Family Law General Overview
Our Family Law Practice Group attorneys understand the delicate nature of Family Law matters and offer a unique combination of experience in business litigation, trust and estate planning, taxation, business valuation, trial practice and alternative dispute resolution, along with a depth of knowledge in family law. It is these years of experience in diverse areas that allow the Group to assist clients with a myriad of issues that arise during the course of their family law disputes. Our Family Law attorneys are highly skilled negotiators and litigators who provide clients with experienced counsel and guidance to assist them through difficult issues such as dissolution of the marriage, distribution of property, support and maintenance, tax and estate planning and child relocation and custody. If our clients need or desire pre or post-marital planning, our Family Law team can provide advice and assistance by structuring marital agreements that help to protect the client's interests in the unfortunate event of divorce or separation.
While we have experience working with a wide variety of families, we recognize that each family law matter is unique. Some divorces can be settled simply and amicably. Others may require a trial to resolve disputes. Divorce is often difficult for all involved, so we feel that our role is to help our clients through the process and offer legal solutions to secure their interests into the future.
Breadth of Practice
We assist our clients in determining their goals and objectives and then, with sensitivity and confidentiality, formulate and implement a strategy to make them real. The Brach Eichler Family Law attorneys work with a select group of clients and are prepared to handle virtually any issue in this rapidly changing field. Our intention is to help our clients conclude their divorce with a fair and equitable settlement that allows them to move forward in a positive way with their life. If trial is necessary, an experienced group of trial attorneys represent our clients aggressively through trial, and appeal if needed.
Our goal is to find solutions to the problems that you are facing. We are experienced in handling the complicated and sophisticated financial aspects of the divorce, while acknowledging the personal and emotional issues with which you are dealing. We do it all with creativity, flexibility and a strict attention to detail. Our goal is to support and guide you through the process of divorce with a strategy that minimizes the impact on your family, while sensibly managing costs and protecting your legal rights throughout completion of the case. If post-judgment matters arise, we welcome the opportunity to further serve you by aggressively taking steps to enforce your former spouse's obligations and to protect your rights under any judgment or settlement that has been achieved on your behalf.
We know there are many talented family lawyers in New Jersey available to you. We feel we bring something different to the process, taking a more personal, cost-conscious, but business-like approach to family law because of the range of other work we do. Because we know that there is life after divorce, we want to be your lawyer for the future, by offering a range of other services that may be of assistance to you going forward, including real estate services and estate and tax planning (including structuring insurance trusts and other sophisticated estate planning programs to protect your family), along with any other corporate or business advice you might require.
- Pre-Marital Planning (marital agreements)
- Dissolution of Marriage
- Child Support
- Equitable Distribution of Assets
- Post-Judgment Modification and Enforcement
In nearly all marriages one of the major topics of discussion surrounds the perceptions and misconceptions of alimony and spousal support. Alimony is a statutory construct designed to provide former spouses with sufficient income to maintain the marital lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage after their marriage has ended. While parties often are able to amicably resolve this amount, if they are unable, New Jersey law provides that the amount of alimony is a discretionary calculation performed by the court and governed by the statutory factors outlined under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. While the caselaw interpreting this statute provides that no single factor is given more or less weight than the other, in our experience, trial courts tend to focus their analysis on the length of the marriage, the actual need of the supported spouse and the supporting spouse’s ability to pay.
In all cases, the parties are confronted with addressing the four types of alimony currently recognized in New Jersey: permanent, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement. When calculating an alimony award, the trial court must first analyze whether permanent alimony is appropriate. If permanent alimony is not appropriate based on the facts of the case, a court may award any of three other forms of alimony. Limited duration alimony serves the purpose of providing temporary support to a spouse who contributed to a relatively short-term marriage and has the skills and education necessary to return to work. Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide the supported spouse with access to education and training to improve their earning ability and return to the workforce. Reimbursement alimony was created to compensate a spouse who had financially contributed to the other’s success, such as contributing toward the cost of education.
The decision regarding the form and duration of alimony is extremely fact sensitive and will vary from case to case. Since the amount and duration of alimony is so fact sensitive, it requires a careful analysis of the factors specific to the particular case and the experience and skill necessary to present these factors to the Court to obtain the best result possible. Our team of attorneys is highly skilled in this area and our wealth of both family law and litigation experience can assist the client in positioning their matter before the court or in settlement discussions to obtain the best possible outcome.
In all cases where children are born of a relationship, child support will ultimately need to be resolved. Child support is for the benefit of the child alone and belongs to the child. Generally, child support is calculated using the Child Support Guidelines; a formula that calculates the child support award based on income of the parties and parenting time with the children. However, the parties may agree or a judge may order a deviation from the guidelines. A common reason to deviate from the guidelines is if the parties combined income is over $187,200 per year.
The duty to pay child support continues until the child is emancipated. In New Jersey, a child is not automatically emancipated at age 18, however there is a presumption which may be rebutted. For example, a child over the age of 18 who is attending school full time might not be emancipated. Other factors affecting child support may be special needs of the children, circumstances unique to a particular child or family, and the educational needs of the children. Child support impacts both the parents and the children and given that courts have wide latitude in awarding child support it is important to have skilled practitioners that can navigate you through these waters. Our family law department prides itself on working closely with the client to assess the needs of the children and provide the necessary advice and counseling to the client to make the best judgments possible concerning child support and the needs of the children.
There are two types of custody, legal and physical. The party (or parties) with legal custody make major decisions regarding the welfare of the child while the party with physical custody makes the minor day-to-day decisions. Physical custody can sometimes be referred to as the parent serving in the role of parent of primary residence, with the other as parent of alternative residence, although this is always evolving. Frequently legal custody is shared between two parents.
If there is a dispute over custody a court will look at what is in the best interest of the child as well as the factors enumerated under N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c). Often custody disputes require a plenary hearing and may necessitate an interview of the child and an expert to evaluate what is in the child’s best interest. This process can become complicated and costly if not handled correctly from the outset. Our matrimonial attorneys are qualified to handle matters involving custody of the children and have built relationships with experts in this area and understand the complex and difficult issues that can arise in a child custody case.
New Jersey is not a community property state, but rather a statutory equitable distribution state. This means that the Court is charged with dividing marital assets (and debts) and distributing those assets (or debts) in an equitable fashion in compliance with statutory requirements. As part of this division, the Court will view the marriage as an enterprise or partnership. To that end, the Court will identify those assets (or debts) acquired during the marriage and divide the marital assets (or debts) equitably between the parties. However, in order to properly divide marital assets (or debts), Courts are required to identify those assets that are exempt from equitable distribution, like assets acquired prior to the marriage, inherited assets and gifts from third parties to one spouse.
A court then has the power to distribute ownership of the non-exempt assets. The distribution may not necessarily be in-kind and the court has the power to award installment payments if necessary to equitably divide assets. It is important to note that while the obligation to pay alimony is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, a debt owed for equitable distribution is.
Equitable distribution requires dividing all assets, from the marital home to retirement accounts and should be done after thorough discovery. Our team of family law attorneys has experience and ingenuity drafting agreements and motions regarding the distribution of assets.
Brach Eichler’s attorneys are capable of negotiating and preparing complex premarital agreements. Generally, premarital agreements are negotiated between parties prior to marriage and are designed to define the parties’ rights to spousal support and division of assets in the unlikely event the marriage ends in divorce. It allows individuals to determine how to distribute resources instead of the court. Premarital agreements are especially important when parties have significant premarital assets, including ownership in a business or interest in a partnership, or complex financial resources. The agreement can determine the outcome of various issues including how to distribute property, whether or not one spouse will receive alimony, and how debt will be divided between the parties upon divorce.
Based on a recent amendment to the New Jersey Premarital Agreement Statute, agreements will be upheld unless they were induced through coercion or were unconscionable at the time they were written, not at the time of enforcement. Courts have yet to interpret the new Statute, and therefore parties must ensure their premarital agreement is drafted correctly to ensure it will be upheld if ever scrutinized by a court. Our firm has experience drafting premarital agreements as wells as defending or attacking the agreement during a divorce. The combined knowledge of our family law department with our firm’s expertise in health law, tax, and real estate gives us the skills to strategically and creatively review any issues in connection with a premarital agreement.
Ownership of a business or partnership may be one of the largest assets in any marriage and the disposition of the asset upon divorce must be handled very carefully. Even if only one spouse worked for the business the other spouse may have an equitable interest in any value accumulated during the marriage.
To determine whether the non-owner spouse holds any equitable interest in a business a court would look at how the non-owner spouse contributed to the growth of the business during the marriage. Contributions do not require working for the business, but can include staying at home and caring for the children, allowing the other spouse to work longer hours.
The court will need a valuation of the business, unless the parties agree to stipulate to the business’s value. A business valuation requires the use of an expert who will need access to the financial records of the business. Brach Eichler has experience working with financial experts and managing the complex review of financial and business documents. Our clients receive expert advice from not only our family law department but attorneys specializing in business transactions and operating agreements. Our team of attorneys understands the strategy that is necessary to work towards an equitable award for our clients.
Brach Eichler exists as one of the leading law firms in the State of New Jersey providing legal counsel and advice to physicians and health care providers assisting them with a myriad of business, statutory and regulatory issues confronting them on a daily basis. The firm’s matrimonial attorneys, which are also litigators and represent the firm’s health care clients, are in the unique position of being able to represent physicians and health care professionals in their business and legal matters, but also in their divorce, post judgment or custody case when life takes an unexpected turn. The firm’s lawyers routinely assist and advise physicians contemplating marriage with premarital or prenuptial agreements that can protect assets and can also assist with structuring business entities to minimize the impact that divorce may have on the valuation and distribution of these assets during dissolution of the marriage. With issues of business valuation or when the medical practice is implicated in a member or shareholder’s divorce, there are a number of issues that can arise, which need to be carefully and skillfully managed requiring special expertise. Cases involving divorce or child custody can be contentious or public, putting the reputation of the physician or the practice at risk, creating a unique aspect to family matters when physicians or health care providers are involved.
We believe that Brach Eichler is one of the few firms that offer to physician clients the combination of a depth of experience in both health care and family law, supported by an experienced tax and estates group that can navigate the physician or the physician’s practice, surgical center, or heath care organization through the myriad of issues that can arise during a divorce or post-judgment matter.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) is an umbrella term describing various techniques parties may use to resolve disputes outside the court system. It can be beneficial for various reasons including lowering costs, quicker resolutions, more flexibility, and involvement by the parties. The use of ADR has become more popular in family law, but will not work in every case, for example the parties cannot attend mediation if there is an active restraining order in the case.
Parties can choose to mediate or arbitrate their case before or during their divorce action. Arbitration is similar to litigation in that the decisions are made by a neutral third party. In mediation, the parties must reach an agreement on issues.
In every contested divorce case the parties are ordered to attend the Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (“MESP”) where a panel of experienced attorneys reviews the facts of the case and offer resolutions that the parties may choose to accept. At Brach Eichler, our attorneys have experience in all forms of ADR, including serving as MESP panelists in Essex County.
Carl Soranno was Interviewed on Q104.3 with Shelli Sonstein on What Changes to Expect in New Jersey Family Law This Year
Family Law Alert - October 2016: NJ Court Determines That The 2014 Amendment To New Jersey's Alimony Statute May Be Applied Retroactively To Reduce Alimony Following Loss Or Change In Employment
October 12, 2016
Family Law Alert - March 2016: New Guidance on Parents' Duty to Contribute Toward Child's Car Insurance
March 10, 2016
Family Law Alert - February 2016: Over The River And Through The Woods, To A 'Complex Litigation Track' We Go
February 22, 2016
Family Law Alert - February 2016: Does a Change in Minimum Wage Equate to a Change in Circumstances?
February 9, 2016
February 8, 2016