For obvious reasons, there is a sense of closure associated with the finalization of a divorce. There are, however, many ways the case may be revisited, particularly via post-judgment motions. For some, the divorce decree will be the final court action, but for the majority of divorcee’s, divorce issues will continue, off and on, for many years. (note, for ease of use, I use the term divorce–but the information contained in this post is true for most family law litigants, including civil unions and family law issues arising where the parties were never married but produced children from the relationship, etc).
I have had clients or potential clients come to me for advice regarding post-judgment divorce actions thirty, forty, and sometimes even fifty plus years after their marriage ended. Some of the common post-judgment issues include modification of child support or alimony, the emancipation of a child, retirement issues, college cost/health care reimbursement issues, and other enforcement of litigant’s right’s issues.
From my own personal observations, the biggest mistakes I see people make when filing “pro se” (i.e. without an attorney) motions is they fail to provide adequate documentation. In most instances, an original and new Case Information Statement and a copy of the Marital Settlement Agreement/recent Orders are required to be attached. Without these documents, a Court will often deny requests for relief “without prejudice.”
Accordingly, here is a starter (but by no means exhaustive) list of some of the documents an individual should store somewhere safe should the need to file or defend a post-judgment divorce motion/other hearing arise. This documentation will be helpful whether you decide to retain an attorney or attempt to proceed on your own:
- An original (from the time of the divorce/etc) Case Information Statement. For most types of modification and other motions, a new Case Information Statement will also need to be appended to a Motion.
- An original (gold-sealed) Divorce Agreement (a/k/a Marital Settlement Agreement, Property Settlement Agreement) and divorce decree.
- Original child support guidelines.
- Any other orders, including consent orders, entered by the court or between the parties.
- Receipts or other proof of child support or medical expenses, college expenses, etc., paid or received.
- Bank account or other documentation as to joint accounts or when held in the name of or for the benefit of a child.
- Federal income tax returns and W-2’s, pay-stubs.
- Proof of job searches (if attempting to later prove loss of employment or change of circumstances involving employment).
A lot of the above will also be helpful to take with you to an initial consultation with an attorney to explore possible post-judgment motions or actions. These documents should be kept in a safe place, perhaps in a binder/kept together, for ease of finding should the need arise. It may also be helpful to store copies of these documents in a safety-deposit box for safe-keeping. Be careful too in ensuring the documentation is kept in a confidential and secure place.
In short, even after a divorce is finalized, prepare as though it’s not the end of the legal issues between you and your ex-spouse—as in all actuality it’s probably not.
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. 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.