Overview of Changes in New Jersey Family Law: 2012

            Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.  (“The more things change, the more they stay the same).”  French Novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr is first attributed with that quote, and it is a quote that perhaps best describes the status of New Jersey family law in 2012.  While greater movements for reform in alimony, new laws to address parental alienation, and a growing father’s rights movement gained traction in the past year, the basic core of family law remained the same in 2012.  There were, however, a few important cases decided this past year.  This post will briefly provide an overview of several such cases.

  • Social Security Disability Benefits By Themselves are Insufficient to Discharge Child Support Duties.     In the case of Gilligan v. Gilligan, the Court held that receiving disability benefits does not, by itself, guarantee a termination of child support benefits.
  • Parents Have an Affirmative Duty to Protect Children from Abusive Individuals.  In DYFS v. F.M., the Court held that “even a worthy mother can lose her parental rights if she fails to protect her children from an abusive father.”
  • Duty of Attorneys to Advise Domestic Violence Defendants of Possible Gun Forfeiture.  In State of New Jersey v. Agathis, the Court held that lawyers are required to advise domestic violence defendants that a guilty plea to that charge may result in the permanent forfeiture of his or her right to bear/carry/permit for firearms.
  • Easier Standards for Putative Father’s (or any fathers) to Request Paternity Tests.  In D.W. v. R.W.,  the Court created new factors to consider in determining whether a paternity test should be granted.  These factors focused less on the best interests of the child than previous standards implemented, and may pave the way for Courts to order paternity testing of teenagers/older children than before.
  • Unemancipation of Children – In Azimi v. Azimi, the Court held that children can become “unemancipated,” in certain limited circumstances. 

Remember that law is very fact-sensitive and that the above represents just some of the body of case law changes made in 2012.   Happy holidays and wishing everyone a wonderful 2013.

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