Author: Carl Taylor, Esq.

Podcast Episode 6 – How to Control Costs in a New Jersey Divorce

EPISODE 06

INTERVIEW with Adam Eisenhut, Esq.

[0:00:07.7] CT: Hello and welcome to the Carl Taylor Law Divorce and Family Law Podcast, rebranded as Happily Even After. Today, we have a special guest, Mr. Adam Eisenhut, close friend of mine. I’m willing to say, go in the record and saying, Adam, you’re my friend, you’re also one of the best family law attorneys I’ve ever seen in action. You’re a local guy in Flemington, your office is — you want to describe a little bit of where you’re at and your firm?

[0:00:33.1] AE: Well since I’m one of the best attorneys you ever met, now I need to promote this podcast. Thank you. No, I’m a local attorney in Flemington, focused primarily almost exclusively in family law, it’s the focus of my firm and primarily, in Hunterdon County, a little bit in Somerset and Warren, is where my practice area really is and I’m sure very similar to you and I don’t think we’ve had a case against each other yet, which is why we can still say that we’re friends.

[0:00:56.0] CT: Yeah, it’s interesting. We’ve seen a lot of friendships ruined amongst family law attorneys over cases but luckily, we haven’t gotten there yet but maybe soon. Until then, we’ll have our board game nights to destroy our friendships.

So Adam, I think one of the things that people say when they come in is I tend to notice that clients go, “How long is it going to take and how much is it going to cost?”

[0:01:15.8] AE: Yeah.

[0:01:16.4] CT: I think today, it would really be helpful to the six people listening, your parents my parents, and our spouses to kind of go in to how can you keep costs down? Because I think clients kind of underestimate how much their involvement or lack of involvement or their attitude impacts that cost. They kind of tend to believe it’s all up to us or the court system but I think that they’re actually one of the most important elements to the divorce, would you agree with that?

[0:01:40.9] AE: Yeah, I think you know, because I really do get that question, I’m sure you too about how much it’s going to cost, how long it’s going to take and I think that’s ultimately a very fair question but it’s very difficult to answer and I always feel like I’m giving a very unsatisfying response when I say, “We can control about 50% of it but what you, your spouse and their attorneys do was going to dictate the cost to a certain extent.” But you’re absolutely right, that clients can do a lot to keep the cost down and I try to emphasize that, I know you do too in your practice.

[0:02:10.3] CT: I just had a case that ended in 30 days. Client came to me, signed up and 30 days later, they were divorced and then of course we have cases that go two, three years, right? It’s the same attorney so a lot of it really comes down to – I think the emotional piece more than anything else, even complex cases can be resolved pretty quickly if the emotional piece is addressed.

But a lot of times, if you have one of the parties who is not ready to move forward for whatever reason, or they feel guilty or they feel angry, it can kid of hold things up because I think one time you said to me, Adam, two good divorce attorneys could probably go into a room and after about a day or so, after about eight hours workout all the complex financials and everything else and have a fair agreement. So what changes that I think is really the emotion to it, right?

So, what are some of the tips that you would have, and I’ll add in as well, to try and keep cost down?

[0:03:02.8] AE: Well, I think a lot of cases that spiral out of control usually have custody as an issue and that’s difficult I think for the attorneys because we’re guided so much by what our clients, the parents are saying. Nobody wants to be the attorney to say, “Don’t spend the time with your kids that you think is appropriate,” or especially if a client is saying the other parent is unfit or there’s a safety issue.

Attorneys are always, and I know I am very reluctant to question that because we’re not there and we don’t want to put kids in a dangerous situation. So parents, I think, are in a unique position to resolve what could be the most difficult portion of their case themselves. I see a lot of people come in and say, “We’ve already talked about custody, we hash it out at the dining room table, we have a plan. Help, fill in some gaps or answer some questions but we fundamentally have an agreement as to what it should look like generally about what school district the kids should be in, where the kid’s going to live primarily, something to build off of,” and it takes what could be a very difficult and expensive issue and it makes it very easy. I think that’s, quite honestly parents are in the best position, not the attorneys, to make that decision. Now, I don’t think the courts either have the same understanding of the family dynamic that the parents themselves do.

[0:04:18.5] CT: You know what surprises me as a parent, Adam?

[0:04:21.0] AE: I don’t have kids so I don’t get a vote, so yeah.

[0:04:22.5] CT: I’m always surprised that I’ve yet to see a case where people come in and go, “I want to negotiate the other side gets more parenting time.” If I ever get divorced, I’m going to be like, “I insist that I get the weekends, or I don’t get the weekends.” Like, “Christie, you can take the weekends I’m going to go and play board games at Adam’s house and so he gets divorced, I’m going to lumber around.” I mean, I’m being somewhat facetious, but everyone wants that extra time and sometimes it’s not genuine, right?

Sometimes it’s a way to keep child support low but really, you know, because you and I are pretty much the same, we’ve been doing this about 10 or more years, right? I’ve seen a big change, I’m sure you have too Adam where when we first started, it was like, “Okay, if you’re the dad, you’re going to get alternate weekends and maybe Wednesday night dinner and that’s that.” Although the law was gender neutral, it was really not really at that time when I first started 10 years ago, it was rare to see a father get 50/50 parenting time. I think what a lot of the judges are now saying is, in a more informal and formal way, is, “Hey, it’s 50/50 and tell us why we should come off of that.”

[0:05:22.0] AE: Yeah, I think it’s interesting because I think the fundamental case law on it, which is decades old now  hasn’t changed but there has been a cultural shift and I think you do see more involved fathers, you see fathers who are more willing to fight for custody and I think to a certain extent –

[0:05:37.6] CT: Unlike me. This is all a joke if it should come to pass, this is not evidentiary, I don’t think.

[0:05:45.1] AE: Fortunately, your family probably is not listening to this podcast, so you’re safe.

[0:05:48.9] CT: Sorry, go ahead.

[0:05:49.7] AE: I think that the households where one parent has stayed at home with the kids is more rare than it used to be just based on the economics of today’s society where there’s a lot of just working families where everyone is working and I think that’s pushed the change towards a more 50/50 centric idea. It’s not appropriate for every case but I think that it is much more appropriate than it used to be.

Yeah, I think it’s interesting, you know? Family law, it’s kind of like one of those things where you kind of evolve with the times where, you know, I was a law clerk during the great recession and there was this discussion of, hey, you know, to modify child support alimony, it used to be really onerous, it would take years of permanent substantial change in circumstances but during that time period it’s like, “Hey, look, everyone’s out at work, it’s the great recession, maybe six months being out of work is enough to modify child support alimony.” Now I think it’s probably kind of lengthening again now that the economy’s a little bit stronger at least in terms of employment numbers.

[0:06:42.7] CT: You realize you sound like you’re 110 years old. When I was a law clerk in the great recession.

[0:06:49.9] AE: We had to go and cut down our own trees to stay warm.

[0:06:52.3] CT: Calculate child support by hand, both ways.

[0:06:54.9] AE: You don’t’ do that?

[0:06:56.3] CT: So I think what we’ve talked about so far to run it down is we talked about how emotion really has a big factor and I can get into that a little bit more. I tend to say to people, don’t be afraid to go to talk to a therapist to go for long runs, to meditate, whatever it is that you need to do to get through the stress because the fact of the matter is most divorce attorneys, we’re not trained in the emotion.

We worked with it all day but we’re not trained in any kind of clinical sense how to address it and that, if you talk to a client for an hour and a half about you know, their feelings about a case, that can be very therapeutic for the client but then when the get the bill they might say, “Wait a minute, maybe it would have been cheaper to talk to my therapist and have – way more effective, right? Talk to me long enough, you might need therapy.

[0:07:39.3] AE: I do think that the problem, the disconnect is that very rarely do both parties in a divorce, are they at the same place in terms of accepting the divorce.

[0:07:49.9] CT: That’s so true.

[0:07:51.1] AE: Usually you get somebody who has been thinking about it, possibly planning it and is finally pulled the trigger and saying, “I want a divorce,” and they’ve processed a lot of the emotion possibly for months and then we have the other partner who sometimes completely blindsided. You’ve got one side who is ready to go, who has made a decision, who wants to get it done as quickly as possible and then you’ve got someone else who maybe just found out for the first time their marriage is ending and all of a sudden, is asked to transition to just a pure economic bottom line analysis of things. It’s really unrealistic I think to expect someone to play catch up that quickly. But of course they’re sort of forced to and if they don’t then they’re going to start incurring more cost like you were saying.

[0:08:30.7] CT: Adam, we should probably talk about some of the mediation and arbitration, some of the other avenues available to people. I think every case, I don’t like to go in with the mindset of this should be a collaborative law case or this should be straight litigation. I think to some extent, every case is different so you kind of have to listen at the initial consult to see some of these keywords like is it fit for mediation or is the kind of case where maybe I’ll just draft a marital settlement agreement and send it to the other side and we don’t even need a mediator because they’re pretty far along.

What are some of the methods available if you don’t mind diving into that?

[0:09:02.3] AE: Sure, I have the clerical training and I do mediation and I believe in both of those things and so I try to push that when I meet clients and so I sort of come to the approach, a little differently than what you said. I kind of come to the approach of can we shoehorn it into mediation or collaborative divorce.

You need everyone to sign off on that and so if the other side is unwilling to do it that way then you know, you got a litigate as every family law attorney knows, 90 something percent of cases settle at some point even when you’re litigating. So you’re always trying to settle the case and you’re always trying, it’s always the cheapest and most cost effective way to do anything. But if I can get a case into mediation or the [inaudible] process early, I generally think that it’s a cost savings and you’re generally focused on the steps you need to take to settle the case as opposed to jumping through the hoops for court filings and meeting court dates. Which are important in some cases but other times not so relevant.

[0:09:56.7] CT: You know, another thing that when you start to, let’s say mediation fails, you get to the point where you’re really concerned, your concern is getting discovery and do you need experts and that’s really where cases could get very expensive, you know? Do you need a forensic accountant and they’re going to make divorce lawyers look inexpensive by comparison.

I find it difficult personally when you have a client and says, “I think I understand the finances and I have everything I need,” and it’s like, well maybe you do or maybe you don’t, but at what point is it cost effective to pursue through more discovery. It’s very tactic first, there’s a lot of tactics in divorce. Like you’re not quite sure what’s going to work, you just kind of hope to get to the point where maybe it will work, you know? Then you hope you don’t miss an asset, I mean, it’s very – it’s kind of difficult you know?

[0:10:41.2] AE: You’re describing malpractice.

[0:10:44.8] CT: When a client goes, “All right, enough is enough, I don’t want to go any further, I understand all the assets, I don’t want to do formal discovery,” and it’s like that’s like going to save you money and that’s great but at the same time, if you’ve missed an asset class, that can be very expensive.

[0:10:56.4] AE: Yeah, I think there is obviously more sophisticated litigants who are more familiar with their own finances and those cases are easier and less expensive because the due diligence is easier to do. When you have someone who truly says, “I don’t know what my spouse’s business is worth, I don’t know what assets they have or I think that they’ve been moving money around,” it becomes much harder to settle the case with at least with the certainty that you’ve covered all your bases and at that point it’s the client decision as to how much discovery to engage in and what makes sense from a cost benefit analysis. Like you said, every single case is different in that perspective.

[0:11:32.9] CT: What’s your philosophy on who takes to lead in a divorce action? Because I tend to say to clients, “Look, I’m a guide. At the end of the day, it’s your journey, you’re walking through the woods. I’ve walked through these woods before, I kind of know where things are but ultimately, I’m not going to force the decision because you have to live with this marital settlement agreement or the result of litigation or wherever it might be for the rest of your life. Whereas this is one case of many for me.” Not that I don’t care but I think, you know, I try to get to let people have the understanding of, to some extent, “You drive the bus but I’m here in the passenger seat trying to help you make sure you don’t go off the rails kind of thing.”

I find it’s a little bit of a, some clients want you to hold their hand more, some clients are happy being in control and there’s obviously a lot in between. But how do you address those issues in your practice?

[0:12:15.3] AE: You know, I think it depends on the client and that doesn’t sound like a very satisfying response but –

[0:12:19.5] CT: How much will this cost? How long will it take? Well, it depends.

[0:12:23.8] AE: I think there’s just a big difference because I have clients who they come in and they say, “Explain to me what you think is fair and then I will make a decision based on that.” I have other clients who say, “I am completely relying on you, my attorney, to tell me if I should do this or this,” and when there’s – I have a case right now where there’s some complex legal issues where it’s one of those rare cases where it’s in a legal grey area, which is always, it might be interesting for the attorneys but that always means it’s expensive for the clients so I say, theoretically, a court could say this, the law’s unclear on this point, you could litigate and get this outcome or we could litigate and get a very different outcome and so there’s potentially enormous costs involved and a compromise is difficult to reach.

But I generally send, say a compromise is probably the better solution. But I can’t force them to make it, I can just explain the costs and explain what I think is going to happen and that’s generally what I do is I try to save risk, reward, cost benefit analysis but there are absolutely clients who just say, “What would you do?” and I try to give my honest answer if I was in their shoes but generally, I’m obviously more comfortable when they’re making those decisions for themselves.

[0:13:32.7] CT: Right, you know, one of the things because your background, I think you’ve always done pretty much nothing but family law, right?

[0:13:37.6] AE: I’m a one trick pony.

[0:13:39.1] CT: Whereas my career has been a little more varied and I’ve done work for government entities or insurance companies and, you know, when you sit an adjuster, it’s very different than sitting with somebody going through a divorce because the adjuster says, “What are the odds of this working, you know?” “Well, we’ve got 60% chance of winning this motion or whatever.” “How much is it going to cost for your counsel fees?” Then they have some kind of algorithm that decides whether you file the motion or not. It’s very kind of detached and I like that to some extent.

I think family law could have more of that because you see people spending sometimes thousands of dollars to fight over like an old carpet or something that’s not worth anything. I don’t think, you know, the kind of attorneys that we really know would encourage that behavior. We certainly, I know you and I or at least I am, and I’m sure you try to stop that behavior. Like, “You’re fighting over something that doesn’t make sense, you’re wasting money.” But sometimes I think the emotional piece gets added in to the litigation and kind of creates like a toxic stew where it’s kind of hard to view it as dispassionately as you would like.

[0:14:37.2] AE: Yeah, and I think that is sort of the rule of the attorney is to sort of be, if nothing else, just a filter and to – I tell my clients, “I will take the position you want me to take, I will fight for what you want me to fight for but when it’s just me and you talking, I’m going to tell you if what you’re asking for is unreasonable. I’m going to tell you if what you’re asking for is something a court’s not going to grant you or if an argument you want me to make is not going to be cost effective.”

Unless it’s something completely crazy or unethical, I will make those arguments if I am asked to when someone says, “This is important to me,” I’ll do it. But I think a large part of our role is to try to dissuade clients from doing that and I think I know you to that. A lot of good attorneys do that and I think one of the problems is when you have attorneys who have no interest in doing that and just want to stoke those fires and prey upon the emotional component that you were discussing and just generate more problems for an already distressed family.

[0:15:34.8] CT: Yeah, you know, you draw an opposing council or even worst, if you have somebody on the other side who is very stubborn and doesn’t have an attorney, that is one of the variables that can really make a divorce kind of really last a lot longer than it should and a lot of times the results aren’t really any different than they would be settling. But the cost going into a achieving those results are very high and obviously part of our job is to help control the situation as best as we can, neutralize opposing council if they’re taking some of these tactics but you know, it is very frustrating sometimes when you see a case becoming more expensive than it should and you get the sense that maybe the other side and/or their attorney for whatever reason are like you said, stoking the fires and making mountains out of mole hills, so to speak.

So that is one of those reasons why it is hard to say to a client how much it’s going to cost when they come in. Because at that moment you generally don’t know who the opposing council is, you don’t know the attitude of — you can size up your own client pretty quickly. The more you do it, the more you get a sense for what they want and who they are but you don’t know who they’re married to and a lot of decisions come down to, “Well, what do you think we should do?” and it is like, “Well I don’t know your husband” or “I don’t know your wife, you do. How are they going to react to this? Is this going to be somebody that is going to move this forward or are they going to take umbrage at this and it is going to set the case back if we file this kind of motion or if we take this kind of tactic?”

[0:16:50.5] AE: You know, I think that is always the balancing act because there’s absolutely positions you could take and applications you could file with the court that might advance the short term interests, but it might push back in ultimate settlement and so there is a lot of strategy in terms of managing. If you know you are going to trial for example, it is unfortunate but it happens in some cases, you are much more free to look for their short term gains.

But otherwise, I am usually counseling my clients saying, “Don’t send that angry letter, don’t file that is going to embarrass the other side unnecessarily.” Because at the end of the day, we want to sit across the table with them and we want them to agree to something that you are going to find favorable and if they’re just upset that doesn’t lead to a productive conversation and so ideally, you want to just stick to the facts, move things forward as quickly as possible.

And you know our business model I think is the same for you is we rely on word of mouth. So I want to get someone out of the divorce process as quickly and inexpensively as possible and you know, hopefully they refer other people going through something similar to me saying, “I didn’t spend a fortune and I got a fair deal.” So I don’t need a case to be prolonged and protracted and awful. That is not good for my mental health and it’s not how my business model works in terms of generating fees for myself so.

[0:18:11.1] CT: I think there’s – and we’ll wrap it up I guess in a couple of minutes Adam, but there are some clients who come in and it’s like, “Can you be a real bastard? I need a real bastard,” and they tend not to hire me because they realize I am a bastard but not in the way they want, you know? So some clients I think going in and this is speaking to there’s no one listening at this point but if you were hypothetically, you know, when we talk about the emotion and selecting an attorney and having the thought process of, “Hey maybe I am not going to go into here and try to create damage or harm other people,” and you mentioned before we started recording today Adam, the idea of a knife fight, right? And the old joke about a knife fight is the winner leaves in an ambulance and the loser leaves in a body bag, right?

So you don’t want to get these knife fight type situations. But how do you deal — I find it very hard to deal with those types of clients who sometimes at the end they might say, “Oh, you know what? You’re pretty level headed and that was a good thing ultimately. I was wrong.” But some clients really do want to go in and create chaos because I understand, they’re just so frustrated or they are so upset or they found their spouse is having an affair and they’re afraid. A lot of them comes to fear, they are afraid they’ll lose all their money, or their children. I try not to say to people that, “Maybe you should hire another lawyer.” But there is a lot of lawyers who build themselves as, “I am the pit bull, I am the shark.” So sometimes it is not a good fit as I spiral and just talking in a circle, I’m sorry.

[0:19:33.9] AE: I usually tell clients that they need to really think about what their priorities are and if their priorities are having a good relationship with their children and coming out of the divorce financially intact, I try to keep everyone focused on that. Because, especially when there is children, brutal unrelenting litigation between parents always bleeds over and I think both parents relationships with their children suffer and at the end of the day, ideally you want to have some savings left and you want to be able to put your children through college and I think if everyone stays focused on that, it is much easier.

So I try to redirect the situation, whether it’s my client or the other side, when I see someone making arguments or doing things that’s just going to waste money, I try to always keep focused on those things, which generally works but every now and then you run into someone who is just trying to destroy your client and you need to be aggressive and fight back. But very rarely can people afford to do that and so you always try to go back to the cost benefit analysis and I know that’s how we both practice.

[0:20:40.9] CT: Well Adam, thank you for coming onto the podcast. I know it is going to be a great boom to your career so you should probably be thanking me but.

[0:20:47.6] AE: Exactly. To our five listeners, I hope you enjoyed this.

[0:20:51.1] CT: Take care and have a good day and Adam, what is your firm’s website if people want to check you out?

[0:20:56.5] AE: It’s mezlawyers.com.

[0:21:00.7] CT: Okay, we’ll sign off. Take care.

[END]

Divorce Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a Podcast Transcript of our episode on the subject of Frequently Asked Questions. You can also listen to it by clicking here.

I know when I majored in English during college and I thought about a career perhaps in journalism. We heard about who, what, when, where, why, how. Those were the important questions that essentially served to cover everything.

In divorce, it’s simplified. You already know who; your spouse, you already know where; the jurisdiction where you reside, that’s usually pretty simple. Sometimes it’s not, but usually it is. My clients, they provide the why, they know why they’re there. The questions for me as a divorce attorney, with my practice located here in Hunterdon County and serving central New Jersey, is a lot of when, how and what. 

The what questions are pretty simple. What will this cost? What would it cost for my divorce attorney? What would it cost in terms of what I have to pay to my spouse? What will this cost in terms of how much time I have to give up with my children? The what questions dominate – these are the dominant questions in a divorce. Then the other major question I always hear is “when?” Invariably, this is the number one question. How long is this going to take? How long until I’m divorced? 

Of course being a lawyer, I say, “Well, depends.” Then I say, “Normally, a divorce in New Jersey can take anywhere from a couple months up to a couple years.” I’d say for my practice, most cases last four to eight months on average.

The real general rule of thumb that I tell clients, or prospective clients is once you come to a settlement and you’ve got a drafted marital settlement agreement, you take that period plus about a month for the court to get you scheduled to finalize your divorce and that’s how long it takes to get divorced. How long it takes you and your spouse with or without the assistance of counsel to come to written agreement, plus about a month. 

So, four to eight months on average to get a divorce, but it’s so personal and so fact-sensitive, all you can really do is attempt to move it forward quickly and efficiently. Our firm tries to be efficient. We aim to move the matter forward as quickly as possible, given the factors. There’s obviously factors outside of our control. The court system itself has timelines in place and scheduling, but mostly, it’s how long to take for you and your spouse with or without the assistance of attorneys to come to an agreement. 

In terms of cost, again—me being a lawyer, it’s somewhat variable. Most divorce attorneys in New Jersey, almost all charge by the hour for certain ethical guidelines in place that make it hard for us to charge otherwise. We can’t do a contingency fee that you couldn’t bend and a personal injury case or something like that. It’s hourly cost. Then how many hours takes to get a divorce. I usually ask for a $5,000 retainer for most contested divorces and closer to $2,500 or $3,500 for uncontested. Then you bill against that retainer amount every month. If there’s money left over at the end, you’re refunded. If the matter hasn’t resolved at the time that the money has run through or almost run through, I have a discussion with my clients. 

The important thing is as I tell clients unfortunately, we’re not building a deck, or doing something that we can map out how long it’s going to take and we’re going to have a finished product, a lot of it is going to come down to how long it takes people to come to terms of settlement. The more that they can do to work out those terms before they come to us or between themselves, that’s really only beneficial to them. The more you get into the discovery, or complex matters it really can take a lot of time. 

Unfortunately, as efficient as we are it can also take a good deal of money to get through the divorce process, depending upon the case, the emotions of those involved, the personalities of those involved and the attorneys involved. Regarding general issues in a divorce, if you have children, it’s going to be what kind of parenting time can you agree upon? Who’s going to have custody? Will it be joined 50/50 custody? 

We have some variation where one parent is the parent of primary residence and the other is alternate. Courts more and more are moving towards 50/50 parenting time and asking you to put the burden on you to explain why it shouldn’t be 50/50, if you’re seeking more than 50/50 parenting time. 

Child support is calculated based upon a number of factors; most importantly, the number of overnights each parent has with the child or children. The income of the parents, alimony also comes down to the differential in your income, along with how long you’ve been married and there’s a number of factors that go into play to determine whether or not there’s an alimony obligation. 

Another major issue they’ll be confronted in divorce is equitable distribution; everything from how you divide your cars, your house, your stock options, your pensions, down to how do you divide your debts, your credit card debts, everything that you’ve commingled, or earned, or get encumbered by during your marriage, you’ll have to now split in some fashion. Usually, it’s a 50/50 split, but not always. That’s something your divorce attorney will walk you through and determine what kinds of rights and responsibilities you have regarding not just alimony and child support, but also an equitable distribution. 

Regarding what types of questions you should be prepared to be asked a divorce initial consultation, we’ll review basic things, like when you go to a doctor’s appointment, they ask for your address, your phone number, or just basic information and then we’ll get into more specific information to the divorce; your income history, your education, your employment, your spouse’s employment, any issues with your children, any issues with your health, any possible custody issues, any history of domestic violence, how much your property may be worth, your assets, your bank accounts, investment accounts, college costs, health insurance and life insurance issues. If you have a business, how do you value the business? You have profit sharing, how do you confront profit sharing and pensions? 

The divorce consult generally takes about one and a half to two hours to get through depending upon the complexity of the case. We charge a flat rate of $250.00. During that divorce consult, we’ll figure out whether we’re a good fit for you, you’ll decide whether you’re a good fit for our firm. From there, we’ll drop a retainer agreement and start a formal attorney-client relationship, if that’s something both parties wish to proceed with. 

Our firm is located in Raritan Township, Hunterdon County. Again, we serve all of Central New Jersey, especially Hunterdon County and Somerset County. If you’d like to check us out on the internet, our website is mynjdivorcelawyer.com. If you’d like to schedule a divorce consult, you can do so at that web address using our scheduling feature. If you’d like to call to setup a initial consult, you can call 908-237-3096. During the divorce consult, we can go through not just these questions, but all the questions pertaining to your divorce more specifically. 

I hope this frequently-asked-questions feature is helpful. Thanks for listening. Take care. 

Podcast 5 – Addressing Emotion in a Divorce

EPISODE 05 

Click here to listen to the Podcast itself http://mynjdivorcelawyer.libsyn.com/episode-5-addressing-emotion-in-a-divorceor read below for a transcript of the material.

[0:00:08.5] CT: How did it come to this and what can you do about it? How did a relationship that started out with fancy dinners and romance turn into a “we need to have a talk” or a “maybe we need to separate” or a discovery on a cellphone that there is an affair, or a now someone is packing up and leaving?  

How do you get beyond that point when you’ve tried marriage therapy or couple’s counseling, when you’ve gone to individual therapy, perhaps? What do you do when you’ve sort of lost that control, where a marriage is broken irreparably and irretrievably, what do you do to move it forward when you have to get divorced?  

This is Carl Taylor and this is the Happily Even After Podcast. I’m a local attorney in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Our firm serves Central New Jersey and we have a great deal of information on our website, www.mynjdivorcelawyer.com. The purpose of this podcast is to sort of delve deeper into some of these issues. Now, very few divorce lawyers are trained in any professional setting to deal with psychology or the emotion of a divorce and yet it inescapably becomes a part of our practice. It’s very, very difficult–probably impossible to separate emotion from a divorce and it’s sort of the opposite of most cases.  

In most cases, in most areas of the law, it’s 70-80% “the Law” and 20-30% emotion.  It’s sort of flipped on its head in divorce law. What you’re dealing with is an area where it’s almost 20-30% actual legal issues and 70-80% emotional issues and of course, that varies by case.  

There are some cases that are relatively amicable and they end fairly quickly. They’ve reached a point where the parties perhaps no longer can work out the relationship but they’re comfortable with each other, they’ve processed it, they’re in a good spot and those cases, kind of come and go through a divorce practice relatively quickly. They’re not the cases a divorce lawyer generally remembers 10, 15, 20 years later. It’s usually the high conflict cases or the cases with a lot of emotion. 

I think to some extent that’s because it’s hard for, at least it’s hard for me as a divorce lawyer, to know how to address the emotion and I’ve given a lot of thought to it and of course, I can relate to it because we all have family dynamics, we all deal with emotion. None of us are robots so even though I understand the law, I think one of the things that I need to do or I try to do and probably most divorce lawyers feel the same way is read up on the emotional piece and talk to experts in marriage counseling or therapists or read books about how do you help somebody grieve, because that’s part of it, it’s not what we’re getting paid to do but it’s part of it.  

But we really can’t separate the emotion from the divorce and we can’t be robotic either. So what I want to touch on in this podcast and in future podcasts, I’d like to have some of these experts on to talk about emotion with them in a more clinical manner than I can. But I guess I just want to talk about some ground rules or ideas for anyone contemplating a divorce, anyone who is fearful that their children are being alienated by a spouse or an ex or if you’re separated or even after a divorce. Just because the divorce is finalized, doesn’t mean all the emotions go into a tidy little box and don’t come out ever again.  

A lot of divorces are more like a Pandora’s box, if anything, because at any moment those emotions can be triggered or released and I definitely don’t want to ever do a disservice to my clients by letting people think it’s going to be easy, because it’s not. On our website, one of the things we’ve done is we’ve added a section on various parts of the law where we have all of our articles and links to articles where we’ve been published offsite and links to relevant podcasts. But we also have the section, one of the eight, it’s only addresses the issue of emotion in a divorce.  We’ll have interviews with someone like Glenn Murphy who is a licensed counselor and marriage therapist in Somerset County, about how do you address the emotion of divorce with your children? How do you help your children through a divorce?  

I mean, that’s a very real concern. We care about our children and obviously a divorce will impact your children, one way or the other. Even in the best-case scenario, there’s going to be some impact and how do you protect them through that? So, I think today it’s more of a base line in this podcast, talking about emotion. Sometimes we don’t want to talk about it, we want to keep it in. But there’s going to be emotion as part of your divorce, that’s only natural and your divorce lawyer’s not going to be trained. Someone like me is not – I’m not trained, necessarily, in any clinical manner. 

So what I can do is, in certain cases, recommend that somebody go to a therapist, but not everybody’s comfortable doing that. Some people probably take it personally. It’s not–it’s just something I think is a good idea because a divorce as they say is worse than a death, it doesn’t mean you have to go to therapy forever, it doesn’t mean you need to be medicated. But talking to someone, clergy, therapist, reading books, reading some of the materials we have access to on our website, whatever it is that you do to help yourself through the lows in life that inevitably will strike.  

Some people take up running as a healthy way to get through it. I know for me, I really enjoy going for long hikes to clear my head. When I’m really going through a tough problem that I want to solve, I might go out and hike 10, 15 miles on a Saturday and take those four, five, six hours to myself, away from everybody in nature and think. It’s going to be different for everybody. Go wail on your guitar, go talk to a family member, talk to your parents, whatever it might be but make sure you have a support network and understand that even an attorney like me who is talking about emotion in a divorce, I’m not going to be trained.  

Some attorneys probably are trained or dual trained, but most attorneys, even in family law, we’re not trained in how to necessarily address the emotion and we’re used to people being very emotional. I think a lot of times, I can only speak for myself, it can be frustrating when you see a case take a turn for the worse because of emotion, one way or the other and it’s tough if you think someone’s playing games because, you know, divorce is not a game. It’s serious business and at the same time, I think sometimes you have to let it out. Sometimes I’ve been through mediations where it didn’t seem helpful but, you know, a few days later or a couple of weeks later. The case settles unexpectedly and it’s almost like a blood-letting, you let the negative emotion out.  

You know, the reason why most people are getting divorced ultimately is because of a lack of communication, a lack of boundaries, and a lack of trust. So now you are going through a really difficult situation with somebody that you’ve had a hard time communicating with, with somebody that you don’t necessarily trust. So how do you get through this difficult process and you have the stranger, most times the stranger that is your lawyer and a lot of clients are skeptical of their lawyers. I have clients who wonder if I am in it to run up a bill, for instance, and I think in almost any high conflict divorce, there’s going to be a moment where as an attorney, you look at your client and the client is thinking, “Do I really trust this person?” I think that is natural.  

So learning how to communicate effectively with your lawyer or having your lawyer hopefully teach you how to communicate with them and how to take the wheel of your divorce to some extent because there is no single factor in your divorce that is going to have a bigger impact on it than you and yeah, you are paying me as your lawyer a lot of money per hour for my knowledge and expertise in this area of the law. But to get to the point where you have a settlement and you are clear on your goals and you’re clear in what you need to get out of this divorce to move forward, a lot of that is up to you.  

It is not entirely up to you because there is another party, your spouse, and then there’s the court and they’re going to have the court that’s going to have another agenda and its own views. The biggest agenda of all generally being moving an overstuffed docket as quickly as possible efficiently through. But there is no way to come out of this with everything that you want unless you’re well informed about what your rights and responsibilities are and most people don’t want to think about the second half of that equation, but it is true. In a divorce you may have certain rights but you’re also going to have responsibilities and if you come in for a consult with me I am going to tell you about your rights and also your responsibilities.  

You may have to pay alimony, you may have to pay child support and you may not like it. You may not have a great custody case or maybe you do. But you need to understand the law and you need to understand what is attainable and the cost and time and money to pursue every avenue of your divorce to its conclusion. When I was growing up, I know I saw my parents who have been married for a very long time and have a very good marriage. But I saw them go through an out of nowhere civil type litigation where a township error led to their being damage to their house and then the township didn’t want to pay for it and I saw my parents who were very down to earth, blue collar kind of people go through this and I was a young kid and, you know, finances were tight already and they got even tighter.  

It didn’t seem like they were getting the proper communication from their attorney, who knows? But it seemed like they were in the dark about the process and what was going to happen and I knew at a young age that I wanted to be a lawyer to do the opposite of that. I wanted to go out and really inform people about the process and divorce law is a great area for that because I work with real people. I have the ability to really take people through a difficult process and be their guide and hopefully point them to materials and sort of almost teach them the process and the procedure and the law and those rights and responsibilities, and it is not always smooth and it is not always perfect and every case is different and has different personalities.  

But what I come to over and over again is that if you have that knowledge that’s great. That is one part of the puzzle, but you also have to have knowledge of yourself, knowledge of your soon to be ex, knowledge of the style of your attorney and to their attorney and really just an overarching knowledge of the emotion of divorce. So I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but in the coming weeks on our website, on social media, in our podcast here I really want to delve in more and more into what is the emotional mix that has to be addressed in a divorce and it might be in your case, you feel a lot of guilt because you had an affair and you got caught. Maybe you just want to give up all of your alimony rights and give up your kid’s child support rights and take less custody and parenting time because you feel guilty.  

Or maybe that was your spouse who did all of that stuff and you just want to punish them and they’re a great mom but they went out and had an affair. So now you want to make sure that you punish them by taking away her time with her kids, with your kids. There’s going to be all kinds of — I can’t get into the specifics because I am talking to a wide audience but there’s going to be feelings of abandonment, doubt. People who are not sure if they wanted to get divorced because they are afraid that they’re never going to find anybody else, so they stick through a bad marriage.  

There’s going to be people who feel anger, frustration. There is going to be people who have legitimate psychological issues, borderline personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder and on and on that impact the divorce. There’s going to be feelings of apathy, right? The opposite of love as they say isn’t hate it’s apathy. There’s going to be people who are depressed because their marriage is ending and they don’t want to fill out the forms.  

How do you get to the point where you need to do to answer discovery and pick your head up to address this issues and there’s going to be people who don’t want to put the money into the divorce that it needs to get it resolved in the sort of catch 22. These are all largely emotional issues and until you can, like I said earlier, blood let some of these issues you really can’t get to meat of the case what I call the 20-30% that is the actual law. You know the law that addresses each component of your divorce case.  

So today was just to give a general overview of emotion in divorce and you can look for more information on mynjdivorcelawyer.com. If you’d like to schedule a consult, my number is 908-237-3096 and I hope everyone’s enjoying a good January thus far in 2019 and I look forward to addressing, in coming weeks, the issue of emotion in divorce and to have some experts who can help us delve into this topic and understand it better.  

So thanks again for listening and have a great day. Bye.  

[END]

Divorce = Personal Finance With Someone You Now Hate

In Podcast Episode 4 Attorney Carl Taylor and his Wife Kristen discuss the dos and don’ts of marriage and personal finance. Listen or read the transcript.

EPISODE 04

In Episode 4, January 2, 2019 Carl and his wife discuss personal finance in a marriage, communication, and how personal finances can impact a divorce, which Carl jokingly refers to as “personal finance with someone you now hate”. Below is the transcript or to listen click here: Embedded in Site Edition, Download Edition.

[INTERVIEW]

[0:00:08.4] Carl Taylor: Hello, welcome. Happy 2019 and welcome to the new and improved and rebranded Carl Taylor New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Podcast, now known as Happily Even After.

Today is a special day for our podcast because we will be doing our first interview with our “secret guest” who will be on momentarily and today’s topic is going to really focus around personal finances, how do personal finances impact a marriage, how can they lead to a divorce when not handled properly and what can we learn from those who are facing divorce or separation.

How can we learn from some of their miss-steps to make sure that we can keep track of our personal finances and not run into those types of issues. This is also important for people who have already been divorced or who are about to be divorced, if you are contemplating divorce. A lot of times personal finance issues are a big part of the problem. They’re one of the symptoms of an unhealthy marriage and you don’t have to be an economist to be good at personal finance.

You don’t have to be an expert in finance or anything else but you do have to have good communication in a marriage. You can’t have one spouse spending money and you don’t realize that they’re spending it.

You can’t have one spouse hiding assets, planning for divorce and you certainly don’t want to have one spouse taking on full responsibility for the finances in the household without any discussions because then at the time of the divorce or God forbid, if someone should pass away, the other spouse is going to have a hard time maintaining the finances of the home moving forward.

And they are going to have a difficult time knowing where the bank statements are held, knowing which assets they have, how much debt they have. So it’s really very important to have a good grasp on your finances and if you’re married to make sure that you both jointly have a firm grasp of your finances.

So without further ado, I’m going to introduce my secret guest, none other than my own wife, Kristen Taylor, who I have asked to come on as the first guest of our show. We have been married for 10 years. She’s obviously somebody who has a lot of tolerance if she’s been able to remain married to me for 10 years. But we are going to discuss some of our financial house rules some of which I have implemented just because I have always been curious about personal finance.

Some of which Kristen’s implemented because she has a good financial mind and some of which I have taken from this experience of going through more than a hundred divorces with other people, seeing how they do things and seeing some of these common threads of where people go wrong.

So without further ado, I am going to introduce my wife, Kristen Taylor, my better half. So Kristen, how are you?

[0:03:13.0] Kristen Taylor: I’m very good, thank you.

[0:03:14.7] CT: Thank you for being our ‘guinea pig’, I mean first guest on our program.

[0:03:18.4] KT: Of course, I am honored (sarcastic).

[0:03:20.3] CT: I’m sure you are, I was wondering or I was hoping that maybe you could go through sort of when we first got married 10 years ago where things stood and all the big assets I brought to the marriage.

[0:03:32.1] KT: Sure, well you certainly came into the marriage with a lot… of student loan debt. I had my own as well and even before we were married we had started to talk about planning and saving and what our view for the future was.

[0:03:47.7] CT: Yes, so I think we had about a combined $200,000 in student loan debt.

[0:03:53.6] KT: That sounds right.

[0:03:54.5] CT: Which when you are in school and you’re young doesn’t really mean anything because you just don’t know and then you get into the real world and it’s a couple of thousand dollars every month and I think very early on I started to freak out about it and you and I had to sit down and it’s like, “What are we going to do?”

And we were used to living like college students but we had to formulate a plan either just lay back and not do anything or to take drastic steps to try to get rid of it. So could you review with the audience which is probably only you and I anyway?

[0:04:28.9] KT: Sure, I think one of the things that was a big driver for us was the pressure we felt, both of us with the student loans, kind of looming, over our head. So we decided that that was going to be something we were going to take one full force and we decided that we are going to target our student loans and then we had the goal set for ourselves to pay off our student loans as quickly as possible. We knew we wanted to start a family and buy a home someday so –

[0:04:55.0] CT: Can you talk about our little spreadsheet we created, whatever it was?

[0:04:58.9] KT: Sure, so one of the ways that we were able to I think survive and come out on the other side was to make it fun or somewhat fun for ourselves. So we created a chart that every box on the chart represented a thousand dollars of our student loan debt.

[0:05:16.3] CT: So there is like 200 boxes, right?

[0:05:19.0] KT: 200 boxes on a sheet that we kept and every time we were able to pay off a thousand dollars we would actually cross off a box on the chart and it was a game for us. It kept us going and we were able to see the progress and to stay strong I think throughout the process. So we had that chart for a few years and we were finally able to pay off our student loans two years ago.

[0:05:43.3] CT: So I think one of the things we did along with that silly chart that we now have framed somewhere I am sure in our house, is every month we kind of have a sit down and say, “Here is where things are.” And I’ll admit, I probably was tighter in terms of… I was kind of like, “We can’t spend any money ever,” and you’re like, “Carl, we still have to live,” but we’d have a sit down and you’d let me know. We’d communicate and say, “Carl we need some money for this, or you’re being penny wise pound foolish.” It was a once a month kind of thing and we still do that today.

[0:06:15.1] KT: And we did that because of the planning. We would look to see what birthdays we knew we had that month, which holidays we knew we were going to have that month and what expenses were going to come up that month so that we could plan ahead and then see how much we could put towards savings. I mean we were able to do that each month and have that communication but it takes a little planning to think of the things that are coming up.

Who needs a gift for administrative assistance day, who needs a birthday party gift and planning for those things they’re –

[0:06:42.3] CT: Car breaking down.

[0:06:43.5] KT: Yeah, car breaking down, we had multiple savings accounts too that we put money into for emergency plans and planning for things that could come up with incidentals and unexpected issues.

[0:06:56.3] CT: For the purposes of this podcast which is obviously aimed at people who are going through a divorce or know somebody who is going through a divorce, I don’t want to come across like we’re bragging. I think the main reason why I have you on here Krissy was because as much as we tend to have a good marriage, there was definitely some fights about personal finance early on and I think when we were first trying to form that important base at the beginning of our marriage if we hadn’t taken the time to communicate and if I hadn’t implemented some things based upon what I see from my own clients.

Which is we really need to talk about these things and not barrier had in the sand. I mean, even if you communicate pretty well with somebody else, personal finance can really be a quicksand kind of thing.

[0:07:36.6] KT: Certainly, I was confused a first certainly and I can say honestly, I don’t enjoy the budgeting process as much as you do.

[0:07:45.7] CT: I’m like Gollum with that stuff.

[0:07:47.8] KT: I had to jump on board but it was something that you were able to show me, we were able to meet with success but it was about the communication of that because you know, I wasn’t always sure where the money should be going or what we should be focusing on and what we should be spending on and you certainly had, you know, you had the proof,  you had the ability to show me that it was working over time for us.

I also think that very quickly we had to make sure we were on the same page about what our goal was and that can be extremely difficult if your goal is not the same as your spouse’s, we decided that we were going to live a certain lifestyle for later gains.

[0:08:23.2] CT: Yeah, we bought a smaller house and that kind of stuff, I don’t impress my clients when I drive up in my Hyundai Elantra but at the same time, I don’t have a car note on it so one of the things about a divorce and I know you’re not an attorney Kristen, just to be clear to the audience, but divorce law, I guess you could kind of colloquially call it personal finance with someone you hate.

I mean, part of divorce is you have to literally go through and as an attorney I do this, we go through what’s called a case information statement, we fill out every form, we try to get an idea for what the monthly budget is for your family, what it will be after the divorce, what it is during the divorce, a lot of times, people sit there and say, I just really have no idea and you know, that’s true of a lot of people but when you’re going through a divorce.

You really have to have an idea of your finances. Whether you think you can salvage your marriage and maybe by communicating better about finances, you can or whether you’re going through a divorce, you really have to get a handle both of you and your attorneys on your finance or you’re not going to be able to divide the marital pie.

[0:09:27.2] KT: I know it’s going to sound cliché but you really need to know where the money is, you need to know every account that exist, you need to know the passwords for those accounts and you need to know how to access those accounts and if the way that today is with online bill pay and online banking, it’s even more important to know where all of your money is. If you’re not sure, those are the questions you really should be asking of your spouse.

[0:09:51.4] CT: Four or five months ago, Kristen comes to me and she says, hey, I feel like I’m sort of out of the loop with the – where we’re investing money and the passwords. You mind just making a list of everything we own and the passwords to it and being a divorce lawyer, I thought to myself, oh my God, this is divorce planning on Kristen’s part. Time will tell, I did give you a list of everything, so that goes back to the communications as well.

At the same time, you know, don’t be naïve like I am and you know, there are certain signs in the way someone’s acting that you know, you’ll be paranoid about it but they could be a sign of, if somebody starts taking more of an active interest in their finance, that’s not the case that Kristen is, because we’ve always been pretty much on the same page.

I think I was actually going to go out of town on business and she would have make sure if the plane crash, she knew how to get to my – or our savings account but you know, somebody starts taking more of an active interest, if you see somebody being shady or secretive with their money, those are all signs that they might be divorce planning and you know, I did an article Kristen, that really could put anyone to sleep on divorce in the age of bitcoin.

About how people can use some of these more high tech asset classes like bit coins in attempt to hide money. There’s really all kinds of interesting aspects to personal finance and divorce and I would also say, for anybody who is getting remarried, you want to make sure statistically, second marriages aren’t as successful as first marriages but if you’re going to get remarried, you really want to make sure you don’t fall into the same negative patterns.

Even if you’re somebody who is divorced or you’re about to be divorced and meeting somebody new is the last thing on your mind. It’s too late to salvage this marriage. Think about these concepts because I really think that communication, you know, in general is very important but in personal finance, it’s extremely important.

[0:11:39.7] KT: I also think that when it comes to being on a team together and communicating. I think it has to be a judgment free zone, we all have our own opinions about personal finance and how we want to spend our money and what our plans are, if there’s something that your spouse values as a hobby or an interest, if there’s a way that you can work that into your budget so that everyone feels that there’s something there for them in your lifestyle but at the same time, you can both be working towards your goals.

[0:12:10.2] CT: It doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on everything. I mean, I tend to invest in Vanguard type mutual funds which to Krissy I think she would probably – you’d probably like, bury the money in the back of your code, like an old lady kind of keep it in between books.

[0:12:28.7] KT: I’m a squirrel away kind of person, yes.

[0:12:31.5] CT: It’s a matter of communicating those fears and sometimes you know, they’re warranted because I’ve invested in emerging markets or something and then you see you’ve lost 40% of the asset class over the year and you go, well, maybe more of a balanced approach with some bonds or something, does make sense.

Kristen, I sort of, I think we balance each other out. It doesn’t mean that we’re always making the right decision with our finances, we definitely aren’t but we’re communicating and we kind of – there’s not that finger pointing if things go wrong. Just a couple other brief things before we go.

I wanted to talk about the importance of keeping good documents. Now, I’m very anal retentive. I actually have a program where I log every expense and every dollar that comes in and out, it’s called, youneedabudget.com I think. I’m not saying that as an affiliate or anything but that’s just what we use, it’s pretty helpful, you want nothing to do with that, right Kristen?

[0:13:24.8] KT: No, the daily input to me is exhaustive. But what I do like at the end of the month is showing where we’re spending our money. If this is something that eventually you’re facing with regards to divorce, it would be beneficial for you to see where your money is being spent, how much money is actually being spent on your children, how many Amazon boxes are arriving on your front door step.

[0:13:44.4] CT: Too many.

[0:13:45.5] KT: If you start to break it down each month, it can be a very clear picture of where your finances are being spent and where you might be able to cut back or where you may need to increase your focus.

[0:13:56.2] CT: I guess, another thing we’ll talk about is you know, when I started my business about a year ago Krissy, that adds another component to all this because now those Amazon boxes aren’t going to our house, they’re going to my office and you come to the office and you go, Carl, what are you doing, you spend a lot of money on furniture it looks like.

If you have a spouse who has a business, that’s actually an easy way to kind of lose that communication or to have your spouse perhaps deflating their income or hiding assets in the business. Has that been difficult for you that I’ve got an extra – obviously, I’m not doing these things Kristen, I promise. Is it difficult for you to, let’s say I buy furniture or how to communicate when there’s a business mixed in or even other things, you have children, should we pay for piano lessons or not. I mean, there’s a lot of balls in the air.

[0:14:46.6] KT: There are, I think that again it comes back to carving out time to speak about those things. I think you have to also be willing to ask the questions, I think some people like to blindly go along as long as the bills are being paid but I think that we both inquire as to where the things are coming from and how we’re paying for them. I think that’s another big piece is if something you feel like you’re seeing or you’re not sure where something’s coming from you need to ask.

And that’s true whether you are dual income family or a parent who works from home. It comes down to taking the responsibility of knowing where things stand. I think we do that.

[0:15:24.1] CT: The other thing I would recommend to anybody is do your best to be informed about personal finance, especially if you’re heading towards a divorce, go talk to a financial advisor, talk to an accountant, make sure that you know, if you’re cosigning taxes that – and your spouse is self-employed that it’s appropriate that they’re not hiding money from the IRS or something. I mean, really, like I said, it doesn’t take a degree in finance or anything to understand a lot of these concepts.

A lot of them are pretty basic and having that knowledge gives you confidence. I know on our website, mynjdivorcelawyer.com. I’ve written about personal finance and divorce. I’ve written about how your finances can be impacted by a divorce. I’ve got ebooks on the subject. Again, it’s something where I’m a little bit of a personal finance dork. But it’s really important for anybody, you know, whether you’re married or you’re considering a pre-nup, about to be married, understanding your finances or you’re in the thick of a divorce.

A lot of divorce, especially if you have children is really just a matter of math and a matter of calculating what alimony and what equitable distribution should be. As much as you can read about it, I think that’s a good thing to do.

Kristen, thank you so much for joining our podcast, this is our first ever guinea pig slash guest.

[0:16:41.4] KT: Thank you so much for having me.

[0:16:44.1] CT: I’ll see you at home for dinner. Hopefully you’re not stock piling those passwords.

If anyone wants to learn more, you could visit our website like I said, mynjdivorcelawyer.com or call our office, 908-237-3096. We hope that this podcast was helpful and we wish you and your family a healthy and prosperous 2019.

Thanks and have a great day.

[END]

Addressing the Emotional Side of Divorce

THE HEART OF THE MATTER – ADDRESSING THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF A DIVORCE

Firm dog Isla is all Heart…..but she would definitely give away the farm for just a single treat.  Balancing Emotion with Proper Boundaries can lead to an optimum outcome.

            It may seem a bit odd for me as a divorce lawyer to spend so much time talking about feelings and emotions.  You may be wondering if this lawyer is some hippy lecturing about “feelings.” And of course I am not an expert on psychology–my only advanced degree is my law degree.  But in some ways I believe nobody knows more about the emotion of a marriage than divorce lawyers—not in a clinical or expert sense, but in a “common”-sense.

            When I was a small child my parents would read me a “Little Golden Book” called “Mr. Bell’s Fixit Shop.”  As best as I can remember, the book involved a proprietor of a hardware type store who would often repeat he could “fix anything but a broken heart” Later a child is heartbroken when her favorite stuffed animal is damaged.  But good old Mr. Bell fixes it for her and learns in that moment that sometime good old craftsmanship can even mend a broken heart. 

            So, although I may seem as likely a candidate as Mr. Bell on the subject of the heart (and have just as much formal training), even a cynical divorce attorney like me starts to see certain patterns.  I am much more aggressive now in suggesting that my clients seek individual therapy during a divorce.  A divorce—and particularly a contested one—is a marathon, not a sprint.  You need to be focused on your goals, you need to keep negative emotions like fear and anger at bay, you will need to eat right and essentially train like you’re about to run an emotional decathlon. 

            When I studied for the bar exam I essentially became a hermit.  I took the time to exercise every day and to eat purportedly “brain-healthy” foods like blueberries and salmon. Anyone that knows me will attest that self-control, health eating habits, and regular exercise are not my default settings.  But I knew going in that I needed all my energy to make sure I passed the bar on the first try. 

Any time spent worrying about my student loans or about a negative outcome was time not spent focusing on my single-minded goal: passing that damned bar exam on the first try.  Luckily the hard work paid off. 

Other people, some of them smarter than I failed the bar exam on the first try.  In certain instances I’m sure the reason was the stress got to them, the magnitude of the situation got to them. Why are some quarterbacks with less natural talent better in big games?  What is it in a quarterback like Nick Foles that allowed him to step up and defeat Tom Brady and his Patriots to win a Super Bowl?  I am sure that it is a great concentration on his goals, solid control of his emotions, and not letting negative emotions such as fear get to him.  When he threw an interception in the Super Bowl he shrugged it off and came back firing until the game was over and he had achieved what appeared to be the impossible.

In your divorce there will be down moments.  You will need a strong support network.  If you’re reading this book then you’re already in a good head-space: you realize that knowledge of the situation helps make stressful situations less scary. 

The more you know about the risks, about your rights, and about your responsibilities during the divorce the more you can maximize the outcome you desire. If meditation is your thing then make sure you stick with it, if you’re a runner keep running, if you believe a therapist could help then book an appointment, and if you think you’re alone remember that almost everyone going through a divorce has had similar experiences and similar thoughts. 

There’s a reason people say a divorce is worse than a death in the family.  It’s not easy but if you can control your negative emotions and stay positive, then the results should be there.  In many ways the only thing you can control is yourself in situations like this and your reaction to what is occurring.  It’s going to be over someday and you will get to your Happily EVEN after.

Don’t Be a Pushover in a Divorce

To balance some of my advice on this website about being reasonable, it should be noted that I’m not advocating that you not set properly boundaries, that you be a pushover, or that you take a bad deal.  Too often people come into a divorce either too angry or conversely too tired/guilty/whatever to properly fight for what is fair. Being level-headed and somewhere between those extremes is the sweet spot for an optimal divorce settlement. 

Misguided feelings of guilt can be some of the most troublesome emotions in a divorce.  Just because you had an affair doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be allowed to retire someday.  That is not the way the law views it—indeed in most instances New Jersey law takes no position regarding the moral high ground in a divorce. 

Divorce can be a marathon.  Too often people get worn down by the process and end up agreeing to terms they later regret.  That’s why focus and taking care of yourself is so important during a divorce.  You need to be able to put that oxygen mask over your own face first before you can go out and help others such as your children.

If your spouse has long-term serious drug problems, then fight against him having unsupervised parenting time. 

If you have reason to believe your spouse hid a large sum of money in cryptocurrency then let’s hire an expert or take whatever aggressive steps are necessary in discovery to get to the bottom of it. 

There is a difference between being reasonable and being a pushover and it’s a fine-line, to be sure.  Your divorce lawyer can help you understand when you’re being reasonable and when you’re giving in too much.  Sometimes those getting divorced have a hard time setting appropriate boundaries—that is an important part of communication—and often the leading root cause of divorce is a lack of communication or inappropriate communication.

Your children will need you to be strong for them. They are not a party to a divorce but nobody will likely be impacted more. The way you treat the divorce and how you can thereafter will be determinative in the kind of present and future available to your children.

You will get tired during the process—so will the other side. To some extent it is necessary to get worn down to the point when settlement can be reached. But if you start going through the motions or stop caring, then you should consider taking some time, a long weekend, whatever it takes to make sure you’re not making decisions that you’ll live to regret for a long time. Decisions like waiving your right to alimony, accepting less child support than your children are entitled to, giving up custody or parenting time you’re entitled to or waiving your spouse’s requirement to contribute toward your children’s college costs.

            So be reasonable, but don’t be a pushover.

Civil Litigation Tactics for High-Conflict Divorces (Podcast Number 3)

Podcast & Transcript

To listen to our Podcast, click here for episode 3: Utilizing Civil Litigation Tactics in High Conflict Divorces): Embedded in Site EditionDownload Edition.

Below is a transcript of the Podcast.

[0:00:08.3] CT: Hello. Thanks for listening. Welcome to the Carl Taylor Law: New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Podcast. As always, I am Carl Taylor. I’m a Central New Jersey attorney emphasizing divorce and family law in my practice. Today, we’re going to delve into the interesting topic of – interesting to me at least, topic of how to utilize civil litigation techniques in a New Jersey divorce.

Now, many divorces are not knock-down drag-out kinds of events. There’s plenty of uncontested divorces. Many of the cases I work on tend to go fairly smoothly. There’s really no need for emphasizing a great deal of litigation techniques or tactics. Invariably, there are cases that are for whatever reason, whether it’s the emotion of one or more parties, whether it’s the amount of assets, whether it’s the custody issues, there are from time to time cases where there is higher conflict; there are more motions that need to be filed, more techniques that need to be utilized. This is all about what kinds of tactics are out there if you’re contemplating a New Jersey divorce.

Now my background is somewhat interesting in that I’ve always done family law, but for a period of time I also served as deputy county council for a county, and I handled a lot of cases in federal courts and state courts. I had a great deal of exposure during those years to civil litigation. Just like how sometimes reading a book outside of your industry can give you new ideas, or have you view things in a new way, that experience was helpful for my divorce practice.

Actually, the impetus for this podcast is I recently was published in the family lawyer magazine with the article Utilizing Civil Litigation Techniques in high-conflict divorces. Now that was aimed more at other attorneys. That’s a national magazine that was written for other attorneys as the audience. The main takeaway was as divorce attorneys, we have the entire playbook available to us. We have many court rules that apply to not just civil litigation, but to us as well, but we tend not to utilize them for whatever reason, whether it’s custom, whether it’s just the belief system of specific attorneys, but there are. Again, these are ideas that aren’t going to apply to every case, but there’s certain techniques out there that some attorneys are using, but not all.

I wanted to take that experience doing civil litigation practicing in federal and state courts and appellate courts and put forth a manual, or a list of ideas that family law attorneys could utilize. Now the audience of this podcast is not other family law attorneys, so I’m going to try to talk about it in less of a technical manner and more of a workman manner. Nonetheless, these are certain ideas that can give you perhaps a sense of what you could utilize in a New Jersey divorce. One of the issues is what do you do if you have a prenuptial agreement? Plenty of people have prenuptial agreements and then they’re somewhat disappointed when they learn that there’s still some burden on them during the divorce process to prove that the prenup is valid.

There’s also what’s called summary judgment motions. These are motions that are usually utilized by insurance companies or other defense attorneys and civil litigations. The idea is there’s not enough here to go to trial on these issues. As family law attorneys, we tend not to utilize motions for summary judgment, but in instances where there’s a claim of marital tort where you’re saying there’s a personal injury from the marriage, or if somebody’s alleging that against you in instances where you’re trying to prove a prenup is not valid or prove that it is, filing a motion for summary judgment can be a very fascinating way to gain some leverage in the litigation to put certain issues to bed and to make sure that you can focus on the more important issues that are out there.

It’s not a total victory in family law, like it may be in civil litigation where you can prove via a summary judgment matter that perhaps a immunity exists and you can win on that issue and be out the case. In family law, you still have to get divorced, you may still have to address custody issues, which obviously would tend not to be good for summary judgment, because one of the standards of summary judgment is that no uncontroverted fact exists and it’s really more of a legal argument. You can win on the law on issues of whether a prenup is valid, whether a reconciliation agreement is valid. If you utilize those techniques, you can really go far in gaining leverage and bringing the case to a head.

To that end, another thing that family law attorneys don’t do as often as civil litigation attorneys is we don’t depose people. Now in TV shows and in movies, people – lay people watching those types of shows will not see that many depositions. Usually, if somebody’s being questioned by an attorney it’s during an actual trial.

There’s actually the ability to have what’s called a deposition prior to the trial where you put key witnesses or even the parties themselves under oath. Each attorney will be there and the other side’s attorney will have a chance to question you, to cross-examine you under oath. That’s why when they say never ask a question at trial you don’t know the answer to, depositions is where you get some of those answers. It’s also where you can impeach the credibility of somebody if they later change their story during the trial.

Another nice thing about a deposition is it can be utilized to point you towards new discovery. You can ask people certain questions that may open up new lines of discovery beyond the actual discovery requests. For whatever reason, historically family law attorneys do not utilize depositions. That’s an area that in a high-conflict divorce, you can utilize depositions. Is it going to cost a little bit more money than not using them? Sure. Is it for every case? Definitely not.

In these certain types of cases where it’s high-conflict, where there is certain discovery issues you need, or you have a – somebody your trial lock-in to a certain view or a certain truth that you want them to say, it could be very, very useful and it can be the type of thing that can bring a case back from the brink, or bring a case to a logical conclusion earlier than they would otherwise go.

Another discovery technique that has gained some increased use over the years from when I first started practicing but not as much as perhaps it should is requests for admissions. This is the cheaper way to do a deposition. You send statements to the other side and they have to say whether they are true or not true. If they don’t answer them at all, then you can make a motion at trial to state essentially that they have admitted everything in the statements that everything is admitted and therefore, they waive the right to now deny it. You can get a procedural upper-hand using admissions.

It’s the in-between, not all the way up to a deposition, but you can get certain statements made. You can start to carve out what the factual discrepancies may be between the parties and it could be very useful. Another technique that we use a lot in civil litigation but not very much in a New Jersey divorce is a claim of frivolous litigation.

Now this will come up particularly in post-judgment matters, where people will continue to file motion after motion. Then you can file a counter motion with the court asking that the person be barred from filing future motions, or that they may have to pay for counsel fees. You can use frivolous litigation rule 1:4-8. In many other circumstances, you could use if somebody files a marital tort against you and you know that it’s bogus. You could use it if somebody is attempting to file an adultery claim against you and you know it’s not true and you can prove it’s not true, it’s just meant to harass.

What you do is you have your attorney send a letter to the other side threatening damages for frivolous litigation and advising that you’re going to seek all sanctions available under the frivolous litigation law. We’ve talked a lot today about discovery. Another thing that is very common in civil litigation but not as common thus far in family law is non-spoliation of evidence claims. Usually, when a civil litigation case starts out, you’ll send a letter to the other side saying, “Please maintain all discovery or potential discovery pertaining to the case. If you don’t, it’ll be considered a spoliation of evidence.”

In family law, this could be really important for Facebook or social media accounts, for example. You can send a letter to the other side saying, “Please maintain all discovery,” so if the person later takes down a picture of them out partying when they’re fighting for custody, you can say that they spoiled the evidence and you can get an award of damages and positive inferences drawn towards your case, because the other side spoiled that evidence. You could also add that in as a count in your complaint for divorce, or counterclaim for divorce; it’s another way to gain leverage and high-conflict divorces like all litigation, or most litigation, it’s all about leverage. How do you gain that leverage to bring the case to a satisfying conclusion? If you can’t, how can you properly prove your case before a judge?

One last thing I want to talk about is Open Public Records Act. When I served as deputy county counsel for Somerset County for several years, OPRA or the Open Public Records Act was the bane of my existence, in that there’s just so many requests for records and it’s very fact-sensitive, whether a government entity should give those records out or not. Because of that experience handling those types of matters and trial courts all the way up through appellate courts, I have a good familiarity with them and what kinds of requests can be made and what kinds of requests can’t be made.

If you have a spouse who works for a government entity, you might be able to circumvent some of the discovery by requesting their salary information, for example, or their certain employment information; not all of it. Some of it is exempt, but some of it directly from the source, and that can help get you records quicker, it can help get you records that your spouse or his attorney would otherwise object to, and it’s another way that you can gain some leverage, gain information and move the case forward. It’s not something that you see very often, but it’s certainly an area of information and documentation available to us that we could utilize in certain circumstances.

With that, I’m going to wrap up this podcast. I hope it’s been informative. I hope it presents some possibilities beyond what you would normally read about divorce litigation. If you’re interested in learning more, you can go to our firm’s website mynjdivorcelawyer.com. Or if you’d like to call us to schedule a consult, or to meet, our number is 908-237-3096.

Thanks and have a great day. Take care. Bye.

[END]

Podcast Number Two: Divorce for Law Enforcement Officers

Following our recent law enforcement divorce blog post and law enforcement divorce e-book on the subject of law enforcement divorce, our second podcast also addressed how police officers and other law enforcement officers can protect their interests during a New Jersey Divorce. The Podcast takes a deeper dive into the subject matter, so please click here to listen to the Carl Taylor Law Divorce & Family Law Podcast – December 23, 2018 Edition. Below is a transcript of the Podcast for those that prefer text.

Podcast Transcript: Police Officer Divorce

Hello and welcome to the Carl Taylor Law New Jersey Divorce and Family Law Podcast. This is, as always, attorney Carl Taylor. Today we are going to review an interesting topic, one close to my heart, and that is law enforcement divorce. Over the years I have had the pleasure and the privilege of being able to prosecute for a number of towns and to work closely with law enforcement. I know how hard they work, I know how stressful their jobs are, I know how important their jobs are.

I have also, conversely, represented law enforcement officers and at times their spouses during divorces, and in the United States (as the joke goes) we’re not often asked who we are, we’re asked what we do when we first meet people. Your job, your profession, your employment, will impact what kind of a divorce experience you will confront. As will your spouses. If you are a law enforcement officer married to a stay-at-home spouse then there’s going to be issues of alimony you’ll have to confront. There’s going to be a pension that you’re going to have to divide.

There is going to be specifically the police and firefighter’s pension which has certain issues with survivor benefits, so that the other spouse may not get survivor benefits if you predecease them. Conversely, if you’re a lawyer like me the divorce will be different. You may or may not be a W-2 employee as a lawyer, but as a police officer you will be. As a lawyer you may or may not own your own business.

How do you value that business? And the contacts? And the good will of that business (hopefully the good will of that business). So your profession very much impacts your divorce and what makes law enforcement sort of interesting is that there is a higher divorce rate amongst police and firefighters, and military.

Some studies have shown that the expected rate for a police officer is around 75% versus 50% for the general public. Anyone listening to this who is in law enforcement can probably guess why: you work long hours, you don’t get a lot of time with your family, you work a stressful job meaning sometimes you don’t have as much to give to others as you like when you come home. Your hours are sporadic, your always on call, you work a lot of nights, you work a lot of weekends. And it allows the bond in time to unfortunately, to break.

So those are some of the reasons why law enforcement has a higher divorce rate. There is also a higher exposure as a law enforcement officer. If someone files a false domestic, specifically your spouse files a false domestic violence charge against you, it’s a big deal if you lose your weapon. You’ve worked those details in your job, so you know that the first thing you do if there is a temporary restraining order granted is to go to the person’s house and to take away there weapons.

Weapons for the average person may be used for hunting, but for you it’s part of your job. It’s very difficult to maintain your job if a final restraining order is entered against you as you may not be able to carry a weapon again. And not every department is wiling to work with you in that instance. You may have to undergo a fitness for duty evaluation, there’s all kinds of issues that may be confronted.

So one of the first pieces of advice that I give to law enforcement, that would be different from most other professions is: maybe you leave the house. Normally you don’t want to leave the house during a divorce because it gives the other side control, it allows the other side the ability to sort of dictate terms if you have children and custody, it’s harmful. Many people leave the house voluntarily, and then they come to me and I tell them “that was a bad decision.”

But when it comes to law enforcement, if you’re in a contested matter and you don’t fully trust your spouse, maybe you go out and you get an apartment or you find another place to stay because it’s not worth losing your employment or facing those issues if you think your leaving yourself exposed to a false restraining order.

I’ve had matters where I’ve had spouses of police officers so they want to go ahead and they don’t care if it impacts alimony. So there is an instance where you don’t think your spouse would take such a drastic action, but it happens, it happens to police officers like it happens to anyone else. So one of the first pieces of advice for those confronting a contested divorce when your a police officer perhaps you cede the house and fight the battle on other fronts.

Another thing you have to worry about is your pension. Your pension can be very difficult to negotiate in terms of police and firemen. When you have the police and fireman pension there is issues with survivor benefits meaning you may have to provide life insurance in a higher amount to protect the pension, essentially the law saws if you pass away the pension dies with you. So, if your going through a divorce your spouse or their attorney will be very concerned by that and they may try ways to negotiate to make up for it which may increase life insurance costs for you.

You can do what’s called a QDRO–a Qualified Domestic Relations Order–but then the question becomes how do you address the life insurance. And, if you have a savvy divorce lawyer, they should probably insist in there that if you do provide additional life insurance that you both share in that cost equally, because it’s an added cost for you.

Moving on to alimony, I talked about in my first Podcast which has been listened to….probably…..my wife and I, thus far, I talked about how the tax code has changed as 2019 has began and alimony is no longer a taxable event. So that means when you’re divorced you will have to tax-affect it as alimony will no longer be tax-deductible to you.

So if you talk to people in the department and they tell you “well at least you can deduct the alimony” that will be true for them, because they are grandfathered in, but it will not be true for you. After January 1, 2019 so pretty much anyone that gets divorced now or moving forward, unless the law changes or something happens, you’re going to have to probably figure out a way to pay out a lower percentage of alimony, but the total payment out of your pocket when tax affected will likely be the same as always. But you have to make sure you tax affect it. That’s going to be very important and it’s an area that us divorce attorneys are really going to have to confront in the New Year.

Getting to the emotion of divorce, I just wanted to make a note that as a law enforcement officer your used to being in control most likely. You sort of call the shots on the stop, you use your instincts, to work a tough and sometimes dangerous job, and your well trained. But nobody is well trained for a divorce. Even people who have been married many times over there lives can realistically only get divorced a maximum of 5-6 times. So, I always joke that I’ve been divorced hundreds of times, but that’s only because I’m a divorce lawyer.

So the average person they are not going to go through it all that much. So, try not to pay too much attention to the well meaning but likely uninformed comments from your colleagues and friends in the department. Laws are always changing, how to handle divorce is always changing, there is greater complexity all the time, and when you talk to other people it can be a positive or it can get you overly emotional. And you know from your training that emotion is not always the way to be in terms of making good decisions.

You want to make decisions as dispassionately as possible. Now I know you’re not a robot–I have yet to represent a robot–but you try your best to be robotic almost like an insurance company when it comes to negotiating these types of agreements and how to go brick by brick through the procedure to get you to the divorce. You want to do it in a sophisticated manner, negotiations are often not sophisticated. So, when you talk to other people in the department try your best not to get too worked up or to care what they did with what you are going to do, one way or another.

Some of them got good deals, some of them got bad deals. Some of them got quote unquote “screwed” in their divorce. It doesn’t mean you’re going to.

That’s why you’re going to go to an attorney and choose somebody who is going to help you through the process. That doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy with every term, but when you understand the general principles and rights of a divorce in New Jersey, which is not a favorable state for those paying alimony–which you will most likely be doing because police officers are statistically the breadwinners in their family…it’s a break by brick experience.

So the more you can look at it dispassionately, keep your legal costs down, and move forward, the better it will be for you, the better it will be for your children if you have them, and the better it will be for your career.

And that’s the final point I want to talk about when people are going through a divorce they are more likely than ever to lose their jobs. You don’t want your divorce to spiral into your job and lead to some kind of IA complaint you have to deal with or some kind of an issue that might impact your employment.

So, it’s the kind of thing where the more you can keep your emotions in check, whether that is talking to your religious figure, your therapist just to get through it, meditating, going for long jogs, talking to your divorce lawyer, whatever it might be to help you get through the process so it doesn’t impact your job, that’s the most important.

And remember, you have a job where you have a lot of overtime so it’s hard to calculate how much income you should be responsible for regarding alimony. Your income this year may not be the same as next year. You might be working without a contract, or entering into a new one, you might have worked the detail for a private entity that lead to a great deal of money over a short period of time, so you’re going to have to negotiate all that and have your attorney negotiate that as part of your New Jersey divorce. Perhaps taking the last three years or the last five years as an average regarding how much alimony.

And of course this is all contingent upon who you are married to. Perhaps you don’t have to pay alimony if you’re married to somebody that’s making more money than you. Statistically that is not the case but that is certainly in a vacuum going to happen plenty of times.

And how are you going to fight for custody when you have long hours and it’s tough to get a parenting schedule that works with your job because you are on call so much. These are all the types of issues you are going to have to confront as part of a law enforcement divorce.

If you have any further questions, you can view my website, www.mynjdivorcelawyer.com, which has a great deal of resources, some of it specific to law enforcement. If you would like to discuss this matter as part of a divorce consult you can call my law office in Central New Jersey, 908-237-3096, again 908-237-3096.

And I hope that this podcast will be helpful to all those listening. It’s our firms policy we do not charge law enforcement for initial consultations. You help keep us safe so we’re not going to charge you for an initial consultation. So we look forward to potentially working with you and thanks for all that you do and I hope that this podcast has been helpful to anyone in law enforcement or anyone you know in law enforcement that may be confronting a divorce matter.

Before I sign off, obviously prenuptial agreements may be more important to law enforcement or police officers, so if you’re not married yet or you know someone that is not married yet and they are a law enforcement officer and they are considering a marriage, then consider a prenup. And have your spouse waive their interest in alimony or your pension. That’s the best way. So if you can do that can really save a lot of headaches in the future. As they say: ‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.’

So anyway, thanks again for listening and have a good holiday season moving into the New Year here, and all the best from us here at Carl Taylor Law, LLC. Thanks so much. Bye for now.

Divorce for Police & Law Enforcement Officers

Click here for our Divorce and Law Enforcement E-Book. For additional tips or if you prefer to learn via audio, click here for the Carl Taylor Law Podcast on the subject of Divorce Tips for Police & Law Enforcement Officers.

Or click here for a transcript of the law enforcement divorce consult.

Finally, call 908-237-3096 to schedule a Consult. We always offer free divorce consults to law enforcement officers.

Over the years I have represented many local law enforcement officers in their divorces. At times I have represented spouses of law enforcement in divorces as well. My experience as a municipal prosecutor has demonstrated to me, although in an admittedly limited way, how stressful a law enforcement job can be. The hardworking men and women I work with often work long hours including nights, are almost always “on call,” deal with a great deal of stressful situations, and are often not compensated or sufficiently thanked for their work and the danger they are in doing such work.

Perhaps it only makes sense then that law enforcement divorce rates among law enforcement are much higher than the national average, with some statistics showing a nearly 75% divorce rate.

Not only that, but New Jersey Law Enforcement divorces can prove to be difficult matters from a legal perspective. Almost invariably the first question my police officer clients ask is whether or not their spouse will be entitled to a share of their pension.

Because of the long hours they work and lack of a set schedule, law enforcement officers often have difficulty obtaining primary custody of their children.

The sporadic nature of law enforcement overtime makes it difficult to calculate child support and alimony and on top of that, law enforcement officers are more likely to have stay-at-home spouses than the general population–which can be a real luxury during an intact marriage but a nightmare in a divorce when alimony and custody are being sought by a soon to be former spouse.

Moreover, the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System (“PFRS”) law enforcement pension has certain unique traits such as a general lack of survivor benefits to the other spouse that negotiating a division of a pension and life insurance can become a complex mathematical exercise.

Regarding law enforcement alimony, the issue becomes only more complex given the recent changes to the tax code whereby effective January 1, 2019 all future alimony will not be taxable to the receiver or tax deductible to the payer. In a majority of instances the law enforcement officer will be paying alimony and a new calculation will have to be determined moving forward to tax-affect this change in the federal tax law.

Tips for Law Enforcement Divorce

Although an initial consultation with this firm or another will be invaluable for determining your rights and responsibilities when confronting a divorce, here are some of my best general tips for police officers or other law enforcement getting divorced:

  • Ok, so technically this is not a tip for those already married, but for those law enforcement officers that are engaged or in a serious relationship, consider obtaining a valid prenuptial agreement before the marriage. Although you won’t be able to negotiate away custody and child support issues, you can address issues of alimony and equitable distribution (such as having your wife waive his or her interest in your pension) provided that the agreement is valid.
  • If your marriage is adrift be particularly sensitive if you are nearing the twenty year anniversary, as that is when “open durational alimony” kicks in, which is essentially a fancier term for permanent alimony.
  • Be open-minded about the divorce. You will likely hear a lot of “locker room” talk from colleagues about how bad it will be, about how you should or shouldn’t do something, but every divorce is different based upon its facts. Although law enforcement divorces have certain similarities, there are still many specific factors. And to that end…
  • Realize that you will not be as in control as you normally are. Divorce can be a messy ride even with experienced counsel. As a police officer, you are used to working within the more clear-cut criminal code and being mostly in control of the legal situation. Family law courts are nebulous and unclear terms such as “best interests of the child” permeate. Although your involvement in the case will be helpful it can be a brick-by-brick process. Keeping your emotions in check during the divorce process will lead to efficient and sophisticated decision making that will serve you well in the long-run.
  • Know that fault is not that important in New Jersey law enforcement divorces. Again, as police officers you address mens rea –intent–in your criminal and traffic law matters. However, even if your spouse is 100% at fault for the divorce, it generally does not matter for purposes of calculating alimony or awarding alimony.
  • Generally I advise clients to not leave the house during the pendency of a divorce. For law enforcement officers in intense situations it may make sense. A false domestic violence charge can take away your gun and maybe your career. While you may believe your spouse would not file such charges (knowing you are likely the “golden goose” I’ve seen it happen plenty of times. Make sure you document everything, try to not engage in any kind of verbal confrontation, and let your spouse take the house and limit all interaction if you think a false domestic violence charge could be utilized against you.

There are many other issues you will need to confront, but the above are some of my best tips for police officers/law enforcement officers confronting a divorce.

Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:

If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options.  We will always offer free divorce consults to those who help keep us safe! You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.  

Getting Divorced in the New Year

Firm “Mascot” Isla Celebrating the Holiday Season

The New Year is a time of the year that we begin to assess where we are going in our lives.  Like our birthdays, the New Year is a time-marker requiring us to take a step back and think about who we are, where we’ve been, and where we’re heading.

During Thanksgiving and Christmas we embody the status quo and do our best to get along with our family. But despite the celebrations of New Year’s Eve, January 1 usually brings with it feelings of hope mixed in with some existential dread. 

January 1 is when we recommit to the gym.  When we make our new year’s resolutions.  When we take a moment to set new goals.  The world is another year older, and so are we. 

Perhaps for this reason, the new year is also one of the busiest times to file for divorce.  As addressed in my first ever Podcast, many people consider the new year the perfect time to file for divorce.  As part of the holiday spirt our firm has decided to give free divorce consults during the remainder of December and all of January. 

For those considering divorce in the New Year, we have also recently addressed via a blog post how the federal tax change will impact how alimony is taxed, essentially making the payment or receipt of alimony a non-event for purposes of taxation. 

For those contemplating a divorce in 2019, perhaps now is the time to consider marriage therapy.  Many people feel deeply conflicted about filing for divorce.  In my experience, I have seen people who have probably given up too early on a marriage and I have seen plenty of people who have probably hung in too long.  Therapy, whether as an individual or in couple’s therapy may be a useful tool in looking through the pros and cons of making such a decision. 

If your holiday is bitter-sweet or marred by the prospect of a failing marriage, we are here and we understand.  Feel free to call us today or book a consultation online via our main webpage and we can help walk you through your likely rights and responsibilities should you determine to file for divorce in the New Year. Our primary telephone number at Carl Taylor Law is 908-237-3096.  

Happy holidays and here is to a productive, healthy, and prosperous 2019!

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