Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

Articles Posted in Tips for Getting Through Your Divorce

Yes. Throughout my career as a family law attorney, I have observed New Jersey laws evolve along with technology. Ranging from divorce and child custody cases to domestic violence matters, posts on social media websites have become powerful evidence for lawyers to present to judges of the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey. Such posts can be used to prove a plethora of behaviors spanning the cause for a divorce (i.e., pictures with a paramour) to child neglect and even terroristic threats.   Furthermore, what your “ex” expresses about you on a social media platform, especially when children are involved, can generate high emotions and serious problems ranging from embarrassment (especially considering the wide scope of people that social media reaches) to fear for one’s (or your family’s) safety and well being.  Moreover, with more and more children on social media, it is clearly not in their best interests to be watching their parents “go at it” for all to see.

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Therefore, the lawyers at my law firm have taken steps in cases wherein the parties agree that it is not in anyones’ best interest to have the other making disparaging, public comments on the internet. It is essential that both parties stipulate to such an arrangement to become a court order. This is because a judge cannot order such an arrangement due to a legal theory known as stare decisis (i.e., precedent). However, your attorneys may still draft language that would achieve the goal of neither “ex” disparaging the other on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.   Specifically, you may have your lawyer prepare a Consent Order that would memorialize such an agreement. Once the terms of the consent order are finalized, the judge assigned to your case shall execute the Consent Order and it then becomes law. Consequently, if the other party violates the consent order, you would have the right to have your attorney file a motion with a New Jersey Family Court to enforce your litigant’s rights, sanctions and attorneys’ fees in connection with the application.

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When going through the New Jersey Divorce Process most women face the decision on whether or not they want to take back their maiden name or keep their married name. During the final New Jersey Judgment for Divorce, a woman is legally allowed to change her name. She may assume her maiden name, or any other last name she wishes to at that time. This is legislated by New Jersey Statutes 2A:34-21 “The court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse, may allow either spouse to resume any name used by the spouse before the marriage, or to assume any surname.”

The name change is formally written into your final judgement (the papers signed by the court). As part of the divorce proceedings in court, you will be asked to swear, under oath, that you are not in fact changing your name for any fraudulent reasons, if criminal charges are pending, and any crime convictions.

Many women struggle with the decision and ask for my guidance in the decision. I always explain the many factors to consider.

For clients with children I have found that women tend to keep their married name. They want to continue to keep the same last name as their children not only as a family connection, but also ease of dealing with schools, doctors, and in activities. It can be easier than always having to explain why there is a difference.

Many clients often choose to keep their married name if they are leaving a long-term marriage and have really established themselves in the community or at work. They feel that no one would know who they were in their profession or in their children’s lives if they went back to their maiden name. They also do not want the hassle of changing their identification (including social security and credit cards).
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We are fortunate in New Jersey to have an Early Settlement Panel (ESP) program. When two divorcing parties can not agree on financial matters, a judge will typically send them to the program.

The goal is to help settle the financial issues such as alimony, child support, dividing of property or any other issues involving money. When alimony is a contentious issue in a New Jersey divorce, about 90% of those cases find their way to the ESP program. Issues such as child custody and/or parenting time are not entertained by the panel.

The panelists are experienced New Jersey divorce and family law attorneys in the county in which your divorce was filed. These volunteers have extensive knowledge of the law and volunteer 4 times a year to help settle cases.

I have been a panelist since 2000. Panelists review your information prior to your ESP date. On the date of the conference they meet with your attorneys to discuss specifics, and then make settlement recommendations to you. Their recommendations are non-binding, you don’t have to accept their suggestions.

If you do accept the recommendations of the Early Settlement Panel, and can formally agree to move forward with the divorce, the divorce can be finalized that very day. If the recommendations are not accepted by both parties, the judge will call a conference and could decide to send your divorce to further mediation or even to trial.

There is a magic of the ESP program – 50% of cases settle that day or at the very least significant progress can be made where there was division between the parties. This is because the panelists have no vested interest in the case. They hear the facts, but are not representing either party. Their recommendations are based on experience. I have found that it is the impartiality of the panelists that can sway a divorcing person to reasonableness.
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Here we sit in the middle of the holiday season. The actual holidays are starting to fire for some while others the planning continues. Our state is still recovering from the hurricane so many are struggling with the daily life and just giving their children a happy holiday while others are trying to fit in a few minutes to volunteer or a few extra dollars to give. Clients are visiting my office with issues of child custody and where their children are going to spend time over the next few weeks. Many of you are going through your first post-divorce holiday. There seems to be a overwhelming feeling of busy and stress in the air.

I have helped many clients through this difficult time of year and know that you will be ok. Here are some ideas to get you through this rough time.

Stay within your budget:
Gift giving for your children is not a competition with your ex-spouse or any of your family members. Make a commitment to give within your means. It will be less stressful for you now and, more importantly in January as you won’t have to face a stack of bills.

Establish new Traditions:
This is a time of acceptance as you move into your post-divorce life. While your day-to-day has changed immensely, so have some of your annual events. Make sure to mark your new life with different traditions both involving your children and also just for yourself. Take a trip to NYC to see the tree at Rockefeller Center and visit the windows on 5th Avenue. Bake cookies or decorate gingerbread houses. Go out for a special meal or exchange presents at a different time than in the past.
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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

If you are going through a New Jersey Divorce you are probably wondering how your process will be affected by Hurricane Sandy. First and foremost, while this is an unprecedented event, I have great confidence that the legal community will do all that it can to get operations caught-up as soon as possible. While you may have an endless number of concerns and unique circumstances, they probably fall into one of the following categories: Property, finances, and the court’s schedule due to closings.

Property Damage and Your New Jersey Divorce:
For most divorcing couples, the marital home is their most valuable asset. During the storm, your house may have damage, minimally and substantially. This damage may require clean-up, construction, and probably hauling away of downed trees. In many New Jersey shore towns, year-round and vacation homes were rendered inhabitable or even completely demolished. All scenarios leave a tremendous amount of work to be done both physically and behind the scenes as homeowners deal with insurance companies, FEMA, and contractors.

If your home was damaged, and the property has already been assessed and figured into your divorce settlement, a plan needs to be put in place so the current condition is appropriately represented in all paperwork. If you still co-own these properties, you and your spouse will have to work together to get them brought back to pre-storm conditions. Your attorney can help you negotiate who has the obligation to coordinate repairs and work out financial responsibilities towards the rehabilitations. When parties do not agree, the court can be petitioned and your issues can be decided upon by a judge.

While the scale and scope of Hurricane Sandy may be unprecedented, a change in asset value during the process of a NJ Divorce is not. There is precedent in the case Scavone vs. Scavone (230 N.J. Super 482) Ch Div 1988. In this ruling the court stated that if the market forces a substantial change in value of a property, a divorcing couple will suffer that loss together. Therefore, even if your current plan is for one of you to buy the other out of the house, it is not done at the pre-storm condition or assessed value. If substantial value was lost, that loss is shared.

Financial Issues and Support Payments:
I will be writing separately on the ramifications of Hurricane Sandy on support payments. Globally speaking, any financial hardship suffered due to Hurricane Sandy is not an reason to not make a support (alimony or child support) payment. Those legally binding obligations still stand. For your personal financial situations, many individuals will have issues due to a loss of pay, delay of pay due to businesses being closed or inaccessible. Preliminarily, many banks are offering generous grace periods for insufficient funds. Creditors and utilities are altering due dates for payments. For your part, you need to be on top of your entire financial picture and remain in contact with your creditors to reschedule payments.
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In my nearly 20 years as a Divorce and Family Lawyer, I have seen many many clients handle the NJ Divorce process like superstars. Representing so many clients has given me the opportunity to notice certain positive actions of these clients that help them sail through to their final divorce decree. Below are the top four divorce survival tips:

1. Take care of yourself emotionally, outside of the divorce process. A good therapist, counselor, spiritual leader, and close group of friends can be instrumental in providing the support you need so you can begin to heal. Within the confines of these relationships you can explore the hurt and anger you are experiencing. This leads directly into my next point:

2. Deal with your divorce as a professional transaction. If you are taking care of your emotional health outside of the legal process, you will be able to deal with negotiations and legal obstacles with a business like attitude. This will avoid your emotions guiding your decisions. While this is the best way to approach the mechanics of your divorce it isn’t easy since it is a very personal experience. The right NJ Divorce attorney will be able to help keep you on track through the process and help you make those sound decisions that are in your short term and long term best interest.
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1155826_soccer_player.jpgOver my nearly 20 years as a New Jersey divorce and family lawyer, I have maintained that child support is not optional – both parents are responsible for making sure their children are financially cared for, and the child support laws here in the garden state agree.

Child Support goes hand-in-hand with custody arrangements and is based on a series of very specific formulas called New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These guidelines are based on three major factors: the expenses of raising the child, the income levels of each parent, and the number of nights during the week the child will spend with each parent.

Some individuals feel that they can skirt the system by falsifying documents related to their income and costs of certain activities. Here are some great things to look out for in your ex-spouse when child support is being calculated and then in your post-divorce life:
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dollars.jpgDivorce can be an expensive process. When you factor in the costs associated with rearranging your finances, separating your marital life, and then rebuilding anew, it can be overwhelming to your bank account. One way to really control costs during the New Jersey divorce process is hire an attorney dedicated to efficiency and then establish a relationship based on realistic expectations and professionalism.

Do your research to find a good New Jersey divorce attorney. The right attorney will work efficiently and will have a clear and fair billing policy. Be careful to not based your decision on attorney fees. While you may pay a bit more for a good attorney, he can save you thousands in legal fees by moving the process forward, filing paperwork correctly, and negotiating with your best interests in mind. Remember “you get what you pay for.”

While you search for a divorce attorney, educate yourself about the divorce process. A good attorney should always be more than happy to explain any part of your divorce to you, and use language you can easily understand. However, after the initial consultation you will be paying for this education so it is better to do some preliminary research on your own. I have filled my website with information to help you at every point in the process. Make sure to check back often as we are continually adding new information.

You will save a tremendous amount of money by getting and staying organized. Your divorce attorney should give you a list of required documents and information that you can gather. Ideally your lawyer will also be able to recommend tips and techniques to stay organized during the divorce process. This many include keeping a calendar and developing a filing system for important documentation should you need to reference it in the future.
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Doctor Doctor.jpgIf you are going through the New Jersey divorce process, and your health insurance is currently covered through your spouse’s employer, you are going to need a plan for coverage in your post-divorce life. Typically, married couples handle their health insurance coverage through one of their employers. When the divorce is finalized only the employee remains on the plan and the other spouse must make alternate arrangements. As a divorce attorney I have found this to be a common problem when one spouse is not currently working or only works part-time to care for the home and/or children.

If you are going to lose your health insurance as a result of your divorce, it is critical to explore your options and come up with a plan of action before your divorce is finalized. The financial costs associated with your post-divorce health insurance can be a bargaining point in the proceedings and your soon to be ex-spouse may be required to pay for them. Listed below are the most common options for obtaining health insurance.

1) If you are working, the obvious first place to check is with your current employer. This tends to be the most cost-effective way to obtain the best possible coverage. Even if you work part-time your employer may have options for you. If part-time employees are not eligible to receive medical coverage, you may also explore the possibility of working full-time to obtain coverage (with the added benefit of a bigger paycheck!).

2) A second choice is COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconcilliation Act), a federal law requiring that when an individual no longer qualifies for a health insurance coverage through an employer (with more than 20 employees), that individual needs to be given the ability to continue coverage through the plan at their own expense. In other words, you can remain on the plan, but pay the full cost of the premium. Now, without the benefit of the company contribution, this can be an expensive option, but should be considered as the costs could become part of your spousal support as the court can order your spouse to pay your insurance premium as part of the settlement.
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