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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.