Unfortunately, it is estimated that half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. The divorce process can be a complicated and emotional time since so much is at stake such as property, assets, the well-being of your children, and your livelihood. Regardless of the stress involved in a divorce, you still have to meet all of your daily obligations. The most important component of a divorce to recognize is that help is available. A good divorce attorney working for you will help lessen the burden of this difficult period.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
The two basic types of divorce are contested and uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, two spouses must agree on the division of all property and finances. For example:
- Property division
- Property distribution
- Child custody
- Child support amount
However, even if two spouses initially agree to the terms, an overlooked issue could end up in litigation later. It is best to have a working relationship with a divorce attorney because an ex-spouse can take you to court to modify the final divorce decree after the divorce has been finalized. Having someone who already knows your case can only prove advantageous.
A contested divorce means that one or both spouses cannot agree on some aspect of the divorce. If spouses cannot reach an agreement, there will be a trial. Legal ethics asserts that one lawyer cannot represent both parties in a divorce. Therefore, it is prudent to obtain a divorce attorney early to ensure the divorce process will go as smoothly as possible. Court motions, proposals, paperwork, further litigation – it is imperative to have someone to negotiate on your behalf.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
A no-fault divorce is essentially the same as an uncontested divorce, and is often accompanied by the term, “irreconcilable differences.” To qualify for a no-fault divorce, however, spouses must meet certain conditions and fill out specific paperwork. An expert can help a spouse understand what those conditions are and how to fill out the proper forms.
Fault divorce typically stems from abuse, adultery, or abandonment. Proving a spouse’s fault will not grant the accuser any benefits regarding property division, but the judge can use discretion when considering alimony amounts. Whether as the accuser or the accused, a divorce attorney is needed in a fault divorce for the litigation that will undoubtedly be involved.
Financial Issues in a Divorce
New Jersey is a state that recognizes equitable distribution, which is a term to describe the ownership of marital property. Equitable distribution, however, does not mean necessarily mean equal, it means “fair.” This means that your spouse may reap the benefits of property or assets that were intended to be yours. Your spouse may be entitled to:
- The house
- Retirement accounts
In addition, any debt accumulated during the marriage will be divided between divorcing spouses. If a spouse decided to return to school or have an expensive medical procedure performed, the debt incurred would be distributed to both spouses. Only one spouse may have benefited, but it becomes the debt of both spouses even after the marriage is over.
- Credit cards
- Medical bills
- Student loans
Even if spouses agree to divisions of debt, there is no guarantee that an ex-spouse will make scheduled payments – creditors can pester you for money. It is wise to make an inventory of all assets and debts, along with documentation proving ownership and value before the trial. A divorce attorney can explain the intricacies of a financial division so a spouse can make the best financial decisions.
Property Issues in a Divorce
If either spouse owned the property prior to marriage, the property would still belong to that spouse after the divorce, as long as the other spouse was not named in the title. If the property was acquired during the marriage, even if the title bears only one spouse’s name, it will be divided between both spouses. There are many options in this instance, including a buyout, continuing co-ownership, and selling the property in order to distribute the assets. However, many factors are considered by New Jersey Courts when dividing property:
- Length of marriage
- Property value
- Income of each spouse
- Child custody
It is ultimately the court’s decision to divide property in a fair manner. Unfortunately, even if a spouse committed adultery, it will not be a relevant factor when the court decides what to do with your property. However, a divorce attorney can negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you receive the best deal.
Alimony is a term used for payments made by one spouse to the other spouse after the divorce is finalized. It is supposed to balance an uneven earning capacity between spouses and allow for a similar standard of living to that lifestyle prior to the divorce. Different types of alimony can be awarded for various reasons.
- Term Alimony is a temporary form of alimony that lasts for a limited period of time.
- Rehabilitative alimony is only provided to a spouse when he or she needs it in order to obtain an education or training that is necessary for employment.
- Reimbursement alimony compensates for certain monetary sacrifices or contributions during the marriage.
- Permanent alimony is the most contested form of alimony by the spouse who must pay.
It may be your lawful right to receive alimony for a variety of different reasons, but it is most certainly your right to have an attorney advocate for your interests in financial matters. It is not your responsibility to pay more than is fair, nor should you receive less than you deserve.
Child Custody and Child Support
New Jersey Courts must be involved if spouses cannot agree to a child custody arrangement. Legal custody and physical custody are two separate types of custody that spouses with children can be granted. Legal custody refers to the ability to make major decisions regarding the child’s life, and physical custody refers to the child’s living arrangements. Both parents can share legal and physical custody, but if spouses cannot agree to a custody arrangement, there must be a custody hearing.
The court considers many details in order to decide custody and visitation schedules, and such decisions can be altered as the child grows up. However, it is possible for a parent with physical custody of a child to petition the court to move out of New Jersey. This is a highly important matter, and only a skilled attorney can fight for the best visitation and living arrangements for you and your child.
Child support is mandatory in any divorce involving minor children. To determine the amount, the court uses guidelines primarily based on income. While you certainly want to pay your fair share, numerous aspects should be considered before agreeing to a specific amount:
- Extracurricular activities
- Life insurance to cover child support
- Uncovered health costs
- Expenses regarding travel-related visitation
An attorney is imperative to reach a fair agreement.
You Need a Divorce Attorney
A divorce can be a challenging and emotional time. Even if a divorce initially seems like it will be a simple process, it may prove extremely problematic. A divorce may be finalized in mere months, but the process will be prolonged if the couple cannot agree on certain issues. The best way to approach a divorce is to consult a divorce attorney and discuss your circumstances and concerns.
A divorce attorney can answer all of your questions, keep you informed, and advise you concerning matters that will affect you and your livelihood. With so much at risk, someone committed to working for you and your best interests is invaluable. A divorce attorney is a legal expert trained in law, divorce procedure, legal writing, and analysis. You want an expert on your side, so if a divorce is looming, it is best to consult with a divorce attorney as soon as possible.