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Relocating after Divorce in New Jersey

Relocating after Divorce in New Jersey

In the aftermath of a divorce, it’s not uncommon for one of the parties to want to relocate, either to be close to family, to take a new job or a promotion, or just to get a change of scenery. If there are no minor children involved, that’s generally not a problem. However, when there are children still in the marital home at the time of the divorce, and the person who wants to move has physical custody, the process can be difficult.

The first thing to understand is that the court will always give priority to the best interests of the minor children—the parents’ needs are generally secondary. One of the fundamental objectives of the court is to ensure that children have meaningful interaction and contact with both parents. That objective can be difficult to attain if one of the parents lives a significant distance from the child.

Here’s how New Jersey customarily views the relocation of a parent in a divorce proceeding:

  • A non-custodial parent is generally free to move away from the minor child, but there will be no change in the support obligation of the noncustodial parent. However, if the parties have joint physical custody—where the children spend an equal amount of time physically present with the parent—the parent will typically need the permission of the other parent to move.
  • A custodial parent must obtain permission from the other parent or the court to relocate to another state, or to relocate within the state in a way that alters an existing visitation order.

If no custody order has been signed yet, a parent with possession of a minor child can take that child away from the area on a short trip without permission from the other parent or the court. If the other parent objects, however, it is advisable not to take the child out of the area unless you obtain a court order allowing you to do so. Otherwise, you may face challenges when it comes time to put a custody and visitation order in place.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-289-8906. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day

Modification of a New Jersey Divorce Decree

Your Rights When Life’s Circumstances Change

As part of your divorce, you and your spouse will either work out agreements regarding custody, parenting time and support or a judge might make the decisions for you. Either way, you wound up with an Order which set out how it was going to be going forward. But one of the few certainties in life is that things will change. Sometimes the changes are ones that you can work out together but other times, you might need to return to mediation or to court to sort it out. Whether you work it out or need assistance, however, it is vitally important that you document the changes properly and have a new order entered.

Child Custody and Parenting Time

One of the more common reasons people seek to modify a divorce judgment is to address changes in custody or parenting time. A custodial or non-custodial parent may change jobs or shifts, necessitating a new parenting time schedule be put in place. A custodial parent’s health concerns may make it necessary for minor children to live with the non-custodial parent. As children mature, their needs change and a new schedule or change in custody may be appropriate. In New Jersey, custody and parenting time are never final. They can always be modified in the best interest of the children.

Alimony and Child Support

Like custody and parenting time, child support is also always subject to change. Normally, agreements provide for a review every 2-3 years; however if there is a significant change in economic circumstances or in parenting time or custody, an application to modify prior to the review period can be made. For example, if the non-custodial parent has a significant gain in income, or the custodial parent loses their job due to no fault of their own and can demonstrate good faith but unsuccessful attempts to regain employment at the same level, a change may be appropriate. If overnights with the non-custodial parent increase or the custodial parent can show that the non-custodial parent is not taking the children for the required overnights, a change in support may be ordered.
Alimony payments are seldom permanent anymore, and even when they are labeled as such, can be challenged, amended or discontinued. Alimony typically terminates with the death of either party, as well as the remarriage of the recipient, but can also end if the recipient cohabitates with another person in a marriage-like relationship, or the payor retires at normal retirement age.

New developments in child support and alimony laws have occurred over the last couple of years: if your situation has changed, you should contact an attorney to discuss whether these laws affect you!

Property Distribution

As a general rule, divorce judgments or settlement agreements regarding the division of assets or debts cannot be changed. A court typically won’t entertain such a request unless you can demonstrate one of the following:

  • Fraud, misrepresentation or other similar wrongful conduct by one of the parties
  • Newly discovered evidence (such as of assets or the waste of property that had been hidden)
  • A mistake by the court during the divorce proceeding

Contact Our Office

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-289-8906. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

New Jersey Enacts New Emancipation Statute

New Law Will Affect Child Support Obligations

Child Support

A new statute governing the emancipation of minor children, signed into law in January, 2016, became effective on February 1, 2017. The law specifically addresses when the obligation of a non-custodial parent to pay child support ends. The law applies to all child support orders issued prior to or after its effective date.

The Provisions of the New Law

New Jersey has long had a rebuttable presumption that the obligation to pay child support ends when the child becomes 18. In order for the child support obligation to terminate, however, the person paying the support had the obligation to file a motion to emancipate the child or support would continue. The new law changes that, and now the obligation to pay child support ends, without an order from the court, when the child marries, dies, or enters military service. A child support order will also end automatically on the child’s 19th birthday unless one of the following conditions exists:

  • The custodial parent files a written request to extend payments. The request must be filed before the child’s 19th birthday.
  • The child for whom the support is paid has been placed out of the home by the New Jersey Department of Children and Families.
  • There is a court order identifying another cutoff date. Under no circumstances, though, can child support continue after the child’s 23rd birthday.

The statute also identifies the specific situations when a custodial parent may ask the court to extend child support payments:

    If the child is still in high school or some other secondary educational program

    If the child has a mental or physical disability that existed before the child’s 19th birthday and necessitates continued support. This determination must be made by a state or federal agency.

    The child is enrolled in college or a post-secondary program and is taking the requisite number of credits to be considered a full-time student

There’s also a catchall provision that allows a custodial parent to seek continued support due to “exceptional circumstances,” as approved by the court. If the child support is extended beyond the age of 19, the order must also include a prospective date upon which the support obligation will terminate. This new law puts the burden on the parent receiving the child support to prove one of the exceptions applies to extend the support past the age of 19.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-289-8906. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

Happy New Year!

kelly

Informing Your Children You Are Getting a Divorce

Informing Your Children You Are Getting a Divorce

Your children are pretty perceptive and they may be painfully aware that your marriage is in trouble, but that does little to prepare them for your decision to seek1. Informing Children about Your Divorce a divorce. They may have friends whose parents are divorced, and have a basic understanding of what it means. But you need to sit down with them and carefully explain what’s happening and what it will mean. Here are the important steps in informing your children:

Try to Find the Best Time, But Understand That There Will Never Be a Perfect Time

Don’t ever say anything to your children until a divorce complaint has been filed. The worst thing you can tell your children is that "mommy and daddy might be getting a divorce." That will leave your children in limbo, and they may try to figure out what they can do to prevent it from happening (they will likely try that anyway, but leaving things up in the air is particularly hard for them). The less time kids know about the impending divorce, the less time they will have to fret about it.

Don’t tell your children when you don’t have time to answer their questions and be with them. Don’t do it just before bed or when your child is about to head out the door for school or practice. They’ll need time to process it and you need to be there in the early stages.

Tell Your Children Together

If only one of you tells the children, that person will be perceived differently by the children, either as the victim or the perpetrator. In addition, if you tell the children separately, you will inevitably tell different versions of the story, which will serve to confuse the children.

Keep It Simple

Your children will want to know the reasons, but it’s counterproductive to start allocating blame in front of your kids. It’s best to say that "mommy and daddy believe that it’s best if they don’t live together anymore. Be ready to tell your children where they will live and what  visitation will look like, so they don’t worry that they won’t see one parent anymore (this is especially important with small children).

Contact Us

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-343-0078. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

Visitation Schedule and the Holidays

Visit-on-the-Holidays

You may have a visitation schedule that works very effectively during the rest of the year, but things are typically different during the holidays. Your kids will have a certain amount of time off from school and may need adult supervision. In addition, you’ll want to spend more quality time with them, if you can. The best way to ensure that the holidays don’t magnify your stress level is to agree to a holiday schedule in advance and stick to it.

There are a number of ways that you can deal with visitation at the holidays:

  • One of the most common approaches is to alternate major holidays every year—if your children were with you on Christmas last year, they’ll be with you this year. This gives both parents the opportunity to share holidays with their children and offers the same experience to kids. Don’t ever consider having some kids with mom and others with dad on the same day—bad idea, as the kids will naturally talk about which place was best. It’s what kids do.
  • You can also set up two holiday celebrations. Christmas is on the 25th with one parent and on the Sunday before with the other parent.
  • Divide the day up for major holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. Let children wake up in one house and spend the afternoon and evening in the other parent’s home. With Thanksgiving, you may have your children with one parent on Thanksgiving Day and with the other parent on Friday.
  • For some parents, it works to have assigned holidays. For example, if you are in the hospitality business and your ex is not, you may have obligations every New Years Eve, so you may agree to have the children with your ex for that holiday every year.

Contact Us

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-343-0078. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

Keeping Christmas from Becoming a Contest When You Are a Parent of Divorce

Christmas celebration width Parent

If you are a divorced parent with minor children, Christmas can be involve more stress and anxiety than good cheer. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, you can easily get caught up in a sense of competition—who’s giving the children the best gifts? Or the ones they really want? Who’s having the best celebration? It can be hard on you, but rest assured, it can be much harder for your children. Here are some tips to help make the holidays more jolly for everyone.

Communicate about Presents

It’s best to have conversations, generally outside the earshot of your children, about what they need and want for Christmas. Agree upon a spending limit that’s fair to both parties. If there are gifts that your children want, rather than need, try to split those up, so that each parent gets to enjoy giving the child something that makes his or her eyes light up. And no surprises—getting your child a really big ticket item may make you feel good momentarily, and your child may be excited as well, but it will wear off and your child will feel pain for the other  parent, and will feel  put in the middle.

Talk about Festivities

Share your holiday plans with your ex and see if you can work out a compromise that allows your children to have quality time with both of you. It’s a really great idea to alternate holidays every year…Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years. The earlier you start that practice, the more accepted it will be, and the less disappointment you’ll have from children who have become accustomed to only one way of doing things. Try to minimize travel back and forth, too. You might have the children spend Christmas Eve at one house and stay overnight, but spend the rest of the day with the other  parent, once presents are opened in the morning.

Be Willing to Compromise

A little flexibility is a good thing. Be willing to let the deadlines be just a little fuzzy, but keep your ex honest. When you set good boundaries with each other, your children benefit, too.

Be Willing to Spend a Few Minutes Together as a Family

One of the most powerful things you can do during the holidays is to drop your defenses. Stay and have some cookies with your ex and the children when you drop them off. Give your children the opportunity to see you acting like a grownup.

Contact Us

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-343-0078. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way

New Jersey Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Birth Mother

Hand about to bang gavel on sounding block in the court room

The New Jersey Supreme Court, citing “the invaluable right to raise a child,” has ordered a new trial for the indigent mother of a six-year-old girl with special needs. The court found that the mother’s due process rights were violated after she left her daughter in foster care in 2012, and then lost her parental rights, and her child. The court also mandated that the mother have free legal counsel to protect her rights.

According to court documents, the girl’s mother, who also has two boys, became concerned in 2012 that she lacked the resources to properly care for her daughter. She did not have her own residence and had spent time with relatives and in a homeless shelter in the months leading up to the placement of the child in foster care. After the placement, the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey, where the mother left the child, recommended that the foster parents seek to adopt the child, citing both abandonment and lack of fitness to parent. A hearing was conducted, where the mother’s parental rights were terminated. The judge at that hearing did not find any evidence of abuse or that the mother was mentally unfit, but nonetheless took away her parental rights.

Writing for the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Stuart Rabner noted that the mother did not have legal counsel during the parental rights proceedings, causing the odds to be stacked against her. She apparently attempted to present evidence on her own, cross-examine witnesses, and give her own opening and closing statements. On the other hand, the foster parents brought in eight witnesses, including a child psychologist. The disparity in representation, said the court, “casts doubt on the fairness of the process.”

Contact Our Office

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-343-0078. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

Judge Rules Against Grandparents in Adoption Proceeding

Child holding parents hand

A state judge has rejected the petition of New York-based grandparents to adopt a three-year-old New Jersey girl, calling the attempt “absurd.” In a 28-page opinion, Superior Court judge Louis S. Sceusi denied the request of the child’s paternal grandmother and her partner.

According to court records, the child’s parents never married, but have maintained an amicable relationship. They both opposed the adoption petition. The grandmother first sought to adopt the tot when she was about 18 months old, at a time when the child was temporarily lodged at the grandmother’s home. The grandmother alleged in her complaint for adoption that she had “received the child” into her care by “verbal and implied consent of the child’s parents.” She also alleged that the parents had failed to provide for the child’s needs, had abandoned the child, and were unfit parents.

Subsequent to that initial adoption petition, a family court judge made the child a ward of the court and granted temporary custody to the grandmother, pending a Child Protection and Permanency (CPP) investigation. The CPP investigation was never conducted, as the biological mother immediately filed her own complaint, denying all allegations of abandonment and parental misconduct. Based on the mother’s complaint, the family court dismissed the grandmother’s request to adopt the child. The grandmother appealed that dismissal.

In ruling against the grandmother, Judge Sceusi ruled that there was no evidence that the child’s parents consented to the adoption, and that there was no evidence that an approved adoption agency had placed the child for adoption. Absent those conditions, the child was not available for adoption and could not be adopted. Sceusi likened the situation to one where a babysitter, after taking care of a child for a few hours, sought to adopt to the child.

Contact Our Office

To schedule a free, 30 minute telephone consultation to discuss your concerns, send us an e-mail or call our office at 201-343-0078. All calls and e-mails are returned within 24 hours. We’ll be at your side every step of the way.

QUESTIONS?

Why Hire Kelly Berton Rocco?
  • Family law matters are often charged with emotion and parties can be overwhelmed by the myriad of decisions that need to be made. Feelings of frustration, helplessness, anger and sadness are normal. We understand. Our attorneys and staff provide you with the compassionate, personal attention you deserve and the experience and integrity you demand. Whenever possible, we attempt to amicably settle the issues. When parties come to an agreement without court intervention, the results are generally more satisfying for the parties and spares them the emotional and financial cost of trial. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. And when it isn't, you want aggressive representation you can trust.

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