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New Jersey Family Law Blog

Divorce statistics in the U.S. and New Jersey

People in New Jersey may well have heard or read reports over the years about marriage or divorce rates in the state and across the country. Some of these reports may claim that as many as half of all marriages will result in divorce while others may say that more couples are staying married longer. It can be hard to sort out what is truth and what is fiction in this arena. Sometimes, looking at the hard numbers may provide the best insight of all.

According to data from the 2016 American Community Survey, it is believed that 47.5 percent of all people in the nation who are at least 16 years old are currently married, or were when this survey was conducted last year. Almost 34 percent of people have never been married at all. The percent of people who were listed as divorced was actually 11 percent with another 5.8 percent being identified as widowed and two percent separated.

Let the QDRO help you split a 401K

If you are considering a divorce in New Jersey and either you or your spouse have savings in an employer-sponsored retirement account like a 401K, you will want to learn about the qualified domestic relations order. Beware of proceeding down the path of simply relying on your court-issued divorce decree when splitting these assets as part of your property division settlement. Doing so is likely to leave you paying out large sums of money in the way of taxes and early withdrawal penalties. A QDRO can help you avoid both of these things. 

The United States Department of Labor explains that because a 401K is intended to force long-term retirement savings, any early and non-retirement withdrawals will be subject to penalties and fees. These can eat up a lot of your savings. In addition, such withdrawals are subject to income tax. With a QDRO, your former spouse can be named as an authorized payee on your account so that if they are to receive some of the money in the account, that money can be paid directly to them. From a tax perspective, you have no liability as you have not received any money. If your spouse puts the money into another account, they may also avoid taxation.

New studies show co-parenting best for children

Many New Jersey families understand the difficulty of trying to split their children's time between parents who are going through a divorce. Not only is it hard for the children, who are going through stress and change to their family structure, it is difficult for the parents who love and support their kids and may be feeling lonely. But new studies show that parents sharing custody results in the best outcomes for their children.

As the Boston Herald reports, a new study out of Wake Forest University re-examined studies that focused on the role conflict plays on children of divorce. Traditionally, a custodial parent, which is the mother in 80 percent of divorce cases, is determined by the court to be the main parent in an effort to reduce the conflict a child will be party to when his or her parents divorce. Yet the study did not find that conflict between parents played a large part in determining outcomes of the child. In fact, the relationship between the part and child was the single-most important factor, and children who had strong relationships with both parents fared best. The researcher noted that even in an acrimonious divorce, the bitterness often fades in a few years, but the custody arrangement of the child rarely changes.

Failure to pay child support: parents' rights

For many individuals who go through a divorce, final paperwork can be a symbol of freedom and long awaited relief. Yet for those divorcing with children, matters can inevitably become more complicated, and issues can pursue long after legal procedures have ended. In New Jersey, the law protects children in divorces, including protection that enforces child support payments.

 

The benefits of legal separation

A legal separation can not only compromise an individual's emotional and physical wellbeing, but also potentially change the status of home ownership and other financial aspects. In New Jersey, a legal separation agreement entails a spousal agreement that covers the period between separation and divorce.

Similar to a divorce, a legal separation is an contract outlining child custody and asset division. The difference is that in a legal separation, a couple is still considered legally married. A legally separated couple may choose to follow through with the divorce at a later time. The reasons spouses choose to legally separate instead of divorce range from moral and religious reasons to financial and government benefits. Some individuals believe they may resolve existing issues before reaching the point of divorce.  

Defining the different types of alimony in New Jersey

Several of those that our team here at Melinda L. Singer, Esquire have worked with in the past have come to us with questions about alimony. Many are surprised to learn that those cases that call for it may have a different type of alimony assigned to them. If you have recently decided to end your marriage in Hackensack, it may behoove you to study the different forms of alimony the state recognizes for you to understand whether you might qualify to receive it or if you may be required to pay it.

The guidelines regulating spousal support can be found in Section 2A:34-23(b) of New Jersey’s Revised Statutes. Here, it lists the four types of alimony awarded by the state’s family courts as:

  •          Open durational alimony
  •          Limited duration alimony
  •          Rehabilitative alimony
  •          Reimbursement alimony

The ins and outs of child support

Child care is perhaps the most stressful aspect of the divorce process in New Jersey. Insurance, medical needs, college expenses, and general disputes are only a few of the issues parents come across when separating. Child support procedures vary by state, and each state typically selects from a number of models to best handle the particulars of child support. 

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers acknowledges that it is the responsibility of both parents to provide support for a child they have brought into the world. The amount of funds expected from each parent depends on level of income and other details regarding the case. The AAML also states that child support guidelines are mandatory in all cases for the initial application of child support when the parents' combined net income is $150,800 or less. Once the court has determined the net income of both parents, as well as basic child support obligations, certain expenses can be added to the child support plan. Specific support reductions can be applied in the case of government benefits.

What are the pros and cons of a legal separation?

Tensions from a variety of different sources can often put a great deal of strain on your marriage, so much so that you may even be considering following the lead of others in Hackensack and getting a divorce. Yet there is another alternative to consider if you or your spouse feels uneasy or unsure about taking the big of a step: a legal separation. Countless others have taken such action; in fact, U.S. Census Bureau data shared by the site brokenheartonhold.com shows that as many as 3 percent of all American adults may be separated from their marriage partners.

You may be wondering whys you should consider a legal separation as opposed to a divorce. There may actually be a number of pros to going this route initially (other than offering you and your spouse the chance to see if such action offers time and perspective that may help solve your martial issues). It gives you and your spouse the freedom to come up with your own agreement regarding matters such as maintenance, child custody and support, as well as asset division. If you cannot come to an agreement on your own, you can petition a state family court to rule on such matters without seeking a divorce (even though New Jersey has no formal legal separation process).

What happens to a mortgage after a divorce?

If you and your spouse are discussing the possibility of ending your marriage and you own a home together, it is very possible that you may have talked about one of you retaining your marital home and the other person moving out. For some people in New Jersey, tihs approach is taken when a divorce is inititated but eventually the plan to sell the home develops. For other people, the wish to remain in their home long-term is strong.

While there is no right or wrong way to go when it comes to staying in or leaving a home after a divorce, there are some very serious potential problems that may arise if a mortgage held in both person's names is not properly handled. As explained by Bankrate, couples need to be very clear about the fact that their mortgage lender looks at the mortgage as separate from the house. This means that even an agreement in writing that details one person's responsibility for the home does not negate the financial liablity of the other person for the mortgage.

How is your debt divided in your divorce?

When going through divorce proceedings in Bergen County, there is typically one form of marital property that neither you nor your soon-to-be-ex-spouse will want: your debt. Yet just as New Jersey law mandates that marital assets be subject to equitable division, so too does it require that debts accrued during a marriage get the same treatment. Equitable, however, does not necessarily mean equal. Rather, it calls for the fair division of both assets and debts.

The criteria for determining equitable distribution can be found in Section 2A:34-23.1 of New Jersey's Revised Statutes. The few factors listed below may have a direct impact on the amount of marital debt you are assigned:

  •          The duration of your marriage: The longer your marriage, the greater the chances you and your spouse assumed debt by through activities like buying a home or vehicles together, starting a business, or putting one of you through school.
  •          Your individual income and earning capacity: Depending on how much each of you makes from your careers, the court may view assigning an even portion of debt as placing one of you in a financial hardship.
  •          What debts and liabilities you currently have: Mortgage debt is viewed and treated differently than consumer debt (including credit cards). Special considerations will have to be made if one of you needs to keep the house in order to shelter the kids.

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Melinda L. Singer, Esquire
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Hackensack, New Jersey 07601

Phone: 201-870-0826
Fax: 201-678-9595
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