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Frequently Asked Questions



Do your research. Ask around. You probably know someone who has gone through a divorce or had to hire a lawyer for some other type of family law matter, such as enforcement of a court order relating to child support, custody, alimony, or distribution of assets. Call or e-mail an attorney's office and make an appointment. You should meet with the lawyer face to face before hiring him or her. All litigation is stressful; matrimonial litigation can be more stressful than other types of litigation. You want to know that the attorney is experienced in family law. You want to know if you can work with the lawyer you hire. You need to feel that the lawyer and you are a good fit. I will be pleased to give you a free consultation to help you in this difficult process.

Wrong. One lawyer cannot represent both the husband and the wife in divorce litigation.

Mediation is an alternative to litigation. You and your spouse can hire a mediator to help you resolve your issues and work out a settlement agreement, which can become incorporated into a divorce judgment. The mediator, even if a lawyer, is not either party's lawyer. The mediator cannot represent either of you or testify on your behalf. However, you can each consult with an attorney or hire your own attorney during the mediation process. The cost of mediation is usually far less than litigation, and the pace of mediation is directed by you. You both need to agree on the choice of mediator, so it's a good idea for both of you to meet with the mediator before you hire the mediator.

Family law lawyers bill by the hour, usually in increments of tenths of an hour. A lawyer who tells you that divorce won't cost very much, or guarantees you a fixed price for divorce litigation, is not being truthful. Matrimonial lawyers take a retainer, which is like a down payment or a deposit on the work they are going to do for you. The retainer buys you a number of hours at the lawyer's hourly rate. It can also go toward paying certain costs, such as filing fees and service fees. The average hourly rate for family law lawyers in Sussex County ranges from $275 to $375 or higher. If your divorce matter concludes before your retainer is used up, you are entitled to get the unused retainer amount back.

What your friend pays in alimony is specific to his or her case. There are legal factors that are considered before an alimony amount can be established. Some of these factors include how long you are married, the difference in your and your spouse's incomes, child raising, health issues in the family, the standard of living during the marriage, just to name a few. Your friend's alimony amount is likely based on totally different data than what your alimony will be based on.

Yes, with very few exceptions. If your child is 18 and fits the definition of emancipation according to New Jersey law, then you do not have to pay child support for an 18 year old. However, most children are not considered emancipated at age 18, because they are still in high school, or they are attending college or a post-high school training program. Under New Jersey law, children are generally considered emancipated when they graduate college or stop going to college, or when they marry, or when they enter the military.

Child support is calculated using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, except in extreme income cases. Courts and family law lawyers use software that calculates child support according to the Guidelines. Data, including each parent's income, alimony if any, the number of children and their ages, the number of overnights each parent has with the children, and other factors are considered. I cannot tell you what amount of child support you should get until I know certain numbers, and until I input those numbers into the child support program on my computer.

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. That means divorcing couples must divide their assets and debts fairly. What is fair is based on the particular facts of your case. As a general rule, the husband and wife will equally divide their assets and debts, depending on certain factors. Hopefully, with the help of your lawyers or your mediator, you and your spouse will be able to reach a settlement as to the division of your assets and debts, as well as your issues of custody and support. It is important to know that nobody "wins" in divorce. A good divorce settlement agreement is one in which both sides, even if neither loves the agreement, are able to live with and abide by the terms of the agreement.

If, after extensive negotiations, and after you have gone through all the "hoops" that the court makes you go through in an effort to help you settle your case, you cannot come to an agreement, the court will schedule your matter for trial. If your case goes to trial, a judge, rather than you and your spouse, will determine the outcome of your divorce. Statistically, a very small percentage of divorce cases end up being tried. The vast majority of divorcing couples will have an uncontested divorce hearing. That means that they will have reached a settlement, and they will go before a judge to finalize their matter. The judge will grant the divorce and sign the Judgment of Divorce.

That depends on how quickly all of your issues, including custody, parenting time, alimony, and equitable distribution can be resolved. During the course of your divorce litigation, the court sets certain deadlines, such as when pleadings must be filed, when financial information must be disclosed, and when values of assets must be determined. A divorce that happens within six months from the filing of the Complaint is considered a "fast" divorce. Your goal and your lawyer's goal should be to settle your matter efficiently and fairly.
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