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Monmouth County Family Law Blog

Should you keep the marital residence or sell it?

In many divorces, property division is a technical and involved process that requires careful cataloging, assessment and appraisal of assets. The goal, under New Jersey law, is to ensure that both spouses receive an equitable distribution (but not always equal distribution) of the marital assets.

If you’re about to go through the property division process, you have likely thought about the marital residence, which is often the largest asset that couples own. You may even have your sights set on keeping it after the divorce, if at all possible. In today’s post, we’ll discuss some factors to bear in mind before you decide to advocate for ownership of the family home.

Rethinking our old ideas about post-divorce fatherhood

It used to be the case that after a divorce, mothers would be awarded sole or primary child custody in most cases, and fathers would be given visitation. This was based on the assumption that women were naturally more nurturing and were better caretakers. And it coincided with the stereotype of the “weekend dad” – a disengaged, irresponsible adult who was more concerned with being fun than with being a parent.

It would be tempting to think that the “weekend dad” persona was proof that women were more deserving of custody. But many researchers now argue that cause and effect may have been reversed. In other words, lopsided custody awards may have created the weekend dad behavior because it left little time for kids to actually spend with their dads, and few opportunities for dads to practice solo parenting.

Noncustodial parents can be active and involved

When parents in New Jersey get divorced, they may have to make difficult decisions about how to handle child custody and visitation. Few parents want to spend more time away from their children, and joint custody is increasingly favored by family courts outside an environment of abuse or neglect. At the same time, however, every family's situation is unique. Concerns about employment, living conditions, supervision or educational continuity for the children may lead many families to opt for one parent to have primary physical custody of the children.

However, this does not have to mean that a noncustodial parent is absent or inactive. Many noncustodial parents enjoy extensive visitation time with their children, including frequent weekend or holiday overnight visits. They may even share legal custody, meaning that they also have authority over major decisions affecting the child, including issues regarding their health care or education. Of course, keeping up with child support payments is another important part of involvement for noncustodial parents.

How to show the kids you love them during divorce

Even when you believe that divorce will ultimately help your children lead better lives, it can still prove difficult for them. They often struggle with thoughts that they caused the divorce or that their parents do not love them. They do not know how to process this major change in their lives.

Common advice about divorce stresses that you need to tell your kids repeatedly that they did not cause the split and that you and your ex still love them, just like you did when you were married. That is important. However, just telling children that you love them may not be enough. You need to show them to really get them to believe it. Here are a few ways to do so:

Co-parenting a teen after divorce

When people in New Jersey decide to divorce, they may be concerned about how the separation will affect their children. Going through a divorce with children of any age can be a challenge, as can adapting to the co-parenting process. After all, divorced parents may have a wide range of problems with one another, but they still need to work together to raise their children and support their goals. Co-parenting a teenager can carry its own particular concerns, especially because going through adolescence can be challenging even when parents are still together.

When teens go through puberty, they face hormonal and physical changes. These can be reflected in changing behaviors, uneven moods and difficulties relating to their parents. Teens are also developing their independence and preparing for adult life: thinking about college or university, getting a summer job or becoming involved with politics or social justice. Teens can find themselves in conflict with their parents over rules and boundaries. This is an important stage in human development, but it can also challenge co-parents.

Could your social drinking jeopardize custody of your kids?

If you are going through a contested custody battle as part of a divorce or otherwise, you might be shocked to learn that your social drinking habits are now an issue in the case. How could that have happened?

It's important to understand that custody battles can often become dirty little wars, with each parent lobbing grenades at the other in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the proceedings. It's unsurprising for industry insiders to see one spouse level accusations of addiction at the other — whether it is warranted or not. But there are ways you can minimize the impact of these allegations.

How New Jersey parents can co-parent after a divorce

New Jersey parents who are considering getting divorced and are concerned about the challenges of child custody should consider several ways they may be able to improve their teenager's situation. Parenting is wrought with challenges, and it is especially difficult when the parents are living separately. However, by keeping communication open and putting their child first, parents can move forward with their own lives without compromising their teenager's well-being.

First, it is important to remember that a teenager generally has a tendency to want to manipulate situations for his or her own personal gains. For example, a teen might want to participate in risky behavior and experimentation, and he or she might have an easier time doing what he or she wants when the parents are divorced and live apart.

Keeping the family home after divorce can be problematic

For many New Jersey spouses going through the divorce process, getting a fresh start is important. However, others feel a need to remain connected with the past. Exactly how the family home is viewed and ultimately awarded as an asset to one of the parties becomes a major issue in the final property division settlement. This is especially true when minor children are involved.

Although the general practice is that each party in the divorce receives an equal share of marital property, they almost never get exactly the same distribution of assets unless everything is liquidated and the two split the cash. For many couples, the family home is the single largest asset. If one party is awarded the home, the other receives other assets equal to 50% of the home's equity. The issue, however, is not the separation of the assets but whether the party who keeps the home can afford to do so.

Don’t let divorce stop you from planning for retirement

As you move through the divorce process, it'll often feel like you think about nothing else. This can cause you to overlook a variety of important aspects of your financial and personal lives.

Even though divorce will impact your financial circumstances in many ways, you can't use it as an excuse for not reaching your goals. For example, divorce shouldn't stop you from planning for retirement.

The truth about the child support system

Parents in New Jersey and throughout the country may not like the idea of paying child support. For some individuals, they are an attempt by their former spouses to extort them. However, child support payments should be viewed as an attempt to provide help for children who need both parents in their lives. Generally speaking, a parent has an opportunity to show how much he or she can afford to pay.

If a parent cannot be located, an income may be imputed based on his or her job history and other factors. While this may or may not reflect a parent's current income, it is not done in an attempt to harm this individual. If a noncustodial parent experiences a decrease in income, it may be a good idea to ask for a modification to the current support order. The sooner this is done, the better the outcome may be for that parent.

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