Articles Posted in Divorce

Although Covid has dramatically affected how the Courts operate day to day divorce cases are still moving forward efficiently. Most matters are proceeding with e-filing of pleadings and motions while appearances are being hosted on Zoom as well as several other internet platforms.

The court buildings are also open to attorneys and litigants specifically involved in a matter on a limited basis. Through a combination of internet and limited physical appearance, matters are

moving through the courts efficiently.

Ahhhh, the Coronavirus pandemic. As I write this blog post, most people are torn between feelings of fatigue and fear. After more than eight months since this pandemic began, most people are understandably weary over the personal, emotional, financial, and societal upheaval that this has caused. To say that this situation has put one’s coping skills to the test would be an understatement. People yearn for a return to some sense of “normalcy”. At the same time, that yearning has been tempered by the predicted “second wave” of this pandemic, with increasing infection rates and the return of lockdowns and restrictions that had been previously eased. At the early stages of this pandemic, I had written a blog post highlighting the significant economic impacts this pandemic was having (i.e. loss of jobs, diminished incomes, reduction in asset values and net worth, increasing debt, etc.) and how all of this was complicating the ability to resolve divorce matters. Between the economic upheaval and the uncertainty over what the future would bring, negotiating settlements was becoming a daunting task.

One of the topics which I had touched upon in my earlier blog post was the extent to which this pandemic might impact a family’s most valuable asset – their home. Prior to the pandemic, the housing market was looking strong. Homes were moving, prices were rising and everyone was looking forward to a robust spring market. However, when the pandemic hit everything, including the housing market, essentially came to a grinding halt. The number of new home listings, as well as mortgage applications, dramatically declined as stay home requirements took hold and the uncertainties made people leery of moving or taking on new financial commitments. While it was too early to tell how this pandemic would impact real estate values, this uncertainty would likely complicate how to approach the disposition of the marital home for purposes of equitable distribution in a divorce.

Jump forward seven months. The pandemic has resulted in a flight of people out of urban areas and choosing to movepexels-pixabay-164522-300x215 to the suburbs or country. Rather than living like sardines in close quarters with other people where the virus could more easily spread, people sought the openness and space. Further, the restrictions and lockdowns evaporated much of the quality of life living in a city would bring. The racial and societal upheaval following the death of George Floyd only exacerbated and reinforced people’s decision to move. The consequence? The housing market throughout much of New Jersey has exploded. Houses are getting snapped up as soon as they hit the market. Bidding wars are prevalent. Home values have risen dramatically. To say that it has become a buyers market would be an understatement. What impact has this had on divorce matters?

Last month I wrote a blog post highlighting many of the practical considerations in trying to negotiate a divorce2-300x200 resolution of a divorce given the dramatic and significant impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The loss of jobs. The reduction of income. The decline in the value of assets. Even more important was the uncertainty of how long this situation would continue. I wrote that blog post during the peak of the crisis. As I write this blog post, things have stabilized somewhat. The curve was flattened and the rate of new infections have declined. SLOWLY some of the restrictions have been relaxed and some businesses are reopening and activities being allowed – with strict guidelines. Optimism remains tempered with trepidation over the extent to which things will return to some level of “normal”. However, most people seem resigned to the reality that things will not be returning to the way things were anytime soon, if at all. Confronted with this uncertainty, and the considerations raised in my earlier blog post, one might conclude now is not the right time to pursue a divorce. I submit this should not be the determiner of one’s decision.

There is no question that the decision to terminate one’s marriage is a major, life-altering one. It is not one to be made rashly, on the spur of the moment, or as an emotional reaction to a given situation. When I meet with a prospective client for the first time, I always inquire as to the reasons why they are considering divorce and the extent they have considered or pursued all reasonable efforts to save their marriage. Hopefully having weighed all these considerations carefully, the decision to divorce remains a highly personal one. It is a purely subjective one. Once counseled as to the legal consequences of that decision, it is one to be respected. One point of caution, however. The pandemic itself should not be the sole reason why someone decides to end the marriage. This situation is as “novel” as the virus itself. To one degree or the other, everyone has been impacted by it – stress, fear, uncertainty – be it emotional, health-wise, or financial. Parties to an otherwise solid marriage should be able to work together to overcome these consequences, or make every effort to do so. It is the marriage that is already on shaky ground that the pandemic and its impact can be the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Once a spouse comes to the decision that the marriage is over and can no longer be saved, the question is whether now is the time to commence the divorce process. I submit that the decision to do so or not should be the same now as before the pandemic arrived.

It goes without saying that the impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been widespread and file2381251825687-238x300devastating. It has been dramatic and sudden. It has reached every corner of the globe. It has affected virtually every institution – political, economic and social. It has touched every community, every family and every person in some way. For those already going through the personal upheaval of divorce, it’s emotional and financial consequences have only served to make a difficult situation even more stressful and complicated. Even though the vast majority of divorce cases will end up being resolved by the parties by way of a negotiated agreement, the pandemic’s impact has clearly had a drastic effect upon the parties’ ability to negotiate a resolution of their cases at this juncture.

Front and center on our website is the quote from Justice Brandeis: “Nothing is settled until it is settled right.” The pandemic has certainly put this to the test. Until six to eight weeks ago, we were in the midst of a period of sustained economic prosperity. Unemployment was at historic lows. Incomes and wages were up. Businesses were flourishing. The stock market and other investments were at record highs. The real estate market had finally rebounded from the impact of the recession years earlier. One of the biggest keys in trying to negotiate a resolution of a divorce case is having some sense of stability in regards to the family’s financial picture now and of its predictability into the future. When it comes to issues of support, a payor spouse’s willingness to commit to an amount to pay is not only tied to what he or she is earning then, but the reliability of these earnings going forward. When it comes to the division of assets, determining what allocation or distribution of same would be fair and equitable depends not only on being able to identify and value those assets at that time, but some level of predictability of what will happen with those assets into the future. Until recently, that task seemed fairly easy. However, the pandemic has swiftly turned this process on its head.

Record employment has turned to record unemployment in a matter of weeks, largely the consequence of the government’s policy to shutdown “non-essential” businesses in an effort to blunt the spread of the virus. Twenty-two million claims were made for unemployment in the past three weeks alone. Even if people didn’t lose their jobs, they may have suffered a reduction in hours or pay. Social distancing and stay home requirements have further curtailed many jobs and other economic activity. Many businesses have been closed or have seen their revenues drastically reduced. To make matters worse, no one has been able to predict with any level of certainty how long the shutdown will last – weeks, months, until there is a vaccine – or even what the impact all of this economic dislocation will have either short-term or long-term. Whenever it is over, will things simply return to the prior “normal” or will a new “normal” come into being? Will people get their old jobs back? Will there even be businesses or jobs to return to? How much will future earnings be impacted? Will the stock and financial markets rebound?

It is a social norm for one to state, “I’m sorry to hear that” in response to the hearing the news of a death or divorce among ones friends of family. While it an appropriate response of condolence 607c2384aeca135114c8f77596786655-300x200when a someone dies, is it always appropriate to state the same when there is a divorce?  Maybe not.  In the words of comedian Louis C. K., “Someday, one of your friends is gonna get divorced, it’s gonna happen, and they’re gonna tell you. Don’t go, ‘ohhhh I’m sorry.’ That’s a stupid thing to say. First of all you’re making ‘em feel bad for being really happy, which isn’t fair. And second of all: divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true, because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. It’s really that simple.” In my opinion, congratulations may be in order in order.

Deciding to divorce can be an extremely difficult decision to make. Without a doubt, your friend or relative likely experienced the highs and lows associated with a divorce. They have definitely felt the societal induced feeling of failure, especially for women.  Divorce is for many people life altering.  Both parties may not have wanted to divorce.  It can be hard to know what to say to someone who has gone through this.  Instead of ignoring the herculean strength it can take to divorce and dismissively stating, “I’m sorry” thereby potentially resurfacing feelings of loss or failure as a result of your most likely in appropriate and well-intentioned apology, perhaps complimenting your friend or relative on their strength and courage is a better approach. As an attorney, I can tell you that divorce is not something one slipped, tripped and fell on by accident. It takes two to tango, and it takes two to divorce.

Life can be better for everyone involved, including the children, in a divorce and no one should be sorry for that. Staying married for the children is not really for the benefit of the children. How can one think that staying in an unhealthy marriage is something that you should do for yourself or model for your children? Researcher Constance Gager of Montclair State University and her colleagues conducted a national survey involving nearly 7,000 couples and their children, focusing on how harmonious their homes were and whether or not they stayed married. https://www.livescience.com/6648-divorce-bad-kids.html The result was that children who had grown up in high conflict families actually faired better in their own adult relationships whent heir parents divorced and allowed the children to escape that household conflict. The survey also revealed that children of happily married parents did not necessarily go on to have happy marriages.

For family law attorneys, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . . fights over holiday parenting time.  The holiday season is often a time of stress, and sometimes of sadness, for everyone.  ForDSC05380-200x300 separating or divorcing parents or newly divorced parents, fighting over how to divide holiday time with their children, there is additional sadness and distress.   Every year as a matrimonial attorney I see the stress on separating couples and their children as they either try to adhere to traditional holiday celebrations for the sake of their  children, or as they try to adjust with their children to the inevitable new traditions that are going to have to be made as parents separate and cannot spend the full holiday season with they traditionally would, but have to share it.  The stress can be additional as grandparents weigh in and wish to spend time with their grandchildren, and when one or both parents begin new relationships that pulls on them or whispers in their ear at holiday time as well.

How can you avoid some of the pitfalls of disputes with your “ex” that can derail the holidays with your children?  Here, are a few tips:

  1.   Consider the stress and worry that you and your ex are putting the children under when you argue about holiday parenting time.   Parents usually want Christmas to be a magical time for the children.   It is not magical when they are aware that their parents are fighting over them.  Also, children often come to feel that they are the cause or the source of what their parents are arguing over.  This can create needless feelings of guilt, worry and unhappiness that can ruin the holidays for them.

A few weeks ago The New York Times published an article about a divorce in the United Kingdom caught my attention.  The article was called  “Divorce on Demand? In the U.K., It’s Not Quite That Simple“.   Does the UK have “divorce on demand”?  What even is divorce “on demand”?   Can spouses in New Jersey get a “divorce on demand”? Continue reading ›

Kate Spade’s recent suicide has been the subject of widespread speculation in the news. How could it be that this attractive and successful icon of fashion would take her own life? After all she soldfile4801310649783-300x249 her business for billions. She was attractive, popular in the media and in the “right” social circles. She had everything to live for including a 13 year old daughter with whom she had a loving relationship. Continue reading ›

If only for a sliver of time, a joyous occasion made everyone in the world forget all of its trials and tribulations. North Korea, Gaza, the Mueller investigation, MS13 – mere distractions. A dividedRoyal-wedding-300x169

nation, a divided world came together as one to witness the Royal Wedding between Price Harry and Meghan Markle to share in the magic, the pageantry, their unbridled love. Questions like whether there was Russian collusion or if Iran has nukes were insignificant when compared to what kind of wedding gown would Meghan be wearing, who was on the guest list, or what color pocketbook would the Queen be carrying. What else would be important enough to get me up at 4am on a Saturday morning? Continue reading ›

During the New Year’s season we often reflect on the blessings we have received over the course of the last year and give thanks. Many of us visit family during this time and if we are fortunate enough our parents. This past week, the Sixth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the United States District Court in the case of Sun Life Assurance Co. v. Jackson that involved the distribution of a deceased father’s life insurance policy proceeds to his daughter even though he failed to change the beneficiary designation to his daughter from his brother. Continue reading ›