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PREPARING FOR DIVORCE MEDIATION

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Once you have found the appropriate divorce mediator NJ for your case, the next step is to make sure you are prepared to begin sessions. It is likely that time and energy has gone into choosing an effective mediator who you and your spouse are comfortable with and expect to be prepared and attentive. Spending your own time preparing for divorce mediation is equally as necessary for success.

KNOW THE PROCESS 

To begin preparing for divorce mediation start with the basics. Your divorce mediator NJ should explain how things will work during your initial consultation, but if you still feel uneasy spend some time researching what to expect. You should familiarize yourself with the process, including the stages of mediation, confidentiality, the role the mediator will play, and the role you and your spouse will play.

Even if your mediator has satisfied all of your concerns and offered thorough explanations, doing your own research is always beneficial and will calm your nerves when it is time for the first session. There are many resources available on the internet such as mediate.com, divorce mediation blogs and articles. If you are unsure of the authenticity of the information you are reading don’t hesitate to run it by your divorce mediator NJ. 

GET ORGANIZED 

divorce mediationMaking a list of the issues, topics, and goals you have for mediation can mean less stress, better outcomes, and less time and money. Import this list to a spreadsheet and gather relevant information regarding all of the issues on the list. This may include bank and credit card statements, insurance information, recurring bills and documentation regarding children such as current schedules, extracurricular activities and their costs, current or future college expenses, and notes on future plans. This should even be done for issues that are more relevant to the other party.

Once all of your concerns are well organized, develop a range of acceptable outcomes for your agreement. Continue preparing for divorce mediation by making notes of your thoughts, ideas and concerns as they come to you; carry a small notepad with you or use your phone to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

GET OUTSIDE ADVICE  

If your case is complex, you have doubts about the other party’s intentions or you simply want reassurance, it is a good idea to seek the advice of an independent attorney. The attorney will offer you an outside perspective and other ideas you may not have previously considered. Unlike the divorce mediator NJ, this attorney will have only your best interest in mind and will make sure you are confident and ready for mediation and ensure that the final agreement is fair to you. Go over the acceptable outcomes you have previously drafted with your attorney to make sure they are all appropriate and realistic. 

divorce mediation

Seeking advice from other outside professionals and parties will also help you prepare for mediation. For instance, an accountant or appraiser can help you have a firm grasp of your assets and financial situation, while family and friends can help you keep realistic expectations. Reaching out to family or friends who may have used mediation in the past is great way of preparing for divorce mediation. 

PREPARE MENTALLY AND PHYSICALLY 

Having energy and peace of mind will translate to a productive mediation session. Take simple steps like getting a full night’s sleep, eating well and taking a break from stressful tasks. Try to rearrange your schedule as much as possible on the day of the divorce mediation session; postponing appointments, meetings or other demanding activities will allow you to reduce stress before mediation and use the time after to reflect on the outcomes of the session. As mediation can be unpredictable, and range from one hour to several, keeping the day as open as possible will keep you focused and not rushing to attend to prior commitments.

PARENTAL COLLEGE CONTRIBUTION IN NJ

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NJ child support collegeTypically New Jersey requires divorced parents to contribute to their children’s college expenses. In the past, college was considered a privilege reserved only for the wealthy and elite; however, as it has become more accessible to everyone, the question of expense must be considered by parents. With a wider variety of higher education, such as county, community, state, and private colleges, as well as vocational schools, it is easier for families of all budgets to find a tuition that fits their financial situation.

In the ground-breaking case Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982) the NJ Supreme Court addressed the issue of parental obligation in these situations. The court found that generally parents who are financially capable should aid their qualifying children in educational expenses, whether this be by paying all or part of the cost. In some cases, this responsibility can even include post-graduate education.

The decision also set forth a list of relevant factors courts should consider when evaluating a claim for contribution, including:

1. whether the parent, if still living with the child, would have contributed toward the costs of the requested higher education;

2. the effect of the background, values and goals of the parent on the reasonableness of the expectation of the child for higher education;

3. the amount of the contribution sought by the child for the cost of higher education;
4. the ability of the parent to pay that cost;

5. the relationship of the requested contribution to the kind of school or course of study sought by the child;

6. the financial resources of both parents;

7. the commitment to and aptitude of the child for the requested education;

8. the financial resources of the child, including assets owned individually or held in custodianship or trust;

9. the ability of the child to earn income during the school year or on vacation;

10. the availability of financial aid in the form of college grants and loans;

11. the child’s relationship to the paying parent, including mutual affection and shared goals as well as responsiveness to parental advice and guidance; and

12. the relationship of the education requested to any prior training and to the overall long-range goals of the child.

It is best for divorced parents in New Jersey to address college expenses as they would if they were still married, and expect joint responsibility. Parents should also be sure not to overlook college obligation when drafting the property settlement agreement. Even individuals with young children should take this into account; the agreement may be modified in the future, but adding this language in the initial agreement may save both parties from further disputes and legal fees.

If an agreement cannot be made between the parties directly or via divorce mediation, the discovery process will begin and attorneys will exchange relevant financial information on their clients including tax returns, W-2s, assets, and Case Information Statements. If attorneys cannot come to an appropriate agreement, the court will schedule a hearing in which the judge will take the discovery into account and determine each parent’s contribution, as well as address any additional child support modifications.

If you currently have a property settlement agreement that does not mention your child’s college tuition, a court will likely require some sort of contribution; however, it is still important to consult with a NJ family law attorney and consider whether modification to add the provision is appropriate in your case.

While some parents may believe that their child will be considered emancipated when they turn 18, this is not always the case. Emancipation usually only becomes an issue when a parent paying child support believes they should no longer be required to make payments. New Jersey does not have a fixed age for the termination of support; therefore, when the obligee-parent does not agree that payments should stop, the obligor must filed a motion seeking the emancipation of the child and termination of support.

NJ parental college contributionAn emancipated child is released from the control and support of a parent, as they have become financially independent. This age will be determined by the court unless an existing property settlement agreement has defined an age of majority; however, even this does not entirely release parents from the college contribution obligation – only a court may make a final decision on parents’ responsibilities in this matter.

There are instances in which contribution is not considered appropriate, such as if a child’s relationship to the parent is essentially non-existent despite the parent’s attempt to maintain it. These situations will be decided by the court on a case-by-case basis, so it is crucial to work with an experienced NJ family law attorney.

 

WHAT IF MY EX STOPS PAYING CHILD SUPPORT?

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Unfortunately, unpaid child support is a not an uncommon frustration among custodial parents; however, there are a number of options available for enforcement and modification of child support orders in accordance with federal and New Jersey Law.

Financial and emotional support are critical to a child’s well-being and when one parent does not take this responsibility seriously, it should not be overlooked. Child support covers the financial component of a child’s well-being, providing compensation for ongoing expenses associated with basic needs until the child reaches age 18 or is no longer enrolled in high school or secondary education.child support

Under NJ family law, the right to child support belongs to the child and not the parent, which means that its purpose is not to protect either parent but solely to protect the best interest of the child. Parental obligation to pay child support remains the same regardless of the state of the parent-child relationship. While child support requests are commonly made during divorce proceedings, parents who are legally separated or do not live with one another are bound by this legal obligation.

If your child’s parent stops paying child support, the best course of action is to consult an experienced New Jersey family law attorney and seek enforcement of the existing child support order. If the obligor, the parent who owes child support, lives in another state, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) will ensure enforcement and modification can take place with no conflict due to orders issued by courts of different states. While UIFSA enhances the court’s ability to enforce child support orders that were issued in another jurisdiction, it restricts NJ courts from entering or modifying an order established by a court with jurisdiction. It also gives NJ courts jurisdiction over non-resident defendants. Under UIFSA only one support order exists at a given time.

Fortunately, New Jersey has a wide range of child support enforcement methods in accordance with Rule 5:7-5. Some of the most common and effective methods include:

  1. INCOME WITHHOLDING: wage garnishment, in which income is withheld from the obligor’s paycheck, is one of the most effective ways of enforcement. Pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:4-30.97 through N.J.S. 2A:4-30.103, an employer notified of an income withholding order must comply with the order regardless of what state is was registered. Income withholding may also be applied to all incomes used to calculate support including unemployment, workers’ compensation, and certain disability benefits.
  2. NJ CHILD SUPPORT LIEN ACT: a child support judgment establishes an automatic prioritized lien against the net proceeds in excess of $2,000 of any lawsuit judgment or settlement, arbitration award, workers’ compensation award, or inheritance. 
  3. FINANCIAL INSTITUTION DATA MATCH: if child support is three months behind, the obligor’s financial assets will be subject to seizure. The financial institution is required to surrender the assets after proper notice and a 30 day contest period. A separate court order must be established for the probation department to identify and seize the obligor’s financial assets in accordance with N.J.S. 2A:17-56.57.
  4. TAX OFFSET OR INTERCEPT: tax refunds may be used to pay child support arrears that exceed a certain amount. Payments due to the State for public assistance benefits paid as child support are first to be paid with the federal tax refund, while the remaining amount is given to the obligee. Generally, state tax refunds are first used to pay the obligee-parent. To qualify for federal tax offset, the amount of unpaid support must be at least $150 in public assistance cases and $500 in non-public assistance cases. For state tax offset the amount of unpaid support must be equal or greater than one month’s support obligation.
  5. APPOINTMENT OF RECEIVER; ASSET SEIZURE: the court may also appoint a custodial receiver to take possession of the obligor’s property and sell or use it to satisfy amounts due under a support order pursuant to N.J.S. 2A:34-23.

Other than income withholding, the rest of the techniques above are applied after failure to comply with the child support order. Moreover, if the obligor still fails to willfully comply with the support order, more severe enforcement may occur in the form of coercive sanctions, pursuant to R. 5:6-5 (enforcement of orders). This permits the court to proceed by carrying out any combination of the sanctions in R. 5:3-7 which include:

  1. Ordering temporary incarceration or issuing a warrant to be executed upon the obligor’s failure to comply in the future; and
  2. Suspending any state occupational or driver’s license; and
  3. Imposing economic sanctions; and
  4. Requiring the delinquent obligor to participate in an approved community service program; and
  5. Ordering any other equitable remedy deemed to be appropriate.

These coercive sanctions are not intended to be used as punishment, but as a way to facilitate enforcement. Typically, an ability to comply hearing is held before the court orders these sanctions to ensure that the obligor has the present ability to pay. Therefore, incarceration is used sparingly in situations when is it likely to lead to compliance with the child support order.

While New Jersey law has numerous ways to protect children and custodial parents in this matter, it can be a tedious and draining process to get payments made regularly if the obligor is unwilling to comply with any order or agreement. At Armour Law, we will help you modify your existing order with the court and ensure that all appropriate enforcement methods are employed.

SAME-SEX DIVORCE MEDIATION IN NEW JERSEY

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The changing political landscape surrounding the rights of same-sex couples has led to difficulty for many simply wishing to commit to a marriage, or for that matter dissolve one. Fortunately, same-sex marriage in New Jersey was legalized in October 2013 allowing many long-term partners and couples already in a civil union to have the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

While this was a joyous victory for many in the state, it also opened up a multitude of legal questions concerning factors such as equitable distribution, alimony, and child custody, should a couple be seeking divorce. While these issues are identical to those seen in heterosexual divorce, tackling them for same-sex couples in New Jersey is more complex due to evolving laws. This can be especially difficult for couples who were in a committed relationship for many years before having the chance to enter a civil union pursuant to N.J.S.A. 37:1-28 to -36, the New Jersey Civil Union act (enacted in 2007) or marriage. Years of accrued assets and property and children of the relationship were not viewed by the law as they would be for married partners.

same-sex divorce mediation

Many same-sex couples who were in long-term committed relationships wanted to marry but were unable to do so until 2013. A majority of assets would have been accrued during the time before the marriage period, but under the law only those gained after the marriage in 2013 would be considered marital assets for equitable distribution. However, this does not mean that the appropriate divorce relief cannot be granted, only that the court process will likely be more challenging as many judges are not yet fully accustomed to handling same-sex divorce. The same applies to couples still in civil unions seeking dissolution.

BENEFITS OF DIVORCE MEDIATION FOR SAME-SEX COUPLES

Due to the complexity and newness of same-sex divorce, alternative approaches like mediation are highly beneficial. Mediation allows couples to work through their issues to reach a fair compromise without the stress of litigated divorce. Hour long sessions are conducted with a New Jersey mediation attorney, and if needed a third party professional such as a financial planner or psychologist. If a couple is able to work together and communicate effectively, the cost of mediation will drop as the amount of sessions needed decreases.

Same-sex divorce mediation allows couples to bypass the uncertainly of evolving laws and set their own terms. It can also be beneficial for children as it usually translates to parents with better communication skills who are more focused on problem solving than finger pointing.

Although same-sex divorce mediation is not right for everyone, for those who are open to working together it can be the least stress producing and most cost effective option.

NAME CHANGE IN NJ

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Deciding whether to keep a married name or re-assume a maiden name is a common dilemma among women going through and after divorce.  The New Jersey Final Judgment of Divorce gives both the husband and wife the chance to legally change his or her name to one used before marriage, or any other last name.  This also applies to same sex couples in which one partner assumed the name of the other in marriage or civil union.  Unlike divorce, a legal separation known as “divorce from bed and board” or “limited divorce” does not satisfy the requirement of the name change statute.

New Jersey Statute 2A:34-21 states that “the court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse or dissolution of a civil union to either partner in a civil union couple, may allow either spouse or partner in a civil union couple to resume any name used by the spouse or partner in a civil union couple before the marriage or civil union, or to assume any surname.”

Before granting a request for name change in NJ during divorce proceedings, the court usually requires that the party state under oath:

(1)   that the request is not intended for any New Jersey Name Changefraudulent purpose;

(2) if he/she was ever convicted of a crime and if so, the nature and sentence imposed; and

(3) whether any criminal charges are pending.

Although these requests are usually granted, an applicant who has a pending bankruptcy action in NJ will generally be denied.

In addition to the use of a previously used name, the statute also grants permission for the spouse to assume any surname, even if never previously used before the marriage or civil union.  If the name was never used, the spouse may be required to comply with the notice provisions of the general name change in NJ statute, 2A:34-21, which requires a detailed sworn affidavit.

The initial divorce pleadings should include the request for name change; however, it is still possible to resume a maiden/previous name after a finalized divorce.  A post-judgment motion will be used for this purpose.

If a spouse is also interested in changing a child’s name, the statute for name change in NJ permits minor children to legally change surnames; however, the process is much more complex than spousal name change.  A formal name change case must be filed in civil court that identifies the other parent, his or her residence, and the parents raising the child. The case will then be transferred to the family court. An experienced NJ family law attorney can guide the parent through this process.

New Jersey Divorce Name Change

The official seal on the judgment of divorce legally authorizes a spouse to change his or her name on all legal documents such as a driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate.  Once these documents are changed, any relevant government agencies, financial institutions, and businesses should be notified.  Some other institutions to be notified include schools, children’s schools, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Records or Vital Statistics, passport office, post office, Social Security Administration, insurance agencies, and phone and utility companies.  It can be helpful to notify all family, friends, and neighbors of the new name to spread the word. Only the new name should be used by the individual in both work and social settings. Wills or living wills, power of attorney, and all contracts should also be amended to include the new legal name to avoid future confusion.

Whether requesting a name change post-divorce or as part of divorce pleadings, it is crucial to have the services of a competent NJ family law attorney.

HOW TO COMPLETE A CASE INFORMATION STATEMENT

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divorce case information statementThe Case Information Statement (CIS) is a very important document that helps establish a person’s life style for the purpose of determining multiple factors in a divorce, including alimony and child support. Personal and family finances such as income/partner’s income, personal/joint life style expenses, and expenses of children are to be truthfully detailed on the Case Information Statement. Making sure this information is accurate is crucial because it is required to be certified as true, which means any misinformation whether intentional or unintentional will cause significant problems in the divorce process. It must be filed with the court no more than 20 days after the Answer or Appearance is filed.

The Case Information Statement is a very involved document that requires significant time and attention. We walk our clients through this process and ensure that there are no inaccuracies.

To get familiar with what this document entails please review our guide:

HOW TO COMPLETE A CASE INFORMATION STATEMENT

5 TOP REASONS NOT TO MEDIATE DIVORCE

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What to Consider Before Opting to Mediate Divorce

While divorce mediation has significant benefits, it is not appropriate for every situation. There are numerous factors that must be considered before deciding to mediate divorce or opt for traditional litigation. It is important that you and your spouse both understand what mediation is and that neither party is being pressured into it.

mediate divorce

Waste of Time and Money

While mediation can be economical and time saving in many instances, it is not always so. If both parties are willing to cooperate with the process the outcome will likely be positive; however, if one or both spouses do not intend to be honest and open to compromise, it is likely to fail. Failed mediation means that litigated divorce is the next step. Both spouses must find their own attorneys (the mediation attorney cannot represent either party) and pay attorney and court fees associated with a new divorce proceeding. Information revealed during mediation may not be used in court, which means the discovery process must generally begin from the beginning. In addition, both parties are left with the bill from mediation and a loss of time.

Emotion

The dynamics of one failing marriage are never identical to another. Couples who plan to mediate divorce must consider their current and past personal relationship, and each spouse must consider their own emotions. While one couple may be amicable, agree to one another’s wishes completely, and have a minimal amount of negative, resentful, or sentimental emotion surrounding the divorce, another couple may find themselves too emotionally involved and angry to sit together through hours of mediation. Gauging where your relationship falls between these two ends of the spectrum will help you and your partner decide if mediation is right for you.

Power Imbalance

If one spouse is more articulate, has all the financial resources, or abusive to the other it can surely be detrimental to the divorce mediation process. For instance, in a marriage with a history of domestic violence mediation is likely not an appropriate choice as the victim may feel pressured or intimidated during sessions. Spouses who are victims, have fewer resources, or are inarticulate will usually have a more difficult time asserting themselves during mediation.

Court Procedure

The formality of the court in litigated divorce can be beneficial when it comes to power imbalances, truth, fairness, and evidence. Attorneys are able to use the court to have witnesses testify or produce evidence, while mediators cannot force the truth to be given by all parties. Court procedures also help ensure that both parties are treated fairly, whereas mediation is less able to help protect a party from an aggressive or intimidating spouse. This can play a crucial role in making sure the less aggressive spouse does not unfairly settle and lose what is rightfully theirs.

No Legal Advice

Even if a mediator is an attorney, they are not allowed to provide either side with legal advice. They are to act as a neutral party and are unable to speak to the parties about the divorce outside of mediation sessions.

Choosing to mediate divorce is a great alternative to litigation but it is not recommended in all cases.  Deciding whether to mediate or litigate may be decided early on, as early as the contemplation of divorce.  On the other hand, you may decide to mediate at any time during the litigation process. For instance, once a complaint is filed both parties could inform their attorneys that they wish to mediate.  Their attorneys could be present at the mediation sessions or they may mediate without attorneys. This option allows for the parties the benefit of being provided with legal advise during the mediation process through their individual attorneys.

Each case is significantly unique and an experienced mediator can help determine if mediation is appropriate.  At Armour Law Firm we recognize the importance of serving these diverse needs and provide mediation, collaborative divorce and  traditional litigated divorce services.

FAMILY COLLABORATIVE LAW NJ

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While alimony reform was the most talked about bill signed into law by Governor Chris Christie on September 10, numerous others were also signed, including the New Jersey Family Collaborative Law Act (A1477). The act, which is modeled on a proposal by the NJ Law Revision Commission and the national Uniform Law Commission, allows for family collaborative law NJ, a process similar to mediation to be used to dissolve a marriage without court intervention. New Jersey is the ninth state to allow the process after Alabama, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Utah, Washington and the District of Columbia.

As stated in the bill, the legislature found that since at least 2005, NJ attorneys have participated in a dispute resolution method known as family collaborative law. This is defined as a process in which an attorney is retained for the purpose of assisting their client with family disputes in a “voluntary, non‐adversarial manner, without court intervention.”

collaborative divorceWhat sets collaborative law apart is that each party begins with the intention of resolving disputes without litigation. A family collaborative law participation agreement must be signed and in record that adheres to the requirements detailed in section 5 of P.L.2014, c.50 (C.2A:23D-5); some of which include: the parties’ intention to resolve a family law dispute through a family collaborative law NJ process, a description of the nature and scope of the family law dispute, identification of the family collaborative lawyers representing each party, the manner by which a family collaborative law NJ process begins and terminates, and the confidentiality of any communication of a party or a non-party participant.

When the parties meet they are accompanied by their respective attorneys and when necessary one or more non-attorney professionals such as certified financial planners, certified public accountants, licensed clinical social workers, psychologists, licensed professional counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, and psychiatrists.

If either party or attorney commences a court proceeding related to the issues being addressed through the collaborative process, other than to seek the incorporation of a settlement agreement into a final judgment, the family collaborative process will be terminated. The process will also end if either party is subject to or obtains a temporary or final restraining order under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, files a motion for emergent relief, fails to provide necessary information to resolve the dispute, or the collaborative lawyer withdraws from the proceedings.

If the collaborative process is unsuccessful for any reason, both lawyers must withdraw from the case and the parties must seek new counsel. The new attorneys are not allowed to be associated with or from either of the collaborative lawyers’ firms, and any communication or information from the collaborative process may not be used in court.

Collaborative law and mediation differ in that a mediator should not be consulted for legal advice by either party. For example, if one spouse offers a lump sum alimony payment of $200,000, the receiving spouse would not ask the mediator for advice regarding the case law and probability of success if litigated before a judge. However, by using the family collaborative law NJ method, the spouse would have their own attorney to consult before accepting these terms.

collaborative divorceThe family collaborative law NJ process can be more cost effective than traditional litigated divorce. By requiring both parties to provide “timely, full and candid disclosure” of relevant information, neither side must resort to discovery. In a divorce, discovery is the process of obtaining important information from sources such as employers or banks. This can include depositions in which sworn statements to be used in court are taken from spouses, witnesses, or other relevant parties. Eliminating these procedures and the time spent at court proceedings – which can last an average of 2 to 4 hours per daily court appearance – will decrease overall attorney fees.

Because each person’s situation varies greatly, there is no one method of dissolving a marriage that is superior to another. At Armour Law Firm we recognize the importance of serving these diverse needs and provide collaborative family law NJ, traditional litigated divorce, and mediation services.

GETTING FAMILIAR WITH PRENUPS IN NJ

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What are Prenups in NJ?

A prenuptial agreement, also known as an antenuptial agreement or premarital agreement, is a written contract between two people planning to marry. It sets terms of possession of assets, management of future earnings, and control or division of property should a marriage end in divorce; however, it cannot adversely affect future child support.

Prenups in NJ go into effect immediately after a legal marriage takes place. It is possible to amend prenups in NJ after marriage; however, all of the changes to the initial agreement must be acknowledged and signed by both parties.

Although it is not required by NJ law, it is recommended that each party be represented by their own attorney to ensure their best interest.NJ prenups

Why is a Prenup Necessary?

Prenups in NJ are especially common when both or one party has substantial assets, high income, potential inheritances, children from a previous marriage, or a negative history regarding finances with a prior spouse.

Although prenups in NJ tend to have a negative connotation, they can actually serve to make a relationship stronger and open up a healthy financial dialogue. Many couples experience marital strife or divorce due to financial differences, but being open with one another from the engagement period may help avoid misunderstandings.

Prenups in NJ also help protect assets or property that has more than just monetary value. For example, an inherited family property may be of significant sentimental value to a person. Deciding what will happen with your spouse ahead of unforeseen circumstances will lead to a more fair settlement, as opposed to leaving such an important and sensitive matter for the courts to decide.

New Jersey Uniform Premarital Agreement Act

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act was adopted by NJ in 1988 and outlines the requirements of prenups in NJ. In addition to definition and formalities it covers the contents and enforceability of a premarital agreement.

According to section 37:2-34, the contents of a prenup may include:

a. The rights and obligations of each of the parties in any of the property of either or both of them whenever and wherever acquired or located;

b. The right to buy, sell, use, transfer, exchange, abandon, lease, consume, expend, assign, create a security interest in, mortgage, encumber, dispose of, or otherwise manage and control property;

c. The disposition of property upon separation, marital dissolution, dissolution of a civil union, death, or the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event;

d. The modification or elimination of spousal or one partner in a civil union couple support;

e. The making of a will, trust, or other arrangement to carry out the provisions of the agreement;

f. The ownership rights in and disposition of the death benefit from a life insurance policy;

g. The choice of law governing the construction of the agreement; and

h. Any other matter, including their personal rights and obligations, not in violation of public policy.

The Uniform Premarital Agreement Act also states that if a party alleges that an agreement should not be enforced, the burden of proof falls on them to show that one or more of the following from section 37:2-38 is present:

a. The party executed the agreement involuntarily; or

b. The agreement was unconscionable at the time enforcement was sought; or

c. That party, before execution of the agreement:

(1) Was not provided full and fair disclosure of the earnings, property and financial obligations of the other party;

(2) Did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, any right to disclosure of the property or financial obligations of the other party beyond the disclosure provided;

(3) Did not have, or reasonably could not have had, an adequate knowledge of the property or financial obligations of the other party; or

(4) Did not consult with independent legal counsel and did not voluntarily and expressly waive, in writing, the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel.

d. The issue of unconscionability of a premarital or pre-civil union agreement shall be determined by the court as a matter of law.

In 2012, Governor Chris Christie strengthened the enforceability of premarital agreements by signing a law that amended N.J.S.A § 37:2-38 and N.J.S.A § 37:2-32. This removed a provision stating that prenups in NJ could be invalid if unconscionable at the time of enforcement, and left unenforceability to those agreements which were unconscionable at the time they were executed.
nj prenups

Considering a Prenup

Forbes.com contributor Jeff Landers provides an interesting perspective on prenups. He describes them as being very similar to wills in that they are carefully thought out documents centered on open communication. The estate of a person who passes away without a will is divided according to the government, not friends or family; should a marriage end in divorce without a prenup, assests and property are divided by the courts, not by the thoughtful agreement of both parties. In this way, a prenup, like a will, can help provide fairer distribution.

Contemplating a prenup can be intimidating, and broaching the subject with a future spouse during a time full of joy, excitement, and wedding planning can be very difficult. It is important to keep in mind that drafting a prenuptial agreement does not have to be a negative experience and it can be beneficial to both partners in the long run. While no one hopes for marriage to end in divorce, it can be in the best interest of both spouses to have control of their financial futures should it occur.

SUPREME COURT NJ TO IMPLEMENT NEW FILING FEES NOVEMBER 17

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court fees njOn October 31 the Supreme Court NJ adopted a new order to increase and create new filing fees. The order will go into effect on November 17. Documents that are received in person, electronically, or by mail after 4:30 p.m. on Friday, November 14 will be given a filing date of November 17 and be charged the new fees. The fees are expected to raise at least $42.1 million.  Twenty-two million will be used to implement and administer the pretrial services program, while $10.1 million will go toward creating the judiciary’s electronic filing system, and $10 million will be forwarded to Legal Services. The new rule 1:43 (“Filing and other Fees Established Pursuant to N.J.S.A 2B:1-7 and filing procedures”) provides a list of over 80 fees that have been either increased or newly created. In the area of family, one new fee was implemented, while four others were raised. Filing a divorce complaint will now cost $300 as opposed to $250, and the new post-disposition fee/motion in non-dissolution matters will be $25. Motions in dissolution matters and order to show cause were both increased from $30 to $50, while filing a first responsive pleading in a dissolution matter will be $175 instead of $135. The changes were proposed in September under the terms set by a new law enacted in August authorizing increases to fund a new system for assessing defendants for bail, a digital upgrade for the judiciary, and funding for Legal Services of New Jersey.Court fees were last revised in 2002.