely clear as to certain issues that would serve to protect the client down the road. The following case is an example of a litigant who lost out on a significant amount of money because their attorney failed to include specific language to that would have provided the client certain credits. However, as this PSA did not include specific language regarding these credits, they lost their motion. Let’s take a closer look. Continue reading

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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As approximately 98% of all divorces in the state of New Jersey result in a global settlement, I have handled countless “uncontested” divorce hearings at the Superior Court of New Jersey over the course of my 20 years as an attorney. During an uncontested hearing, a fully executed Property (or Matrimonial) Settlement Agreement is entered into evidence. Next, each lawyer shall ask their respective clients certain questions regarding the agreement, including:

  • Are you familiar with this agreement?
  • Have you read it closely?
  • Does the agreement reflect the negotiations and ultimate settlement that you reached with your spouse?
  • Have you had enough time to consider the agreement?
  • Do you understand that any oral or “side” agreements between you and your spouse are not enforceable?

The last question above is most relevant to today’s blog. Long story short, anything that was discussed during negotiations that is not stated in your Property Settlement agreement cannot be used as evidence if you wind up back in a New Jersey Family Court after your divorce has been finalized. Let’s take a closer look.

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Filing a New Jersey Divorce is a complex process. There are many aspects of your current and future life up for negotiation, forms to be filed with the court, and eventually standing in front of a judge. Along the way there are a multiple of obstacles and loopholes to avoid. To the courts, representing yourself is referred to as “Pro Se,” which translates to without counsel. As a New Jersey Divorce and Family Attorney, I have helped many clients who may have taken on the legal process without counsel and quickly realized they needed assistance. I’ve also had clients who made it through the process only to realize they their agreements aren’t working or they made mistakes that are suddenly starting to cost them.

The number one reason why people choose to file their own divorce is because they think it will save them money. You may be asking yourself “can I save money filing my own divorce?” In my experience, it winds up costing people far more than any attorney fees they would have paid. By finding an honest and ethical attorney with an expert and efficient staff you will save money in several ways.

  1. At first, many think that they have an amicable relationship with their soon-to-be-ex and therefore do not need legal counsel. What they do not anticipate is that the excellent relationship may start to unravel when you start to get into the details of your arrangements. An experience New Jersey divorce lawyer can offer creative solutions and will fight for the best deal possible to secure your future. In fact, if you have an experienced an attorney they should have an arsenal of suggestions and ability to represent your best interests during negotiations.
  2. Working through the court system takes experience and attention to detail. You not only have to put the right agreements in place, but your forms need to be filled out correctly or the court will return them to you with little explanation. Recently, a client shared with me that she filed her own divorce and when she called and asked questions the court would say “we don’t help you, there is a law library to answer your questions.” The right attorney will meticulously prepare all of your divorce documentation – track progress and response from the court, and keep you informed at each step of the process.
  3. Make sure the legal wording of your documentation is correct. This is both a short-term and long-term savings issue. In addition to the complexity of required court documentation and filing procedures, the wording of your divorce needs to be precise. As an example, the types of alimony you request in your paperwork can have significant ramifications including the length of time it is paid and for what reasons. You could find yourself cut-off in a few years or paying for too long Continue reading

Many people believe that divorce has to be an all out war with family members, friends, and even the children taking sides. They wage battle after battle, and allow the anger and hostility to impact every nook and cranny of their lives. No doubt, going through a NJ Divorce process is a stressful time. When there are broken hearts and hurt feelings to manage, a divorce can get downright ugly. However, what happens in these cases is children get caught in the crossfire. The negativity seeps into their little lives and often they suffer tremendous emotional strain as their developing psychological frameworks cannot handle the pressure. As a New Jersey divorce lawyer, I see all too often how the battles parents wage create an unhealthy atmosphere for themselves and their families.

I have previously discussed ways the many ways you can help protect your children from divorce. Now, I turn my attention to the actual divorce process so you can make it as child friendly as possible. This will be of great benefit to you as a parent knowing that an atmosphere of peace will be of great psychological benefit to your children.

While your children will not (and should not) be involved in the negotiations of your divorce, there are three ways to handle your divorce proceedings to ensure the process is child friendly.

First, demand an atmosphere of respect between you and your soon to be ex-spouse. A former client of mine referred to this as “taking the high road.” Each and every time there was any communication throughout the divorce process (email, face-to-face meetings, letters, texts) she and her now ex-husband did not allow each other to get nasty or raise their voices. There were some rough discussions, but each and every one was handled with a very impressive high level of professionalism. And no, this was not easy, on either one of them at times. However, as hard as it was to keep even the most contentious parts of their divorce calm, out in the real world they were able to then civilly deal with each other because there were no hard feelings.
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Blog Pic.jpgOver the last few years, I have seen the birth and then steady of rise of social media playing a part in divorces here in New Jersey. As the social media craze has become more and more popular, Facebook is often mentioned as a way an affair was started. This one site has enabled people to reignite with former flames and/or very easily connect with someone new, making infidelity as easy as a click of the mouse. Posts, pokes and private messages are being presented to prove cheating, financial inconsistencies, and less than desirable parenting practices.

I have found that whether it comes in the form of status update or a new photo album, individuals normally will not think twice about publicly posting information about their personal lives for all to see on Facebook. For divorcing parties, these public streams of consciousness can make or break a divorce proceeding and have serious consequences for your alimony, child support, and child custody arrangements.

For instance, perhaps you are seeking to avoid or reduce an alimony obligation by stating you are recently unemployed due to the current decline in the nation’s economy. That argument may fall flat on its face when your spouse uncovers pictures of you and your new paramour on vacation at a five-star resort in the Caribbean.

Or, perhaps you are seeking custody of your children and trying to overcome allegations about a drinking problem. But, your drinking buddy posted on your wall about your recent weekend bender.

Are you denying the allegations of adultery that your spouse cited in her complaint for divorce? Well, when you gave her your Facebook password, she printed out an entire message exchange between you and your lover describing in great detail all of your adulterous escapades. Or maybe the Facebook page of your new boyfriend is open to the public and he accidently posted pictures of the two of you putting your relationship on public display.
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Going through a New Jersey divorce can be a long grueling process. When you allow your emotions to control your actions, you may unintentionally sabotage own divorce proceedings. Procrastination is one way that you can cause irreparable harm to your divorce case and damage to your future life both personally and financially.

Why would you procrastinate? Divorce can be a very painful process and it is only natural to want to shield yourself from that pain. Dealing with negative feelings of sadness, anger and hurt may trigger your desire to sweep the divorce process under the carpet. You may also feel lost in the divorce process and how you want to or even if you can move on with your new life, so it seems impossible to make decisions. While irrational, delaying the process of decisions, especially hard ones, sometimes can seem like a good idea until you feel “better” about the situation.

Procrastination in the divorce process can take on a myriad of appearances. There are many many decisions you will need to make when you begin the process and when you start negotiating with your soon to be ex-spouse. The process can come to a stand-still if you fail to make choices. Your New Jersey divorce attorney is going to need to review lots of personal information and documents related to your case. Financial statements, previous court orders and other documentation are all critical to preparing the best strategy for your success. Failing to answer questions from your attorney or provide necessary documentation can cause great delays. Once your divorce is moving through the legal system, the New Jersey Court with jurisdiction over your case will set a timetable for the process. Appearances, documents, and other information will be required on specific dates. Failing to abide by these deadlines can cost you the opportunity to have certain legal matters settled in your favor and quite possibly financial and emotional security in the future.
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There are many mistakes that can be made when getting a divorce in New Jersey. It is a complex process where all aspects of your life are scrutinized. Working through the legal and emotional aspects can be overwhelming for most people and emotions tend to escalate. When children are involved the stakes are higher as both parents battle over not only separating their life as a couple but parenting time and support payments. Most parents go into the divorce process with the promise to protect children. But when negative emotions take over and “battle mode” is assumed, these three common mistakes are often made:

1. Parents sometimes use their children as pawns or bargaining chips when attempting to negotiate terms of their divorce. They leverage either child support or parenting time against other aspects up for negotiation and package the pieces together. This often looks like “if you want a certain amount in support then I want extra time with the children.” This type of vindictive behavior creates conflict which in the end causes devastation. Your children are not bargaining chips to use for favor or revenge regardless of circumstances.

2. Trying to get your children on your side – Children often, and rightfully so, should feel a loyalty and connection to both parents regardless of details of your divorce. Any attempts you make to garner unnatural favor with your child are putting them in an unnatural and unhealthy position. Children should not be forced to choose a side in any parental conflict, and this holds true even more so during the divorce process. The transition to mom and dad being divorced is traumatic enough for children. During this time of transition children need to be comforted and assured that their relationships with both parents are going to remain intact.

3. Badmouthing the other parent – by talking negatively about the other parent, children are shown that hatred is an acceptable form of behavior. Negative talk creates doubt and insecurity in the mind of the child during a time when they need a great deal of love and support. It can also create a distance between you and your child as they see you as a negative person. In doing this you run the risk of sabotaging your relationship with your child.

What can you do?
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