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Archive for April, 2015

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.