Is it Worth it? Determining Your Divorce Priorities
When Undergoing a Divorce, There are Critical Aspects that are Worth the Effort of Arguing Over, and Others that May Not be as Valuable as You Think.
When it comes to the dissolution of a marriage, there are many complex decisions that must be made. When married, you take for granted that life will stay the same. However, a divorce forces you to decide on complex issues that affect family members in the present and future. For example, child custody arrangements are tailored to the family’s work and school life and the ages of parents and children. In time, however, the family’s needs change as jobs and schools change and everyone grows older. What worked at the start of a divorce may not work five years later. Decisions about finances and property also change and, thus, force divorcing couples to make tough calls on small and large matters. But you can’t fight over everything.
Despite the emotional nature of a divorce, it is essential that you maintain a clear head about the division of assets, child custody arrangements, and related issues. For this reason, it is highly recommended that you seek the support of a skilled and experienced family law attorney who can help you discern what is worth fighting for and what you’re better off letting go. At every step of the way, a family law attorney at our firm is going to be your best ally in a divorce. From providing advice based on successful professional experience regarding the best way to negotiate terms through conflict to equipping you with considerations that are often easy to miss, our divorce lawyers will ensure that your personal, financial, familial, and legacy best interests are protected. Our family lawyers can be the buffer, so you don’t have to be the one to deal with your soon-to-be ex to complete the divorce. More importantly, we have the insight and forethought to give you sound advice and resources throughout the process. We will advise you of the potential consequences of all decisions you must consider in a divorce and offer creative solutions to reach compromises on thornier issues. Contact The Montanari Law Group at (973) 233-4396 for a free consultation to learn how we can help you navigate this important time.
Typical Causes of Conflict Among Couples Going Through a NJ Divorce
While the circumstances surrounding each individual, couple, and divorce are different, there are some areas that couples historically tend to come into conflict over when it comes to divorce. Most divorcing couples save the battle for child custody, alimony, retirement, and insurance in a divorce. These issues have the most significant life impact and are often sticking points both parties fight the hardest over in negotiations and court.
Your continuing relationship with your child is the single most important thing you could take out of a divorce, and that’s the reason that custody agreements are one of the most highly-conflicted areas of divorce proceedings. When it comes to children, you want what’s best for them. Divorce is stressful for all family members, especially children, so working together on child-sharing arrangements is best for everyone. But when parties do not agree, the family court decides. Whether it is because of vindictive causes or because they truly think it is in their child’s best interest, some parents try to strip custody from their ex. Fortunately, the New Jersey Superior Court: Family Part considers child wellbeing to be their most important consideration in custody agreements, and the court considers a 50/50 arrangement to be the best for the burgeoning child. However, one must prove that they have the household, financial, locational, and lifestyle capacities to be a central presence in their child’s life.
The judge begins with the assumption that equal sharing time is best unless one parent proves otherwise. So, a parent with a drinking addiction may prove unsafe when the other parent produces police reports evidencing drunk driving with the children. In that case, a court may order child custody and award one parent primary custody and the other visitation or monitored visitation for the children’s safety and best interests. And while one parent may suffer addiction, depression, or other conditions that affect parenting, the judge is unlikely to deprive a parent of legal custody of their children, barring compelling evidence that it is in the best interests of the children to do so. Fortunately, child custody agreements are modifiable as circumstances change. Regardless of the circumstances, there are plenty of options to craft a custody arrangement for the present and future. Thus, you can agree to custody in the divorce and later modify the order or build provisions in the custody agreement to gradually increase one parent’s custodial time.
A family law attorney will help you develop a strong case for full or shared custody, even negotiating a step-up plan by which limited custody can build into shared custody with time and proven consistency on your part.
Spousal support is another battleground for some couples. Alimony is often a long-term financial expense for the paying party and taxable income to the receiving party. Since courts award alimony based on one party’s needs and the other’s ability to pay, coming up with creative alimony awards is crucial to balancing current financial needs with future security. Thus, one spouse may make significantly more than the other on average, but month-to-month income varies, or the payor’s job security is unknown. In that case, the parties may agree to a lump sum payoff rather than monthly alimony. In that way, the receiving spouse can manage the one-time payment as they see fit, investing or otherwise maximizing the support for their needs. For other couples, monthly allotments make more sense in their circumstances. Factors to consider in the alimony decision include the parties’ age, education, employment, skills, and health.
Alimony agreements are financial structures that will impact your resources for, likely, many years to come. Determining the correct alimony agreement for your long-term well-being and strategy is essential, and proper preparation with a divorce attorney cannot be overstated. Make sure you take into consideration the many variations of what could occur in the future – and how that could affect your access or right to alimony – and discuss options with your attorney. Our dedicated family law attorneys have experience crafting alimony agreements to fit the specific needs and circumstances of each divorce. We can help with reaching a settlement on the more challenging issues like child custody and alimony.
Retirement assets are an often overlooked element that could bear substantial fruit in the future. Retirement is a sticking point in many divorces. While minor children are a significant preoccupation for divorcing parties, life after the children are no longer dependent is also a concern. Retirement assets grow over time. They are not financial resources for immediate use or investment. You want to fight for retirement assets, such as 401(k)s, deferred compensation, pensions, profit-sharing plans, and IRAS, to secure your financial future.
Ensuring that you protect your various retirement assets or secure a fair claim to your spouse in a divorce is important. However, retirement assets can be complicated to divide without incurring steep taxes and penalties. You will need the help of an experienced attorney who can ensure a QDRO (qualified domestic relations order necessary to split retirement assets) order (and who pays for it) is in the agreement and refer you to tax and finance professionals so you can make an informed decision. Accessing your share of a spouse’s pension before it’s due will likely require that you fill out a qualified domestic relations order, which your family law attorney will help you file.
Life Insurance Policies
Another asset that you may not think about much is life insurance. It is one of those purchases you make and mostly forget about until tragedy strikes. When the person paying alimony and child support dies, life insurance proceeds can help tremendously. And some policies have cash value to consider in an equitable property division. So, whether your spouse has a current life insurance policy or you want a life insurance policy in place as a term of the marital settlement agreement, life insurance is worth fighting for in many divorces.
You may believe that the family residence is worth the fight, but it may not be. Besides sentimental value, parents often associate the children’s emotional well-being with a home. After all, their school and friends revolve around the home location. Thus, a parent with primary custody may get to stay in the family residence until the children reach a specific age. But fighting for a house means you get a huge asset at the expense of other more essential assets, like retirement. Besides, houses are ongoing costs between taxes and upkeep. And when you miss mortgage payments, your credit score takes a hit.
However, you do want to contest an evaluation of the residence’s fair market value when it does not reflect the actual value for a buyout or sale. Equitably splitting a house is complex, depending on the mortgage balance, equity, title, and contributions. For example, one party may have paid for the initial down payment from their separate funds and want that money back with interest and appreciation on the house equity. This may motivate them to get a higher house appraisal.
Having a professional determine the fair market value can make a huge difference in divorce. Whether you are buying out your spouse’s share of the marital home, being bought out, or selling the house outright together, you need to know an accurate value. While fighting for the house in a divorce may not be worth it, given the various property tax, utilities, and other costs associated with maintaining it, it is essential to know a legitimate list price before determining how to move forward. Your attorney can help you get a reputable appraiser and argue for the court to consider your appraisal over your spouse’s.
Do Not Overlook a Child Tax Credit
A child tax credit, which allows you to claim your child as an exemption and receive a tax credit, is a veritable boon that cannot be overstated. New Jersey is one of thirteen states that offers a state child tax credit in addition to the federal tax credit. Usually, the child tax credit is issued to the parent with primary custody; however, that person can sign an exemption releasing the credit to the co-parent. You want to be sure you get the child tax credit when you have primary custody of the children. A child tax credit is an exemption you get to claim on your taxes. Thus, it is money you can plan for at tax time. It also may allow you other credits for dependent care. For the non-custodial parent, the tax credit is a negotiable item. You can swap other assets or higher alimony for the tax credit and release it to your spouse, or you can alternative who gets the tax credit year to year. It is wise to negotiate a plan of sharing the child tax credit, alternating year by year, and put the agreement in writing with the mediation of your attorney.
Fight for Your Priorities in the Divorce Process with the Help of Montanari Law Group in Little Falls NJ
As you can see, a few crucial areas require skillful negotiation to get what you need. Though difficult, you want to put emotions and self-image aside to get more cooperation from your spouse. Divorce is one of the most emotionally devastating life events, but you must decide with the future in mind. So, communicate with your spouse when you are calm. Pride gets in the way of what you need. Get the support you need physically and emotionally from family, friends, or counselors, and don’t go it alone. Get legal help from the compassionate family law attorneys at Montanari Law Group.
Our team of divorce attorneys also work with many professionals you may need to decide what to do, like appraisers, real estate brokers, tax professionals, financial planners, and counselors. Most importantly, however, we can support you during a difficult time. Find a family law attorney you trust by connecting with us today. We assist divorcing spouses and individuals facing issues with spousal support, child custody, division of assets, and other challenges in Fort Lee, Wayne, Kearny, Elmwood Park, Ridgewood, and elsewhere in Passaic County, Bergen County, Essex County, and Northern New Jersey. It is our goal that our clients get the best out of their divorce and are prepared for the next many decades of their lives. Contact us today at (973) 233-4396 or fill out our online form for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your divorce.