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Family Law Terms

Adopting a child is a joyous occasion that raises many legal issues such as:

  • What is the legal relationship between the child and the adopting parents?
  • What are the child’s inheritance rights?
  • Who has access to the adoption records?

We are experienced adoption attorneys and will fully explain the process of adopting a step-child or a child from another country or family and guide you to a successful adoption.

Alimony, simply stated, is a court-ordered payment from one former spouse to the other after divorce. It is intended to provide financial support for the spouse who was financially supported during the marriage. The laws in New Jersey are “gender neutral” and do not specify whether a wife or husband will support the other spouse. In New Jersey, alimony is paid in one of four different ways: 1) as a lump sum, 2) in regular payments without a fixed end date (“permanent alimony”), or 3) according to some interim arrangement (“temporary” or “rehabilitative” alimony), or 4) (“term alimony,”) which is for a specified number of years.

Complex Property Division And Valuation
Division of property, also known as equitable distribution, is a judicial division of property rights and obligations between spouses during divorce. It may be done by agreement, through a property settlement, or by judicial decree.

Distribution of property is the division due to the dissolution of a marriage of property which was owned or acquired during the course of the marriage.

Domestic Violence/Restraining Orders
When domestic violence occurs, it shatters and victimizes families and people who have had relationships. In New Jersey, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 1990 is the strongest in the country. Everyone has the right to be free from physical harm, threats and abuse. In New Jersey, a temporary restraining order can be entered by a judge or hearing officer without notice to the abuser. At a final hearing, with legal notice to both parties and both parties appearing in court, then both parties are given an opportunity to testify at trial. Only then can a permanent order be entered by a judge. Deitch & Perone, P.C., is here to consult with you on domestic violence issues.

Domestic Partnerships/Civil Unions
New Jersey has been one of the leading states providing legal protections for gay and lesbian couples and on Oct. 21, 2013 legalized same sex marriages. The passage of the marriage act was preceded by two other important acts. On Jan. 12, 2004, the New Jersey Domestic Partnership Act was enacted. The legislature decided that “all persons in domestic partnerships should be entitled to certain rights and benefits that are accorded to married couples under the laws of the State of New Jersey.” However, it did not provide many of the benefits of marriage.

Currently, under the Domestic Partnership Act, if a gay or lesbian couple cohabits and shares finances, they are able to make critical health care decisions for each other and visit a partner in the hospital as if they were next of kin. They also can file for state income tax deduction for a partner as a dependent, as well as qualify for state inheritance tax exemption.

The Domestic Partnership Act opened the door to the expansion of rights to same-sex couples in New Jersey. Deitch & Perone, P.C., represents many same-sex couples, bisexual and transgendered people and in 2007 the Civil Union Act was passed giving same-sex couples even more rights. Both Domestic Partnerships and Civil.

Emancipation In New Jersey
There is no fixed age in New Jersey when support stops. Once your child turns 18 and/or becomes financially independent, either parent must file papers with the court asking that the order be terminated or adjusted. This is known as “emancipation.” Based on the facts, the court will decide if the child still needs support. Generally, the court presumes that all children under 18 need support from their parents. In some cases, support may continue through college or longer. Support may terminate automatically if your current order specifies a date or age when support is expected to stop.

High Net Worth Divorce In New Jersey
Over the last several years many individuals of seemingly average means have become high net worth individuals. As the nest eggs of one’s clients grow, so does the complexity of valuing and distributing such estates. Prior to the recent bull market, the assets in a traditional divorce included a house, cars, pensions and some equities such as individual stocks and mutual funds. This picture has changed significantly in recent years. For example, individual 401(k) accounts for individuals of modest means could approach or surpass $1 million.

Juvenile Matters, Superior Court In New Jersey
“Juvenile” in New Jersey means anyone under the age of eighteen. Juvenile proceedings are governed by the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice. These proceedings are defined by New Jersey Statutes beginning at N.J.S. 2A:4A-20. They extend through N.J.S. 2A:4A-92. These laws took effect on December 31, 1983. Under the New Jersey Code of Juvenile Justice, judicial proceedings relating to charges against juveniles are handled in a special court, using different rules. That court is the Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division, Family Part.

Military Divorce In New Jersey
There are laws set up to protect active duty military members against being held in “default” from failing to respond to a divorce action. These laws were enacted to protect active military from being divorced without knowing it.

Under the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, 50 USC section 521 and in the discretion of the local New Jersey court, the divorce proceeding may be postponed for the entire time the active service member is on duty and for up to 60 days thereafter (this is typically the case when the active member is serving in a war). Also, this right to have the divorce proceedings postponed can be waived by any active duty member should he or she wish to get the divorce.

A New Jersey military divorce creates several unique issues as compared to a typical civilian divorce, which is why specific state and federal laws and rules will apply.

New Jersey Mediation
Mediation in New Jersey is an amicable, cost-effective, efficient alternative designed to avoid the traditional costly litigated divorce using two attorneys locked in adversarial public proceedings. Keeping your own divorce or separation as peaceful and stress-free as possible not only will benefit you, but mediation will be particularly beneficial to your children and other relatives who care about you and the children.

Palimony In New Jersey
Since the early 1970s, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people who live together without getting married. Despite this trend, unmarried couples do not have the same rights and protections as married couples. However, the courts have finally begun to recognize that, in certain situations, an unmarried person may have a right to get financial support from a former partner after their relationship ends.

In cases of palimony where a family court has issued a support order for an unmarried partner, the court has found that one partner promised to support the other partner in return for being taken care of while they lived together. The New Jersey courts have treated these family-like situations as if the parties had a contract, not unlike marriage, where the right to support is based upon a support contract between the partners. However, the New Jersey Legislature recently passed a new law stating that the promise to support must be in writing, thus making it more difficult to win a palimony case.

Establishing paternity is the legal term for determining the father of the child. If the parents were married when the child was born, the husband is the legal father noted on the child’s birth certificate. To create the same legal relationship between unmarried parents and their children, paternity must be established. It is an important step in ensuring that both parents support their child, and is the first step in collecting child support.

Property Division
If you are contemplating divorce in New Jersey, you will need to know how your property will be divided. New Jersey considers the assets and debts that a married couple acquired either individually or together during marriage to be “marital property,” regardless of how the property is titled. Equitable distribution rules in New Jersey require a fair, but not necessarily equal, division of all marital property in a divorce.

A court may consider many factors in dividing a divorcing couple’s property, including:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each spouse’s physical health, emotional health and age
  • Any income or property either spouse brought into the marriage
  • The standard of living the couple established during the marriage
  • Any written prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements covering property division
  • Each spouse’s overall economic circumstances
  • Each spouse’s income and earning capacity (ability to earn income based on education, training, experience, length of any absence from the job market and custodial responsibilities for the couple’s children)
  • The extent to which either spouse may have delayed pursuing career goals during the marriage
  • Any time and expense required for a spouse to acquire the education or training necessary to achieve a standard of living comparable to the marital standard
  • Any contributions either spouse made to the education or earning power of the other spouse
  • Any contribution by either spouse to acquiring, preserving, improving or wasting marital property, including contributions as a homemaker
  • The tax consequences of a proposed distribution
  • The present value of all property
  • The need of a parent with physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence or use household effects
  • Each spouse’s debts and liabilities
  • Any present or future need for a medical or educational trust for either spouse or a child
  • And any other relevant factors.

Same-Sex Divorce In New Jersey
Same-sex marriage was officially recognized in New Jersey on Oct. 21, 2013, meaning that same-sex divorce is a reality. However, the term same-sex divorce is often used to refer to the dissolution of a domestic partnership or civil union. This is a fairly new area of law that is currently being pioneered by forward-thinking law firms such as Deitch & Perone, P.C.

Shared Parenting
NJSA 9:2-4 provides us with guidance as to custody determinations:

“In any proceeding involving the custody of a minor child, the rights of both parents shall be equal and the court shall enter an order which may include: (a) joint custody of a minor child to both parents, which is comprised of legal custody or physical custody which shall include: (1) provisions for residential arrangements so that a child shall reside either solely with one parent or alternatively with each parent in accordance with the needs of the parents and the child; and (2) provisions for consultation between the parents in making major decisions regarding the child’s health, education and general welfare; (b) sole custody to one parent with appropriate parenting time for the noncustodial parent; or (c) any other custody arrangement as the court may determine to be in the best interests of the child.”

Special Juvenile Immigration Status
One of the most vulnerable segments of society is undocumented, abused children. In addition to the threat of arrest, detention and deportation, undocumented minors are unable to obtain lawful employment and/or attend college. For that reason, the U.S. Congress created two separate provisions under federal law to allow immigrant children to obtain lawful permanent resident status or a “green card.”

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a federal law that assists certain undocumented children in obtaining legal permanent residency. Persons under the jurisdiction of a juvenile court who are eligible for long-term foster care due to drug abuse, abandonment or neglect may qualify for SIJS and based on that, apply for adjustment of status to a lawful permanent resident. In New Jersey, nonparent child placement decisions are made in Family Court.

There is a strict criteria to meet and it is critical to consult an attorney familiar with this specialized area of the law. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a way for a dependent of the Family Court to begin the process for an undocumented juvenile to become a permanent resident of the United States (i.e., get a “green card”). If the juvenile applies for this status and is successful, he or she may remain in the U.S., work legally and qualify for in-state tuition at college. The application must meet the strict criteria of the Federal Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act. Unfortunately, if the application is denied, the child might be deported.

Stepparent Adoption

Stepparent adoption is governed by state law and also varies from county to county. New Jersey makes the adoption process a little easier for stepparents, but requirements for home studies, criminal background checks and procedures for obtaining consent of the noncustodial parent vary widely. Stepparents should consult an adoption attorney to understand the specific legal requirements in their county.