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Dedicated Exclusively to Family Law Matters
Divorce will affect the lives of spouses, children, extended family members and friends. It is critical that you understand all options available to you so that you can make the best decisions for your and you children’s futures. From filing to initial pleadings, to securing temporary support and parenting arrangements to ultimate resolution of all issues incident to dissolution of a marriage, our attorneys will assist you with every stage of the divorce process. We provide honest, realistic advice so that our clients have reasonable, attainable expectations when they mediate or litigate their divorce. At all times, our attorneys remain committed to safeguarding your rights and interests, while helping you to reach a resolution that meets your family’s unique needs.
Mediation is a far more flexible, and often less costly, means of resolving Family Law disputes. The cornerstone of mediation is that it is a voluntary, confidential process, guided by the self-determination of the participating parties. What this means is that the parties to the mediation make their own decisions as to how to resolve the disputes between them. Although these decisions must be informed and voluntary, they need not comport with the applicable statutory or case law. Thus, parties to a mediation can adopt creative, carefully tailored solutions that best meet the needs of all members of their family into the future. Courts, on the other hand, must follow the applicable when issuing decisions. Often, this leads to litigants feeling as though a Court’s decision is somewhat arbitrary and impractical. Parties to a mediation tend to be far more satisfied with the results they achieve and often have fewer disputes arise in the future.
In mediation, a trained, neutral professional meets with two or more parties to facilitate a resolution of the disputes between them. Mediators do not decide the issues between the parties. Rather, mediators help the parties obtain necessary information to identify and evaluate various options for resolving their conflicts. The parties themselves must mutually select and agree upon appropriate resolutions to their disputed issues.
Because all mediation communications are confidential and cannot be used in the event of future litigation, the mediation process encourages candor and full disclosure between the parties. Moreover, any and all agreements reached at mediation are non-binding, unless and until reduced to a writing signed by both parties. Thus, parties to a mediation can freely brainstorm and discuss a variety of solutions to their disputes, without fear of inadvertently committing themselves to any one option.
Parties can choose to participate in mediation with or without independent legal counsel. The mediator cannot give either party legal advice and cannot offer an assessment of whether the agreements made by the parties are fair or consistent with the law. Thus, when legal questions arise during the mediation process, we often encourage the parties to obtain legal advice from their own counsel.
Both partners of the firm are approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as Family Law Mediators. Both conduct private and court-ordered mediations. If you are considering mediation as an alternative to divorce or other litigation, please contact our office today.
Our attorneys also represent individual clients who are participating in mediation with a third-party neutral. In these circumstances, our role is to assist our client by providing them with legal advice regarding all disputed issues being addressed in the mediation process, reviewing the agreements reached in mediation, and accompanying the clients to mediation sessions, if requested. If you are seeking legal counsel while participating in mediation, please contact our Sparta Township, Sussex County, New Jersey office today. In the event mediation does not resolve your dispute, our partners have the skill and experience to litigate your matter in Court.
Child Custody and Parenting Time
Child custody and parenting time are often the most sensitive issues in any Family Law matter. No one is more familiar with the needs of their children than the parents themselves. Thus, it is typically best if the parties can reach an agreement as to custody and parenting time without Court intervention. A negotiated agreement regarding these issues can be custom tailored to meet your family’s specific needs. Unfortunately, this is not always possible, and protracted and costly custody litigation may be necessary.
At Albino & Clark, LLC, our attorneys have vast experience negotiating custody and parenting time agreements and litigating contested custody matters. We work extensively with our clients to identify their needs and concerns with respect to these issues. At all times our focus is on assisting you in creating or obtaining custody and parenting time arrangements that not only protect your rights, but also serve the best interests of your children and the unique needs of your family.
Often, the needs of the family and/or children will change over time. When an existing custody and parenting time arrangement is no longer meeting those needs, or has otherwise become unworkable, we can assist you in seeking or opposing a modification of the existing schedule.
Child support in New Jersey is typically governed by the New Jersey Rules of Court. Generally, child support is calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines computer program. Factors relevant to said calculation include, but are not limited to, the incomes of the parties (either actual or imputed), the alimony paid or received by a party, the amount of overnight parenting time exercised by each parent, the cost of providing health insurance for the child(ren), daycare expenses and extraordinary expenses. In situations where the parties have substantial incomes, the Child Support Guidelines may not be applicable.
Child support may be subject to review and modification based upon a showing of a permanent, substantial change of circumstances. What constitutes a change sufficient to warrant modification is a fact sensitive issue. Substantial changes in one or both parties’ incomes, changes in custody and/or parenting time, termination or modification of alimony and the subsequent birth of another child with a third party may, under appropriate circumstances, be bases for modification of child support.
Under New Jersey law, there is a presumption that a child becomes emancipated upon reaching their eighteenth birthday or graduation from high school, whichever last occurs. Emancipation will typically be tolled, however, if the child pursues full-time post-secondary education, such as college, vocational school or technical school. In such circumstances, emancipation generally will not occur until such time as the child has completed their degree or certification program, provided they diligently continue to pursue same.
Other events which will trigger the emancipation of a child include, but are not limited to, marriage, death of the child, enlistment in the United States Armed Forces, and full-time employment of a child who is not pursuing any post-secondary education.
Child support continues until such time as a child has been deemed emancipated, either by formal agreement of the parties, or Order of the Court. Issues of emancipation are highly fact-sensitive and often the source of disputes between parents.
Whether you are seeking to establish an initial child support obligation, or modify or terminate an existing child support obligation, our attorneys have the skill and experience to assist you. Child support issues can be complicated and are critical to the future financial stability of the children and parties.
Spousal Support and Alimony
In New Jersey, marriage is viewed as a partnership, whereby the efforts of both parties, whether outside or within the home, contribute to joint marital lifestyle enjoyed by the parties. Under the recently passed New Jersey alimony statute, both parties have an equal right to maintain a lifestyle comparable to that which was enjoyed during the marriage during and following divorce proceedings. Often, this will require that one spouse pay and the other spouse receive alimony and/or spousal support.
Contrary to popular rhetoric, there is no set formula for determining the amount or duration of alimony in New Jersey. Rather, the Court must consider a number of statutory factors, which include: the actual need and ability of the parties to pay; the length of the marriage; the age, physical and emotional health of the parties; the standard of living established during the marriage; the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills and employability of the parties; the parental responsibilities for the children and the incomes of the parties. Additionally, under the new alimony statute, there is a rebuttable presumption that alimony shall terminate upon the payor spouse attaining full retirement age. Said presumption may be overcome upon good cause shown.
Ensuring that you will have sufficient financial means to support yourself following a divorce requires experienced and diligent advocacy. Our partners have extensive experience litigating all issues of alimony and spousal support. If you are concerned about receiving adequate spousal support, or protecting yourself against an unduly burdensome support obligation, contact our office for a consultation today.
Spousal support, like child support, may be modified upon a showing of a permanent, substantial change of circumstances. Thus, alimony may be increased if the supporting spouse’s income has substantially increased since the support order was entered. Similarly, if an alimony payor experiences injury, job loss, or extreme illness which renders him or her unable to meet existing support obligations, alimony may be reduced in appropriate circumstances. In other instances, termination of alimony may be appropriate due to remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient spouse.
Division of Jointly Acquired Assets and Debts
The division of real and personal property acquired during the marriage (“equitable distribution”) is often one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. At Albino & Clark, LLC, we are dedicated to ensuring that your rights and interests in all marital assets are preserved. We work diligently to ensure that each of our clients receives an equitable share of the marital estate. Our partners have experience dealing with complex issues of asset valuation and distribution, including but not limited to corporations, partnerships, sole proprietorships, restricted and unrestricted stock options, securities, retirement assets and valuable personal property. When necessary, we work closely with other professionals such as appraisers, accountants, business valuation experts and financial planners to obtain accurate values of assets subject to equitable distribution.
Similarly, division of debts acquired during the marriage frequently causes heated disputes between parties in a divorce. Any and all debts acquired during the marriage, regardless of whether they were incurred in joint names or one spouse’s sole name, may be subject to equitable distribution, if said debts were incurred to finance the marital lifestyle. Often, one party to a divorce may be unaware of the full extent of debt incurred by the other spouse during the marriage. Our attorneys ensure that full disclosure of debt is made during the divorce process and that none of our clients are saddled with a disproportionate share of marital debt post-divorce.
Retirement Assets: You are entitled to equitable distribution of your spouse’s retirement assets if said assets were established during the marriage or increased in value through contributions made during the marriage. There are legal and procedural requirements for division of retirement assets and pensions, often known as Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (“QDROs”) and Domestic Relations Orders (“DROs”). When dealing with issues of division of retirement accounts and pensions, you need experienced and skilled legal representation to protect your interests. At Albino & Clark, LLC, we ensure that our client’s rights are protected with respect to these and all other assets.
Disputes with those with whom we have the closest relationships often trigger the strongest emotional responses. Sadly, these disputes can sometimes lead to one or both parties engaging in appropriate verbal and/or physical behavior. Whether such conduct rises to the level of domestic violence as defined by New Jersey statutory and case law often depends upon the specific facts of the case. Domestic violence issues are sensitive matters, with potentially serious consequences. Restraining Orders can impact custody and parenting time, access to your home and employment opportunities. Alarmingly, false domestic violence charges are sometimes used to gain an advantage in divorce proceedings or other conflicts.
At Albino & Clark, LLC, we work diligently to protect victims of domestic violence from further abuse and also vigorously defend against false charges of domestic violence. We carefully explain all options available to parties when a Temporary Restraining Order has been issued. We can assist in negotiating a Consent Order for Civil Restraints where appropriate, and are experienced in conducting domestic violence trials, both to obtain and prevent the issuance of a Final Restraining Order. We also represent parties charged with violations of Restraining Orders and parties seeking to modify or vacate existing Restraining Orders.
New Jersey Courts recognize the importance of both parents maintaining close, bonded relationships with the children. Thus, under New Jersey law, a parent cannot relocate with a child(ren) outside the State of New Jersey without the consent of the other parent or Court Order. This may also be true in some instances where a parent seeks to relocate sufficiently far away within the State that the other parents’ existing parenting time will be negatively impacted.
The Court must consider several factors when determining whether to permit a parent to relocate with the children. Said factors include: the reason for the move (whether it is a good faith reason, such as a new job, or simply for the purpose of preventing the other parent from seeing the children); the distance of the proposed move; the ability of the other parent to see the children and maintain a relationship; whether the move would be detrimental to the children; the advantages or disadvantages for the children in the new location; and whether the other parent would also be able to relocate.
Whether you are seeking to move with your children out of New Jersey or need to challenge a proposed relocation by the other parent, you need knowledgeable legal counsel to explain your rights, likelihood of success and alternative arrangements that meet your family’s unique needs. Our attorneys have substantial experience dealing with relocation matters and can effectively guide you through all stages of this difficult issue.
While the idea of a Prenuptial Agreement may not be the most romantic notion, the fact remains that said Agreements are a powerful tool to help protect the rights and interests of both parties to a marriage in the event of death of either party or a divorce. Prenuptial Agreements can help people protect their separate property and agree on issues such as the division of property and spousal support in the event of divorce. Often, it is much easier for the parties to agree on these issues while anticipating a happy and enduring marriage than it is when they are facing a divorce.
Our attorneys can assist you with drafting, reviewing and negotiating a Prenuptial Agreement. We will ensure that your financial interests are protected and your Agreement meets all requirements to be upheld as valid and binding in the event of divorce.
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