Articles Posted in Marriage

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For attorneys and litigants alike, the legal fees attendant to the handling of a divorce matter are an important consideration. When it comes to legal fees, time is money. Because our Rules of Court prohibit the handling of divorce cases on a contingent fee basis, legal services are billed based upon the actual time spent working on the case at an hourly rate and charged against an initial retainer amount to be paid by the client. When prospective client asks how much in legal fees the divorce will cost, I explain that there are too many variables to give a precise estimate, including the number and complexity of the issues involved, the level to which those issues are contested, the reasonableness of the other spouse and/or attorney in regards to their positions, cooperation and/or course of conduct during the process, and the extent litigation or court involvement is needed to resolve those issues. Several years ago I wrote a blog post suggesting five ways a client might be able to reduce their legal fees in a divorce. However, prospective clients sometimes ask how we come up with the initial retainer fee amount requested to commence their representation in a given case. Candidly, I have found that there is no set formula or uniform approach upon which a given attorney or law firm will quote an initial retainer amount to a prospective client, and that is true with this firm. However, as with the overall legal fees that might be incurred in a given case, I explain that there are a number of variables which bear upon the amount of an initial retainer. This blog post will address some of them.checkbook-register-300x200

First, it is important to discuss what an initial retainer is not. From the outset a prospective client must not be given the impression that the amount of an initial retainer represents the actual or full amount of legal fees their case will cost. If fee disputes arise, this is often a common refrain clients make. At the outset, the attorney must make clear to the client that the amount being requested for an initial retainer is just a baseline amount to commence representation in the matter, an amount sufficient to cover a core level of anticipated legal services based upon the attorney or firm’s hourly rates. The client must understand that the total legal fees may likely be more, depending upon the variables noted above and the facts and circumstances of their case. That should be reflected in writing, preferably in the Retainer Agreement itself to be entered into between the attorney and client as mandated by Rule 5:3-5(a). Nor should a retainer amount be driven by an emotional reaction to a client or his/her circumstances. Both the attorney and client must recognize that they are still entering into a professional business relationship, and the financial terms of that relationship should be determined accordingly.

Again, what goes into setting a retainer fee varies from attorney to attorney or firm to firm. Some attorneys have established fixed retainer amounts for given types of cases and stick to those amounts – a retainer to handle a divorce is such and such. Some may have established fixed retainer amounts depending upon whether certain issues are involved. Obviously, the amount of a retainer fee will also depend upon the hourly rates of the attorney(s) handling the matter – the higher the hourly rates, the larger the retainer necessary to cover a baseline amount of legal services. For some attorneys, the retainer fee may simply be a multiple of their hourly rates times a baseline number of hours. The number of hours may reflect an attorney’s estimate of the minimum amount of legal services a case may take if everything – and I mean everything – went perfectly.

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Summer is upon us. Summer brings with it holidays, family time, holiday preparations and expectations, and some stress brought on by kids being home for the summer.  The reality is thatcohdrankntmbstn7-300x256 families that have problems often argue and fight at holiday time. The summer is unkind to rocky relationships.    Continue reading

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This is another of a series of blog posts in which I will be highlighting some of the more commonly asked questions of divorcing clients as to whether they can or can’t do certain things in regards to aspects of their financial or personal affairs. Once again, the thoughts expressed in this blog post should not be construed as being in the nature of legal advice, but merely serves as an overview of things to consider if you are a client asking these questions or a lawyer confronted with how to respond to them. Now let’s get to my next two commonly asked questions. Continue reading

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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

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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. Continue reading

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Although I can recall having heard about similar stories in the past, a recent news story caught my eye in which a Lakewood, New Jersey couple had been sentenced in a plot to extort a divorce. They, along with others, were accused of involvement in a scheme involving the kidnap and/or assault of husbands in an effort to force them to agree to give their wives a Jewish divorce, or Get. Although in our practice, we deal with “civil” as opposed to “religious” divorces, the inter-relationship of the two occasionally comes up. The subject of this blog post is to briefly address how the family courts of this State have dealt with these sorts of issues, and some practical considerations of how to deal with them so as to avoid the extreme situation noted above. Continue reading

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During a custody dispute over children, if the parties cannot reach an agreement between themselves as to the custody and parenting time arrangement that serves the best interest of the child(ren) at issue, the Court will then be called upon to make that determination for them. The Court is required to make findings as to , and will apply the 15 statutory factors of N.J.S.A. 2A:9:2-4, among which are factors that include the “fitness of the parents”, the “parents’ ability to agree, community and cooperate in matters relating to the child”, the “needs of the child”, and the “stability of the home environment offered”.   Continue reading

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The media remains abuzz on reports that the website, Ashley Madison, was the target of cyberhacking. For those who may not be aware, Ashley Madison is known as the leading website for persons looking to have an affair. It’s slogan is: “Life is short. Have an affair”. Continue reading

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One hundred and fifty two years ago, over the course of July 1-3rd 1863, the armies of the Union and Confederacy met in the sleepy town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and engaged in the largest military battle ever fought on the United States soil.  The Union’s victory at the Battle of Gettysburg and General Robert E. Lee’s retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia back south, under cover darkness on the evening of July 4, 1863 is often referred to as the turning point of the Civil War and the beginning of the end for the Confederate States of America.   Continue reading

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In a landmark decision issued today in the matter of Obergefell v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et. al., the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a 5-4 decision, that states must (a) no longer prohibit same-sex couples from marrying, and (b) must recognize same-sex marriages validly entered into.  Continue reading