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On September 20, 2016, the Internet was buzzing with reports of Angelina Jolie-Pitt filing for divorce from her long time partner of twelve years and husband of two years, Brad Pitt. The demise ofJoliePitt Angelina Jolie-Pitt’s and Brad Pitt’s two year marriage raises questions about the division of their assets in divorce. “The couple have six children together–and more than half a billion dollars worth in cumulative earnings,” according to Forbes.com. “Since their marriage in 2014, the duo have earned a combined $117.5 million before taxes and fees, per Forbes’ estimates. Pitt made the bulk of that cash, with some $76.5 million banked–nearly double Angelina’s take home in that period.” The pair have been together since 2004. During that time Brad Pitt earned an estimated $315.5 million pretax, according to  Forbes.

Jolie and Pitt’s relationship began in 2004, a decade before their marriage in 2014. At the time, Jolie had an adopted son, Maddox and, while dating Pitt, she adopted a daughter, Zahara. Pitt later legally adopted Maddox and Zahara. In May 2006, Jolie and Pitt had their first child together, daughter Shiloh. In 2007, they adopted a son, Pax. In 2008, twins Knox and Vivienne were born. Seven years and six children later, Pitt proposed in 2012, and they were married in 2014.

Given that the parties were in a relationship for twelve years but married for two years, the question becomes what will happen with their estate in the divorce? This is not an unusual circumstance. Many couples are now living in a relationship akin to marriage for many years prior to marrying. While it is unknown if they have a prenuptial or a post-nuptial agreement, in New Jersey, the initial inquiry when addressing property division in a divorce is on the classification of property as marital or premarital. The court is authorized to distribute equitably “. . . the property, both real and personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by them (the spouses) or either of them during the marriage. However, all such property, real, personal or otherwise, legally or beneficially acquired during the marriage or civil union by either party by way of gift, devise, or intestate succession shall not be subject to equitable distribution, except that inter-spousal gifts or gifts between partners in a civil union couple shall be subject to equitable distribution. N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-23(h). In the case of the Jolie/Pitts, this means that only property acquired during their two year marriage, not their entire twelve year relationship, would be subject to equitable distribution pursuant to N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-23(h).

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In the preface to Benjamin Franklin’s famous 1758 almanac he proclaimed: “A penny saved is a penny got.” In the parlance of our times, the quote has been more commonly used to stand for “a penny saved is a penny earned.” Whether or not Benjamin Franklin, a learned economist, meant that a penny saved, as opposed to reinvested, was in fact a penny earned is up for debate. On September 12, 2016, in the case of Lombardi-v-Lombardi, the New Jersey Appellate Division addressed the issue of how alimony should be calculated in a divorce case when the parties during the marriage historically saved money.

The case involved litigants whose annual income was approximately one million dollars.  At trial it was shown that the parties’ monthly budget was approximately $17,000 in monthly spending. On top of their monthly spending, the litigants saved an additional $60,000 per month.  After a lengthy trial, the trial court issued a decision awarding the Wife alimony that met the monthly spending budget but which failed to factor in any savings element into its alimony calculation. At trial, the Wife sought half the savings component to be given to her as part of her alimony award.  The trial court reasoned that while savings is a component of support, it is only a component to insure the risk of alimony in the future. The trial court, given the extent  of the equitable distribution award to the Wife in this case, did not view that the Wife was at financial risk.

The Wife appealed and Appellate Division reversed the decision of the trial court,  noting that although saving for a future is one of the ways that the savingfile000704919536s component is realized, the savings component can also be used as a buffer for disaster, future acquisitions and other unforeseen circumstances. The Appellate Division by no means concluded that savings is an absolute right; the concept of savings in this case was fact based. The marital budget in this case was just a small fraction of the litigants’ earnings.

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It is hard to believe that the end of summer is fast approaching. Whether you consider the beginning of summer to be Memorial Day weekend or the 4th of July, it still seems like it was only yesterday. How time flies. Besides shorter days, cooler nights, school commencing, and packing away the swim suits, the end of summer ushers in another tradition which members of the legal community can look forward to – the Amendments to the New Jersey Court Rules. Gavel & bookOnce again, the New Jersey Supreme Court has adopted various amendments to the Court Rules effective September 1, 2016. Besides certain Rules involving juvenile proceedings, there were no Part V amendments adopted this cycle specifically relating to the practice of Family Law. However, there are a number of amendments to the Court Rules of more general application which may well impact, directly or indirectly, the handling of Family Law cases, and which I would like to briefly summarize in this blog post.

In a litigated family law case, the Rules of Court allow a party to compel the third-party witness to appear and give testimony and to produce documents and records whether for discovery purposes pursuant to R. 4:14-7 or at trial pursuant to R. 1:9-1 and R. 1:9-2. In either instance, the attendance of such witness is compelled by way of subpoena issued and served as prescribed by R. 1:9 et seq. Generally, R. 1:9-3 required that service of a subpoena had to be made by delivering a copy directly to the person named. However, an amendment to that Rule has recently been adopted so as to provide:

“A subpoena which seeks only the production of documents or records may be served by registered, certified or ordinary mail and if served in that manner, shall be enforceable only upon receipt of a signed acknowledgment and waiver of personal service.”

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In September 2014, the New Jersey Legislature amended this State’s statute on alimony.   Among thefile0001270953716 changes that the new alimony statute contains was a provision related to retirement.    The addition that the Legislature made to the alimony statute to include a provision for alimony is lengthy.  N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(j) now provides that alimony may be modified or terminated “upon the prospective or actual retirement of the obligor.”   Continue reading

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IMG_1930On August 9, 2016, the New Jersey Appellate Division Committee on Opinions approved for publication the Trial Court opinion of the Hon. L.R. Jones, J.S.C. in the case of Harrington-v-Harrington, in which the court analyzed the situation divorced families face when one of multiple children is emancipated and the effect that emancipation has on child support due on behalf of the unemancipated children. The Court held: Continue reading

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It is a well settled proposition in New Jersey that the “goal of a proper alimony award is to assist the supported spouse in achieving a lifestyle that is reasonably comparable to the one enjoyed

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while living with the supporting spouse during the marriage.”  Weishaus v. Weishaus, 180 N.J. 131, 140, 849 A.2d 171, 177 (2004); see also Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980); Crews v. Crews, 164 N.J. 11 (2000).

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Periodically I digress in this blog from topics exclusively dealing with Family Law to issues involving the broader world. We are living in a time when history is being made. The world is in turmoil file000652921227from Brexit to Syrian refugees to radical Islam. The world is afire in controversy and the political out-shoot from these primarily manmade disasters. Over the last two weeks we have been presented with the condensed view of both of our political parties related to the current level of world angst and how the other party and their candidate contributed to any calamity, be it global warming to the Arab Spring. The truth is the world we live in is a mess.  I not sure if it has always been such a mess and we did not know it or if the world has digressed.  I firmly believe it is the latter but that belief is non-empirical. Continue reading

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In February, 2015, Chief Justice Rabner convened a Supreme Court Ad Hoc Committee on Domestic_DSC4819 Violence. Whether given that 24 years had passed since the “Prevention of Domestic Violence Act,” (N.J.S.A. 2C:25-17 et. seq.) was enacted, or perhaps even in response to the public backlash and uproar over the handling of the Ray Rice situation and its spotlight directed upon domestic violence laws, the Committee was charged with examining the current system and to conduct an in-depth review of New Jersey’s domestic violence procedures and laws and to make recommendations to strengthen New Jersey’s response to domestic violence. That Committee recently issued a report which contained thirty (30) recommendations. Continue reading

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The Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America, more commonly referred to as “the right to bear arms,” can GunControl_12_2at times conflict with society’s ability to protect other citizens from those same citizens that have taken up their right bear arms. Nowhere is this more evident than in the tragic events that occurred in Dallas, TX this week where five police officers were killed by sniper fire coming from Micah Johnson who was later killed in a standoff with the police. Continue reading

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When contemplating divorce many people fail to consider other causes of action that should be raised in a Complaint for Divorce and risk being barred from making a claim in the future.  In file000799318829addition to asserting one or more of the statutory grounds for divorce, such as irreconcilable differences, a Complaint for Divorce may contain tort claims, including those of marital tort.  A marital tort encompasses various differences for which a complainant may seek monetary damages.  Such torts may include being infected with a sexually transmitted disease by one’s spouse, physical assault and battery, marital rape, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, use of excessive force, defamation, wiretapping, battered women’s syndrome or attempted murder. Continue reading