What does it Mean? Common Family Law Misconceptions in NJ
There are many terms in family law that people do not understand or understand only partially.
Legal terminology can leave one hearing one thing while thinking another. Let’s take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make when discussing family law.
Prenuptial agreements: Mine, Yours, Ours
You don’t have to be rich or have several businesses to set up an agreement before you are married. A prenup is similar to a will in that if you and your spouse were to split, the division of goods and equity is already taken care of. Some of the items included are retirement benefits, credit card balances and payments, household bills, and regular expenses. When a couple marries for the second time, and they both have children, who and how they will be provided for should be stipulated in a prenup. At the time of a reading of the will, it could get pretty upsetting when the inheritance is not properly stipulated. A prenup deals with financial matters only, so including how to raise the children, which relatives to visit for Christmas, how many pets are allowed in the household, etc., are considered a waste of time.
Annulments: I Do Today, I Don’t Tomorrow
You have been married for 3 months and decide it was a huge mistake. Of course, since you haven’t been married but a quarter of a year, surely you can get an annulment and skip all of the hullabaloo of a divorce. Whether or not you made an honest mistake, were pressured by your family and friends, or were blinded by a vision of your cotton candy future which has now dissipated into thin air, you won’t necessarily get an annulment.
There are 3 criteria for an annulment, and you must meet one of them. The first is an error in the process of getting married by someone who is not legally recognized to do so. If Uncle Charlie says he received his certification to marry and bury on the Pastors Are Us website, you had better check his credentials to be sure if one of the participants was already married or underage. Second, not disclosing critical information such as infertility, gender disclosure (if your partner is unaware of your biological gender), or children born within 10 months of the marriage without the other spouse’s knowledge. Third, outright fraud would include using a false name, emptying accounts, and taking over assets, lying about having children or not.
Permanent Alimony: Not What You Think
In New Jersey, there is no such thing as unchangeable, forever alimony. Permanent alimony refers to an agreement where the majority of the time, one spouse was working during the marriage and giving the other very little chance of obtaining gainful employment due to being out of the workforce or unable to finish advanced studies that would facilitate getting a job to become self-sufficient. With the correct documents, an order of permanent alimony can be altered if changes in the economic status of either spouse change significantly.
Child Support: Overall Care and Well-Being
Parents’ greatest misconceptions are that child support should be used only for the child’s direct needs (clothing, supplies, food, toys, books) when other areas such as housing, transportation, and various other expenses compose the overall care of the recipient child. A child needs consistent, nutritious meals, a safe place to live, reliable transportation, climate-appropriate attire, proper footwear, regular dentist and doctor’s visits, and many other aspects of their care that require household expenditures.
The idea is to maintain an economic level of living similar to that before the divorce. One cannot simply go to court and request that the other parent is obligated to provide an itemized list of how the child support funds are spent from month to month.
Joint Custody: Not Always 50/50
Another popular misconception is that joint custody means a 50/50 share of custody. New Jersey applies different kinds of custody: residential, which identifies with whom the child lives; legal custody, which parent makes the decisions regarding health, education, and religious education of the children; and joint legal custody, where both parents help make the decisions and the children live with or visit both.
When it comes to custody, there is a lot of false information. For example, how much you see your child does not affect your child support payments. Just because they spend an extra 3 or 4 days per month with you does not change the allotted amount of child support. You cannot petition the court to hold the custodial parent in contempt of court if the child does not want to visit or be visited by the other parent. The custodial parent should encourage the child to go to the visits and not interfere with their former spouse’s relationship with the child. Sometimes a meeting with the child, both parents, and a therapist can get the visitations rolling again. As long as the custodial parent is not sabotaging the visits, contempt is off of the table.
Do You Still Have Questions?
Family law is not static. It is a complex system of many components, all of which have their own systems and components. Divorce is hard, and custody, alimony, child support, and others can appear overwhelmingly insurmountable.
At The Montanari Law Group, our goal is to serve you and take the burden of legal complications off of your shoulders.
Let our years of experience be used to your advantage during this onerous period of your life. Call us at (973) 233-4396 to set up a free consultation regarding your case in Passaic County, Essex County, Bergen County, and the greater North Jersey area.