You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2010.

Earlier this month, news broke that Melissa Etheridge filed Court documents seeking to end her nine year partnership to Wife, Tammy Lynn Michaels.  Earlier in the year, a news story from Texas seemed to indicate that a gay couple could not get divorced in Texas because Texas does not recognize gay marriage or civil unions.  With so much conflict among the states regarding this issue, it is difficult to know what rights same sex couples have.

Effective February 19, 2007, the New Jersey Legislature amended the marriage statute to include same sex couples.  However, the statute which was enacted chose to call the relationship a civil union rather than a marriage.  The State of New Jersey has defined a civil union as a legally recognized union of two eligible individuals of the same sex.  In order to be eligible for a civil union, the parties must show that they are not a party to another civil union, domestic partnership or marriage in the state; they must be of the same sex and be at least 18 years old. 

As enacted, the statute grants all of the same benefits, protections and responsibilities as are granted to spouses in a marriage, to partners in a civil union.  Parties who enter into a civil union are able to enter into Pre-Nuptial Agreements, receive inheritance from their partner, receive medical benefits through their partner and adopt children together.

With all of the benefits of marriage, also comes the ability to dissolve a civil union, just like a divorce.  The procedure for the dissolution of a civil union is the same as a divorce.  However, the Legislature has chosen to enact a separate statute setting forth the grounds for the dissolution of a civil union. 

If you are considering entering into or dissolving a civil union, contact our office to see how we can assist you.

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        Jesse James, Tiger Woods, Senator John Edwards – what do they all have in common? 

        Accusations of adultery make the headlines but what does it mean in a divorce?  Generally, in New Jersey adultery is sexual intercourse between a married person and a person not the husband or wife of that person.  In New Jersey, you don’t get a divorce just because you want one.  You have to allege and prove one of the grounds for divorce.  Adultery is one of several grounds for divorce.  If you can prove that adultery occurred, you will be entitled to a divorce.  However, for the most part, proving adultery as opposed to any of the other grounds for divorce will probably not affect the finances in the divorce when it comes to alimony and equitable distribution.  In New Jersey, when it comes to alimony, the Court is to consider approximately 9 factors and any other facts relevant to the particular case.  None of the 9 factors consist of proving adultery.  In New Jersey, the statute for the equitable distribution of property lists approximately 14 factors and the last item is any other factor relevant to the particular case.  Again, none of the 14 factors consist of proving adultery.  Even when it comes to custody, assuming the adultery was discreet, alleging a ground for adultery may not necessarily affect custody.  While adultery is a factor to be considered, it does not automatically entitle one to receive more alimony or pay less alimony or to receive a greater or lesser amount of the distribution of the assets acquired during the marriage unless of course a pre-nuptial agreement provides otherwise.  Depending on the facts in the case, adultery may not even affect custody. 

        You can learn how adultery affects your case by calling us at (908) 879‑9499.

In recent months, there has been tremendous speculation in the news regarding the terms of Tiger Woods’ Pre-Nuptial Agreement and how Elin will fair in the divorce.  However, few people understand what a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is and how it effects divorce litigation.  Perhaps even fewer people know that Pre-Nuptial Agreements are not just for the rich and famous and can be used by anyone contemplating marriage.

A Pre-Nuptial Agreement is an agreement made between prospective spouses in contemplation of their marriage.  The purpose of the agreement is to define the interests, rights and obligations of each spouse prior to the marriage.  These agreements can define anything from how the marital living expenses will be paid to how the parties will file their taxes.

However, most often, parties enter into Pre-Nuptial Agreements in order to set forth each party’s rights and obligations in the event of their separation or Divorce.  If the Pre-Nuptial Agreement is drafted properly, it could help the parties avoid difficult and costly divorce litigation.  Typically the issues of property distribution and spousal support are detailed in a Pre-Nuptial Agreement.  One of the benefits of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is that parties can preserve their pre-marital assets.  Another important benefit of a Pre-Nuptial Agreement may be to deal with end of life issues.  Perhaps the most talked about case dealing with this issue is that of Anna Nicole Smith and her marriage to billionaire J. Howard Marshall.  However, there are many famous people that should enter into Pre-Nuptial Agreements but do not. It is curious whether Chelsea Clinton signed a Pre-Nuptial Agreement prior to her marriage.

The terms of each Pre-Nuptial Agreement vary depending on the parties and their respective situations.  To determine if a Pre-Nuptial Agreement is right for you and your prospective spouse, call our office for an appointment.  (908) 879-9499

The names Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Chris Brown have all been in the news recently.  Allegations of domestic violence cross all socioeconomic barriers.  The law differs from state to state. 

In New Jersey, a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) can be obtained through the Court.  A victim of domestic violence can obtain a TRO by going to the courthouse during the Court’s daytime hours and appearing before a judge.  Another way to obtain a TRO is through the police.  If police are contacted regarding a domestic violence matter, the police can contact a judge to obtain a TRO.  Judges are on call for emergent matters even during the nighttime, on weekends and holidays.

If a victim obtains a TRO, the TRO will have on it the date for a hearing.  The court rules of evidence will apply at the hearing.  At the hearing the victim will take the stand, call any witnesses to testify, and produce any relevant and admissible evidence.  The victim and witnesses will be subject to cross-examination.  The party accused of domestic violence is called the defendant.  The defendant may take the stand, call any witnesses and introduce any relevant and admissible evidence.  The defendant and witnesses will be subject to cross-examination.

The judge will decide if an act of domestic violence has occurred.  If the judge finds that an act of domestic violence did not occur, the TRO will be dismissed.  If the judge finds that an act of domestic violence occurred, the judge will enter a Final Restraining Order (FRO).  A FRO carries significant consequences to the defendant. 

If you are a victim of domestic violence or accused of domestic violence, you may want to contact an experienced matrimonial attorney.  For further questions or comments, call us at (908) 879‑9499.

It is the responsibility of both parents to ensure that the needs of their children are met.  Child Support in New Jersey is in most cases based upon the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines.  The support amount is based upon the income of both parents and the average amount that intact families spend on their children.  There are cases where the child support guidelines are not appropriate because the parents earn either too much or too little to fit within the parameters of the guidelines. 

The obligation to pay child support ends upon a child’s emancipation when they are deemed to no longer be in need of their parent’s support.  When is a child emancipated?  This is an important question for both the person receiving child support and the person paying child support; not to mention the children themselves.  There is no simple answer.  Child support in New Jersey does not simply or automatically terminate at 18.  Emancipation can be triggered by numerous events such as graduation from high school/college, marriage of the child, enlistment of the child in the military or termination of parental rights.  Certain events, such as college can extend a child’s emancipation date into their early twenties.  It must be remembered that the goal of child support is just that, support of the children’s needs.

If you have questions about child support please do not hesitate to contact us at (908) 879-9499.