When you are considering a divorce there are many issues that you will have and many concerns to discuss with your lawyer. It is important to understand that in New Jersey there are statutes that control certain aspects of the divorce and case law – or reported Court decisions – that will control other aspects of your divorce. It is essential that you are always open and honest with your lawyer and that you provide your lawyer with all of the information that you have regarding your history, lifestyle and finances. Although your lawyer will be there to guide you through the process and make settlement recommendations, you must understand that you play a vital role in your own divorce because your lawyer will be depending on you to provide her or him with complete and accurate information.
The most important issues for the Court will be those issues involving your children because the Court must make sure that the children are cared for and protected — now and in the future. The Court will have to handle issues involving custody, parenting time, grandparent visitation as well as issues involving the education and medical issues of the children.
If your children are young, the issue of college expenses and costs may not be a prime concern but this is an issue to consider for the future. Generally parents are not under a duty to support their children after the age of majority, but it is important for you to be aware of the fact that the Supreme Court of New Jersey has ruled in an important case called Newburgh v. Arrigo that financially capable parents should contribute to the higher education of their children if they are qualified students. Further, in appropriate circumstances, a parent may be responsible to assure their child of a college and, in some circumstances, a post graduate education. The Supreme Court set forth a list of 12 factors (refer to box) that a Judge must consider when there is a request by one parent for contribution from an ex-spouse for college costs and expenses.
Aside from the issues involving your children, your next concern will be for your own financial future and the amount of spousal support you will either receive from your ex-spouse or the amount that you will have to pay to your ex-spouse. There are 4 types of alimony that the Court will consider:
Limited duration alimony
Rehabilitative alimony (awarded when one spouse is able to submit a plan and the steps that they will take to rehabilitate)
Reimbursement alimony (awarded when one spouse supported the other through an advanced education)
In order for the Court to make a determination regarding spousal support, the Court will consider, but not be limited to, the following factors:
The actual need and ability of the parties to pay.
The duration of the marriage.
The parties’ age, physical and emotional health.
The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living.
The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational, skills and employability of the parties.
The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance.
The parental responsibilities for the children.
The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities.
The equitable distribution of property and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair.
The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party.
The tax treatment and consequences to both of any alimony award including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment.
Divorce is never easy on many different levels and for many different reasons. Rest assured though, if you retain a lawyer to help you through the process and if you are open and honest with your lawyer about your marital history, life style, finances and demands, you will make it through this very difficult time in your life.
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