By: Shari Lee Genser, Esq.

Cases involving electronic communications alleged to constitute domestic violence must be looked at under the law to determine whether a restraining order is warranted.  Domestic violence has a strict definition under the laws of the State of New Jersey. Victims of domestic violence are afforded significant protections, and domestic violence offenders are subject to severe consequences if an act of domestic violence has occurred and a restraining order is warranted.

In order for an incident to be defined as domestic violence, the parties to the incident must first meet the relationship requirements of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (“PDVA”).  Relationships protected under the PDVA include spouses, former spouses, present or former household members, co-parents, anticipated co-parents of a child in utero, and parties to a dating relationship.  If none of the aforementioned relationships exist between the parties, the incident cannot be considered domestic violence.

Upon meeting the relationship requirements of the PDVA, the incident must next be analyzed to determine if the facts alleged meet the definition of one of the offenses that have been classified as domestic violence pursuant to the PDVA.  Eighteen specific offenses as defined in the New Jersey Criminal Code have been classified as acts of domestic violence.  One of these specific offenses is harassment, which is defined at N.J.S.A. 2C:33-4 as follows:

[A] person commits a petty disorderly persons offense if, with purpose to harass another, he:

  1. Makes, or causes to be made, a communication or communications anonymously or at extremely inconvenient hours, or in offensively coarse language, or any other manner likely to cause annoyance or alarm;
  2. Subjects another to striking, kicking, shoving, or other offensive touching, or threatens to do so; or
  3. Engages in any other course of alarming conduct or of repeatedly committed acts with purpose to alarm or seriously annoy such other person.

A communication under subsection a. may be deemed to have been made either at the place where it originated or at the place where it was received.

Text messages or social media contact between parties to one of the protected relationships may constitute harassment which rises to the level of domestic violence under the laws of the State of New Jersey.  Most often, such electronic communications are found to rise to the level of domestic violence when there are large quantities of unsolicited communications from one party to another, when such communications continue to be made following a request by the recipient to cease the communications, or when such communications contain vulgar language.

However, in order to prove that an act of domestic violence has occurred and a restraining order is warranted, it is not sufficient to merely demonstrate that the relationship requirement has been met and an act of harassment has occurred. The facts must be further analyzed pursuant to the Silver v. Silver test to determine whether the court should enter a restraining order.  That test requires showing that either the restraining order is necessary to protect the victim from an immediate danger or to prevent further abuse.

Given the serious nature of domestic violence matters, it behooves both parties to consult with legal counsel to determine the strengths and weaknesses of their case.  Contact Seiden Family Law today to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable and experienced domestic violence attorneys.

By: Shari Lee Genser, Esq.

Discovery is an important aspect of all litigation. It is the process whereby the parties to a case demand and exchange information regarding the contested issues. In divorce matters, discovery provides the opportunity for a spouse to review the other spouse’s financial records, such as bank and brokerage account statements, credit card statements, and retirement account statements. In cases where the parties have maintained separate finances throughout the marriage, or where one party has maintained primary control over the finances of the marriage, the discovery process levels the playing field by equalizing the information that each party has access to in regards to the financial issues. Similarly, in custody cases, discovery provides the opportunity for a parent to propound written interrogatories as to the other parent’s position regarding the appropriate post-separation custody and parenting time plan, and related co-parenting issues. Also, for highly contentious custody disputes, the discovery process may involve the retention or either joint or separate experts, who will interview the parties and their children and opine as to what custody and parenting time arrangements will serve the best interests of the children.

In New Jersey, we have various forms of pre-trial discovery. The most commonly used discovery vehicles in family law matters are as follows:

  • Parties may serve requests for the production of documents, commonly referred to as a Notice to Produce.
  • Parties may serve demands for certified responses to written questions, commonly referred to as Interrogatories.
  • Parties may issue a demand for the other party’s, or a third party’s, appearance for live pre-trial testimony under oath, commonly referred to as a Deposition.

 Simultaneous to the exchange of paper discovery and the taking of depositions, the parties may retain various experts to opine on the contested issues. The most commonly used experts in family law matters are as follows:

  • Parties may retain a forensic psychologist to opine as to what custody and parenting time arrangements will serve the best interests of the children.
  • Parties may retain a forensic accountant to opine as to the cash flow and/or value of a party’s business interests, or to perform a marital lifestyle analysis.
  • Parties may retain a real estate or personal property appraiser to opine as to the value of real or personal property.
  • Parties may retain an employability expert to opine as to a party’s ability to earn income outside of the home.

 Discovery is intended to bring all parties onto a level playing field of information as to the contested issues in a case. While it is costly and time consuming, the discovery process is intended to facilitate settlement and, as needed, prepare the case for trial.

 

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By Donald Schumacher, Seiden Family Law

With traditions of fireworks, food and fun, the Fourth of July might just bring out a divorced parent’s fight for independence with their children. When it comes to co-parenting on holidays like this one, parents shouldn’t rely on cookie-cutter parenting time agreements. Although you may feel tempted to air your grievances with your personal King George III, it is important to consider one another’s wishes and solutions and compromise to make an agreement that leads to success in dividing the time with your children. 

In an ideal world, after the parenting time plan is made, it works out great for both parents and may as well be set in stone. And surely, the best parenting time plan is one that no one ever has to look at again, and the parents can move forward accommodating everyone’s, especially their children’s, needs and preferences. However, you cannot expect your plan to work out perfectly. (The Declaration of Independence was not perfect after its first draft either.) But, as a general rule for yourself, just be careful to include what is important to you, in the spirit of compromise, in your parenting agreement.

To best handle dividing holiday parenting time, you should consider not only what holidays should be included in a schedule but what partsof the holidays should be included. This does not mean that one parent provides the Christmas tree in their home while the other provides the gifts. With Independence Day, if the holiday is important to you because of traditions—such as an annual family reunion barbeque with the cousins or walking in the local parade—include those traditions in the parenting schedule. But if the Fourth of July is all about evening fireworks—especially when the children are younger—then a parenting agreement could give that parent time with the children from dusk until evening (if not overnight) for whichever evening the fireworks are displayed. For instance, there are local fireworks on days other than July 4, such as in Cranford on July 2 and in New Providence on July 3.

A successful parenting plan would accommodate complications such as rain dates or rescheduled events, but this is contingent on you paying attention to the holiday’s specific events and traditions when writing a parenting plan.

With the Fourth of July in particular, sometimes a holiday does not fall on a weekend. Not only does this mean that you get a day off of work, but it means that you should certainly consider a plan for the preceding and following weekends that should be discussed with your partner. It is important to think about events that can be scheduled on a weekend before or after the holiday and the events that should or always occur on the day itself, regardless of the day of the week it falls on. 

To make things a little easier, here are two co-parenting options for the Fourth of July:

PLAN A:When it comes to Fourth of July parenting time, if the day is special to both parents, hopefully they can divide the day with the children by what they enjoy about the holiday (i.e., parade/barbeque with Parent A and then fireworks with Parent B) to either continue family traditions or create new traditions with the children (i.e., bake Fourth of July cookies or visit an historical site). Alternatively, the AM and PM can be alternated each year, so that each parent spends parenting time with the children on Independence Day. Otherwise,

PLAN B:If there can be no acceptable compromise, alternating the holiday each year between the parents may ultimately be the fairest solution.

Finally, we at Seiden Family Law, LLC are reminding you to consider what part of a holiday, if any, is important to you and the children when drawing up your parenting plan. Remember, it really is all about the kids. We hope you have a Fourth of July filled with pride, joy, and love!

By Donald Schumacher, Seiden Family Law 

Being able to keep things private during the divorce process will depend on the route you and your spouse choose to proceed. If you are mediating privately, with or without attorneys, and your spouse and you agree to limit discovery because you are both fully and comfortably aware of the financial aspects of your marriage, then it may be possible to keep details private. If, however, your matter is litigated in the New Jersey Courts, your privacy rights will frequently be outweighed by the rights of your spouse for full disclosure regarding several aspects of the marriage.

Discovery is the process whereby litigants are provided documentation and information about certain aspects of the adverse party. In divorce actions, the rights to discovery are very broad. The objective is to permit both parties the opportunity to have full knowledge of the facts involved in the matter. If issues of support and division of assets and liabilities are in dispute, tax returns, bank and brokerage account statements, credit cards, etc., would be discoverable – meaning these documents would have to be provided, and likely for a number of years. If you and your spouse have children and custody and/or parenting time are at issue, then personal records may also be discoverable, including medical, psychological, and criminal records.

There are mechanisms to limit private information from becoming public during a litigation. The New Jersey Court Rules require social security numbers, dates of birth, and account numbers to be redacted from documents being filed with the Court. The Court Rules also permit a litigant to seek to quash a subpoena that may be served on a person or entity for documents that are not relevant or beyond the scope of the litigation. Whether such a motion to quash is granted is then left to the Court to decide.  Protective Orders are frequently utilized when one litigant has an ownership interest in a private or public company and discovery is needed from or about that company. Protective Orders impose the obligation on the litigants and the professionals they may employ to keep records and information private. 

Divorcing parties need to be educated on what can be expected during the discovery process and that there are options to limit the “invasion” into privacy at a public level. Depending upon the parties involved and on the length of the marriage, many litigants may not have concerns about what is ultimately discovered.

By Christine Fitzgerald

It’s almost the official start to summer and Father’s Day. As the Mother’s Day post indicated, holidays are often difficult for those parents that are co-parenting children. Holidays often raise the most questions such as:

  • Is it my holiday this year?
  • What time do I pick up the children?
  • Are there any restrictions on where I can take the children?
  • Where are the exchanges supposed to take place?

These daunting and stressful questions can often be answered by your Judgment of Divorce or Custody and Parenting Time Agreement. As such, if you are already divorced or have an agreement, consult with the relevant document to see what you agreed to regarding the holiday. If you are still not sure of the answers to your questions or you do not have an agreement yet, consult with your attorney well in advance of the holiday to see if there needs to be a clarification or whether an agreement on the holiday can be negotiated. If you and the other parent co-parent well together, talk to him or her about the upcoming holiday to see if you can resolve the issue between yourselves.

Despite these efforts, you may not be able to spend Father’s Day with your children. If you are a dad, granddad, step-dad, foster dad, uncle or any other father-figure, you want to consider some alternative options so that you and your children have a chance to celebrate together. Here are some to consider:

PLAN A:  If there is some reason that the children’s father, one of their fathers or their father figure cannot spend Father’s Day with the children, the parent that is unable to celebrate with the children should plan a special day with the children for another time that works. The parent should make the alternative celebration an extra special day. Some ideas are to take the children hiking, to dinner at your favorite BBQ joint, or to listen to a local band in the park.  If you are the parent that has the children for Father’s Day, ensure that the children call their father so that he knows the children appreciate him and the children know they have two parents that love them. Additionally, the other parent can also have the children make a special craft or buy a special gift for their dad that they are missing on Father’s Day.

PLAN B:  If Dad is able to spend Father’s Day with the children, then the other parent should make their best effort to allow him to have the day with the children. As stated above, the earlier you start planning, the easier it is to work around any scheduling issues. If the children have two dads that they want to celebrate with, try sharing the day and alternating who has the morning and who has the afternoon each year. This will allow the children to see both dads on an important and special day of bonding and appreciation.   

The most important takeaway is that your children are your first priority. No matter how you feel about the other parent, your children love him or her so encourage the children to have a relationship with both of you.

From all of us at Seiden Family Law, LLC, we wish all the fathers, grandfathers, uncles, dads-to-be, and other paternal figures a Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

By Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.
Seiden Family Law, LLC

I. Introduction and History

Prior to the enactment of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”), the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act (“UCCJA”) was enacted in 1961. The predecessor Uniform Act was eventually adopted by every state in the United States to discourage parental interstate kidnapping of children by establishing jurisdiction over a child custody case in one state and protecting an order of the state with jurisdiction from being modified if the state with jurisdiction retains jurisdiction. In 1981, the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act (“PKPA”) was created to essentially afford the UCCJA full faith and credit. Although the UCCJA and PKPA often work in tandem, there are differences between the two Acts. First, in determining jurisdiction between two states, the PKA gives priority to the “home state” of a child while the UCCJA does not. Second, although the UCCJA states that jurisdiction of one state must be adhered to by other states until the jurisdiction is no longer valid, the PKPA gives continuing and exclusive jurisdiction to the state with jurisdiction until the parties and the child leave the state. These differences create problems in some custody cases.

Another problem with the UCCJA and PKPA is that neither Act addresses the enforcement of a child custody determination. Thus, in 1997, the Uniform Law Commissioners created the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (“UCCJEA”) to replace the UCCJA, to resolve the problems between the UCCJA and the PKPA, and to address interstate enforcement of child custody orders. The UCCJEA has been enacted in 49 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A list of each state and the state’s relevant UCCJEA provisions is attached hereto. Massachusetts is the only state that has not adopted the UCCJEA.

 

II. New Jersey Adoption of UCCJEA


New Jersey is a signatory to the UCCJEA. In New Jersey, the UCCJEA is codified under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-53 to 95, which became effective in 2004 (“NJ UCCJEA”). In the Assembly Judiciary Committee Statement to the bill that enacted the UCCJEA in New Jersey, the Assembly Judiciary Committee notes that the New Jersey Bill essentially conforms with the UCCJEA except for a couple of differences. These differences are:

1. The New Jersey Court has greater authority in the NJ UCCJEA to exercise discretion over custody determinations from foreign countries. Specifically, the UCCJEA Section 105, subsection a states “[a] court of this State shall treat a foreign country as if it were a State of the United States for the purpose of applying [Articles] 1 and 2.” The NJ UCCJEA goes one step further by adding that a foreign country will be treated as a state “if the foreign court gives notice and an opportunity to be heard to all parties before making child custody determinations.”

2. The New Jersey Court also have greater authority to decline to apply Act to foreign counties than the UCCJEA provides. The UCCJEA states that “[a] court of this State need not apply this [Act] if the child custody law of a foreign country violates fundamental principles of human rights.” Again, the NJ UCCJEA takes this one step further and does not require the Act to be applied in foreign countries if the country’s custody laws violates “fundamental principles of human rights or does not base custody decisions on evaluation of the best interests of the child.”

3. The NJ UCCJEA also provides a layer of protection for the disclosure of addresses by rewording subsection a of the UCCJEA. The NJ UCCJEA states, in pertinent part, “[u]nless a party seeks an exception to disclosure of information as provided by subsection e. of this section, each party, in its first pleading or in an attached affidavit, shall give information, if reasonably ascertainable, under oath as to the child's present address, the places where the child has lived during the last five years, and the names and present addresses of the persons with whom the child has lived during that period.” Although the UCCJEA does not include the phrase “[u]nless a party seeks an exception to disclosure of information as provided by subsection e. of this section”, the subsection e provision of N.J.S.A. 2A34-73 and the proposed language in UCCJEA §209(e) are nearly identical.

4. Finally, NJ UCCJEA adds a subsection to the UCCJEA §208, which deals with declining jurisdiction by reason of the conduct of a party. NJ UCCJEA requires that a “court consider as a factor weighing against the petitioner any taking of the child or retention of the child from the person who has rights of legal custody, physical custody or visitation, if there is evidence that the taking or retention of the child was to protect the petitioner from domestic violence or to protect the child or sibling from mistreatment or abuse” in making a determination to decline jurisdiction.

Despite these small, but important differences, the intent of NJ UCCJEA is similar to that of the UCCJEA, which is to “provide uniformity of [the] law in a time when the mobility of the American public makes it important to have laws regarding child custody determinations uniform from state to state” in order to decrease the cost of enforcement, increase the certainty of outcome, and increase efficiency in resolution.

III. Key Provisions of New Jersey UCCJEA

A. Initial Custody Determinations
New Jersey has jurisdiction to make a custody determination when New Jersey is the home state of the child on the date of commencement of the proceeding. A home state of a child is defined as “the state in which a child lived with a parent or a person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding.”

However, there are circumstances in which New Jersey will exercise jurisdiction even when New Jersey is not the home state of the child. In fact, in 2018, the Appellate Division specifically addressed the issue stating “[w]e recognize that the lack of home-state status does not necessarily divest a state of jurisdiction. A New Jersey court may exercise jurisdiction if no court of another state has home-state jurisdiction, or a court with home-state jurisdiction declines to exercise it, and two other factors are present: ‘(a) the child and the child's parents, or the child and at least one parent or a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this State other than mere physical presence; and (b) substantial evidence is available in this State concerning the child’s care, protection, training and personal relationships.’”

B. Exclusive, Continuing Jurisdiction

NJ UCCJEA provides that New Jersey would have exclusive, continuing jurisdiction over a custody determination if a New Jersey Court made an initial custody determination until:

(1) a court of this State determines that neither the child, the child and one parent, nor the child and a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this State and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this State concerning the child's care, protection, training, and personal relationships; or

(2) a court of this State or a court of another state determines that neither the child, nor a parent, nor any person acting as a parent presently resides in this State.

However, if the New Jersey Court made an initial child custody determination, but does not have exclusive, continuing jurisdiction under subsection (a) of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-66, the New Jersey Court may only modify the custody determination if the Court would have jurisdiction to make the initial custody determination.

C. Modification to Custody Determinations

New Jersey Court has jurisdiction to modify a child custody determination when New Jersey has jurisdiction to make an initial custody determination and New Jersey has determined that the New Jersey Court would be a more convenient forum.

The first step when making a request to modify a custody determining is for the court to decide “whether this state acquired ‘exclusive, continuing jurisdiction’ over custody determinations involving this family when the initial order was entered.” An exercise of jurisdiction based on New Jersey being the “home state” of a child is preferred, but not required.

The next step for the Court to decide, if the Court determined that New Jersey does have exclusive, continuing jurisdiction, is “whether, during the time between the initial order and the filing of a motion for modification, circumstances have changed so as to divest this state of that jurisdiction.” In considering the second step, the emphasis is on the determination of whether New Jersey no longer has jurisdiction because there is a lack of significant connection and substantial evidence. This emphasis is based on the language of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-66(a), which states New Jersey has exclusive, continuing jurisdiction until “a court of this State determines that neither the child, the child and one parent nor the child and a person acting as a parent have a significant connection with this State and that substantial evidence is no longer available in this State concerning the child’s care, protection, training, and personal relationship.” The issue of whether there is a significant connection with the state is fact sensitive.

The last issue that may need to be addressed is a determination of whether a court of another State is in a better position to make the determination. If an issue of inconvenient forum is raised by motion of a party, then the Court must address the relevant factors as follows:

(1) Whether domestic violence has occurred and is likely to continue in the future and which state could best protect the parties and the child;
(2) The length of time the child has resided outside of the state;
(3) The distance between the court in this State and the Court in the state that would assume jurisdiction;
(4) The relative financial circumstances of the parties;
(5) Any agreement of the parties as to which state should assume jurisdiction;
(6) The nature and location of the evidence required to resolve the pending litigation, including testimony of the child;
(7) The ability of the Court in each state to decide the issues expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence; and
(8) The familiarity of the court of each state to decide the issue expeditiously and the procedures necessary to present the evidence.

If, after this consideration, the New Jersey Court concludes that New Jersey is an inconvenient forum and another State would be more appropriate, the Court must then stay the proceedings and may impose other terms that are appropriate. However, a custody action must be commenced promptly in the other court.

D. Emergency Jurisdiction
With respect to temporary emergency jurisdiction, the New Jersey Courts may exercise emergency temporary jurisdiction in specific and emergent circumstances. “A court of this State has temporary emergency jurisdiction if the child is present in this State and the child has been abandoned or it is necessary in an emergency to protect the child because the child, or a sibling or parent of the child, is subjected to or threatened with mistreatment or abuse.” Thus, New Jersey can exercise emergency temporary jurisdiction even if New Jersey would not otherwise have jurisdiction.

E. Enforcement of Custody Determination
As stated above, one of the reasons for the creation of the UCCJEA was to add provisions regarding enforcement of a custody determination to the UCCJA. The NJ UCCJEA has two provisions dealing with the enforcement of a custody determination. First, the New Jersey Courts have a duty to enforce a custody determination of another state so long as the original state “exercised jurisdiction in substantial conformity” with the NJ UCCJEA or the circumstances met the jurisdictional determination in that the original state would have jurisdiction under the NJ UCCJEA and the determination was not modified. Additionally, the NJ UCCJEA gives the New Jersey Court power to use any remedy under New Jersey law to enforce the custody determination.
Further, the New Jersey Courts are authorized to grant any relief allowed under New Jersey law to enforce a registered custody determination made by a Court in another state. However, the New Jersey Court may not modify the registered custody determination made by the other State, unless N.J.S.A. 2A:34-67 applies.

IV. Conclusion
Although complex, the UCCJEA and NJ UCCJEA are important laws for family law attorney to become familiar with in order to efficiently deal with interstate custody determination and proceedings. As recognized by the Assembly Judiciary Committee in New Jersey, our society has become increasingly mobile resulting in more custody contests whereby two states could assert jurisdiction over the same child and family. The determination of the home state of the child and whether New Jersey has jurisdiction to make the initial custody determination is usually the first step in this multi-step process in determining whether New Jersey should exercise exclusive, continuing jurisdiction and/or jurisdiction to modify a custody determination.
Regardless of the jurisdiction questions under NJ UCCJEA, a family law attorney should start by clarifying what is the Court being asked to do (e.g. modify an existing order, take temporary emergency jurisdiction, enforce an existing custody determination, or make an initial custody determination). The next step is to review the provision of the NJ UCCJEA that is relevant and all other provisions that are referenced in the initial provision.

These jurisdiction issues with custody cases can arise out of many different fact patterns, each one being unique. Without a thorough understanding and review of the NJ UCCJEA when jurisdiction issues arise, the cost and time of litigating the jurisdictional issue before even tackling the custody issue will put family law litigant at a disadvantage for the issues most important – the best interest of the child.

 

CRANFORD, NJ, May 16, 2019—Seiden Family Law founding partner, Sheryl J. Seiden, was sworn in as Chair of the Family Law Section (FLS) of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA), the firm has announced. The ceremony took place today at the 2019 NJSBA Annual Meeting, held at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, and was attended by more than 3,000 legal professionals.

The NJSBA’s FLS is made up of more than 1,300 attorneys. Its Executive Committee (FLEC) is not only a leading voice for family lawyers throughout New Jersey, but also organizes and leads educational programs on cutting-edge family law issues. The mission of the FLS is to serve as the statewide leader in the field of Family Law and to promote and protect the concept of “families” in all of its various forms (with special emphasis on the impact of divorce on children).

In her new role as Chair, Seiden will oversee the actions of the FLS as she strives to continue the strength and growth of the Section--both through monitoring current legislative and administrative proposals, rules and statutory changes affecting the FLS, as well as seeking to improve bench/bar relations, and educating the public’s understanding of family law issues.

During her tenure as Chair of the FLS, Seiden plans to focus on several key initiatives, including supporting young lawyers by expanding the mentoring program, examining and establishing consistency in intrastate relocation cases throughout New Jersey, finding new solutions to help children of divorce, advocating to address the conflict between the elective share and equitable distribution statutes, and assisting the Courts in addressing the backlog of family law cases.

“The Family Law Section is so vitally important to the successful practice of family law in the state of New Jersey, and I’m honored to have been given this opportunity to lead the organization in this capacity,” says Seiden. “I’m excited to continue all of the important work that the Section is currently involved in and look forward to making my mark over the course of the next year.”

“Sheryl has been a driving force within the Family Law Section for many years; having already benefitted substantially from her knowledge and leadership, we are truly thrilled to see her take the helm as Chair today,” says Jeralyn Lawrence, Esq., the current Second Vice President of NJSBA and former Chair of the FLS, who graciously spoke for Seiden at her installation. “We look forward to the enthusiasm, expertise, and wealth of new ideas she will bring to the role, and are excited for all of the ways that she will advance the mission of our section.”

Seiden is a seasoned matrimonial lawyer, having practiced family law exclusively since 2000. She has been recognized as a “Best Lawyer in America” and was selected by her peers as a “Super Lawyer” and “Rising Star.” Previously, she has been an Officer on FLEC, where she dedicated her time to ensure that the needs and concerns of FLEC and FLS were addressed. She also previously served as co-chair of the FLEC’s Young Lawyer Family Law Subcommittee. She is also a Fellow of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Seiden is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and an author of scholarly articles. She is presently in the process of co-authoring a book titled, Divorce, Alimony & Property Division, to be published by Gann Publishing Company.

A key part of Seiden’s new FLS Chair role will be organizing monthly meetings, meet and greets, and family law seminars, including the Family Law Symposium which draws over 700 lawyers, judges and professionals to learn about cutting-edge family law issues. As Chair of the FLS, she is planning the Annual Family Law Retreat, which will take place in Nashville March 25-29, 2020.

About Seiden Family Law

Seiden Family Law, a New Jersey law firm, provides exceptional legal services for family law matters in a strategic, solution-oriented, and supportive manner. Founding partner Sheryl J. Seiden is a distinguished and trusted lawyer, whose demonstrated record of success has propelled her to the highest ranks of the New Jersey matrimonial bar. Mindful of the stress of divorce and its attendant issues, including disputes over custody and parenting time, Seiden Family Law provides a reassuring atmosphere to support clients with their family law needs. The firm uses a team approach whereby the firm’s large network of other experts and professionals are tapped when needed. Seiden Family law is proud to be ranked as a Best Law Firm in 2018 and 2019 by US News Best Lawyers.

The flowers are blooming, the birds are chirping, and the sun is shining. This means that Mother’s Day is this weekend. For those of you that are co-parenting your children, whether incident to a divorce or separation, holidays can be particularly difficult to navigate. If you have an Agreement in place for custody and parenting time, the first step is for you to review your Agreement to determine what time you or your co-parent has for Mother’s Day or any other holiday. If your Agreement is unclear, if you do not have an Agreement, or if Mother’s Day does not fall in line with the regular parenting time, the next step is to open the lines of communication with your co-parent to resolve the details of who is going to have the children for Mother’s Day and under what parameters.    

Unfortunately, because Mother’s Day falls during May every year, it also occasionally coincides with prom weekends, First Holy Communions, weddings, and other spring time events. This may mean that Mom does not always get to spend Mother’s Day with the children on her own.

If you are co-parenting your children, here are three options for dealing with Mother’s Day:

PLAN A:  If Mom is able to spend Mother’s Day with the children, she should have the day with the children. Mom should choose activities that she and the children enjoy. Some ideas for activities are going for a hike, a picnic in the park, seeing a movie, or going to brunch! The co-parent that is not celebrating Mother’s Day also plays an important role for the holiday. The other parent can assist the children in making cards for Mom, picking out and purchasing a gift for Mother’s Day, or helping the children plan breakfast in bed or some other special celebration for their mom. 

PLAN B:  In the event that Mom is not able to spend Mother’s Day with the children or there is an event that takes precedent, the parents should work together to find an alternative day for Mom and the children to spend time together on their own. If an event interferes with the holiday parenting time and Mom is able to attend, Mom should attend the event or at least participate in some way.  If Mom is unable to attend for any reason, if the children have time in the morning or after the event, the parents should work together to make the time for Mom and the children to spend at least part of the day together. If that is still not possible, the other parent should ensure that the children call Mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day and perhaps, have flowers delivered so that Mom feels special on her day. Finally, Mom should pick another day and make extra special plans for her to share with the children.

PLAN C:  In cases where children are lucky enough to have two moms in their life, both moms need to find a way to share or split the day so that the children can experience Mother’s Day with both of them. Perhaps the children have breakfast or lunch with one mom and dinner with the other mom, or they do a morning activity with one and spend the afternoon with the other.

Regardless of how you are spending Mother’s Day, remember that your children are the most important part of your life and your most important job as a parent is to make sure that they don’t feel any of the bumps along the road in scheduling holidays or other events! 

From all of us at Seiden Family Law, LLC, we wish all the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, moms-to-be, and other maternal figures, a Happy Mother’s Day!  

As you have probably heard, Adele and her husband, Simon Konecki, have separated. What is interesting to note is that Adele and Simon did not enter into a prenuptial agreement prior to their marriage. This could mean that Adele’s earnings and acquisition of property during the marriage could be shared equally with Simon or could become the subject of contentious litigation. At this time, it is too late to turn back, or as Adele herself would say, it is “Water Under the Bridge”.

Despite the fact that Adele and Simon did not enter into a prenuptial agreement, “Rumour Has It” that Adele has already gifted property totaling more than $600,000 to Simon. This does indicate that Adele and Simon are going to try to amicably resolve the issues.  

Although you may think that the couple’s decision to marry without having a prenuptial agreement in place is peculiar given Adele’s significant wealth at the time of their marriage as well as her a future significant earnings, according to this Forbes article, only around 5% of couples enter into a prenuptial agreement before getting married.  However, the decision of whether to have a prenuptial agreement is an important one that should be discussed with an attorney specializing in prenuptial agreements and family law.  At Seiden Family Law, LLC, we review each case with our client to determine whether a prenuptial agreement is right for their situation.  If a prenuptial agreement is right, we aim to prepare it and resolve any issues efficiently so that you and your significant other can move on to more important things – planning and enjoying your wedding! 

The Intersection of Real Estate and Family Law

By Shari Lee Genser, Esq. and Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

            In a family law matter, every asset must be addressed in the settlement agreement regardless of whether the asset is being divided or whether the asset is determined to be exempt from equitable distribution.  Since real property is often the largest asset in dispute in many middle-income family law cases, real estate law and family law frequently cross paths in a variety of ways.  The division of a marital residence, second homes, investment properties, and real estate owned by a business must be resolved in a Marital Settlement Agreement.  However, the division of the parties’ real estate interests can be affected by a number of other issues that appear at first glance to be unrelated, such as child support, custody, parenting time, the children’s needs, tax implications, and the division of other assets or liabilities. Since each of these issues can affect the way the parties’ real estate interests are resolved, it is important for both real estate and family law practitioners to have a working knowledge of the intersection between these fields.

Creative Settlement: What Can We Learn From the Bezos?

MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos announced details of their settlement agreement last week, signaling the end of a very high conflict – and very public – divorce without the need for significant litigation. As the wealthiest couple in history, the Amazon Founder and CEO and his now-former wife faced a unique set of challenges when dissolving their union. 

The Bezos settlement is notable for many reasons not the least being that the assets being divided represented significant wealth acquired during the course of the marriage, rather than resources brought to the union by either party. But what is the most striking to us here at Seiden Family Law is actually the creativity of the settlement and the fact that they worked so well together to reach an agreement.

Under terms of their settlement, MacKenzie will retain her Amazon shares (and thus the ability to ride the wave of the stock price) and Jeff maintains the voting rights that were essential to his continued role within the company. This out-of-the-box solution is one that reflects a mutual desire for both the good of the family and the good of the company founded during their marriage. It respects and reflects the best interests of all parties, and emphasizes compromise over conflict.

There’s an important life lesson in this very public divorce, and it isn’t about the drama leading up to the separation or even the details of the eventual settlement. It’s the way the Bezos worked together to find an inventive solution to their situation. As a firm, we pride ourselves on our ability to think creatively in a wide range of settlement circumstances, and we see the Bezos situation as an inspiring case of creativity and vision.

How can we help you to think creatively about your situation?

 

Dissecting the Debts and Liabilities of the Parties To Determine Equitable Distribution

By Shari Lee Genser, Esq.[1]

            Equitable distribution of the marital estate in New Jersey is governed by the statutory factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1.  One of the factors the Court must consider in making equitable distribution awards is “the debts and liabilities of the parties”.  When discussing the marital estate, it is therefore imperative to itemize not only the assets of the parties, but their debts and liabilities as well, in order to reach the proper starting point for equitable distribution.  The first step of the equitable distribution analysis is to identify the assets and liabilities which make up the marital estate, the second step is to determine their respective values, and the final step is to distribute the marital estate.

How Will The Change In The Tax Laws Affect The Individual Taxpayer?

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

For the first time in three decades, Congress passed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act (“TCJA”) bill which has changed the landscape of the tax laws for the future. This summary is intended to provide some insight into how these changes will affect the individual taxpayer.

STANDARD OF LIVING FOR PURPOSES OF EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION

By: Christine C. Fitzgerald, Esq.

The purpose of equitable distribution is for a fair and equitable division of marital property.  Pressler, Current N.J. Court Rules, comment 4.1 on R. 5:7-4 (2017); Steneken v. Steneken, 183 N.J. 290, 299 (2005).   In order to accomplish an equitable division of marital property, a three-part analysis must be completed.  First, all assets must be determined and identified. Second, the value of the assets must be established.  Finally, the factors, including the standard of living established during the marriage or civil union, of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1 are weighed and considered to allocate the assets equitably.  65 N.J. 219 (1974).  This final step is where the factors that are enumerated in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1 are central to the analysis.  These factors are:

Top Ten Tips When Considering A Divorce

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

So you think you are ready to consider getting a divorce.  You have lived years in an unhappy marriage or perhaps you and your spouse have just grown apart or maybe one spouse has not been faithful … it is time to explore the world of divorce. Now what?

Living in a Social Media World:  Potentials and Pitfalls for Family Law Cases and Attorneys

by Jeffrey Fiorello and Christine C. Fitzgerald        

     While social media was once looked upon as something purely social (a way to stay connected with friends), it has increasingly become an integral part of daily life. The information that is put out online can have implications far beyond staying connected with friends. This article will attempt to explore the use of social media for professional marketing purposes, and for tactical advantages in advocating for clients. There are implications, both positive and negative, that social media can have on the daily practice of family law. The goal of this article is to provoke a further exploration of social media in marketing for family lawyers and in representing family law clients.

By: Sheryl J. Seiden

Until August 8, 2017, for sixteen years, the law in New Jersey on relocation created a presumption favoring relocation. This presumption was created by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in Baures v. Lewis, 167N.J. 91 (2001), and was overturned in the recent case of Bisbing v. Bisbing, 230 N.J. 309. The Court in Baures relied on social science research that had not been challenged, and on underlying statutes and case law of other jurisdictions which the Court believed evidences a trend toward relocation. The law relied upon by the Supreme Court of New Jersey in Bauers was later overruled by subsequent case law or statute but the Bauers holding was not reexamined by the Supreme Court of New Jersey for sixteen years. The New Jersey judiciary and practitioners were therefore relying on outdated law. The sixteen years that it took to change the landscape of relocation in our state supports our need as practitioners to dissect the case law that is relied upon by our Courts to ensure that our law remains consistent with changing times.

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1] and Sage Hazan Blinderman[2]

So you think you are ready to consider getting a divorce.  You have lived years in an unhappy marriage or perhaps you and your spouse have just grown apart or maybe one spouse has not been faithful … it is time to explore the world of divorce. Now what? 

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.

Just as each child has his/her own unique qualities which define the child, so too does the Child Support to be calculated in each case.  Child Support is not a one-stop shop.  The first question to consider in any Child Support case is whether the Child Support Guidelines are applicable.  The premise of the Child Support Guidelines is that support is the obligation of both parents. Children are entitled to benefit from the incomes of both parties and children of divorce or born out of wedlock should not be economic victims of their parents’ segregation. N.J. Court Rules, Appendix IX-A(1).  The theory of the Guidelines is that in an intact family, income is pooled to support the children and this same concept should be applied in families that are not intact. These Guidelines are intended to ensure that children not live in poverty.

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

Advances in technology have been shaping the practice of law for several years. Computers have increased productivity and the internet has drastically altered both the legal research and writing process and the mechanism by which many lawyers communicate with the courts, opposing counsel, and clients. The prevalence of social media in today’s society raises several important issues relative to the practice of law generally, and in the area of family law where the clients are all individuals, most of whom are frequent social media users, having a clear understanding of those issues is of particular importance. This article will present a summary of some of the issues raised by the use of social media in family law cases.

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.

So you think you are ready to consider getting a divorce. You have lived years in an unhappy marriage or perhaps you and your spouse have just grown apart or maybe one spouse has not been faithful... it is time to explore the world of divorce. Now what?

By: Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

The Case Information Statement ("CIS") is one of the most important documents prepared in a matrimonial matter. A CIS is needed whether your client intends to mediate, arbitrate, litigate or simply resolve a case with his/her spouse directly. Before attempting to resolve any matrimonial case, it is imperative that the parties, counsel, any mediator or arbitrator fully understand the parties' incomes, expenses, assets and debts. The CIS is designed to provide all of this information in one legal document. I often refer to the CIS as a client's bible. It also is a necessary document to maintain as past CISes are needed in most post-judgment proceedings. A well-prepared CIS will save your client significant legal fees throughout the matrimonial proceeding.

By: Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

As matrimonial practitioners, we have the responsibility of assisting parties in a divorce in equitably distributing their marital assets. Clients often assume that their marital assets should be equally divided. That is not always the case. The exercise of equitable distribution dictates that the parties' marital assets be equitably, not equally divided.

By: Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

In determining how to equitably distribute executive compensation, first, the type of executive compensation must be identified. Then, it must be determined whether the executive compensation was awarded for the party's past efforts or in anticipation of the party's future efforts. Executive compensation awarded prior to the termination of the marriage will be subject to equitable distribution whereas executive compensation awarded after the termination of the marriage will not be subject to equitable distribution. As executive compensation is often awarded for both past efforts and in anticipation of future services, a portion, but not all, of executive compensation is often part of the marital estate for purposes of equitable distribution.

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

It is not uncommon for a spouse to question the other spouse's spending of marital assets when they are proceeding with a divorce. Spending which was acceptable during the marriage is often suspect when parties are divorcing. Bad business decisions during the marriage often become allegations of intentional mishandling of marital assets. Money that was previously used to support a spouses extended family may now be seen as a channel for diminishing the marital estate. Through the course of discovery, one spouse often discovers that marital assets were spent to foster another spouse's extramarital affair. All of these allegations may give rise to a claim of dissipation of marital assets.

By Sheryl J. Seiden[1]

Parental alienation is a serious problem that plagues families when parents are involved in divorce proceedings where one parent successfully manipulates the child against the other parent. It is also a term that has become overused and misused in our family law practice. Unfortunately, there is no reported case in New Jersey which truly defines the concept of parental alienation. Practitioners and parents are quick to mention parental alienation, but few are able to define it. And even when a practitioner can identify parental alienation as a problem, they often do not know how to "fix" the problem. How then do we, as family law practitioners, know when it is appropriate to use the term parental alienation to define the toxic environment that torments a custody case? In order to identify parental alienation, family law practitioner, mental health experts and our judiciary must be familiar with the scientific data that identifies what parental alienation is and what it is not before we begin to try to address these custodial issues.

By: Sheryl J. Seiden[1]

In our ever mobile society, relocation after a divorce is a very realistic option for a parent. The advancement in technology and efficiency of transportation have increased the ability for mobility over the years. After a divorce, a parent seeking to move on to the next chapter in his or her life often will want to relocate to be closer to family or a significant other or for career advancement. The issue of relocation presents courts with the difficult dilemma of permitting a child to relocate to be with one parent at the cost of the child not having the opportunity to maximize his or her relationship with the other parent. Relocation cases present some of the most difficult issues that matrimonial practitioners and our family law judges grapple with during our careers.

By: Sheryl J. Seiden[1]

In our ever mobile society, relocation after a divorce is a very realistic option for a parent. The advancement in technology and efficiency of transportation have increased the ability for mobility over the years. After a divorce, a parent seeking to move on to the next chapter in his or her life often will want to relocate to be closer to family or a significant other or for career advancement.

By Sheryl J. Seiden[1]

Alimony is one of the most difficult financial issues to resolve in our matrimonial cases. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) sets forth thirteen statutory factors to be considered when determining an alimony claim, including a catchall factor of any other factors which the court deems relevant. In the recent Supreme Court of New Jersey case of Gnall v. Gnall, 222 N.J. 414 (2015) the Court emphasized that no one factor is determinative and that all factors should be given weight in adjudicating alimony. Despite popular belief, there is no official alimony formula to be used to determine the alimony amount.

By Sheryl J. Seiden

On November 12, 2014, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers ("AAML-NJ") had the privilege of appearing as amicus curiae before the Supreme Court of New Jersey in the case of Gnall v. Gnall, A 52-13. In Gnall v. Gnall, in September 2010, Superior Court of New Jersey, Chancery Division,. Family Part, Bergen County, (the "Trial Court") awarded a wife in a nearly 15 years marriage with three children, ages 8, 11 and 12, limited duration alimony for eleven years. In August 2013, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division (the "Appellate Division") reversed and remanded the alimony award with a directive that the trial court should consider whether permanent alimony was appropriate. In January 2014, the Supreme Court of New Jersey granted Certification to determine the following question: "Was it appropriate for the Appellate Division to reverse the Trial Court's award of limited duration alimony and to remand for consideration of permanent alimony under the circumstances of this case, which included a marriage of fifteen years.?"

By Sheryl J. Seiden, Esq.[1]

As matrimonial practitioners, we are responsible for applying current law to our cases. I have always viewed the Family Law Symposium as a forum to learn about new case law affecting our practice and new arguments that we should be making in our cases. The Symposium provides us with many interesting arguments that we find ourselves using later in the year and thereafter to best represent our clients' interests. The Family Law Symposium has been the breeding ground for new law that develops through our judiciary as a result of the presentations from our distinguished speakers.

By Sheryl J. Seiden [1]

The Case Management Order ("CMO") is generally the first order entered by the Court in a matrimonial action. In many counties, parties and counsel are not required to appear in Court for the first Case Management Conference if they can consent to the terms of the CMO. In other counties, an appearance is necessary. Generally, when a CMO is permitted to be submitted without the need for an appearance, counsel and the parties opt not to incur the counsel fees to appear in Court. The purposes of the CMO is intended to encourage parties to define the issues in dispute and determine what discovery is needed in order to ultimately resolve these issues. It is very important that particular attention is paid to the CMO as it sets the deadlines and outlines the scope of discovery for the duration of the matrimonial matter.