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Keeping Your Divorce On Track While Stuck At Home

By Frank Morano, Esq.

So you’ve hired a lawyer and filed a complaint for divorce but now you are quarantined and you hear the Courts are closed or only hearing emergent matters.  Does it feel like you are never getting divorced?  Not necessarily!  Many county courts will still go forward with uncontested divorces either on the papers (no appearances, just need to send the documents) or with a brief hearing telephonically or virtually.

You can be doing valuable work to keep your divorce process moving forward.

What can you be doing during this time? Well, there are many things you could be preparing for while you wait for the Courts to catch up.

  1. Complete your Case Information Statement: That multipage document which asks for all your financial information is one of the most important documents in your divorce.  This is the perfect time to hunker down and look up balances, pay stubs, and W2s and fill in as much as you can.  Review past credit card statements and bank statements to come up with what your monthly spending has been for the many different categories found in that form.
  • Gather important documents: We know, a home quarantine does not mean you have extra time on your hands.  Kids, homeschooling, work from home, exercising, cooking, and making sure you stay sane takes up 25 hours a day! But if you find yourself with some time, it’s the perfect opportunity to gather certain documents that you will most likely need, and, if you get to the discovery phase, will most likely be sought in a Notice to Produce.  The last few years of tax returns and W2s, your last several paychecks (which you need for your CIS anyway,) checking account statements, savings account statements, 401K statements, mutual funds, and other financial documents are important. 
  • Answer the discovery questions if they were sent to you: In addition to a Notice to Produce that requests specific records, you may have received sets of interrogatories, which are questions for you to answer.  They may come under separate topics (financial and lifestyle interrogatories, custody and parenting time interrogatories) or they may come as one long list of questions.  Take the time to read the questions fully, make notes about the questions, write down any questions you have for your attorney, and then answer the questions to the best of your ability.
  • Review documents sent by your attorney: Remember to be checking your email as attorneys are still working.  You may be needed to review documents before they are filed.  As with the interrogatories, read each document carefully and write down questions for your attorney.
  • If children are involved, develop your idea for parenting time, custody, and holiday/vacation schedules: Take some time to think about what you would like for parenting time and custody and what practically works for your family’s life (under normal circumstances!).  Write out all the major holidays, birthdays, and other special days, and list which of those days you would like to have the children.  Then think about how to equitably divide those times between you and your coparent.  Make note of any particular days or times that are extra special for you and the kids that are not necessarily major holidays like Thanksgiving. (Super Bowl? Valentines Day? St. Patrick’s Day?) Fourth of July is one that many people forget, even though it often involves travel opporunties. Also, think about the children’s birthdays and how time might be shared on those days.
  • Talk to your attorney: As you work on questions and come up with concerns, set up times to speak to your attorney.  Ask your questions and discuss concerns.  Your attorney is most likely working remotely and many firms are set up with all the same resources and capabilities they have in a formal office. 

As you can see, there are many steps that can be taken to continue to make progress in the process of your divorce.  Your attorney can work with you and opposing counsel to try and settle the matter without the Court’s intervention.  Even mediation can move forward using virtual mediation methods.   This time of quarantine may help speed the process giving parties the opportunity to focus on their cases and work out challenges to come to an amicable agreement. 

Gaining Cultural Competency – An Article By Celeste Fiore

Check out Celeste’s article in the American Bar Association’s GPSolo publication!

Cultural competency and diversity seem to be hot topics for continuing legal education (CLE). Maybe this is because some jurisdictions have made separate diversity requirements within the ethics CLE component, or maybe it is just a sign of the times: People are different, but they all deserve the same respect. Or, it could be that the business case for diversity has gained more traction. Whatever your motivation for wanting to gain cultural competency, the goal of this article is to provide an accessible general outline and set of tools for how to gain cultural competency.

Click the link below for more:

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/gpsolo/publications/gp_solo/2019/july-august/gaining-cultural-competency/

Summer Time is Their Time: Custody During Summer Vacation

My kids have amazing summers!

They get to spend 9 glorious weeks at the summer sleepaway camp that I grew up at.  A place that has always been my second home and my safe place to land.  I started going right after my own parent’s divorce and continued well into adulthood as staff.  When I could no longer take summers off I still made sure to visit and attend alumni functions every chance I got.  My camp family was always in touch.

Shortly after my own divorce I returned for an entirely different kind of summer, with my twin 3 year olds in tow.

I was able to give my babies a safe place to land as well.  And we thrived!

And we continue to thrive.  Summers away give kids a chance to explore and challenge themselves in the best way possible.  We unplug from the world, we unplug from our devices, we unplug from so many of our daily stresses.

It also turns our parenting schedule entirely upside down.  My ex only sees them one day a week for the whole summer.  I get to be with them every night but on my only day off each week, I am bringing them back home to visit her.  We all give up something.  And it’s not without difficulty, but it brings so much reward.

This summer our babies grew in leaps and bounds.  They went on hikes, they learned to swim almost entirely without their puddlejumpers.  They navigated new friendships and being reunited with old friends.  They learned to handle crowded dining rooms and social scenes they don’t get to encounter at home.  They went to a water park and the movies, learned songs and dances.  They spent the summer being kids and came home ready for kindergarten.

They have no idea what this means for them yet, what seeds we planted.  But one day they will be so glad we didn’t spend the summer fighting over who gets to have the kids when and instead gave the summer to them.  It’s not my time or my exes time.  It’s their time.  And they loved it!

Plan A Parenting Schedule That Works For Your Family

Recently we found this great article on parenting schedules for people that are co-parenting but not living together. It covers a many different considerations and offers advice on how to create a schedule that can work for the whole family.

Disclaimer: This is not legal advice from our team, but a great piece written by Ryan Howard from SmartParentAdvice.com

Your Local ‘Power Couple’ Safeguarding LGBTQ Rights!

Check out our Patch article!

https://patch.com/new-jersey/montclair/montclair-power-couple-safeguarding-lgbtq-rights-new-jersey

Your favorite local LGBTQ rights advocating, rock star Family Law Attorneys! Making things better right here in Montclair.