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Cherry Hill Family Legal Blog

Parental mental illness and its effect on child custody

Mental illness is not something people -- whether they reside in New Jersey or elsewhere -- like to talk about. There is a stigma attached to individuals with mental health concerns that make those suffering afraid to seek the help that they need or turn to others for support. If a person with a mental illness has children, some may question his or her ability to properly care for those children. This means that, when going through the divorce process, a person's mental health could end up affecting his or her child custody arrangements.

At what point will the state consider a parent unfit to hold custody of his or her children? Does having a diagnosed mental illness mean that there is no hope for achieving any level of child custody?

Contentious child custody battles can be detrimental to children

Divorce is never easy and can be especially difficult when children are involved. Some splits are amicable and the couple make their own child custody arrangements. When that is not possible, the issue of child custody can be a very painful one and can lead to unpleasant outcomes in New Jersey.

Siblings from Westfield have come forward with their own story in an effort to prevent what happened to them from happening to others. The brother and sister had been living with their father during the parents' divorce. The day the custody ruling was made, the judge decided that the father had alienated the children against their mother and awarded custody to the mother. As part of the arrangement the children, then 13 and 15, were required to attend a program called Family Bridges in California.

2019 brings significant changes to divorce and tax laws

The New Year is upon us and with the beginning of 2019 will come some major changes to tax laws that potentially impact divorces in New Jersey and the rest of the country. Chief among those is how alimony payments will be handled for tax purposes in a divorce. For the past 70 years, alimony has been deductible for the payor and taxed as income for the payee. The benefit to this was that the payor got to reduce his or her amount of taxable income and the recipient paid the income tax, which was typically at a lower rate than that which the payor would have paid.

The change that becomes effective Jan. 1 states that the payor will pay the income tax and the payee will not have to pay tax on the alimony received. While this may make alimony payments more difficult to afford, there are other changes and options to be considered. The child care tax credit has doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 per child. For example, a custodial parent with three children under 17 who makes $100,000 would qualify for $6,000 in tax credits. In addition, division of property is typically not considered a taxable event, and as of January 1, there will be no differences, from a tax perspective, between alimony payments and property division payments.

Alimony and divorce in New Jersey

When considering a divorce in New Jersey, finances are a big piece of what goes into the decision-making process. Alimony is one of the most significant issues to be considered in divorce proceedings. There are many factors that go into determining whether alimony is appropriate and, if so, the amount and duration of alimony payments.

In New Jersey, there are 14 factors that go into determining whether alimony should be awarded, the alimony amount and the length of time it must be paid. These factors are part of New Jersey Statutes 2A:34-23. Some of the factors include one's ability to pay, duration of the marriage and the age and physical health of the couple. An important factor is the standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage and the ability of available assets to maintain that standard for both parties following a divorce. This is partly determined by information provided by each party on the Case Information Statement (CIS).

Child support is vital for a child's basic needs

A decision to divorce in New Jersey can lead to many difficult and complex decisions regarding a couple's newly single lives moving forward. One crucial issue concerns the care of children. Child custody and child support decisions are vitally important to the continued well-being of children involved. Child support is not meant to be a punitive measure. It is there to help ensure that children are adequately provided for.

A recent sweep of people in New Jersey who had become delinquent in child support payments netted the arrests of 38 parents. One parent reportedly owed over $85,000. The combined total for the 38 people arrested was over $854,000. In addition to collecting owed money, the aim of the investigation was to remind noncustodial parents of the importance of child support and its role in providing basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter.

Can I still afford to retire if I file for divorce?

The idea of growing old and gray together may seem idyllic, but it is not always a reality. Like many other couples in New Jersey, you may have reached a point in your marriage where you are no longer happy and have not been for some time. However, what should you do if you are nearing retirement?

Divorce does come with a financial impact, but that should not discourage those who need to end their marriages from seeking one. With careful planning, attention to detail and an eye on the final goal, most people can come out of the other side of divorce with a solid financial foundation.

Talking property distribution need not wait until divorce

Marriage is the beginning of an exciting adventure undertaken by two people in New Jersey with the usual intention of remaining together for life. Although the divorce rate is believed to be declining, the possibility does exist. While no one wants to begin a marriage worrying that a divorce may result, there are steps that can be taken to protect oneself in the event of property distribution that may happen down the road. These steps can also promote openness and honesty regarding property and finances. Financial disagreements can cause issues that may lead to a divorce.

Prenuptial agreements are seen by some as evidence that one party doesn't trust the other. In reality, the agreements may be able to reinforce that trust as each person's finances will be fully disclosed in the process. A prenup can also be looked at as a will of sorts. It determines how property will be handled in the event of the death of the marriage.

Successful co-parenting can follow a divorce

Ending a marriage is seldom easy and can be particularly difficult when children are involved. One of the more challenging issues to resolve can be that of parenting roles following a divorce in New Jersey. Parents may wish to both be an active part of their children's lives but may have difficulty seeing the possibility of that because of differences with a partner. Co-parenting is becoming a popular option, and while celebrities do not often serve as role models, there are some who are modeling co-parenting methods that others can aspire to.

Channing Tatum, a popular actor, and his wife recently split. They have a five year-old daughter together and agreed to co-parent so that they could both remain actively involved in her life. They are facing the challenge realistically and are showing by example that it can be done.

Factors considered by Courts in Awarding Alimony

21FB56C3-E86C-4BF3-9BBB-CEBF665F4705.jpegIn determining whether alimony is necessary, and in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment of alimony, the court must consider numerous factors including the parties' earnings and earning capacities, income sources, mental and physical conditions, contributions to the earning power of the other, educations, standard of living during the marriage, the contribution of a spouse as homemaker and the duration of the marriage.Anderson v. Anderson, 822 A.2d 824, 830-31 (Pa.Super.2003)

Definition of Child Abuse

New Jersey defines child abuse as the act of repeatedly hitting a child with a closed fist, with sufficient force to leave bruises still visible more than a day later.  N.J.S.A. 9:6-8.21(c)(4)(b)[.]" The DYFS (now known as DCPP) Policy and Procedures Manual, defines "child abuse" as physical injury "due to a parent's/caregiver's action or inaction that was neither necessary nor justified, neither reasonable nor appropriate." The Manual further states that "a single incident may be enough to indicate abuse and corporal punishment is defined as `any punishment inflicted on the body.'"  Where one parent has committed an act of abuse upon a child that is often a key factor in a custody case. In those situations, Division records should be requested via Motion for an in camera review by the court.  #divorce #childsupport #childcustody #alimony #garneslaw BF0AA17B-F437-47AF-8F65-D43D88F62793.jpeg

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