Category » Child Support

Is Mediation Right for Me?

October 7, 2013

If your answer to the following 10 questions is “yes”,  mediation is a good option to resolve your divorce issues.

1. Do my spouse and I want an amicable divorce? 

2. Is my marriage free of domestic violence? 

3. Can my spouse and I sit across from each other at a table and talk civilly with the mediator and each other about our divorce issues? 

4.  Do my spouse and I want to resolve our issues without going to court?

5. Do we want to protect our children from a protracted and adversarial divorce?

6. Do we want to move through the divorce process relatively quickly and keep fees to a minimum?

7. Do we want to keep our discussions private and confidential?

8. Are we willing to be transparent and provide all our financial documents to the mediator and each other?

9.  Do we understand that the Mediator will prepare a Memorandum of Understanding, but that nothing is final until we have signed a Settlement Agreement?

10.  Do we understand that the mediator can provide options and alternatives but cannot provide individual legal advice?  (Individual legal consults are recommended for each party before the Agreement is finalized.)

If you answered “yes” to all the above, mediation is a good option for you.  Feel free to review my website www.rkleinerlaw.com, call Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or email her at risa@rkleinerlaw.com for more information.

 

 


Saving for College – UTMA vs. 529 Plans

September 23, 2013

Many parents open an UTMA account for their child with the intent of saving for college.  Is this the best way to go? 

The UTMA  is opened in the child’s name under the child’s social security number.  Many parents do not realize that the deposits into an UTMA constitute an irrevocable gift to the child.  Once funds are deposited into the account, the money belongs to the child.  Although the custodian of the account can select and manage the investments, the money no longer belongs to him or her.  Withdrawals can be made only for the benefit of the child.  More importantly, when the child reaches the age of majority (21 in NJ), the custodian is required to turn over the funds to the child, who can then spend the money any way he or she chooses.

Consulting a financial professional before investing for college will save you from choosing a vehicle that does not meet your goals.   529 Plans may be a better choice.  In the meantime, if you have opened an UTMA for your child, professional advice can help you invest the funds wisely. 

In a Collaborative or mediated divorce, a neutral financial professional can be consulted by both parties to assist them in making important decisions such as how to invest for their children’s college.

For more information about Collaborative Divorce and mediation, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609-951-2222 or by email at risa@rkleinerlaw.com


Reasons to Mediate Your Divorce

August 17, 2012

There are many reasons why mediation is a great option for resolving divorce issues.  Here are a few:

1. Mediation allows you to design a customized settlement that works for you and your family.

2. Mediation is confidential.  All discussions take place in the mediator’s office and the mediator can never be called to testify about those discussions.

3. Mediation promotes communication.  Talking through divorce issues provides a model for working out issues that may arise after the divorce.

4.  Mediation is faster than litigation.  The couple sets the schedule and often cases are finished in just a few months.

5.  Mediation is cost effective.  With no court apperances, no formal discovery and no waiting for court schedules, clients save on their counsel fees.

6.  Mediation is guided by a trained mediator — a neutral professional who helps clients by suggesting options, alternatives and solutions.

7.  Mediation is voluntary.  If, for any reason, the process doesn’t work for you, you can opt out at any time.

8.  Mediation encourages both parties to get independent legal advice which helps them negotiate their agreement.

9.  Mediation is convenient.  Sessions are scheduled with the mediator on your time schedule.

10. Mediation is less stressful.  With reduced cost and time, a calmer atmosphere and assistance from a trained mediator, stress is significantly reduced.

 

To obtain more information or to schedule a mediation session, contact Risa A. Kleiner at her Princeton office at 609.951.2222 or by email at Risa@rkleinerlaw.com.


Low Cost Divorce Mediation

August 15, 2012

For divorcing couples who may not be able to afford the hourly rate of many mediators, the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators (NJAPM) is offering divorce mediation at a reduced cost.  The program pairs a qualified couple with an Accredited Professional Mediator and an apprentice.  For $150 per hour, about half the usual cost, couples can have their divorce issues mediated.  At the conclusion of the process the couple will have a written Memorandum of Understanding which summarizes the agreement they have reached. 

To qualify for this program, a couple must have a combined annual gross income of less than $120,000 and no history of domestic violence.  Most mediations take between 2 and 5 sessions and cost far less than a litigated divorce.  Issues of custody, parenting time, division of property and support are addressed by the mediator.  Sessions are held in the mediator’s office and are completely confidential.

Applications may be found at www.njapm.org.  Look for the box on the right side of the Home Page that says “Divorce Clinic.”  Or you may call NJAPM at (800) 981-4800 for further information.

 


Divorced Parents Entitled to College Transcript

May 3, 2011

NJ Divorced parents who help fund a child’s college education are now entitled to see their child’s transcript.  According to a recent trial court case, Van Brunt v. Van Brunt,  a requirement to provide this information does not violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.  A child or that child’s custodial parent can no longer simultaneously assert that the child is unemancipated (and therefore entitled to support) but not required to prove their status as a full-time student in good standing.

Sadly, parents often refuse to cooperate and communicate with each other after a divorce. The non-custodial parent may not be kept in the loop with respect to a child’s educational status.  In the past, some children and their Primary Parents have refused to provide proof of the child’s academic status, claiming protection under the Act.  The non-custodial parent then remains in the dark, forced to pay child support for a child who may not be attending school on a full-time basis or who has failed to meet academic requirements sufficient to remain in the school.

For parents who are divorced, paying child support and unable to get the requisite information from their child, this is good news – and probably a long overdue decision from the court.  Child support is intended to assist the custodial parent in housing, feeding and clothing a child until his or her “emancipation.”  When  a child is no longer in school full-time, the court (and often the parties’ Marital Settlement Agreement as well) define that child as “unemancipated.”  At that point, the legal obligation to support a child terminates and any support is entirely voluntary on the part of the parent.  In many states, such as Pennsylvania, emancipation occurs upon a child’s graduation from high school.  In NJ, emancipation does not occur until a child has completed an undergraduate college degree, so long as the child is diligently pursuing that degree on a full-time basis. 

It stands to reason that a child who is relying on his or her parents for support should keep them informed of their educational status.  Good communication between the parents will foster good communication between the child and both parents.  Divorced parents who resolved issues through mediation or Collaborative law recognize the importance of working together as co-parents. Unfortunately, parents who went to war with each other, neeed the court to teach this lesson to their children.

For more information on Mediation and Collaborative Law, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or risa@rkleinerlaw.com


Life Insurance in a Divorce

March 23, 2011

In New Jersey, the parties to a divorce are not permitted to cancel or alter their life insurance while the divorce is pending.  In fact, when a Complaint for Divorce is filed, the filing party (plaintiff) must certify that no changes have been made to their health, life, auto or home insurance coverage or beneficiaries during the preceding 90 days.  If any changes were made during that time, the plaintiff must explain them.  When the defendant files a responding pleading with the court, he or she must also certify as to the status of their insurance. coverage and must notify the court if any subsequent changes are made to the coverage while the divorce is pending.  This rule was established to avoid having one spouse remove the other from their insurance coverage (life, health, automobile or home) without their knowledge.    

Life Insurance is often used as security for alimony or child support following a divorce.  If a husband is obligated to pay spousal support after the divorce, but dies pre-maturely, the former wife will be left without the funds on which she relied to pay some or all of her expenses.  Life insurance proceeds are intended to cover the shortfall.  Similarly, with child support, life insurance proceeds fill the gap to provide child support and cover one parent’s share of college and other expenses that may occur after their death. 

Often, spouses/parents have life insurance through their employment rather than private coverage.  This can create a void if there is a loss or change of employment.  Therefore, parties are often expected to obtain private life insurance policies that will remain with them regardless of any change in their employment status. 

Divorcing parties need to understand the difference between the “owner” of a policy and the “beneficiary” of the policy.  The owner of a policy usually pays the premiums and receives all important updates and information on the policy and may make changes to the coverage and the beneficiary.  In a divorce, it is a good idea to provide that the beneficiary will receive updates on any changes to the policy and will have access to policy information directly through the insurance company to confirm that premiums are up to date, no loans have been taken against the value of the policy (if it has a savings component) and that the beneficiaries have not been altered.

Life insurance may also be held in an insurance trust.  In that case, the proceeds of the policy are deposited into the Trust upon the death of the insured.  The Trustee then disburses the proceeds as the Trust document directs.  It is helpful for the parties to a divorce to review their insurance policies and to consult both their attorneys and a life insurance specialist about these issues.

For further information about Mediation and Collaborative Divorce, contact Risa A. Kleiner, Esq. at 609.951.2222 or risa@rkleinerlaw.com

 


More Parents Seeking Reduction in Child Support

 

August 28, 2009

It should come as no surprise that noncustodial parents are finding it harder to meet their child support obligations.  Loss of employment, faltering businesses, the need to accept lower paying jobs or part-time work — all are contributing factors.  But the custodial parent still needs to feed and clothe the children, take them to the doctor and pay their expenses.  How are couples resolving this dilemma?

Court applications seeking a reduction in support are increasing.  Nearly 40% of the matrimonial attorneys surveyed reported an increase in these applications.  Some applicants seek a reduction because their current net income isn’t even enough to cover their support obligations.  The immediate past president of the National Council of Juvenile and Fmaily Court Judges has been quoted as saying that the courts are generally sympathetic to these applicants, but that judges still have to focus on the children’s needs – and this could mean a denial of a request to reduce child support.

Many couples, struggling with their finances, are choosing not to go to court at all.  Rather, they are determined to try to work out a reasonable compromise that they can both live with.  In an Associated Press article published by The Washington Post on August 27, 2009, several custodial and non-custodial parents report on the benefits of cooperation.  Some have chosen to mediate their problem with the assistance of a trained family mediator rather than incur the expense of court and risk an unsatisfactory outcome.  Parties who have agreed to reductions are, in some cases, finding that their ex-spouse is more co-operative in other ways, including taking over more child-related responsibilities and spending more time with the children.

Maybe poor economic times will have some benefit after all.

For more information on mediation, check the Mediation section of this website and other related internet sites, such as www.Mediate.com.


Child Support – When is it Time to Modify?

Since July 10, 1998, when the NJ Supreme Court adopted Court Rule 5:6B, a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is applied every two years to existing child support orders.  If the Child Support is paid through the Probation Department, they initiate the process.  Many Marital Settlement Agreements entered after 1998 also provide for the a COLA to child support, even if the money is paid directly and not through Probation.

But — and this was always confusing — the statute known as N.J.S.A. 2A:17-56.9a provided that child support orders “shall be subject to review” every 3 years.  Based on this statute, the court in Doring v. Doring, 285 N.J. Super. 369, held in 1995 that the passage of 3 years  alone was a sufficient basis to trigger a review of a child support order.  That holding appeared to provide an exception to the NJ Supreme Court case of Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980) which requires a showing of specific and substantial changed circumstances before a court will  consider modifying a child support order. 

On April 24, 2009, in a decision approved for Publication on July 31, 2009, the court, in Martin v. Martin, held that “child support orders are no longer subject to automatic court reviews every three years.”  Rather, the two year COLA provides the appropriate adjustment.  Of course, either party may seek a modification if they can show that it is warranted based on a significant change in their financial circumstances or the other party’s financial circumstances.

The Martin court also recapped the only two bases for objecting to the R. 5:6B cost-of-living adjustment:  1) the obligor’s income has not increased at a rate equal to that of inflation; or 2) the child support order (or Judgment of Divorce) provides a different schedule for applying a COLA.

 

TIP:  If you want a more or less frequent review of child support than the 2 year period provided in the court Rule, it must be stated in your Order or the Agreement that you incorporate into your Judgment of Divorce. 

REMINDER:  You don’t need to go to court to have child support modified.  The cost-of-living indices are readily available and, if the parties agree on when and how to apply them, they can enter into a Consent Order.  Consider reviewing child support through mediation.