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Category: Child Custody in New Jersey

Your Child’s Wedding

Happily Even After – The Guide to Divorce in New Jersey, By Carl Taylor, Esq.

Right now, your child may be young – you may not be thinking about their future wedding. Perhaps in passing you’ll consider putting aside some money, but for the most part it’s not on your mind. That is way off in the future, if it ever happens at all.

Especially right now, when you’re going through your own divorce.

Maybe right now your son(s)/daughter(s) seem like the only good thing about your relationship with their mother (or father). Everything else feels cloudy, or worse.

You know instinctually as you go through your divorce that you will need to protect your children. But from what? Perhaps there is a legitimate reason to protect them from the other parent. Or maybe you’re letting your own emotion cloud the situation. Maybe they are doing the same with you. It’s hard to not want to retaliate…

Right now maybe it seems easy to make dismissive comments about your spouse, sometimes even in the presence of your children. Maybe you think they are too young to understand, but I bet they are listening.

Right now it’s easy to focus on the past and a cloudy present and to lose sight of the future. But be careful. Because someday your child (or children) will grow up. And the way you handle your divorce will have an impact on them. It will impact their own relationships as an adult. It may impact their ability to hold down jobs, to be self-assured, to avoid issues with drugs and alcohol. The statistics show this to be true.

It will also impact you. A high-conflict divorce will take a lot out of you financially and emotionally, you will not be the same person as when you started the journey.

Every time you scream at each other in front of your children you are creating trauma, whether you mean to or not and whether you realize it or not.

Every time you use your children as a pawn in a divorce you are harming them whether you mean to or not and whether you realize it or not. (often times this is subconsciously done).

It’s so easy to be caught up in the moment that we forget such things.

But someday your child will grow up and they will decide what kind of relationship they will have with each of you, if any.

And someday your child will get married (or get a big promotion/or have kids of their own/or graduate from college) and you will likely have to be in the same room as their dad (or their mom).

You want to be in the situation where your ex’s presence does not ruin your enjoyment of that day. You want to be in the situation where old wounds are healed enough that you do not in some way damper your child’s big day.

You want to be working towards your Happily EVEN After, not perseverating on a darkened past.

Next week my first book will be published. It is called Happily Even After: the New Jersey Divorce Guide because it is not just an overview of New Jersey Law, but it is also a sort of treatise on the emotion of divorce. It features guest chapters from trained therapists and marriage counselors as well as my own thoughts having practiced in the area of divorce and family law for nearly a decade. This book is an overview of our firm’s philosophy as well as an analysis of relevant law and procedure.

If you’re interested in finding your own Happily EVEN After, I recommend you order a paperback copy off of Amazon. Or even better, click this link and we will forward you a free digital copy of the book.

Having you attend your child’s future wedding some day in the future with happiness, serenity, and peace is an important part of our firm’s core philosophy.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed with negative emotions in a divorce, but by taking the appropriate steps you can move forward in a positive manner, even through difficult and sometimes high conflict divorces. You can find Your Happily EVEN After, and it starts now.

Divorce for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Emphasizing the representation of parents of children with autism and other special needs in Divorce, Disputed Custody, child support, and related matters.

Divorce for parents of children with autism or other special needs may be a bit more complex as a matter of law. The child support guidelines for instance do not often take into account the additional time and money required to assist children with autism or other special needs. There will be issues such as special needs trusts, future guardianship, and other such matters that must be address in a divorce agreement.

In addition, divorce for parents of children with special needs can be more difficult regarding custody and creating a workable parenting plan. Parents may disagree about the level of care necessary for their child or children. There may be disputes about emancipation language or whether the child will ever be legally emancipated.

Although there is an increasingly greater general awareness of such issues, an attorney representing a parent in such a matter will have to be cognizant of all the added legal issues and educate the court and opposing counsel on how to sensibly address such matters.

Parenting Time & Custody

Children with autism may require additional consistency in their schedule. This may lead to more limited parenting time with the non-custodial parent than in most matters.

Some children with special needs may also reside in residential homes or other alternative living conditions as they get older. A divorcing couple may disagree about the placement of a child in such locations, which can complicate settling a divorce.

There may also be concerns about whether or not to accept IEP’s or out of district placements for a child in a school district with one parent feeling out of the loop or not agreeing with a plan that perhaps the other parent does agree with. Such issues can be difficult even in an intact family but may be exacerbated in a divorce setting.

In addition, although many people reside together in the same house while a divorce is pending, such added tension may not be in a child with special needs’ best interests as, depending upon their diagnosis, they may have greater sensitivity to arguing or other sensory triggers.

Holiday parenting time and vacation parenting time may be more rare in cases involving parents with a child or children who have autism or who are disabled.

Equitable Distribution and Finances

Special needs trusts may need to be discussed. Many children with special needs are still high-functioning and/or have a high IQ so college costs may need to be discussed. The Marital Settlement Agreement should set forth what types of college savings, trusts, or other financial assistance will be enacted and who will be responsible for adding funds into such accounts and ensuring that such funds are not inappropriately depleted.

Child Support and Alimony

Alimony may be impacted if one parent cannot work because of added childcare requirements. Likewise, the party receiving child support will likely have a claim for additional child support and for a longer period of time as there are many additional expenses for most children that have special needs, much of which is not covered by insurance or otherwise subsidized by grants.

As noted above, emancipation may prove to be a big issue in a divorce involving children with special needs.

Conclusion

Every divorce has its own unique facts and areas of complexity. Unfortunately, parents of children with special needs may be at an increased risk of divorce.

Both parents to such a divorce should remember to always act in all of their children’s best interests, to communicate with one another and their attorneys as effectively as possible, and to be fully informed of their rights and their children’s rights when getting divorced, engaging in disputed custody, or otherwise addressing a family law issue involving a child or children that have special needs.

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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.