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Where to start when filing for divorce

Most people in New Jersey get married with the intention of being together forever. Sadly, that is not always the case, and having to deal with an unanticipated divorce can be a daunting prospect. Where does one start, and what are the necessary steps? One thing to keep in mind is that there are ways in which to limit the trauma of a divorce.

Couples who choose to remain amicable and agree to an uncontested divorce can reach a settlement without the need to go to court. While certain aspects will always be traumatic, such as dealing with child-related matters, even those can be negotiated without involving the court. The help of divorce mediators, or choosing a collaborative divorce can ease the negotiations to reach an out-of-court settlement agreement.

Who gets the house after a divorce?

You’ve built a life with your family and it has revolved around a house. Now you’re going through a divorce and you’re trying to figure out who will remain in the home.

First, Ohio is a no-fault state, so the reason for the divorce has no bearing on how assets are divided. As an equitable division state, marital property will be divided equitably among both spouses. That includes the house. In addition, a judge considers who has the financial means to stay in the house. As the sole homeowner, you must be able to afford the mortgage, insurance and maintenance.

LGBTQ couples still face unique divorce issues

Although divorces of LGBT couples in New Jersey are mostly treated in the same way as those of heterosexual couples, there are some unique challenges. Even with changes to the language of divorce laws, some couples were together for decades before they were allowed to get married. If they file for divorce now, they have only been married for a few years in the eyes of the law, with potentially severe impacts on matters such as property division. It complicates the division of assets accumulated as a couple in the years prior to marriage.

Some child-related issues can also be significant issues, especially when one spouse is the biological parent. It might be a challenge to establish a legal tie between the nonbiological spouse and the child. It could play a role in decisions about child custody, child and spousal support, and even the child's inheritance. In heterosexual marriages, it is presumed that the spouse of a woman who gave birth to a child is the other parent.

Is a small business part of the assets in your divorce?

Going through a divorce is challenging on many levels, and it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. When it comes to the division of assets, the process can become significantly more complicated if a small business forms part of the assets in a New Jersey divorce. Matters to consider include whether the business was established before the date of the marriage, and the value of the spouse's personal investment into the company before the wedding.

Documentation will have to show the cash flow and the assets as recorded before the nuptials, and the growth of the company during the marriage. The extent of the other spouse's involvement, both financial and physical contributions, will likely also play a role in the division of the business assets. These are the issues that will determine whether a portion of the concern will be regarded as separate property.

Property division: Did you overlook these assets?

Going through a divorce is one of the most emotional and difficult things anyone can face. When it comes to the division of assets, many New Jersey couples focus on the obvious and overlook the less obvious. An example is couples who did a lot of traveling. They might have thousands of dollars worth of accumulated frequent flyer points, which can be split by sharing the value or by the spouse owning the points issuing free travel tickets in the name of the other spouse.

Deciding what to do with resort timeshares could be challenging, and in many cases, there is still a substantial amount outstanding, which could be a significant financial burden for one spouse. Other options to consider include continuing joint ownership, selling it or letting it go into foreclosure. Vacation pay could be another source of funds to share. Some companies allow employees to cash out their sick and vacation leave. Both spouses can find out about this option from their HR departments.

Possible questions at a child custody hearing in New Jersey

Family courts in New Jersey favor arrangements in which children will continue to benefit from loving relationships with both parents after a divorce. However, the judge will likely have several concerns to ensure the final child custody order protect the best interests of the child. These issues will likely be addressed at a child custody hearing.

It will be important to inform the court as to which type of custody is sought, and why. While joint custody is the preferable arrangement, sole custody will be considered if it can be shown that it would be in the best interest of the child. The court will consider any existing informal or formal child custody arrangement that was put in place for the period leading up to the divorce, whether it was workable, and what steps may be necessary to improve the existing parenting plans.

Property division when unmarried couples split

It is not unusual for New Jersey couples to live together for some time. Some choose to marry later, but others might continue to cohabitate. Like married couples, they accumulate assets during this time, and they might even have children together. However, what happens when the relationship ends? How does the law treat property division for unmarried couples?

Cohabitating couples do not receive the same protection as married couples in divorce. The best way to avoid costly legal battles to protect each party's property rights is to enter into an agreement at the start of the cohabitation arrangements. Such an agreement can include the unique needs of each partner in the event of the death of one or the end of the relationship, and it is best to draft one before problems arise.

Divorce is final -- work to make the best of it

Anyone in New Jersey who experiences marital problems might consider ending the marriage. However, divorce is final, and it might be wise to avoid rushing into such a drastic step. Sometimes, a marriage can be saved by dealing with underlying issues that could repair relationships. However, if both parties agree that divorce is the only option, they might as well work together to make the best of a process that is known to be traumatic.

The stressors could be limited if both parties maintain mutual respect. If they can remain civil toward each other, they could minimize unnecessary trauma to themselves and the children. Sharing a common vision or goal when it comes to property division and child-related issues could go a long way to keep divorce proceedings without contention. Couples are also advised not to rush into a litigated divorce that will allow a judge to make decisions that could have avoidable financial and mental consequences.

Dealing with yours, mine and ours in same-sex divorce

Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2015, same-sex marriages are constitutionally protected nationwide, including New Jersey. Just like many heterosexual marriages, many married partners of the same sex will end up seeking a divorce. However, same-sex divorce laws are still evolving, and many gray areas leave divorcing couples seeking answers.

Baby boomers might have been in same-sex relationships for many years before DOMA was declared unconstitutional. Some were in domestic partnerships, converting the status when same-sex marriages became lawful. Challenges arise when such a couple decides to divorce because their accumulation of assets as a couple might have started long before the date of their marriage.

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