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Essex County Divorce & Family Legal Blog

Single parent households on the rise

At The Law Office of Laurie A. Bernstein, P.C., we understand that single parenting in New Jersey is one of life’s most difficult jobs. And, according to an article published by Aurora University, single parenthood is on the rise.

The article also illustrates that this is not a new phenomenon. In fact, this radical change in the American family structure has been going on quietly for more than a decade. Looking at the figures for as far back as 1964, 93 percent of children were born to parents who were married. Fast-forward to 2010 and that number quickly plummets to 59 percent.

What effects are new tax laws having on divorcing couples?

If you and your spouse agreed to a divorce settlement in New Jersey before Dec. 31, 2018, the old rules regarding alimony, in which the recipient pays taxes on alimony, and the payer deducts it from his or her taxes, still apply to you. However, if you did not reach a settlement until after the first of the year, the provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 now apply to your spousal maintenance arrangements. That means that if you are to pay alimony to your ex-spouse, you cannot deduct the payments, but if you are the recipient, you do not have to pay taxes on it. 

Because the rule change is relatively new, the full effects are not yet known. However, according to CNBC, the change is already having an effect on prenuptial agreements negotiated before the rules changed. These agreements are now in limbo because the courts have yet to decide whether and how to revise the terms of existing agreements according to the new rules. It will take time for the court to make those decisions. 

Dividing up a 401k

Most in Essex County will go into divorce proceedings anticipating that they will have to relinquish complete ownership of certain assets. One particular asset whose inclusion in property division proceedings often takes people by surprise is a 401k. A 401k is viewed by most as being an individual retirement account; why, then, would it be considered marital property? One must remember that the funds contributed to a 401k are taken from their salary. As salary earned while married is viewed as marital property, so too are the contributions made to a 401k in that time. 

When the issue of dividing up 401k contributions comes up during divorce proceedings, the court will grant a Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This authorizes a retirement account administrator to allow disbursements to be made to an alternate payee. Once a QDRO has been granted, there a several ways that the non-contributing spouse can access their portion. According to the website SmartAsset.com, the most common include: 

  • Rolling their portion into an IRA: Doing this saves both spouses from any tax penalties that would normally be assessed when withdrawing funds from a 401k prior to the age of retirement. 
  • Deferring payments until the contributing spouse retires: This may assure the non-contributing spouse a reliable additional source of income during their retirement years. 
  • Cashing out their portion: Cashing out their portion of the 401k gives the non-contributing spouse their money now, yet also will leave them facing stiff tax penalties. 

Examining the different forms of alimony

To you (a most other in Essex County), alimony may simply be alimony. It is the money that either you or your ex-spouse will have to pay the other as a form of financial support. Yet this further highlights the incorrect assumptions that so many have about alimony. People often come to us here at The Law Office of Laurie A. Bernstein P.C. thinking that alimony is just another of punishing the spouse that makes more money by obliging them to support the other; rather, it is simply temporary assistance that ends once you or your ex-spouse secures gainful employment. As such, there are actually different types of alimony designed to fit the unique circumstances of your case. 

According to Section 2A.34-23(b) of New Jersey's state statutes, the state recognizes four distinct types of alimony: 

  • Open durational alimony
  • Limited duration alimony 
  • Rehabilitative alimony
  • Reimbursement alimony

Should you consider mediating your child custody issues?

As other New Jersey parents who have gone through a divorce can tell you, one of the most important issues you will address is what happens to your children. Regardless of your personal relationship with your future former spouse, you recognize that the children you share need both of you in their lives as much as possible.

When coming to this realization, you gain the ability to avoid a courtroom battle over custody. You could decide together to resolve this matter through mediation instead, which gives you the right to retain control over how you and the other parent continue providing love, security and support to your children well after the divorce is final. 

Why do children usually misbehave?

As a single parent in New Jersey, you’re probably frustrated when your child misbehaves. Getting to the root of behavioral problems is key in this case, as this can help you understand your child’s actions and develop a plan going forward. Very Well Family offers the following advice, which can help you and your child deal with underlying emotions more effectively.

Your child may crave power

How can I cope with the emotional effects of divorce?

If you’re facing a divorce in New Jersey, you’re probably reeling from the emotional effects. These effects can have a profound impact on your life, which is why it’s crucial to develop coping mechanisms to minimize stress and recover from your divorce in a meaningful way. Live About offers the following tips which can help you do just that. 

Put your thoughts in a journal

When online activity causes a marriage to fall apart

In the digital era, couples may find themselves in divorce court for any number of reasons. Aside from having an online affair, a marriage may be torn apart as a result of online activity due to various types of inconsiderate or even unlawful behavior. For example, a spouse may use the internet to carry out any number of crimes, or they could have an online addiction that causes them to drift apart from their spouse. For example, someone may do nothing but play games all day, refusing to work or even maintain a healthy relationship with their marital partner.

Social media can be another source of conflict within a marriage. Some people are addicted to social media while others misuse this technology, such as those who decide to share inappropriate and offensive material online. Regardless of the reason why online activity causes a marriage to fall apart, there are times when one spouse knows that they have been through enough and are determined to move on. If you are facing these challenges yourself, make sure that you are prepared for various legal matters that may surface.

How long will I pay alimony?

Going through a divorce in New Jersey is not easy. It is often compounded by the financial strain it can put on you. This is especially true if in the process of the divorce the judge orders you to pay alimony. Luckily, this state has had some recent reform in this area. According to the official website for the state of New Jersey, the law changes on September 10, 2014, in regards to the length of time you have to pay alimony. Those who had court orders prior to the change date still follow the old rules unless there has been a modification to your agreement, you may follow the new guidelines.

If you are currently divorcing and get an order to pay alimony, the initial guideline for the court is to set a time limit for how long you will pay based on how long you were married. If your marriage lasted less than 20 years, then you cannot be made to pay support for longer than the number of years you were married. For example, if you were married five years, you will only pay for a maximum of five years.

Things to do and not do in a New Jersey child custody battle

Divorce is often a tumultuous time in a person's life. You may find yourself feeling emotionally fragile one day and extremely confident and goal-oriented the next. Every marriage is unique, and therefore, so is every divorce. If you're one of many New Jersey parents who are facing disagreements with your ex regarding child custody, you may want to talk to friends or family members who have experienced similar situations to learn how they were able to overcome problems.

Even though part of you might want to simply march into a courtroom and tell your former spouse exactly what you think of him or her, you also understand that court would likely not look favorably on such behavior. Instead, you are prepared to do whatever you can to succeed in obtaining custody of your kids. One thing you definitely don't want to do is incite disruption in court.

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