3 year marriage could warrant open durational (long term) alimony!

In Friel v. Braun-Friel, a recent unpublished decision of the Appellate Division (March 2, 2018), the Appellate Court remanded the matter back to the trial court for a review of the prior decision.

The parties in this case were separated after less than 3 years of marriage. The primary issue was alimony because the Defendant became disabled just after the parties’ marriage and was unable to return to work, rendering her medically and financially dependent upon Plaintiff.

The alimony statute (NJSA 2A:34-23) states that absent exceptional circumstances, an alimony term should not exceed the length of the marriage.

Here, the trial court found that there were exceptional circumstances but ordered only 2 years of alimony at $130/week. The appellate division determined that despite finding exceptional circumstances, the trial court failed to explain why it limited alimony to only 2 years. The appellate division also determined that the trial court should not have considered Defendant’s receipt of SSDI benefits when she had not been approved for same at the time of trial.

This appellate decision reiterates the need for trial courts to give comprehensive and thoughtful decisions supporting their rulings.

Have you had a case where the contested ruling was not supported by a detailed and thoughtful decision? There’s a limited time for reconsideration or appeal of an Order or Judgment. Contact Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC now to set up a case assessment to consult with our attorneys about the possible remedies you may have.

Can I Change the Amount of My Alimony Payments?

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New Jersey’s 2014 Alimony Reform Act, N.J.S.2A:34-23, fundamentally changed the way that courts handle alimony in New Jersey divorces. There is no more permanent alimony in the state of New Jersey; legislators replaced permanent alimony with open-durational alimony, which is only available in long-term marriages of 20 years or more, where there has been a significant difference between each spouse’s earning capacity. The Act also made it easier in some respects to terminate or modify alimony payments in certain circumstances. Keep in mind, however, that the Act differentiates between alimony awards made before the effective date of the Act and after the effective date of the Act. As a result, the standard for changing the amount of alimony payments or terminating them altogether is different in some situations, depending on the effective date of the alimony award.

One major change to New Jersey alimony law is the ability of a payor to modify the amount of alimony payments if he or she loses a job. While in the past a payor had a larger burden to justify the modification of an alimony award, it has become much easier when the issue is employment-related. Under current New Jersey law, once an alimony payor has been involuntarily unemployed for a period of 90 days or more, he or she has the right to ask the court to modify the alimony amount. However, the payor must attempt to mitigate the loss and keep records of diligent efforts to replace employment.

There now is a rebuttable presumption that a payor’s alimony obligation should terminate when he or she reaches full retirement age under the federal Social Security Act. However, the other party can rebut this presumption in certain circumstances, if he or she can show good cause for continuing the alimony past the age of the payor’s retirement. In making a decision about rebutting this presumption, the judge must consider a number of factors, which include all sources of income and assets for both parties, the parties’ health, the sum and period of alimony paid, the amount and duration of economic reliance by one party on the other party, and the parties’ ages at the time of the marriage, at the time alimony was ordered, and at the time of their retirement. See Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J.139, 416 A.2d 45 (1980).

Furthermore, if payor wants to retire prior to full retirement age, the court must consider similar factors in deciding whether to modify or terminate the alimony award, as well as other factors, such as the payor’s reasons for retiring, the payor’s eligible retirement age at his or her workplace, and the payor’s ability to make the payments following retirement. However, a payor is not allowed to simply retire early in order to avoid paying alimony.

The attorneys of Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC , know how difficult legal proceedings can be, particularly when they involve matters that are central to your financial well-being. If you are looking for help with a legal matter involving families or children, you need the advice and guidance of one of our attorneys. Contact our office today to set up a meeting with an experienced lawyer at Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, and learn how we can help you with your legal case.

Are Postnuptial Agreements Enforceable Under New Jersey Law?

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Everyone has heard of prenuptial agreements, or “prenups”. Spouses often enter into these legal contracts before they get married so that some issues are predetermined if they later divorce. For instance, a common subject of a prenuptial agreement is property division. If one individual anticipates receiving a substantial inheritance or valuable work of art during the marriage, he or she may want a prenuptial agreement stating that the item belong solely to him or her if the parties should divorce in the future. If the couple then divorces, a legally valid and proper prenuptial agreement should protect that individual’s right to maintain sole ownership of the art piece or inheritance, despite the fact that he or she received it during the marriage.

New Jersey has a specific statute that guides the specific requirements for a valid prenuptial agreement. In any case, in order to be legally valid, a postnup must be in writing, notarized, and executed only after there has been fair disclosure of assets by both spouses. Additionally, both spouses must have signed the postnup without duress or coercion.

On other hand, a far less common type of agreement is the postnuptial agreement. This contract may be similar to a prenuptial agreement in terms of its subject matter, but the parties enter into postnup after they already are married. Like a prenup, a postnup typically involves financial matters; you cannot decide issues like child custody in either type of agreement. If one spouse is set to receive a large inheritance in the near future, for example, then he or she may want a postnup to prevent the other spouse from having any right to any portion of the inheritance if they end up getting divorced. A postnup may modify or replace an existing prenup, or it may be a stand-alone agreement, usually created if there has been a substantial financial change or marital troubles. Postnups are viewed critically because of the circumstances which surround their entry.

At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC , we know how to handle all of the different issues that New Jersey cases involve with respect to families and children, including issues related to property and debt division. We pride ourselves on always being up-to-date and knowledgeable of any legal developments involving New Jersey family law. We are here to help guide your through your legal proceedings, because we know just how stressful and emotional these kinds of cases can be.

Special Concerns in Your “Gray” Divorce

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Over the past several years, there has been an increasing trend of divorces among couples over the age of 50, many of whom have been married several years. This trend may be attributable, at least in part, to individuals living longer, less societal stigma associated with divorce, and a simple unwillingness to remain in an unhappy marriage. While every divorce involves different issues, so-called “gray divorces” raise some special concerns that are unique to older individuals.

First, when a “gray divorce” occurs, the individuals are closer to retirement than many divorcing couples. Divorce can have a significant impact on an individual’s finances, especially when one spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended period or has few job-related skills. From this perspective, an older individual who divorces may find himself or herself having a more difficult time recovering from the financial fallout of the divorce. This can cause one or both spouses to have to work well beyond their anticipated retirement age and live a much different lifestyle. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to carefully consider your financial situation and determine whether you need continuing support from your spouse or additional assets to adequately support yourself.

Legal fees, negative tax consequences, and early withdrawal penalties on retirement accounts all can negatively impact the existing marital assets, which result is not beneficial to either spouse. Maintaining the bills and taxes on the marital home may no longer be a possibility for either spouse; the fact is that when one household splits into two separate households, there is simply not as much money to go around. Since the parties have been married for a longer period of time, they are more likely to have accrued assets that then must be divided in the divorce. This can lead to lengthy and contested divorce proceedings, additional attorney’s fees, and serious tax consequences.

“Gray divorce” raises a number of issues and concerns that are not as likely to be present during divorces involving younger spouses. If you are in this situation, you need to be aware of these issues. At Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, we understand that every case is unique, so we pride ourselves in crafting an individual approach for every family whose interests we represent. Our family law attorneys are skilled in handling family law, divorce, and other cases involving children. Contact our experienced team of attorneys today so that we can assess your case, answer your questions, and present the options that are available to you. We will provide you with the information that you need to make the best decisions for you and your family.

Divorce and Taxes: What You Need to Know

Tax planning is an essential aspect of the divorce process, yet many individuals who are going through a divorce fail to adequately understand the tax consequences that may apply to them. The fact is that tax issues can have a significant impact on a divorce and even the strategy that each spouse uses during the divorce process. Furthermore, as our nation is on the brink of major changes to federal tax law, the outcome of certain tax-related situations may be uncertain in the context of a divorce. As always, you should be sure to get the most up-to-date advice from your tax professional if you have questions about how the new tax laws might affect your situation. However, there are some basic tax rules that you should be aware of as you go through your divorce.

First, there are certain aspects of federal tax law that apply to parties with minor children who are in the midst of the divorce process. Child support payments are neither deductible for the payor nor taxable income for the payee. Only one parent can claim the child for the purposes of the dependency exemption, who is typically the “custodial parent,” or the parent who provides more than half of the child’s support for the tax year. However, there are situations in which a custodial parent can be ordered to release the exemption to the non-custodial parent, if all other requirements are met. Only the parent who claims the child as a dependency exemption is eligible to claim the child tax credit, which has become much more valuable to taxpayers beginning in 2018. Although the new tax law eliminates personal deductions, it doubles the size of the basic child tax credit, from $1,000 for each eligible child to $2,000 for each eligible child. Additionally, the amount of money available as a refundable credit will rise, and the income levels at which the credit previously phased out will increase substantially.

For the past 75 years, alimony has been deductible to the payor to the extent that it is countable as gross income to the payee. However, the new tax law repeals the alimony deduction and the spouse receiving the alimony no longer is required to pay taxes on it. Some experts foresee this change as detrimental to an efficient and affordable resolution to many divorces. The concern is that the lack of a deduction for alimony will result in less money for the family in general, and, in particular, the spouse in need of support, which could make reaching a settlement in some cases more difficult. However, this provision of the tax law does not take effect immediately; the repeal of the alimony deduction will only affect divorces finalized after December 31, 2018. This change also may necessitate changes to provisions of existing prenuptial agreements, which assumed the existence of the tax deduction.

These are only a few examples of how taxes substantially impact divorce proceedings, as well as how the new tax law may result in changes to certain aspects of divorces. Taxes are only one aspect of the financial matters involved in New Jersey divorce cases. We know how difficult, complicated, and emotionally draining divorce cases can be. Contact Argentino Family Law & Child Advocacy, LLC, today and we will show you how we can help with your New Jersey divorce case. Our attorneys focus their practice primarily on family law and issues related to children, so we are sure to have the skills that you need for proper representation in your divorce case. We are here to answer your questions, settle your concerns, and assist you through the often difficult process of contested divorce and family law cases.