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Cherry Hill Family Legal Blog

Divorce and asset distribution later in life

Couples in New Jersey and elsewhere in the country have been waiting longer to get married and are staying married longer. This has contributed to a decline in the divorce rate in recent years for younger couples. On the other hand, divorce among couples in their 50s and older has been increasing in recent years. Ending a marriage later in life can add complications as there is often more at stake when it comes to asset distribution.

A person seeking to end a marriage may be concerned about the possibility of not being left with enough to maintain the standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. A person may be well acquainted with the value of the couple's estate and concerned that splitting the assets 50/50 will leave both people in a weakened position. This can become particularly complicated if there is a family business that was created during the marriage.

Emotions can wreak havoc on property division proceedings

Divorce can be a very emotional time in New Jersey, and this can be particularly true when it surprises one partner in a marriage that has lasted many years. Emotions should not get in the way of clear thinking and the determination of what one is entitled to when it comes to property division. Emotions can cloud one's judgement, which could have a negative effect on settlement negotiations.

It is important to understand what may be considered marital property when entering into the divorce process. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means property is not automatically split 50/50 but in an equitable manner. In a marriage that has lasted for many years, retirement accounts and pensions can figure prominently in settlement negotiations.

Emotions are best left out of property division proceedings

A couple embarking on the journey of a divorce face far different emotions than they may have faced at the beginning of the marriage. Where happiness, hope and anticipation often follow the marriage vows, dread, anger and hurt can follow the decision to divorce. These emotions can cloud the important decision making and fact gathering that go into the process of property division in New Jersey.

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means that the assets obtained during the marriage, considered to be the marital estate, are not necessarily split down the middle but are divided up in what the court believes is a fair division of assets and liabilities. In order to facilitate a fair distribution, all assets and liabilities should be accounted for. The big items such as houses, cars and retirement accounts may come immediately to mind, but there are other assets or liabilities that can accumulate over the period of a marriage.

Co-parenting vs. parallel parenting plans

Except in certain situations, the days of one parent having sole custody and the other visitation are a thing of the past. These days, courts across the country, including here in New Jersey, tend to believe that both parents having as much interaction with the children as possible serves their best interests.

This is where co-parenting comes into play. The problem is that not all parents can co-parent because their personal relationship degraded to the point where it just isn't possible, at least in the beginning. If you are in this position, you could enter into a parallel parenting agreement with your former spouse.

Property division and marital property can be complicated

When a couple decides to divorce in New Jersey there are many issues to be resolved around who gets what. One issue that may arise is what assets are considered marital property and what are not. Many may understand that assets held prior to marriage are not usually considered marital property. However, there may be exceptions to this where property division is concerned.

In one instance, a woman had purchased and lived in a home prior to the marriage. The married couple lived in the house and paid off the mortgage. During this period, certain improvements were made to the home that were funded by both parties. In addition, bills, including the mortgage, were paid jointly.

New law to impact child support payments

A recent case decided in New Jersey courts could have a significant impact on divorced parents who are ordered to pay support to their children. Child support can sometimes be a contentious issue, but decisions made by the court will always take the stance that the welfare of the child or children in question is paramount. Sadly, while most parents have deep concerns for a child's wellbeing, failure to consistently make child support payments remains a serious issue.

Failure to pay can and often is tied to a change in financial ability to pay. Appeals can be made to the court to modify arrangements if this is the case. One such case where the parent did not disclose a hardship but continuously filed motions to delay paying child support resulted in a change in how accounts held by one parent can be garnished to pay child support.

Property division in divorce is akin to a business transaction

Deciding to end a marriage is seldom a decision that is made lightly. People enter a marriage in New Jersey with the hope that they are embarking on the beginning of a lifetime relationship. Sadly, this is not always the case as relationships mature and people sometimes grow apart. Once the decision has been reached that the marriage is unsalvageable, the task of property division begins.

When there are no children involved, this can prove to be a simpler undertaking, but it is important to understand what is at stake and how property is viewed by the court. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means that the court will look at what is fair and equitable as opposed to community property states where a 50/50 split is often considered the norm. Who owns the asset is typically not relevant as marital property is considered as jointly held, and the court's goal is to arrive at a fair and equitable distribution.

Job loss can complicate a divorce

Contemplating the dissolution of a marriage is one of the most stressful tasks people can take on. One enters a marriage in New Jersey thinking it's forever, and when it's not, the stress and emotional toll can be overwhelming. If children are involved a divorce can become even more complicated as one struggles to figure out the financial arrangements regarding child support and spousal support.

Other wrenches can get thrown into the mix. One of the most devastating might be the loss of a job. How a court will look at a job loss can be determined by the nature of it. If one loses a job because of a massive reorganization or layoff that affected many people, the court will most likely take this into consideration.

How will I know it is time to end my marriage?

You have been through tough times with your spouse. Perhaps those struggles made your marriage stronger for a while, or maybe they caused even more resentment between you. It is not unusual for couples to have moments or even years during their marriage when they contemplate divorce. Those who stick it out can find common ground with their spouses, or they may feel they have wasted the best years of their lives.

How do you know if divorce is the best option for you? Divorce is certainly not something to take lightly. It often means financial setbacks and struggles. Even in unhappy marriages, a divorce can be emotionally traumatizing. If you have children, you also must consider how a breakup will affect them. Nevertheless, remaining in a stale or miserable marriage may not be in your best interests, and you may be looking for signs that the time is right to end it.

Divorce and claiming dependents under the new tax law

Divorce is never easy and it is far more difficult and can be far more complex when there are children involved in New Jersey. One area that is affected as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 is the ability to claim children as dependents on one's tax returns. There are several items one should be aware of if considering a divorce.

The exemption for dependents was eliminated under the new law, but there are still benefits to be realized from claiming a child as a dependent. Principal among these are earned income credit and a child tax credit. Only one parent can claim an exemption, which can complicate the issue when parents share joint custody, as is now so often the case.

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