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Cherry Hill Family Legal Blog

When aggressive litigation is the answer to your divorce problems

You perhaps didn't expect to be among those in New Jersey who are filing for divorce this year. Maybe you were hoping that you and your spouse would be able to work things out. If you're reading this blog, it's likely because you've either already filed for divorce, are considering doing so, or your spouse has informed you that it's what he or she wants. Divorce is emotionally challenging for most people, especially those who have children.

It's also often particularly upsetting for spouses who have been married a long time. Whether your relationship withered over time or a specific event occurred that you determined was irreparable, your highest priority right now is to achieve a settlement that protects your assets and your children's best interests. If you suspect that your spouse isn't going to play fair in court, you'll want to know how to aggressively litigate any issue that places your assets or family well-being at risk.

Credit card points may count as an asset in divorce

Dividing property and assets in a divorce can be a difficult process. Typically, one thinks of insurance policies, retirement accounts, investment portfolios and real estate as property to be divided up in the divorce proceedings. One asset people may forget about in New Jersey is all of those accumulated credit card points.

Credit card points have value and can therefore be considered marital property. How the points are valued or divided up can vary. If a person had a credit card before getting married and can show that the points accumulated were accumulated by only one person, those points may not need to be included as marital property. If they need to have a value assigned to them, one may wish to base the value on that for which they are redeemable. A card that accepts 25,000 points for $250 worth of merchandise would mean that each point is worth one penny.

Prison is possible if one fails to pay child support

There was a time when debtor's prison was a fairly common term. If a person failed to pay his or her debts in New Jersey, he or she would likely have been sentenced to spend time in debtor's prison. Being jailed for failure to pay is a less common occurrence in today's world. But repeated failure to pay child support has landed a person in jail in another state.

A man recently admitted to a probation violation involving failure to pay child support. He had been convicted of first-degree non child support last fall. As part of his probation, he had been mandated to pay a minimum amount of support. Failure to comply resulted in a sentence of one to three years in prison.

Positive communication can help in child custody decisions

Divorce where children are involved can be an ugly process in New Jersey. Alternatively, a divorce involving children can be carried out in an atmosphere of cooperation and open communication that focuses on the importance of maintaining a semblance of family structure following a divorce. Regardless of how parents feel about each other, they typically share concern for the well-being of their children. How well children fair in a divorce depends largely on the structure of child custody and the continued relationship between the children and both parents.

Contentious child custody battles seldom have positive outcomes for anyone, particularly children. If one parent gets sole or primary custody, the relationship with the other parent will almost inevitably suffer. Some of the negative consequences of this situation are an increase in the likelihood of the child to experiment with drugs or alcohol or to get in trouble with the law.

Forethought can protect assets in the event of a divorce

Ending a marriage can be complicated when two people have been together for a significant length of time. Property division process can be particularly complex, and many eyes are on the recently announced split of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, and his wife, MacKenzie. While that divorce could be interesting, few people have that kind of money and may be concerned about protecting more modest assets in the event of a divorce in New Jersey, which is an equitable distribution state.

In an equitable distribution state, assets are not necessarily split in two. Retirement accounts are split using what is called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO0). In a contested divorce, a judge may decide who gets what portion of the accounts, or an amount can be negotiated if the divorce is being handled as a negotiated settlement.

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.

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