Let’s Talk About… Divorce Rates

By Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

According to the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, the rate of divorce has decreased for a third year in 2015.  This marks the lowest divorce rate in 40 years with approximately 16.9 divorces per 1,000 married women over the age of 15 for a total of 1,110,579 divorces in the United States. This is a significant divorce rates hit a high mark of 22.8 in 1980.  New Jersey was below the national rate with only 12.9 divorces for every 1,000 married women and ranking 47 out of 50 states. Also, it is interesting to note that marriage rates grew in 2015 with 13.2 marriages for every 1,000 unmarried women over 15 years old.

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Although the study does not address the reasons for the decrease in divorce rates, there are a number of factors that could contribute to the decline. In “Divorce Rate in U.S. Drops to Nearly 40-Year Low,” author Abigail Abrams states that pre-marital co-habitation becoming less stigmatized and couples are seeking to “shore up” their relationships as often as possible factors. I would also include that couples are waiting longer to get married and are marrying later in life. There also have been studies that show that education, or the lack of education, is a factor that contributes to divorce. Finally, Ms. Abrams also points out that, even though the divorce rate has declined, researchers still conclude that a typical marriage has about a 50% change of lasting.

Whether you are getting married, married already, or contemplating divorce, contact us at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC to talk about how you can protect yourself in marriage and divorce.

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Please follow Christine on Twitter @cfitz0717. Photos via Unsplash

Let’s Talk About… Vaccines

By Joseph DiPiazza, Esq.

… and joint legal custody.

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Generally, joint legal custody is defined as the parents’ shared right to determine how to raise a child, with specific consideration to day-to-day activities. Parents are expected to make decisions together, without the interference of a court. Those decisions include making educational and medical decisions, such as deciding whether to pursue a particular medical treatment or procedure.

Parents who disagree on whether or not to vaccinate their children face a challenging situation.  While vaccinations undoubtedly carry some benefits, there are those who believe that there are also risks associated with routine vaccinations that can lead to disability and even death.  One of the biggest parental concerns over the administration of vaccinations stems from the theory that vaccinations play a role in the development of autism.  The focus on possible side effects to vaccinations has led to many parents’ refusal to vaccinate their children.

While no federal laws exist that mandate vaccinations, the laws in many states require that children entering the public school system be vaccinated against many childhood diseases.  In New Jersey, N.J.A.C. 8:57-4 requires children attending Child Care/Preschool and K-12 to present documentation of immunizations in order for the child to attend school.  Nevertheless, a child can attend public and most private schools with select or no vaccines if the parent or guardian provides a valid medical or religious exemption letter to the school administrator. Private and religiously affiliated schools may or may not accept religious vaccine exemptions. New Jersey does not recognize personal exemptions.

While vaccinations are administered to prevent disease and possible life-threatening complications, courts face a dilemma in deciding whether or not the potential for a deadly disease constitutes imminent danger to the child.  In addition, the courts must deem whether the parents’ rights to decide against vaccinations put other children at risk of contracting a life threatening condition.

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Please follow our firm on Twitter @lmllawyers.com. Photos via Pixabay. 

#GivingTuesday

By Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

You know the holidays are around the corner when Black Friday deals start popping up.  Yesterday was Cyber Monday and today’s my favorite: Giving Tuesday. For those of you that do not know, Giving Tuesday “kicks off the charitable season” according to the website, www.givingtuesday.org.

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In the family law field, there are so many wonderful charitable organizations or causes that need our help such as legal services for the indigents, LGBTQ organizations, adoption assistance, battered women’s shelters; domestic violence education and assistance, organizations that represent or assist children and many, many more.

With this in mind, I ask each and every one of you to consider making a donation for Giving Tuesday or make a donation in someone else’s honor for the holidays. Let’s make this #GivingTuesday the most successful yet.

We at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC hope everyone has a happy and healthy Giving Tuesday— and holiday season.

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Please follow Christine on Twitter @cfitz0717. Please check our Facebook feed all day long for our favorite charities for #GivingTuesday. Photo via Unsplash

Let’s Talk About… Hot Air Balloons

By Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

As the saying goes,” timing is everything.” Last week, this New Yorker cartoon was circulated around our office at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC. While this cartoon provides some comic relief, it also made me think of all the planning and consideration that our clients go through before telling his or her spouse that he or she wants a divorce.

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  1. You v. Third Party: Every client must decide whether he or she is going to break the news or have a third party their attorney reach out. This is a particularly hard decision when you and your spouse live together.
  2. To File or Not to File: Clients need to decide whether to break the news first or file a Complaint for Divorce before. Even if you want to be the one to break the news, you can file your Complaint for Divorce and wait to serve your spouse to give you the opportunity to be the one to tell your spouse that you want a divorce.
  3. Kids First: How and what do you tell the children? Before even telling your spouse, you should consider what you think is best for your children and your family so that when your spouse asks how to tell the children, you have a plan in mind.  Remember, generally you will have already come to grips with the end of your marriage, while your spouse may be in shock.
  4. Third Party Present: You must decide whether it is best to have a family member, therapist, or some other third party present when you tell your spouse. If your spouse has a history of getting angry, abuse, or of depression, it may be practical to have a third party present or, at least, available.
  5. Safety Issues: Although domestic violence incident do not occur in every case, domestic violence incidents are all too frequent.  Many domestic violence victims stay with their partners much longer than they want to because they are scared. Do you have a safety plan in place before you break your news?  If it is not safe for you to do so, do not break the news yourself.  Instead, speak to your attorney or a domestic violence counselor to help you in creating a safety plan before your spouse knows that you want a divorce.

If you or anyone you know has any further questions about divorce, please contact us at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC.

Please follow Christine on Twitter @cfitz0717. Cartoon from Conde Nast, The New Yorker and Victoria R.  

 

What Do The Kids Want?

By Corrie E. Sirkin, Esq.

 The Inquisitr recently posted a story that two of the six children of the Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie marriage want to live with Brad Pitt.

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Although we are not quoting the source for its accuracy, what if the children express different preferences is a frequent question for large families and especially families with teenagers going through a divorce. Split custody arrangements are when different siblings live with each parent. In general, most courts and experts believe that it is in the best interests of siblings for them to live together. However, there are reasons to have a split custody arrangement. For example, one parent may have better educational or gifted opportunities where they live. One parent may have better resources for a child with special needs. Some children may truly not get along (rather than the typical sibling rivalry) and it may be in their best interests to reside separately.  If one child has behavioral or substance abuse problems, it may be better for that child to reside with the other parent. Finally, as posted in the story, older children may simply want it.

Depending on your state, the age at which a judge may consider a child’s preference varies within the preteen to teen range.  In New Jersey, the sixth factor of N.J.S.A. 9:2-4(c) is “the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to make an intelligent decision.”  In two unpublished Appellate division decisions, an eleven year old child was deemed to be too likely to be swayed by parental influence whereas a twelve year old child opinion was considered as the child was charming, intelligent and wonderful.  Most courts are also cognizant of the fact that it may be hard for parents to dictate which parent older teens live with.

If the Brangelina divorce were happening in New Jersey, it is unclear whether Pax Thien Jolie-Pitt (age 12), Zahara Marley Jolie-Pitt (age 11) and Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt (age 10) would be considered of sufficient age and capacity to make an intelligent decision. The twins, Knox Leon and Vivienne Marcheline Jolie-Pitt (age 8), are almost certainly too young for their opinion to be considered. On the other hand, it is likely that Maddox Chivan Jolie-Pitt’s (age 15) preference would be considered. Nonetheless, celebrity watchers everywhere are looking forward to learning what the final custodial arrangements are for the six Jolie-Pitt children.

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Contact the attorneys at Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC, and we can assist you if you are considering a split custody arrangement or if your pre-teen or teenager is expressing their desire to change living arrangements both during your divorce or post-divorce judgment.

Please follow Corrie on Twitter @CorrieSirkinEsq. Photos via Flickr and Wikipedia. 

Let’s Talk About… Kurt’s Guitar

By Joseph DiPiazza, Esq.

Frances Bean Cobain, daughter of the late Kurt Cobain, filed for divorce from her husband in March 2016.  The couple was married for just under two years.  Several news outlets have reported that Isaiah Silva, Cobain’s spouse, is seeking the guitar Kurt Cobain played on stage during Nirvana’s famed “MTV Unplugged” performance.  Silva contends that Frances Bean gave him the Martin D-18E guitar as a wedding present. Frances Bean has denied giving Silva the guitar and is asking for it back.  Frances included a request in her divorce petition (filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court) to deem her inheritance, which is a pre-marital asset, to be excluded from the martial property.

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What would happen in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, generally speaking, most instances of inheritance are not subject to equitable distribution in a divorce case.  For example, if a wife receives an inheritance as a result of her father’s passing, she is not required to share the inheritance with her husband. To maintain this exemption, however, certain restrictions are necessary.  The most common mistake which causes the exempt inherited property to be subject to the equitable division of assets is when the inherited spouse commingles or transmutes the asset.

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If an inherited house given to the wife is re-titled into both the wife and husband’s names, New Jersey courts have construed this as an inter-spousal gift, making the inheritance subject to equitable distribution. This act of gifting converts what would otherwise have been separate pre-marital property into marital property.  See Perkins v. Perkins, 159 N.J. Super. 243 (App. Div. 1978).  In addition, if the inherited asset (e.g. cash) is deposited into a joint banking account, or used to acquire something for the marriage, it is likely to be subject to equitable distribution.

Hypothetically, if Cobain’s divorce was occurring in New Jersey, Silva’s case would focus on proving that the guitar was indeed an inter-spousal gift.  Considering the large estate of Frances’s father (various news outlets report the number as $450 million), it is not surprising that Silva is taking this position.  It has also been reported that Silva is seeking a $300,000 yearly spousal support payment.  There have been no reports of a prenuptial agreement between the parties.

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Please follow the firm on Twitter @lmllawyers. Photos via Unsplash and Wikipedia. 

Let’s Talk About… 5 Halloween Tips for Divorced Parents

By Joseph DiPiazza, Esq.

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Fall is in the air, and two weeks from today is… Halloween!

However we must acknowledge that holidays can be a difficult time for divorced parents.  It is normal for recently divorced dads (or moms!) to feel guilt or anxiety over the breakdown of a marriage and the effects on their children.  Nevertheless, it is important to make every moment count with your child, no matter how awkward and unfamiliar Halloween can be as a newly single parent.

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Here are 5 tips for divorced parents about co-parenting, communication, and safety on Halloween:

  • Share your children. 

If this is not stipulated in your divorce agreement, try to share the time equally. For example, one parent may get the costumes and dress the child and the other parent may go with the child for the trick or treating.  Or, share the time between the two households if you live close enough.

  • Communicate with your ex.

Elementary schools generally have many planned Halloween activities during and after school that your child will be attending. If you are in a joint custody schedule, it is important to communicate with the other parent with regards to any upcoming school functions and emails that you receive from the teacher. In your communications with your ex, be respectful.  This may sound difficult, but it is helpful for children to see that their parents are treating one another in a respectful and cordial manner.

  • Do not put your children in the middle.

Don’t ask your children with whom or where they would like to spend Halloween. They do not need or want the pressures associated with having to choose.  Children should not have to feel like their allegiance is being tested.

  • Be safe.

Do not get so caught up focusing on your ex that you forget to take safety precautions.  Make sure your children have a flashlight or glow stick with them.  Try placing some reflective tape on the back of their costumes.  If your child is carrying a prop, like a sword or pitchfork, ensure that the tips are smooth and flexible.  Also make sure that costumes are not too long such that they would cause tripping hazards.

  • Make your own plans if necessary.
    If you do not have your children on Halloween, do not make a big deal about it. There will be other Halloweens and other holidays.  Find a friend to share the time with. Do not make your children feel guilty that they are not with you.

Whether you are deep into the divorce process, or whether you have been divorced for years, the key is in the way you handle the holiday with your ex and how you present it to your children.  Remember that the children should be the primary focus, and work from there.

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The Blog of the Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich & Trigg, LLC Family Law Department