Entries Tagged as 'divorce'

Divorce and Child College Costs

New Jersey children suing their parents for college costs have been in the news frequently in recent months.  Many parents are unaware of the law in New Jersey which derives from a 1982 NJ Supreme Court case called Newburgh v. Arrigo, 88 N.J. 529 (1982).  The case creates factors a court should look at when determining whether the divorcing parents of a child are responsible for paying for college.  Here are pertinent quotes from the decision regarding the reasoning behind divorcing parents funding college:

In general, emancipation is the act by which a parent relinquishes the right to custody and is relieved of the duty to support a child.

Generally parents are not under a duty to support children after the age of majority. Nonetheless, in appropriate circumstances, the privilege of parenthood carries with it the duty to assure a necessary education for children. Frequently, the issue of that duty arises in the context of a divorce or separation proceeding where a child, after attaining majority, seeks contribution from a non-custodial parent for the cost of a college education. In those cases, courts have treated “necessary education” as a flexible concept that can vary in different circumstances.

In the past, a college education was reserved for the elite, but the vital impulse of egalitarianism has inspired the creation of a wide variety of educational institutions that provide post-secondary education for practically everyone.

Some parents cannot pay, some can pay in part, and still others can pay the entire cost of higher education for their children. In general, financially capable parents should contribute to the higher education of children who are qualified students. In appropriate circumstances, parental responsibility includes the duty to assure children of a college and even of a postgraduate education such as law school.

The case most recently in the news involves Caitlyn Ricci suing her divorced parents to pay for her college expenses.  The court awarded her payment for community college and she now heads to Temple University.  Payments for Temple’s $16,000 costs were not decided by the court.  This case is heartbreaking not only in that a child is suing her parents but that the parents are also at odds with the grandparents who are supporting Caitlyn.  I hope for all involved, they are able to work out their differences.  Life is too short.  Perhaps therapy or family mediation would be helpful to the Riccis.

The other notable recent case was the Canning matter.  Rachel Canning sued her still married parents for college expenses after she moved out of the parent’s house.  The court denied her claim for immediate assistance.  She later reconciled with her parents, dropped her lawsuit and is attending college on scholarship.

These are issues we discuss during a divorce mediation, when appropriate.  If you want to consider using mediation to save time and money during your divorce, please contact me.

Name Change in a Divorce in NJ

New Jersey law allows either spouse in the divorce process to change their name.  N.J.S.A. 2A:34-21 reads in pertinent part:

The court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse … may allow either spouse … to resume any name used by the spouse … before the marriage …, or to assume any surname.

But what happens if a couple is only being granted a divorce from bed and board or a limited divorce?  A trial court recently addressed this issue in a recently published case (Leggio v. Leggio, FM-16-1229-04).  In short, Mrs. Leggio asked for a name change some 10 years after their divorce from bed and board was granted by the court.  The court denied her name change request, not because of the time elapsed (which wasn’t an issue — an earlier case [Olevich v. Olevich, 258 N.J. Super. 344 (Ch. Div. 1992)] indicates no time bar for that kind of request), but because the state does not recognize a divorce from bed and board as a dissolution of a marriage.  In the eyes of NJ, the Leggios are still married.  Mrs. Leggio could go through the more lengthy regular name change process if she wants or convert her divorce to a full divorce.

Contact Marvin Schuldiner at Sanns Mediation if you want to find out more about mediating your divorce.

Power-of-Attorney Restricted in Divorce Cases

A Superior Court Judge in Ocean County ruled that unless a person has been declared incompetent and needs the assistance of a guardian, that person must appear in court for a divorce in person.  In a case of first impression, Judge Lawrence Jones made his ruling in Marisco v. Marisco (FM-15-1152-13-N).  The decision was made a year ago, but was published this week.

The litigants are both octogenarians and wed in 1978.  While they have no children, the husband (defendant) has an adult daughter from a previous marriage.  He appointed her as his Power-of-Attorney-in-Fact, including authority “to institute, prosecute and defend any actions or proceedings brought in any court.”  When the defendant responded to the complaint filed by the plaintiff, his daughter signed the certification as his POA.  Plaintiff objected, which led to this ruling.

The court ruled: Nonetheless, for the foregoing [legal] reasons, there are significant concerns about a party utilizing a POA in a contested divorce. Accordingly, the court denies without prejudice defendant’s request to appear in this proceeding by power of attorney through his adult daughter. [Daughter] is not judicially authorized to sign pleadings, affidavits or certifications, or otherwise testify in writing or verbally on defendant’s behalf. [Daughter] may, however, testify as a witness in her own right on relevant matters within her personal knowledge, if called as a witness by either party.

After the judge issued his ruling, the husband began to personally participate in the divorce process and the parties settled their divorce.

If you want to learn more about mediating your divorce in New Jersey, please contact me.

HT: NJ Law Journal

 

Expectations During a Divorce

One of the biggest causes of anxiety for people considering a divorce is the unknown expectations about the process.  Elinor Robin explains in this Huffington Post article about some expectations to have:

  1. Expect the courts to move in strange ways — it’s not like TV portrays court.
  2. Expect that divorce will take you into uncharted waters where you will need extra support.
  3. Expect to enter a bizarre time warp — not everyone is at the same place at the same time emotionally or with decision making.
  4. Expect to feel like you are at a disadvantage — largely due to the relative speed of movement caused by #3.
  5. Expect change and expect more of the same –
  6. Expect that dislike for your soon-to-be-ex will be difficult to conceal.
  7. Expect a sense of failure (as to the failed relationship and the “wasted” years) and a sense of loss (of clarity, identity, connection and self-control).
  8. Expect that your children will be impacted by your divorce — mediation can help to minimize that.
  9. Expect that you’ll make mistakes — especially parenting and dating mistakes.

If you want to learn more about mediating your divorce, please contact me.

New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Parents

The Huffington Post has a nice article on New Year’s resolutions for divorced parents.  Some are obvious, but not everyone may be thinking about these things.

Happy New Year to all my clients and readers!

 

New York Finally Embraces Irreconcilable Differences

New York state was the last state in the United States not to offer its citizens a no fault cause of action for divorce.  In August 2010, Governor David Paterson signed into law a bill which adds irreconcilable differences as a cause of action.  Property division, alimony, parenting and child support will need to be resolved before one party can swear under oath that the marriage has been irretrievably broken for 6 months.

Still no No-fault Divorce in NY

New York is the only state that does not have a no-fault cause of action for divorce.  A cause of action is what needs to be proven for your divorce action to prevail.  Most states have an irreconcilable differences cause of action, where one side does not have to prove the other side committed some unsavory act such as adultery or cruel treatment.

New York currently has four fault-based grounds for divorce:

  1. Adultery (which is still a criminal offense in the Empire State and hard to prove since you cannot testify against your spouse)
  2. Cruel and inhumane treatment (so as to affect the physical or mental health of the charging party such that it is not safe to remain in the marriage)
  3. Abandonment (one spouse intentionally leaves the other or refuses sexual relations for more than one year)
  4. Incarceration of one spouse for more than 3 years

In addition to these, the parties can agree in a written separation agreement to live apart for one year.  The agreement must contain the terms of the separation and ultimately the divorce.  This is the closest NY comes to no-fault.

Davis v. Davis, a recent NY case stated that mere social abandonment was not sufficient to prove constructive abandonment.  The wife in this case did not plead sexual abandonment.   The appellate court saw the pleadings as nothing more than a way to get around NY’s lack of a no-fault ground for divorce and that the courts would not usurp the legislature’s power to determine law for the people of New York.

Is Hiring a Detective to Spy on Your Spouse Harassment? In NY, no.

The case of Anonymous vs. Anonymous (so captioned by the court to protect the identities of all involved) recently asked and answered this question.  This case involved a wife who filed for divorce in November 2008.  The husband filed a counterclaim, alleging that the wife was having an affair.  In February 2009, the court entered a protective order requiring the husband to keep 1000 feet away from the wife’s residence and place of employment (excepting visitation and church attendance). In August 2009, the husband hired a private detective to spy on his wife.  The detective followed her to a hotel where the detective recorded proof that the wife was having an affair with their priest.  The matter became a little more public when the husband told another priest during a confessional of the affair, causing the church to launch an investigation (during which the DVD was given to church officials).  While the wife did not contest the affair, she asserted she was being harassed and that her husband had violated the protective order by hiring the detective.

Family Court Judge Debra J. Kiedaisch ruled that “under the circumstances, the hiring of the private investigator, in and of itself, was not an unlawful intrusion upon the rights of the wife secured by the order of protection.”  She said that the husband had the right to “gather evidence up to the date of trial in defense of the matrimonial action and in support of his own counterclaims.”

“If the husband had the wife followed and recorded … for the purpose of gathering embarrassing material to deliver to her employer with the intention to cause her to lose her employment,” that might rise to “conduct which alarms or seriously annoys another person, and serves no legitimate purpose” — second-degree harassment under New York law — Kiedaisch wrote.

NJ Supreme Court Allows Arbitration for Parenting Arrangements…with some Caveats

I previously have written about a New Jersey appellate decision in the case of Fawzy vs. Fawzy.  In that case, the appellate panel disallowed the use of binding arbitration to determine parenting arrangement for children in a divorce, arguing that the court can not delegate to others its own parental obligations of making sure things are done in the best interests of the children.  Arbitration is the use of a private judge to determine the outcome of a dispute.  It is optional for the parties.  Parties usually choose to arbitrate a matter because you can engage an “expert” judge who can render a decision far more quickly (and hopefully less expensively) than the court.  The disadvantage is that arbitration decisions are appeal-able only on very narrow grounds.

Last week, the NJ Supreme Court unanimously overturned the appellate panel’s decision, but added several caveats when arbitration is used in a parental setting.  The court held:

  • The constitutionally protected right of parental autonomy includes the right of parents to choose the forum in which to resolve their disputes over child custody and parenting time — including arbitration.
  • An agreement to arbitrate must be in writing or recorded and must establish that the parties are aware of and have knowingly and voluntarily waived their rights to a judicial determination. A record of documentary evidence adduced during the proceedings must be kept; testimony must be recorded; and the arbitrator must issue findings of fact and conclusions of law in respect of the award.
  • The arbitrator’s award is subject to review under the NJ Arbitration Act, except that judicial review is also available if a party establishes that the award threatens harm to the child.
  • Parental autonomy includes the right to submit any family controversy, including child-custody and parenting time issues, to a decision maker of chosen by the parents. The right of parents to make decisions regarding custody, parenting time, health, education, and other child-welfare issues between themselves, without state interference, does not evaporate when a marriage breaks down. It is only when the parents cannot agree that the court becomes the default decision maker. There is no basis to carve out of the right to parental autonomy the decision to submit child-custody and parenting-time matters to arbitration. Just as parents choose to decide those issues among themselves, they may opt to sidestep the judicial process and submit their dispute to an arbitrator whom they have chosen. The right to arbitrate serves an important family value by allowing parents the opportunity to choose an arbitrator based on her familiarity with the family or her understanding of the values that the parents hold dear and have tried to follow in raising their child.
  • A guardian ad litem may not simultaneously or sequentially serve as an arbitrator for the parties.

This ruling gives parents a greater latitude in choices while still protecting the best interests of the children.

Britain Holds its First Divorce Fair

First there are wedding fairs, now ones for divorce.  According to AP News:

Breaking up is hard to do. But lawyers, counselors, astrologists and lifestyle coaches at Britain’s first divorce fair this weekend will aim to make the process easier.

The fair — cheerily named the “Starting Over Show” — takes place Sunday at a cozy hotel in the seaside resort town of Brighton.

Organizer Suzy Miller said the event would aim to focus on the positive, starting with a warming cup of tea and a chunk of homemade cake. Musicians will play live and there will be play areas for kids.

Though Britain has one of the highest divorce rates in Europe, Miller said the Brighton event would be unlike the continent’s first divorce fair in Austria two years ago, which featured private investigators and companies offering paternity tests.

Instead, psychics would offer to heal people’s minds and bodies, and one company suggests boosting finances by selling a healthy version of chocolate, she said. Many of the 30 or so exhibitors, who have paid up to 1,600 pounds ($2,245) for a stall, plan to focus on having fun.

“Sometimes people just need someone to talk to,” said exhibitor Martina Mercer-Hall, who uses astrology and alternative therapies to advise on designing one’s home after divorce.

One exhibitor promises to organize the footwear equivalent of Tupperware parties, selling stilettos instead of food storage tubs. Another plans art appreciation vacations. On a more pragmatic note, the fair offers debt counselors and mediators to help couples navigate divorce without lawyers.

In Britain, 2.6 people of every thousand are divorced, compared with a European average of 1.8, according to EU statistics gathered in 2001. A 2002 report from the Center for Policy Studies think-tank says Britain offers few tax or welfare advantages to being married, and suggests younger people do not view a marriage commitment as seriously.

Divorce lawyers say business is booming, as the country’s recession puts pressure on marriages.

Divorce is a painful experience.  I can’t see how some of these things (bringing your kids?) to this convention will be productive.  At least they will be having mediators.