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Monmouth County Family Law Blog

Divorce mediation: January popular month for divorce decisions

The start of the new year means the start of a new living situation for many married couples. January seems to have been labeled as divorce month and New Jersey couples who have made that difficult decision may find it easier to move through the process with the help of divorce mediation. But, why is it that January seems to be the month when divorce filings spike?

Many experts believe that once the holidays are over, some people decide they want to make a fresh start in a new year. Some couples who have been undecided about whether to separate or divorce choose January to finally make that decision -- sort of a like a New Year's resolution. Many couples choose not to put a damper on holiday festivities with news of a possible divorce.

Not every New Jersey child custody ruling can be appealed

When New Jersey parents go to court to resolve child-related issues, either in divorce or as single parents, it sometimes happens that a judge overseeing a particular case hands down a ruling that a parent believes is unjust. In some situations, a concerned parent may file an appeal. In other circumstances, however, filing an appeal in a child custody case would not be possible.

In order to better understand the appeals process, it helps to first understand that there are different types of rulings. Not all court orders are final. When a case remains ongoing, a judge can issue a temporary order if needed. A parent may not petition for an appeal regarding a non-final court order. If an appeal is going to be filed, the process is completed through an appellate court.

Parenting plan may make tackling child custody easier

It's a new year, so naturally, you're ready for a new you -- one without your current spouse. However, as you contemplate filing for divorce, you worry about how the marital breakup will impact your children. And you wonder how you can address child custody in the least hostile manner possible.

The good news is that most people resolve cases involving child custody without the need for going to divorce trial. How? Through informal divorce negotiations between both parents, which may lead to a mutually satisfactory parenting plan. Here is a rundown on how parenting plans work in New Jersey.

U.S. Supreme Court hearing international child custody dispute

The Supreme Court is in the midst of a major international battle regarding children. The decision will affect similar child custody issues in New Jersey, elsewhere in the nation and, indeed, globally. The fight includes a young child, her Italian father, American mother and the international Hague Convention, which speaks to international child custody disputes.  

The couple met and married in the United States in 2011 and moved to Italy two years later where the relationship became problematic. The woman became pregnant in 2014 and amid physical and sexual abuse allegations, returned to the States with the baby in 2015. But under the Hague Convention, the habitual residence of the child is a determining factor when deciding on child custody issues. In 2016, a U.S. District Court in the States decided the child's habitual residence was Italy and ordered her to be returned.   

Divorce mediation: How to have a good divorce

As the old song goes, breaking up is hard to do. New Jersey couples who decide that divorce is imminent can go through the divorce process with much less angst utilizing the tools under family law. Some couples might find that divorce mediation can help them to have a more positive experience with something that is not usually pleasant. 

Couples can actually consciously choose to have a better experience during the divorce process. Being proactive rather than reactive can help matters enormously. When partners plan for their divorce -- set goals, make checklists and review them, and make adjustments -- they might find that they are more amenable to reaching a fair settlement with each other. A mediator may also be able to them to agree on some important issues. 

Answering some challenging child custody questions

No doubt divorcing couples have many decisions to make. If the couple has kids, one of the most important decisions any New Jersey couple must make revolves around child custody. There may be a host of questions each person may have about custody issues. It may be easier for a couple to agree to custody terms if they have some clarification on certain issues.

For instance, years ago it was almost unheard of that a man would get custody of his children. Things have improved and most family court judges agree that a father can be as nurturing to his children as can their mother, so if a man wants custody of his children, he doesn't have any less chance of obtaining custody than the children's mother. It was thought that children were better off in the custody of their mothers, but it has been shown that children do just as well-being with a caring, stable father, although the ideal situation for children is to have both parents in their lives as co-parents.

Divorce mediation: When court may be the best solution instead

Many couples going through the divorce process look for alternatives to litigation. For some New Jersey couples, divorce mediation might be that alternative. However, there are times when the meditation process may not be the ideal situation. For couples considering the process, there are some disqualifiers for mediation of which they should be aware.

When domestic abuse is a factor in a divorce, mediation is not likely to be advantageous. Both parties must be honest in the process, and if one fears retribution for being honest, a mediator may not be able to help. Also, if a mediator suspects child abuse in any way, he or she must report it to authorities. A mediator cannot be neutral (as he or she must otherwise be in the process) when he or she suspects child abuse.

Coparenting with a toxic ex? Try parallel parenting instead

One of the hardest aspects of a divorce will be figuring out what will happen to your kids. You know they will benefit if allowed to have access to and a strong relationship with both parents, but that may not be easy for you to navigate. Even if you and the other parent do not get along, you may be able to find a way to make it work for the benefits of the kids. 

However, co-parenting can be especially difficult when your ex displays toxic behaviors. You want to continue to allow your children to see their mother or father, but how can you deal with the negativity and difficult circumstances without losing your own sanity? One of the first things you can do is to learn to recognize toxic behavior and figure what child custody arrangement will work best for your family.

Property division: What New Jersey spouses should know

Deciding to divorce is no small matter. In fact, it might be one of the most significant decisions you make in a lifetime. As a parent, your children's best interests are no doubt one of your highest priorities. Another important topic, however, and one that can affect your kids, is property division.

New Jersey divorces are governed by equitable distribution guidelines regarding property division. The judge overseeing your case will take numerous factors into consideration and determine a fair division of all marital property and debts, which will not necessarily be 50/50. If you signed a prenuptial agreement before marrying or you can establish separate ownership of a particular asset (such as money from an inheritance that was designated specifically for you) it may keep certain assets from being divided.

Setting up a trust in New Jersey to make alimony payments

Once the emotion is removed from a divorce situation, it basically amounts to negotiating a business deal. Part of those negotiations for some New Jersey couples who are divorcing involves alimony. But even in the best of circumstances, negotiating a divorce settlement is rarely easy, especially with relatively new tax laws in place, which has meant changes in the ways payors and payees of alimony look at things.

Essentially, the spouse who now pays alimony can no longer claim the payment as a tax deduction, while the spouse on the receiving end doesn't have to claim the funds as income. These payments are now more costly for the payor because of the elimination of the tax break, so many such payors have set up trusts to pay their former spouses alimony. Grantor trusts actually mean the payee pays taxes on funds paid out, so it takes some negotiating finesse to get a payee to agree to this situation. 

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