• Divorce Mediation in New Jersey

    The Litigation – watch more funny videos

    Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which an impartial third party – the mediator – facilitates negotiations among the parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable settlement. The mediator does not make a decision about the outcome of the case. The parties work toward a solution with which they are comfortable.

    Couples who seek divorce mediation in New Jersey need to be aware of the NJ mediation program, which was developed by the Supreme Court. Mediators participating in the program have been approved for inclusion on a roster by a subcommittee of the Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution, after meeting training requirements set forth by the Court.

    In order to file for a divorce in New Jersey, either spouse must have been a resident of the State for at least one year prior to the filing of the action. The only exception to the one-year residency requirement is when the grounds for divorce are for adultery. In cases of adultery the requirement is that at least one spouse must be a New Jersey resident. In New Jersey there are eight grounds or causes to file for divorce. The three most popular grounds are extreme cruelty, no-fault separation, and adultery. Remember, the grounds of extreme cruelty are just a “term of art” and it does not mean that your spouse was extremely cruel.

    No-Fault Divorce Cause of Action

    Separation is New Jersey’s only no-fault ground for divorce. To qualify under this grounds, both the husband and wife must have lived separately, in different houses (not only different rooms) for a period of at least eighteen consecutive months. Moreover, in order to qualify for the no fault divorce, there must not be a reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

    FAULT DIVORCE CAUSES OF ACTION

    Extreme Cruelty

    Extreme cruelty includes any physical or mental cruelty which makes it improper or unreasonable to expect that individual to cohabitate with their spouse. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(c). The courts are very liberal as to what type of conduct constitutes extreme cruelty.

    Adultery

    The courts have held that “adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, irrespective of the specific sexual acts performed; the rejection of the spouse coupled with out-of-marriage intimacy constitutes adultery.” New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2 requires that the plaintiff in an adultery divorce case, state the name of the person with whom the offending conduct was committed. This person is known as the correspondent. If the name is not known, the person who files must give as much information as possible tending to describe the adulterer.

    Desertion

    The willful and continuous desertion by one party for a period of twelve or more months, and satisfactory proof that the parties have ceased to cohabit as man and wife constitutes desertion under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(b). It is important to note that the parties may live in the same house. The crucial element here is “as man and wife.” Thus, desertion may be claimed after twelve or more months of a lack of sexual relations.

    Addiction

    Under N.S.J.A 2A:34-2(e), addiction involves a dependence on a narcotic or other controlled, dangerous substance, or a habitual drunkenness for a period of twelve or more consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the complaint. The evidence must show that the use of alcohol and drugs was persistent and substantial. This is not a common ground for divorce.

    Institutionalization

    When one spouse has been institutionalized for mental illness for a period of twelve or more consecutive months subsequent to the marriage and preceding the filing of the complaint, institutionalization is a ground for divorce under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(f). The primary issue for this ground for divorce is whether or not the spouse is able to function as a working partner in the marriage.

    Imprisonment

    Imprisonment as a ground for divorce occurs when a spouse has been imprisoned for eighteen or more months after the marriage. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(g). Moreover, the parties must not have resumed cohabitation after the imprisonment.

    Deviant Sexual Conduct

    Deviant Sexual Conduct occurs if the defendant engages in deviant sexual conduct without the consent of the plaintiff spouse. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(h).

    THE DIVORCE PROCEDURE

    Jurisdiction

    The Superior Court of New Jersey has jurisdiction over all causes of divorce, when either person is a resident of New Jersey at the time the action is started. There is a twelve-month residency requirement. Furthermore, the jurisdiction of the court over the defendant is fully established when the defendant files an acknowledgment of service of process, enters an appearance, or files an answer to the complaint.

    The Complaint

    The filing of a divorce complaint starts the divorce case. A complaint for divorce is filed in the county in which the plaintiff lived when the cause of action arose, or if the plaintiff was not then living in New Jersey, the county in which the defendant was living when the cause of action arose. If neither party was living in New Jersey when the cause of action arose, then the complaint shall be filed in the county where the plaintiff presently resides, or in the county where the defendant is living if the plaintiff no longer lives in the State. The requirements regarding the content of the complaint are described in the New Jersey Court Rules, Rule. 5:4-2, and require a statement as to the essential facts which form the basis for the petition for divorce (see above listed causes of action), the addresses of the parties, and in cases involving a child, the address, date of birth, and information as to where and with whom the child resides.

    In a divorce action where adultery or deviant sexual conduct is alleged, the pleading must also name the adulterer, or the correspondent. The complaint shall state the name of the person as the correspondent with whom such conduct was committed, if known, and if not known, shall state available information tending to describe the said person, including details of the time, place and circumstances under which acts or series of acts were committed.

    Filing Fee

    A filing fee is required at the time of filing of the complaint for divorce with the court. If there are children, then the parties also have to pay a fee to attend a parenting education seminar.

    Answer, Answer and Counterclaim or Appearance

    An answer is the defendant’s written response to the plaintiff’s complaint in the divorce case. In conjunction with the defendant’s answer, the defendant may file counterclaims against the plaintiff. A defendant is required to file the answer and/or counterclaim(s) within thirty-five days of receiving the divorce Complaint. Alternatively, the defendant may file an appearance governed by R. 5:4-3(a) with the court, where the defendant is not disputing the claims in the complaint.

    Answer to Counterclaim

    If the defendant files a counterclaim, the plaintiff is permitted 20 days in which to file any responsive pleading.

    Case Information Statement (CIS)

    The Case Information Statements also known as a CIS is the most critical document in a divorce case. Rule 5:5-2 requires both parties to file and serve CIS’s in all contested family actions where there is any issue as to custody, support, alimony or equitable distribution. The primary purpose of the CIS is to identify all assets and liabilities (whether subject to division or not) of the party, like the income picture, shelter, transportation and personal expenses of that party. Each party must file their respective CIS within 20 days after the filing of the answer or appearance.

    The parties’ tax returns, their last three pay stubs, their pension statements, and their mutual fund and stock statements should also be attached as exhibits to the CIS. The more comprehensively the CIS is prepared, the easier it will for the ESP Panel and the court to assist the parties to settle the case.

    Court Management of a Divorce Case

    Once each party has filed his or her CIS, cases are separated into one of four categories for purposes of case management: priority, complex, expedited, or standard. Alternatively, the parties may agree upon a designated track.

    Case Management Conferences

    Within thirty days after the filing of the last pleading, the court will schedule a case management conference that may be held via a telephone conference. The purpose of the case management conferences is to address discovery timeliness and ultimately determine a trial date if necessary to be determined based upon the case’s assigned track.

    In Middlesex County, the parties and the lawyers are required to appear in person at the case management conference. If the case is not that complicated, many times the case can be settled at the case management conference, with the assistance of the judge. This can save the family thousands of dollars in legal fees. However, most other counties besides Middlesex County, handle the case management conferences via a telephone conference.

    Discovery

    The discovery part of a divorce case is in many cases the most important part of the divorce. The purpose of discovery is to enable the parties to ascertain what assets each party has, and what constitutes the marital estate.

    New Jersey Court Rule 5:5-1 allows for discovery including interrogatories, depositions, production of documents, requests for admissions, and copies of documents. The time lines for conducting discovery are held at the Case Management Conference. Discovery can make a divorce very expensive. It is time consuming, and it can really create a lot of billable hours. If at all possible, the parties should try to reach a reasonable agreement, to avoid all of the expense of conducting discovery. However, this is easier said than done.

    Request to Enter a Divorce by Default

    If the defendant fails to file an answer or an appearance in a divorce case, then the divorce is defaulted. This means that the person has “blown” his chance to respond or contest the divorce. A request for a default against such a party is governed by R. 4:43. This rule requires the party requesting entry by default to make a formal written request for the entry of the default, supported by the attorney’s affidavit. The affidavit shall explain the manner of service of the complaint upon the defendant, the date of service, and that all time periods in which the defendant may file a pleading have expired. The request to enter a default must be filed together within six months of the actual default. The notice to request a default must also be served on the defaulting spouse.

    Please keep in mind, that if there is a default, this does not mean that the case is over. If a spouse is seeking equitable distribution, alimony, child support or any other relief, then a process known as “filing a request for equitable distribution” must be filed.

    When equitable distribution, alimony, child support or any other relief is sought by the plaintiff, a notice of application for equitable distribution pursuant to R. 5:5-2 is required to be filed before the entry of default. This notice must be filed and served upon defendant twenty days prior to the hearing date and must include the following:

    Notice of the trial date,

    Statement of the value of each asset,The amount of each debt sought to be distributed,

    A proposal for distribution,

    A statement whether plaintiff is seeking alimony and/or child support and, if so, the amount, and

    A statement of any other relief sought.

    As a result, the moving party must still attend court in order to obtain a divorce by entry of a default. The spouse must also bring a certificate of nonmilitary service verifying that her soon to be ex-spouse is not in the military. The courts do not want spouses to be divorcing their ex spouse while they are in the military overseas, and possibly in combat somewhere.

    http://ezinearticles.com/?Divorce-Mediation-in-New-Jersey&id=1604864

  • How To Handle The House Equity In A Divorce Case

    Texas Divorce – Should You Keep the House

    Deciding whether and how to retain the house is often one of if not the biggest issue a spouse has in their divorce case. Oftentimes it is the most substantial asset a couple holds and sometimes the only one which can be readily converted into cash without any kind of tax penalty. In the final analysis, the determination that must be made is whether you keep the house, your spouse keeps the house or the property is liquidated and the equity divided between the parties. This article will explore the analysis someone should go through in a divorce case when facing this decision.

    One possibility is that you retain the house, either by an agreed settlement or after a trial. Generally this means that you would be awarded the property and you would be entirely responsible for the debt attached to that property. One of the key issues that should be considered is whether post-divorce you would be able to afford it. Often it is simply not possible for either spouse to handle the payments and related costs on just one person’s income. You should carefully analyze whether your income will be sufficient to allow this. Another issue that must be addressed is whether your spouse will expect that the mortgage be refinanced in order to remove their name. Again, depending on your financial circumstances, you may have difficulty qualifying for the mortgage on your own and terms may not be nearly as favorable as what you have in the current mortgage. The bottom line is that you need to carefully evaluate this important financial decision before making a reckless emotional commitment to a financial obligation which may later be impossible to live up to.

    A second possibility is that your spouse keeps the house, again either by agreement or after a trial. Conversely, this would mean they would be awarded the property and would be solely responsible for payment of the debt on that asset. If you are the spouse not receiving the house it is very much desirable that the mortgage be refinanced so that your name is deleted from that debt. This is critical because if your ex were to default under the current mortgage at a later date it could dramatically impact your credit score and even expose you to a potential lawsuit. The only way to avoid this scenario is to have the debt refinanced so that your name is removed.

    A final possibility, and one that is often the best option, is that the property is sold and the net proceeds (sales price less cost of sale and any indebtedness) are split between the parties on some percentage basis. This option avoids the refinance issue because the debt is paid off at the time of divorce. Also, neither spouse is placed in the position of attempting to afford the monthly expense of a house that was purchased based on conditions that are no longer accurate (dual income household, larger home needed for entire family, etc.). In most cases this option is usually the best fit, although circumstances do vary.

    As you see deciding how to handle the marital residence in a divorce case is a complicated. Whether you decide to keep the residence, let your spouse have the residence, or sell the home and split the proceeds, the situation needs to be carefully analyzed. As long as you go into it thinking with your head and not your heart you’ll make a good decision and do just fine.

    This article was written by Joseph Carter, whose writes primarily on family law and divorce. He is associated with the family law firm of Scott Morgan, a Board Certified Houston Family Law and Divorce Lawyer, a specialist in Texas Family Law.

  • Rhode Island Divorce From Soup To Nuts by a RI Attorney

    This article explains the Rhode Island divorce process from pre- filing considerations through trial including Rhode Island divorce law strategy.

    Finding a Rhode Island Divorce attorney/ lawyer

    The first step in obtaining a divorce from your spouse is finding a Rhode Island attorney who you are comfortable with. Many attorneys give free initial consultations while others charge for the first consult. I have always taken the position that the initial consultations will be free.

    It is important to ask the proposed lawyer about his or her experience and qualifications to handle your case. It is also crucial to determine the hourly charge and the amount of any initial fee or retainer. Article By David Slepkow (401-437-1100)

    Cost of Rhode Island Divorce

    It is often impossible to determine how much a divorce will cost from beginning to end. However, it is a good idea to get an educated estimation of the eventual fee. This will never usually be more than a estimation because the cost of the divorce usually depends on several factors. Those factors could include how quickly a settlement is reached, the number of motions that each party will file, the amount / nature and complexity of assets to be equitably divided, the amount of documents involved in the case, the animosity of the parties to each other, the waiting time while you are in court and many other potential issues.

    The Golden Rule is that the longer it takes to reach a settlement the more the divorce will cost because the lawyers will spend a lot more time working on the case. If there is no settlement and the case goes to trial or the day of trial, the divorce could get very expensive. If everything is agreed or nearly agreed to and the parties are relatively amicable then the divorce should take a lot less time and therefore be much less expensive.

    Uncontested divorces in Rhode Island should be much less expensive then contested divorces. However, there are many different types of uncontested divorces. There are uncontested divorces with no real assets and uncontested divorces with assets to divide. If the divorce is uncontested and there are assets then the lawyer may need to prepare a property settlement agreement, deeds, qualified domestic relation orders etc. Therefore, the cost of an uncontested divorce could vary depending on the circumstances. For example if a lawyer has to draft a property settlement agreement , the lawyer will devote more time to the case.

    I believe that a fair price for an uncontested divorce from soup to nuts in Rhode Island with no assets and no property settlement agreement is about $800 flat fee plus costs. The typical costs are a filing fee of $100 and service of process fees of approximately $40.

    Intake process and drafting Rhode Island divorce Documents

    After you have retained the lawyer there is typically an intake process in which the lawyer gets the basic information so that he or she can properly represent you. The lawyer typically drafts the divorce documents and you sign them in front of him/her or another notary. These documents include a divorce complaint, DR(6) financial statement, statement of children of the marriage, counseling statement, report of divorce, summons and automatic divorce order etc. It is important that the DR6 form otherwise known as financial statement is accurately filled out.

    There are many important decisions that may need to be made before you file for divorce in Rhode Island. Strategy is crucial in many instances!

    Should I file a motion for temporary Orders in RI?

    In some cases, the attorney will file a motion for temporary orders when the divorce complaint is filed. A motion for temporary orders should be filed if the husband or wife is in need of temporary resolution of issues while the case is proceeding. These temporary motions typically request temporary child support, payment / contribution to daycare , contribution to medical bills, alimony, payment of household expenses, payment of the mortgage, taxes and insurance.

    A motion for temporary orders can also address child visitation and child custody issues related to the minor children as well as issues concerning exclusive use and possession of the marital home. The temporary motion can also request temporary orders concerning: restraining orders both financial and personal and a myriad of other temporary issues. The motion for temporary orders will typically be heard by the Court within 30-40 days of the filing of the complaint for divorce.

    If no temporary orders enter then there is no legal obligation of a spouse to pay anything while the case is proceeding until there is a decision by the judge or the parties sign a property settlement Agreement. If there are no temporary orders, the financial issues, visitation and custody issues will be up to the parties to figure out while the case is proceeding without the benefit of a court order.

    Should I file an emergency motion in A Rhode island divorce?

    If there is an emergency in which irreparable harm will be caused if the party has to wait for a court date, then an emergency motion should be filed with the complaint. An emergency motion must either be verified under oath or be accompanied by an affidavit. The attorney will bring the emergency motion to the proper judge and ask for an ex parte order. Ex parte means that the other side is not present to object. The Rhode Island judge will only consider the affidavit and documentation before him. If the judge signs the emergency order than it will be served on your spouse by the constable along with the divorce complaint.

    These types of emergency motion typically deal with issues concerning abuse of a child, dissipation or unreasonable spending of marital assets, domestic violence, child abuse or a plethora of other potential emergencies. If there is domestic violence involved in which you are in imminent fear of physical harm or have been abused or threatened with abuse please discuss with the attorney the benefits of filing a separate case called a Complaint Protection from Abuse! Please note that the Complaint Protection from Abuse is very different from an Emergency motion.

    The timing of whether the divorce or Complaint Protection from Abuse case is filed first or whether they are filed simultaneously could be crucial to your case.

    If an emergency motion is granted and emergency orders enter then a hearing will be set approximately 20 days to determine if the order should stay in effect while the divorce case is proceeding. At that hearing your spouse has an opportunity to contest the motion and tell his or her side of the story. At that hearing, the Court will determine whether the emergency relief will stay in effect while the divorce case proceeds.

    Nominal or Contested Track?

    When a Rhode Island divorce is filed, the case is put onto one of two tracks, the contested track or the nominal track. The Plaintiff in their initial divorce filing designates the track they desire. The vast majority of divorces filed in Rhode Island are placed on the nominal divorce track. A designation on the “nominal track” does not necessarily mean that the divorce will be uncontested. It usually means that the party who filed believes that the case can be settled relatively quickly or wants the divorce to be settled relatively quickly.

    Answer to Divorce Complaint

    The defendant must file an answer to the divorce within 20 days of service and absolutely no later than the nominal court date or any motion date. If the Defendant does not answer the case he is subject to being defaulted. A default is when the defendant does not answer the case on a timely basis and the Plaintiff will usually get all of the relief that he or she requests.

    Nominal divorce

    If the case is put on the nominal track then the clerk will automatically set a nominal divorce hearing upon the Plaintiff filing for divorce. This hearing will typically be scheduled from 65-70 days after the Plaintiff files. In the event that the divorce is not settled by the nominal divorce date then the case will automatically be changed to the contested track

    If the matter is not settled by the nominal court date and both parties want to try to resolve the remaining issues in court and believe it is possible to resolve the remaining issues, then the parties can attempt to settle the case in the hallway or conference rooms in the courthouse and put the case through as a nominal uncontested divorce on that date.

    If the defendant has not filed an answer, it is dangerous for the defendant to not appear in court at the nominal court date based on representations made by the other party .

    I have seen numerous occasions when a souse has assured the other party that it is not necessary to appear in court and not necessary to file an answer and the defendant is defaulted and the other spouse gets 100 percent of the assets of the marriage.

    On the date of the nominal divorce hearing, at the call of the calendar, the case will be either ready nominal or the parties will ask the judge to hold the case so they can try to resolve the remaining issues. If the parties cannot resolve the remaining issues they will inform the Court clerk or the judge that the case cannot be settled and the case track will be changed to the contested divorce track. If the case track is changed there will be no hearing that date and the court will inform the parties of the next pretrial conference date.

    If the parties ask the clerk to hold the matter they will usually get a substantial amount of time to negotiate the remaining issues in the hallway. Upon settling all the remaining family law issues which may include issues of property division, child support, child custody, child visitation, alimony, contempt issues, restraining order issues etc the clerk should be informed that the case is now ready nominal. At that point the clerk and judge will put you back on the list of cases ready for the nominal hearing

    Pursuant to Rhode Island General Law a divorce cannot be resolved without a nominal divorce hearing. At the nominal divorce hearing certain testimony must be elicited in order for the divorce to be granted. In some circumstances, it is necessary to have witnesses to briefly testify. If you don’t have the required witness your case could be delayed or even dismissed and you may waste your time attending court.

    For a detailed explanation of whether or not you must have witnesses to testify on your behalf and the residency requirement for filing a Rhode island Divorce please go to my Ezine article “”Rhode Island Divorce Law FAQS How Long Until It’s Over? Residency Requirements & No Fault Divorce.” EzineArticles 14 March 2007. 15 July 2007 .

    Most Rhode Island divorce and family law attorneys have done these nominal hearing hundreds of times. It is a very bad idea for a person to represent himself or herself in a divorce! As the old adage goes a person who represents themselves has a fool for a lawyer. Since everything you have worked so hard for is on the line it is foolish to go through the Rhode Island divorce process without Rhode Island divorce and family law lawyer.

    If the case was originally placed on the contested track calendar, then the clerk did not schedule any automatic nominal court date. If the case later becomes settled then the parties can ask the clerk for permission to come on a particular date for the nominal divorce hearing. Otherwise the parties can wait for a motion date or the pretrial date to do the nominal divorce hearing.

    Discovery in RI Divorce. How do I get information about my Spouse?

    After the divorce is filed the Plaintiff and or the defendant can at their option proceed with “discovery”. Discovery in general is the process by which the parties get information or admissions from the other party. Discovery is most important and perhaps crucial in a case when a spouse is unaware of the nature and extent of the marital property and estate. Discovery can be also useful to obtain documents or other tangible evidence that is needed for settlement or trial.

    The Rhode Island discovery process also can be used to obtain admissions of certain allegations. While it is unethical and perhaps immoral for a person to lie about cheating or an affair to their spouse it is not illegal or criminal for a person to lie to their spouse about an affair. If a person lies under oath either in testimony or in a written document under oath they may be committing the crime of perjury.

    Also if a judge believes a party is lying under oath there could be stiff sanctions and penalties including a referral to the attorney general for prosecution. However, in reality, most incidents of lying in family court are not prosecuted as crimes. Many attorneys use request for admissions or interrogatories to force the other party to state under oath whether or not they had an affair and the extent and details concerning the extra-marital affair / cheating/ infidelity.

    There are several discover mechanisms that can be used: interrogatories, request for production of documents, request for admissions, depositions, subpoena duces tecum, subpoenas etc.

    Interrogatories-what are they? are they worth the time and effort?

    Interrogatories are written questions that a party may sends to the other party. Each side is allowed up to 32 interrogatories. Interrogatories can be helpful in obtaining lists of assets, allegations that will be made by your spouse or other useful information. This information requested can run the gamut from child support to marital infidelity and may include: child custody issues, child visitation, drug and alcohol abuse, gambling addiction, alimony, health insurance issues, real estate issues, estate planning and trust issues, personal injury claims, domestic violence / restraining orders, criminal history, valuation of assets, mental health history and any Rhode Island family law issues.

    Interrogatories must be answered in the time frame set by the Rhode island domestic Court Rules. Interrogatories are usually partially written and also reviewed by your husband or wifes’ lawyer. Therefore, while a valuable tool there are some limitations to the usefulness of the information received.

    Request for Admissions

    Requests for admissions when used appropriately can be a powerful discovery tool in a RI divorce. Request for admissions are written requests usually prepared by the attorney, which the other party must reply within a short period of time. If the party does not reply to the request for admissions within the applicable time the allegation will be deemed admitted.

    Should I take the Deposition of my spouse in a RI Divorce?

    A Deposition is when a party usually through their lawyer can ask their spouse questions under oath in front of a court reporter. In Rhode Island family Court, a party must obtain leave of court / permission from the court in order to take a deposition. Motions to take deposition of the other party are almost always granted by Family Court Judges. Depositions are powerful yet expensive discovery tools. A deposition usually is effective because the attorney can ask the other party questions face to face. The attorney can ask follow up questions and can ask questions in different ways. This is particularly effective if a party is being evasive or less than forthcoming. There is very little the other attorney can do to help their clients answer the questions during a deposition.

    Depositions are very expensive because the Court reporters transcript could cost several hundred dollars. Also the attorney doing the deposition will need perhaps several hours to prepare for the deposition. Also both attorneys will need to attend the deposition, which could take up to several hours. Depositions are usually better ways to get information about sensitive topics then interrogatories.

    Request for Production of Documents

    Request for production of documents is a list of requested documents that must be responded to within the applicable time period. I find this discovery tool to be particularly successful in obtaining documents and records concerning: pension plan documents, 401k records, retirement accounts, health insurance records, stock accounts, estate planning documents, bank statements, real estate documents etc.

    Subpoena

    A Subpoena Duces Tecum can be very effective in obtaining documents from third parties such as bank records, stock records, employment and wage records and other documents.

    The third part of this three part series which is coming soon addresses preparing for a Divorce trial to the actual divorce trial to the entry of Final Judgment

    Trial

    If a case cannot be settled, the Court will send the parties a notice of a pretrial conference. At the pretrial conference the Judge may make some effort to help the parties settle the divorce. If the case is not settled then the judge will schedule the matter for a trial.

    David Slepkow is a Rhode Island lawyer concentrating in divorce, family law, restraining orders, child support, custody and visitation. David has been practicing for over 9 years and is licensed in Rhode Island , Massachusetts and Federal Court. Free initial consultations. You can contact attorney David Slepkow by going to http://www.slepkowlaw.com or by calling him at 401-437-1100.