Category Archives: Blog

Will Divorce Court Cases Rise Over Summer?

Recently, we wrote about the seasonal increase in divorce applications that occurs in January and February and the subsequent increase in court proceedings during March. But the coronavirus outbreak has forced many people to stay at home with their spouse and children. This can lead to a lot of unwanted stress and a chaotic home life. That’s why so many people are asking the obvious question: Will divorce applications and court cases rise over summer if the outbreak dies down?

This question relies on conjecture more than anything else, but we can say one thing for sure: the typical case count for March was much lower this year. This is probably because many parents decided to hold off on ending their marriage during a potentially dangerous outbreak.

The question also supposes that the outbreak will likely die down or show signs of weakening during the summer months — which is very much still wishful thinking, mostly on the part of mainstream media and politicians. Some coronaviruses do show signs of seasonality, but that’s no reason to believe this one will. We still don’t know whether or not that’s the case.

If the virus does weaken over the next few months as the weather becomes warmer, our firm does indeed expect an increased caseload. But that’s mostly to make up for likely postponements, and not necessarily because we expect couples will end otherwise strong marriages because of a few bad months stuck in captivity.

What can you do to make life at home easier during self-isolation or even quarantine?

Routine will become your best friend if you let it. Be sure to get around eight hours of sleep every night. Don’t get too much more or too much less. Extremes can sap your energy! Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning. Be sure to eat three square meals each day, and try to cook at least one of them.

Nutrition during these meals is especially important. Be sure to include Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and plenty of protein in your diet. Fish, chicken, fruits and veggies are your best options. Take note that all of these can be frozen! Make sure you’re well stocked with dry foods like rice and oats, and canned goods as well. Keep pasta on your shelves. If you do need to stay home for two weeks, at least you’ll be well fed.

Make sure to get daily exercise and stay away from phones, TVs, and video games as much as possible. Try other activities like walking, reading, or listening to music. Make sure the kids are still allocating time to learn. Basically, make sure no one in your household is staying idle during this time of crisis — and you might avoid creating an even bigger one later.

What Is The Biggest Divorce Court Myth?

Most people believe that the concept of equitable distribution means assets, debts, etc. are all split down the middle — 50/50. Because people misunderstand equitable distribution laws, they worry more than they need to when it comes to financial survival as a single person. That’s why so many struggling couples stay together rather than split — because they think they would struggle even more after the fact.

So what gives?

“Equitable” is most accurately defined not as equal, but as fair. Sure, you might bypass these legal restrictions using arbitration (or not) to come to an arrangement with your soon to be ex-spouse. Why punt the ball to a judge if you’re capable of making those decisions for yourselves? And in fact, it’s always better to keep the decisions away from court. You never really know what will happen inside those doors.

But in fact, judges will look at a long list of variables and factors before making a decision about how to best allocate assets to a divorcing couple. Many states distinguish between marital property and separate property — and in doing so, they consider how long you’ve been a couple. For example, marital property is any wealth and assets accumulated during your time together. Separate property is everything you brought to the marriage. It was yours before you ever decided to make a vow.

Are you worried that a potential inheritance could be split down the middle during a divorce? Usually, you have nothing to worry about. What your friends or family leave you after they’re gone is yours to keep. If you’ve already had your spouse sign titles for that inheritance, though, then you probably won’t be allowed to keep it all. The same goes with monies from lawsuits.

Divorces become more complicated as time goes on because the number of assets increases. You might own a home together, multiple vehicles, and you may have had children. All this will force the court to take a harder look at your assets and how they can be fairly split. Is one spouse the breadwinner while the other manages the house? That could further complicate matters in a way that won’t benefit the primary moneymaker. Child support and alimony are big possibilities.

Where most people might worry regards retirement funds. Do you have a 401(k) or IRA with a lot of money? It’s subject to the concept of marital property and equitable distribution just like all of those big-ticket items. 

We don’t mean to scare you! But there’s a reason why most divorcing couples choose to try to avoid court at all costs. It’s not where you want these decisions made. Keep the power in your own hands for the best outcome.

Why You Should Avoid Opening Your 401(k) To Pay For Your Divorce

A 401(k) exists to help you prepare for retirement. Raiding it early can mean disaster down the road, which is why we — and most financial advisers — will always recommend that you avoid opening it up at all costs. Most Americans have nothing saved for retirement, and many more are in a consistent state of crushing debt, which could wreak havoc on our economy in future decades. If you can be ready, then be ready.

Divorce results in many unforeseen costs and expenditures. You should prepare to be surprised when you venture down that road. It can save a lot of time and money to try to keep the relationship whole by spending money on therapy or counseling. If the relationship is unsalvageable, then of course the best option is parting ways. 

Most people don’t recognize how exactly the federal government taxes those who withdraw funds from their 401(k) before retirement age. But the government penalizes those who make this choice regardless. 

For example, let’s say you withdraw about $100,000 from your 401(k) with zero idea of the ramifications. You need the money for rent, groceries, shutting up your children, etc. But after taxes, you’ll only end up with half that money! That means any employer contributions — and probably many of your own — will go to waste.

There are other, more reasonable options you can take instead.

Sometimes, it’s possible to take a loan and use the 401(k) as collateral. Money obtained from these types of loans is quick and easy. The entire process can take only a few days. Best of all, interest rates are usually lower than those of your favorite pieces of plastic. Not such a bad deal, right?

Still, you would lose some of the growth of your 401(k) by taking out the loan. The most serious consideration when taking out such a loan is job security. Lose your job while the loan is active, and more than likely you’ll be forced to pay it back in about two months — which doesn’t bode well for the rest of your 401(k) funds. 

Before making consequential decisions — i.e. those that are final — be sure to speak with a financial adviser about all your options. It’s also worth checking with your divorce attorney, who probably has a lot of experience answering all the questions you’ll have on the subject anyway. 

Divorce can be an extremely stressful event, especially when two parties disagree. There’s no reason to make the proceedings even more stressful by wringing yourself dry (of money). So be careful. Take some time to explore those options before you make any decision.

New Research Shows That Divorce Can Actually Be A Boon To The Economy

Apparently, the post-Christmas season is a popular time of the year to ditch a not-so-loved one. Many couples are divorced in January. Family lawyers will notice business boom at a rate of about 33 percent more than usual. The trend even extends to our neighbors in the United Kingdom. Who knew? Anyway, there’s good news for those who finally decide to give up on a toxic marriage: sometimes, it actually saves you a lot of money in the long run. Here’s why!

Research conducted by the United States Census Bureau suggests that many divorce-related laws are more “relaxed” than they used to be, and sometimes that can mean saving money on an otherwise costly affair. These relaxed laws more often lead to “no fault” divorces that don’t damage either spouse’s pocketbook nearly as much. 

MarketWatch wrote: “In states with ‘no fault’ divorces, couples are 8% more likely to both work full-time outside the home, and it’s 5% more likely that the wife is in the labor force.”

Census’ Research and Methodology Directorate economist Misty Heggeness said, “Access to divorce for parents had a positive effect on children’s education, interpreted as increasing women’s bargaining power within married couple families.”

The conclusion was based on Heggeness’s look at the economic outcomes when Chile legalized divorce in 2004. She discovered a connection between legalization and increased school enrollment, which in turn would lead to better lives and financial outcomes for those kids (in other words, don’t buy into the old talking point that divorce is terrible for the children, because, in reality, it might just be for the best).

The rates of divorce-related violence have also gone way down because of those new no-fault laws. 10 percent fewer women are murdered when only one spouse can file for divorce. Between 8 percent and 16 percent fewer women commit suicide during the proceedings. There is a further 30 percent decline in divorce-related domestic violence. 

One of the reasons divorce has become far more palatable these days — even though divorce rates are already at historic lows — is probably because of how much property young couples own before they decide to marry. Once upon a time, couples didn’t cohabitate until they tied the knot. These days, youngsters are staying together in the same home for longer and longer before they go searching for rings.

Those same circumstances have led to an increase in prenuptial agreements, which allow people more confidence if and when they do pull the plug on marriage.

Oddly enough, senior citizens are among those who are most likely to get a divorce, with those aged 65 and older deciding to end a marriage rather than continue being unhappy.

How Likely Is Settling A Family Law Case Rather Than Going To Court?

No one wants to stand in front of a judge, not knowing whose side the court of law will decide to stand behind. Perhaps it’s that feeling of powerlessness that results in a majority of family law cases being settled outside of court rather than inside. No matter how much animosity you and your ex-spouse have for one another, both of you will be statistically more likely to prefer making decisions for yourselves — even if it might seem impossible at first.

This wasn’t always the case. Historically, when the court almost always sided with the mother, the decision was often left up to a judge — because why wouldn’t the mother do what was in her own best interest when seeking a certain outcome?

That being said, these days you’ll be more likely to sit down with a mediator to resolve your differences. The mediator’s decision is final, which means there’s no saying “never mind” and heading back to court when you don’t like the outcome. Because you want what’s best for you and your family, there are a few steps you can take to increase the chances of achieving a desired outcome.

First, find the right mediator. Just like lawyers, they tend to focus on certain niche practice areas rather than the entirety of law. Are you trying to obtain custody of a child? You’ll want to find a mediator who specializes in mental-health or social work. 

Retired judges also make great mediators because they’ll let you know what they would do in court. That’s not to say that every judge makes the same decision, but you’ll get an idea of how the case would proceed outside of mediation. 

Family law attorneys also make good mediators — but you and your spouse probably already have your own sitting on either side of the table, and that means you won’t want a third in the room.

One aspect of mediation you should be prepared for before you head into the room is how long it will take. It’s not a fifteen-minute process. First you’ll have a joint meeting, then you’ll discuss what terms you’d like to seek with your lawyer and the mediator one-on-one. That usually takes at least an hour for your side and another hour for theirs. Then you come together for another joint meeting. If you can’t agree during that meeting, then guess what: it starts all over again. 

More than one session is more likely than not. That means you’ll want to be calm, cool, and collected. Try to give as much as you take, because otherwise you’re going to be in for a long, painful few days.

What Are President Trump’s Views On Same-Sex Adoption?

When Donald Trump began to run for president in 2015, he advertised himself as a great friend of LGBTQ folks — he said he thought same-sex individuals who were in love was perfectly okay. Of course, anyone who’s really keeping track of what the man says versus what the man does is probably storing too many corrupted files in their brain to keep sane. If Obama did something, Trump has tried to reverse the order. 

The same applies for same-sex adoptive efforts. 

During his time in office, President Obama didn’t exactly require adoption agencies to allow same-sex adoptions. But he did withhold federal monies from those who didn’t want to play ball with qualified parents. Trump fought to remove the previous Obama-era ruling based on religious freedom. The administration had been deciding between simply reversing Obama’s mandates versus simply allowing religious entities to deny same-sex parents the right to adopt at their agencies.

Sadly, it’s not about what makes the most sense from a societal standpoint. The officials who broke the news explained that it was about what would work in court, not what would work in reality. 

If put into law, the new Trump policy would be broached by the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights. Roger Severino, who heads that office, did not comment on these potential adoption policies. But these actions were first noted in January when a waiver was given to Miracle Hill Ministries in South Carolina. This allowed the organization to turn away non-Christians (or anyone else really). 

The really perverse part of these policies is that at least one in five foster kids are part of the LGBTQ community. That means that kids are more likely to be adopted into a family that doesn’t support their very thoughts and feelings — or simply that they’re less likely to be adopted at all. These kids deserve a fair chance, and Trump is doing his best work to steal those opportunities away from them.

Obama also drafted policy that required doctors to provide care for transgender patients. Donald Trump was responsible for removing that one as well. The same move was used to give health care workers the right to deny services that go against their faith.

Why anyone would deny qualified parents the right to care for a child in need is beyond reason. There are approximately 440,000 children in the foster care system right now. But then again, kids in need is a common thread when looking at Trump’s policies.

Since his first day in office, he has worked to cut funding for the Education Department.

How Many Kids Are Up For Adoption In The United States?

You’ve probably heard the argument before: if you can’t have your own kids (or even if you can), then you should really consider adoption. There are so many kids out there who need a loving home where they can be given a chance to succeed in today’s harsh world! It’s a good argument. That’s because there are currently 422,000 kids under the age of eighteen who are living in foster care in the United States. 

6,541 of those kids live in New Jersey.

Do you know what foster care is? First and foremost, the ultimate goal of any foster care system is to reunite children with their biological parents (or other biological family members) when possible. The reasons why they were placed in foster care in the first place are varied and complex — for example, a child was recently placed in foster care when arriving in the United States even though her biological aunt was waiting to pick her up when her plane landed.

When reunification is not feasible, the foster parents will sometimes have the option of adopting the child they’ve fostered. This makes becoming a foster parent the first step for many adults trying to adopt. Foster parents are almost always considered first when a child is up for adoption.  

In order to adopt or foster children, prospective foster parents must be able to maintain and support a stable family environment. That’s the point: to give these kids a loving family life and keep them happy and healthy. Parents can be single or married; it doesn’t matter when determining whether or not a stable home is possible. Parents will need to complete 27 hours of PRIDE training in New Jersey, though. These classes are meant to prepare parents for the potential difficulties of foster parenting.

There are a variety of kids up for adoption. Older kids are far less likely to be adopted, which is why you might consider lending your home to make their lives go a little easier. Some have developmental or emotional issues that must be managed, and often these are the result of past events in their lives. They need love and support, but sometimes they can be more of a handful.

The costs of adoption are basically just the costs of raising any kid at any age. The process itself doesn’t cost anything extra, aside from costs incurred from ensuring each family member is medically examined prior to a foster or adopted child’s introduction into a new household.

A Fresno, California Family Law Attorney Was Accused Of Sex Crimes

What happens when a lawyer is accused of unspeakable crimes? It might surprise you that one Fresno, California family law attorney couldn’t even manage to find a defense attorney with a reasonable strategy. Then again, it might not. Jennifer Walters was arrested and charged with seven felonies, all of which fall under the umbrella of sex crimes — not exactly the sort of reputation you want for yourself when you’re a family lawyer!

Family lawyers are known for helping people through tough situations like divorce, alimony, child custody, and adoption. Many of these circumstances involve building an intimate relationship with adults and their children. That’s why this particular case is enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. 

Walters’s attorney, Mark Broughton, said the charges were a sham — that she had been completely set up!

“I’m not completely sure of the exact motivation for why these allegations would have been contrived,” he said. “We have our ideas.”

That last phrase — “we have our ideas” — might be code for “I’m your attorney and even I don’t believe in what I’m saying. You’re totally guilty.” 

The alleged crime Walters committed was having a relationship with a boy, who was fourteen or younger at the time, likely beginning in 2015. Walters routinely works on cases involving Child Protective Services, but it isn’t known if that’s how she met the victim. He was described as a “family friend.” He is seventeen today.

When Walters went on a trip to Italy, authorities jumped at the opportunity to serve warrants for a chance to search for evidence of her crimes unimpeded. She was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport when she returned from her trip.

Broughton said he isn’t convinced by the so-called evidence against Walters: “Well I got a whole pile of police reports, but as far as I’m concerned, those aren’t going to add up to any sort of valid conviction.”

The pair have assured the public that Walters is still practicing law — and that everyone loves her. “Everybody who knows her,” Broughton said, “everybody on the bench, all the other attorneys, her clients have all been supportive.”

If Walters is convicted on all counts, she might spend nineteen years in federal prison.

Do you believe an official you’ve had contact with is breaking the law? Corruption is something we take seriously in New Jersey. Please contact us with your story! Are you going through a divorce? We also have family law attorneys ready to take your case.

Where Can Same-Sex Couples Legally Adopt Children In The United States?

LGBTQ adoption rights didn’t exist for a long time — in fact, historically there has been a prejudice that prospective LGBTQ adoptive parents have had to withstand when simply stating their desire to adopt or foster children, and this prejudice has failed to disappear even with the furthering of gay and transgender rights. Can same-sex couples legally adopt in the United States? 

Many of the laws that barred same-sex parents from fostering or adopting children have been struck down even though many of the aforementioned prejudices persist, but same-sex couples are statistically much more likely to foster or adopt children than their heterosexual counterparts (proportionally). That means they are an integral part of the lives of many children who have been churned through this system; a system that is far from perfect.

Two million LGBTQ people have shown interest in foster programs or adoption.

Thankfully LGBTQ individuals are legally allowed to adopt in every state after a federal judge ruled unconstitutional a Mississippi law that banned the practice in 2016. It was the last state to hold such a law. The 2015 marriage equality ruling helped pave the way for legal adoption rights for LGBTQ parents.

Unfortunately the prejudice still prevents many prospective LGBTQ parents from fostering or adopting children even when it is perfectly legal to do so. The problem is that some agencies or individuals within those agencies use these prejudices to prevent LGBTQ individuals from placing children.

LGBTQ individuals who would like to become adoptive parents are urged to thoroughly research the agency they would like to use, and its history of allowing LGBTQ adoptions. It is always best to choose an agency with your future child’s best interests at heart, but if you believe that a particular individual or agency is actively trying to prevent a child from being placed in your home because you are LGBTQ, then you have rights!

If this is happening or has happened to you, then you should absolutely contact a qualified family lawyer for a free consultation. We will work toward making sure the adoption takes place if possible. Same-sex adoption works the same way for you as it does for heterosexual couples — or at least it’s supposed to work the same.

You may also want to keep in mind that the attitudes of your neighbors may reflect the aforementioned prejudices: you need to be ready for this, which is the one disadvantage to parenting when LGBTQ. Otherwise, your children are as likely to be raised in a stable home as they would if they were raised in a home with heterosexual parents!

Why Do We Need A Victim’s Cooperation To Prosecute Domestic Violence Charges?

The law sometimes doesn’t make much sense. Take a side-by-side comparison of murder and domestic violence charges, for example. When prosecuting a person for committing murder, there’s no need for cooperation (because the victim is deceased). But when prosecuting a person for many other violent crimes, domestic violence included, the law requires the cooperation of the victim.

Why?

It’s plain for all to see that the person who committed an act of violence not only did something immoral and illegal, but also that an arrest should be forthcoming. Yet that isn’t the way the system works, even when there is plenty of additional evidence a crime took place.

Part of the reason that the legal system is hesitant from prosecuting without cooperation is because victims will often do the exact opposite: obstruct justice. That would pave the way for arresting and trying someone who almost anyone would agree is a victim, but the law is the law, and on occasion no one wants it to work the way it does.

A victim of domestic violence, Michelle, wrote about her husband in an affidavit: “He beat me in front of my kids. He made death threats in front of my children, sisters and his parents.” She had requested a restraining order, afraid for her life and the lives of her kids. The problem is, her husband’s parents denied ever hearing such threats, and only days later she recanted her sworn affidavit in a hysterical visit to the district attorney’s office.

Michelle’s husband had already been arrested. When he promised his father and stepmother that he’d never do it again (as perpetrators of these crimes so often do), they bailed him out of jail. Because Michelle recanted, the case was precipitously dropped.

Michelle and her two kids were dead two months later. Her husband shot and killed them all before committing suicide.

In the 1980s and 1990s, prosecutors became tired of this familiar story and decided to do something about it. A new movement of “evidence-based prosecution” was born from their fight, which would allow criminals to be prosecuted without forcing the victim to testify against the abuser.

The cases have been historically difficult to win, though, in part because prosecutors aren’t experienced enough. Still, the system has come a long way and some prosecutors have learned the tricks of the new trade. Thousands of prosecutors have been trained to move forward with cases for which the victim had either recanted former accusations or didn’t make them at all. More cases are being won than ever before, and more lives have been saved because of it.

Still, though, many prosecutors won’t follow through with these cases without a victim’s cooperation because some prefer an easy win over justice. We can do better, and we need to do better.