Articles Posted in Jurisdiction

In 2014, the New Jersey divorce statute, NJSA 2A: 34-23 as it pertains to the issue of spousal support or alimony was substantially modified. One such modification dealt with the vexing question of what the duration or term of the obligation to pay alimony should be. While a prior amendment to the statute had afforded courts the ability to award “limited duration” alimony, the lack of specific standards of under what circumstances this would apply, or for how long, versus an awarding of “permanent” alimony, led to divergent interpretations and applications by the courts. The Legislature sought to bring clarification to this issue when it included the following language to NJSA 2A: 34-23(c):pexels-rodnae-productions-6670068-229x300

“For any marriage or civil union less than 20 years in duration, the total duration of alimony shall not, except in exceptional circumstances, exceed the length of the marriage or civil union.”

Hence, for a marriage of over 20 years, the duration of a possible alimony award was left “open”, and subject to the discretion of the trial court, applying the statutory factors and other legal principles to the facts and circumstances of a given case. Hence the development of what has been come to be known as “open duration alimony” for marriages in excess of 20 years.

I recently argued a case via Zoom in the appellate division that could have far-reaching implications in this new pandemic world. The issue dealt with an agreement that resolved marital rights in divorce entered into while the parties were happily married. We know that prior to getting married, engaged couples can enter into a prenuptial agreement resolving certain marital issues. The ability for couples to enter into such an agreement has existed since 1988 when it was codified into a Uniform Statutory Law.

Divorcing couples must face and resolve a myriad of issues involving support, property distributions, and, where applicable, the care and custody of children. What ability then do parties have after they are married to contract for and away marital rights and obligations? Before yesterday the law was pretty clear. Mid-Marriage agreements were suspect. Two separate courts have found these types of Mid-Marriage agreements are inherently coercive and as such held that they needed to be seriously scrutinized. Since happily married people are not adverse to each other as they are when they are divorcing and, unlike people contemplating marriage, have already committed to the marriage, it was generally held that the courts needed to examine such mid-marriage agreements to determine if they are fair and fairly entered into. The burden to overcome the presumption of compulsion by circumstance was, these cases opined, monumental. The maxim that to obtain equity one must do equity, rings loudly when questioning such agreements.

In my recent appeal, my adversary argued that the Mid-Marriage agreement should be governed by simple contract law. A deal is a deal he would argue. The protections of those two cases where divorce is threatened should not apply to happily married people. These people, he argued, should be free to contract without restriction. In fact, he argued the dominant financial spouse had no duty of fair dealing or full disclosure. If the subservient spouse did not ask the right questions or seek more information, that person is an adult and should suffer the consequences of the bad deal they chose to make. Spouses should be free Mid-Marriage to give away their rights so long as they have a lawyer, even if that lawyer was hand-selected by the dominant spouse.

Earlier this month, a March, 2017 written opinion by family court judge the Honorable Russell J. Passomano, J.S.C. was approved for publication in the matter of BG-v-LH (FM-07-468-13).   In this published opinion the court addressed issues of296050aba1c021ff4a7e4cab0ed498d2-1-300x200 jurisdiction in a custody and parenting time dispute where one party had relocated with the children out of the state of New Jersey, but the parties had reached an agreement as part of their divorce that future custody disputes would be decided under New Jersey law and in New Jersey courts.  This case contains a detailed analysis that a family court undergoes to resolve jurisdiction issues and the application of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act. Continue reading ›

This week the Honorable Stephen Hansbury, P.J. Ch. published a Superior Court opinion that demonstrates how technology and social media is changing the legal landscape and creating new challenges and solutions.   In the published opinion in KA v. JL, in which Judge Hansbury addressed a cause of action that occurred based on a defendant’s use of social media, whether a New Jersey court can obtain personal jurisdiction over an out of state litigant over his use of social media, and whether pleadings may be served via social media. Continue reading ›

SlashI was recently perusing a periodical and came across a story about a celebrity musician who was claiming he was never married to his wife of 15 years because of a known snafu in her earlier divorce paperwork. The headline stated “Slash claims he was never married to wife of 15 years”. (http://www.metro.us/entertainment/slash-claims-he-was-never-married-to-wife-of-15-years/zsJpjE—wsgif5AIi7dW6/). For those of you who don’t know, Slash, who’s legal name Saul Hudson (which better calls to mind the fictional character Saul Goodman of “Breaking Bad” and “Better Call Saul”),  is the prolific lead guitarist of the recently reformed rock group Guns N’ Roses.  Continue reading ›

The Presidential election is about a month away, and one of the major issues of this election has been immigration.   Immigration is regulated under federal law, chiefly under the Immigration and

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Nationality Act (INA), enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1952, and the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1986 in an effort to curb illegal immigration.   The U.S. Supreme Court has has almost universally overruled any state’s efforts to regulate immigration, not only based upon the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, but also to ensure a national standard on immigration rather than various patchwork laws by the individual states.  Family law, however, is an area that falls into the control of the individual state’s authority to legislate and govern. Continue reading ›

Earlier this month, the New Jersey Appellate Division took up the issue of whether or not a litigant living as a fugitive outside the United States has standing to challenge a default judgment entered by the trial relating to custody and support. The case of Yvietta Matison v. Mark Lisantary, involved an appeal by the father from the trial court’s June 20, 2014 order denying his motion to vacate a May 1, 2013 default judgment, which awarded the mother palimony and custody of the couple’s twin children, who were born in 2004. The court based its ruling on the facts submitted by the mother because the father did not participate in the litigation. According to the mother, “Before she came to the United States in March 2006, the father purchased a home valued at approximately $1.9 million in Franklin Lakes and paid for substantial renovations to the home. He also provided a nanny, interior decorator and secretary. During this time, [ the father] returned to Europe to conduct business and [the mothejudger] remained in the Franklin Lakes home with the children and the nanny. He subsequently sold the property, and plaintiff and the children moved to Tenafly where the children were enrolled in private school. [The father] continued to provide support to plaintiff from abroad. Continue reading ›

The first Tuesday of every November serves as Election Day in New Jersey and across the United States.  Immigration, both legal and illegal, continues to be controversial issue in current elections.  On Election Day Eve, November 2, 2015, the New Jersey Appellate Division published their Opinion in OYPC v. JCP, — N.J.Super. — (App. Div. 2015), addressing the issues of immigration and custody.  In the case, an older sibling petitioned the court to gain custody of her eighteen year old brother.  Her brother was born in Guatemala, where the father’s name was not listed on the boy’s birth certificate, nor was the father involved in the boy’s life.  The boy’s biological mother (JCP) never disclosed to the child that he was his mother.  Rather, after the boy was born, JCP turned the boy over to his 17 year old sister (OYPC) to be raised as her own child, and JCP pretended to be the boy’s grandmother.  The sister (OYPC) cared for both the boy and her mother (JCP), and OYPC also supported the family. Continue reading ›

Approximately one year ago, my colleague wrote a blog post raising awareness and spreading concern about how the communications and content found on one’s social media could potentially be used against them in a variety of ways in Court.  It is no big surprise that with the explosion of social media and the countless ways individuals can communicate in an ever evolving world of technology that those communications are being monitored for potential use in litigation. Continue reading ›

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a recent published decision from the Appellate Division, L.T. v. F.M., the Court differentiated between the standards of proof associated with an domestic violence action in the Family Part and a civil action in the Law Division.  The primary issue presented and resolved in this decision was the issue of whether the defendant was collaterally estopped from arguing in the Law Division action that he did not assault the plaintiff after the plaintiff successfully obtained a Final Restraining Order in the domestic violence action in the family court.  Continue reading ›