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March 2021


What is a Limited Divorce or Pendente Lite?

‘Pendente lite’ is Latin for ‘temporary.’ Applied to family law, it grants temporary use of the family home, family vehicles and additional support to the plaintiff filing for divorce if they request it. Limited divorce is not a prerequisite to absolute divorce, but it is a useful vehicle for couples who seek immediate separation, but still require a court order regarding temporary division of property and use of shared items. If you share children with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, are a homemaker, or are suffering under the yoke of domestic abuse, limited divorce may provide some temporary relief to you. If you schedule a consultation, our lawyers at Eveland & Foster, LLC can provide additional guidance regarding your case.

Filing Process  

Parties may need to file for a limited divorce for several reasons. Most commonly, the marriage is on the rocks, one party may have constructively deserted or abandoned the other, or one party might be shielding financial assets, refusing to pay bills like the mortgage or insurance, or refusing to provide for the child’s needs. When one spouse effectively “checks out” of the marriage while the couple is still married, the other spouse needs to take action to maintain a safe and stable environment for themselves and their children. This is where limited divorce is critical. If you are a homemaker or do not have ready access to joint bank accounts and lines of credit, and your spouse has now refused to make timely payments, buy groceries or contribute in a meaningful way, you do not have to tolerate it.

Our attorneys can help you file for limited divorce in the county where jurisdiction is appropriate. NJ Rev. Stat. § 2A:34.23 (2019). This will depend on where you and your spouse reside or were married. Filing requires you serve the other party with notice and that your complaint is accompanied with a financial statement. Financial statements detail your financial picture, monthly income and expenses down to the letter. The judge will rely upon your financial statement and testimony to make a determination as to pendente lite relief. He or she may also order the other party to pay for legal and attorney’s fees. If abuse is present, the judge can also order the other spouse to stay away from you, relinquish weapons, attend therapy or counseling, and continue to financially contribute to monthly expenses and upkeep for the benefit of you and your shared children.

Temporary Relief

Pendente lite assists parties who are awaiting a trial date that is months away. Especially now, during the pandemic, multiple cases in family law and other disciplines are being postponed. Families simply cannot wait for a final order  nearly a year later. Bills need to be paid, some continuity must remain, and children need stability. The supported spouse is also not expected to go out the next day after the parties decide to separate and find a job that can substitute the supporting spouse’s income. When pendente lite, or temporary relief is ordered, the supporting spouse is required to  maintain family upkeep of the shared home, pay child tuition and expenses, utility bills, and all other expenses to maintain the standard of living to which the other spouse and shared children are accustomed.

When a final divorce hearing is held, the court will look at the limited divorce order and may order that the supporting spouse make alimony or child support payments. The final support order may be reduced or increased after financial statements and the parties’ income are verified and property distribution issues are settled. Entering into a new relationship or moving in with a new partner while your divorce is ongoing will negate all pendente lite payments received. If you are making payments to a supported spouse or have questions about modifying a limited divorce order, it is important you consult with experienced family law attorneys like our lawyers at Eveland & Foster. 

Schedule a Consultation Today

If you and your ex-spouse are in a contentious relationship, are unofficially separated and think there is no hope for reconciliation, you can file for absolute divorce under several grounds. If you need immediate assistance, require financial help to maintain your current living status, or need temporary child support, filing for limited divorce may be a more viable option. Our attorneys at Eveland & Foster can help you identify the best course of action for your situation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Grandparents and Third Party Custody in New Jersey

Are you a grandparent or relative of a minor child who was recently orphaned or lives in an unsafe home? Are you seeking court ordered-visitation of your grandchild? Grandparents’ rights and third party custody are not guaranteed in New Jersey. Third parties are only awarded custody if they can establish that the biological parent(s) have abandoned the minor child, are unfit to care for the child, and that the third party is the psychological parent.

Challenging Custody

Biological parents have a fundamental right to raise their minor children. Courts can only remove a minor child from the custody of the parents when the child is found to be in an abusive home, is abandoned, or the parents are incarcerated or deceased. In addition, courts will only award visitation to grandparents if visitation does not cause material harm to the relationship between the birth parent and minor child, and grandparent visitation would be in the best interest of the child. In some cases, the grandparent or third party has served as the child’s parent due to unforeseen circumstances.

 New Jersey courts have found in similar third party custody battles that grandparents have a presumptive burden to overcome in seeking visitation or custody. The law grants rights to a natural parent who is not unfit or would not be a detriment to the welfare of the child. In addition, if the parties cannot agree to a visitation schedule on their own, the court is reluctant to interfere if doing so would cause material harm to the parent-child relationship. If granting grandparent visitation would undermine a parent’s authority and decision-making, or negatively affect the child’s relationship with their own parent, it is rare that the court would award visitation to the grandparent.  

Applying for Adoption and Visitation Rights

If the child is now unfortunately orphaned, and his or her parents did not name a legal guardian in their will, family members can petition the New Jersey courts for legal guardianship. Grandparents who wish to apply as adoptive parents have to apply through the state sponsored adoption agency or with the courts. This process is lengthy and intense, and it is highly recommended that you consult an attorney for assistance before applying for adoption.  Our lawyers at Eveland & Foster, LLC handle divorce, family law and adoption. We have concrete experience with adoption and guardianship cases and understand the nuances of the adoption process.

 New Jersey law is ambiguous about the parent’s authority in determining visitation for third parties. In some cases, grandparents do have limited rights to visitation with their minor grandchildren, if they can prove that material harm would come to the child for lack of visitation.  N.J. Stat. § 9:2-7.1 (2020). Prior to filing a petition, the grandparent would want to gather evidence, photographs and other tangible items or testimony to establish their unique, loving relationship with the child and why visitation is in the child’s best interest.

Contact Eveland & Foster, LLC Today

The attorneys of Eveland & Foster, LLC practice in Morristown, New Jersey and throughout Central New Jersey. They maintain a stellar family law practice and are also seasoned in specialized custody and visitation disputes, including grandparent rights. If you are in a unique quandary regarding your grandchildren, or are seeking to adopt your orphaned grandchild, call Eveland & Foster, LLC today for a consultation.

How Divorce Affects Your Credit and Finances

Couples that have commingled finances, bank accounts, intangible assets, retirement funds, and additional intellectual property will have difficult decisions to make upon divorce. Property division is one of the most time-consuming and contentious issues during divorce settlement and in negotiations between parties. While couples are relieved to see the marriage dissolved, separating finances, debts owed, and closing bank and credit card accounts can have a negative effect on each party’s credit score, credit limit, and financial health. Our attorneys at Eveland & Foster, LLC can provide guidance to clients wishing to avoid severe financial strain during the divorce process.

Drafting a Case Information Statement

In New Jersey, couples seeking divorce are required to file a case information statement with the courts. A case information statement is one of the most crucial pieces of evidence in a divorce proceeding. It details all monthly income, expenses, and a meticulous list of assets and liabilities. This includes gifts and personal property like furniture, jewelry and furnishings. It also includes a list of intangible property, like details regarding IRA, 401K accounts, bank accounts, credit card accounts, loans, mortgages, life insurance accounts and other assets and liabilities. Take account of all finances and fiscal items that require valuation and equitable distribution when drafting your case information statement, and be sure to review the other party’s statement for discrepancies.

Divorced parents also want to consider how they will continue to fund joint savings accounts, health spending accounts or 529 college savings accounts for their shared children. Who will bear the cost of providing health and dental insurance to children? How long is the ex-spouse eligible for COBRA coverage? Who pays for school tuition and extracurricular expenses? Usually these items are identified in the marital settlement agreement or parenting agreement. If you are not at that stage in the divorce process yet, contemplate how much you can afford to contribute given your separation. Also remember that the court will determine child support and alimony awards based on the monetary and non-monetary contributions of both parties, taking into account whether a stay-at-home spouse has the requisite education and/or work experience to find gainful employment, or if they are eligible for indefinite alimony. NJ. Rev.  Stat. § 2A:34-23 (2020).

Determining Debt Owed and Property/Asset Division

The courts will evaluate debt based on the existing contract, loan agreement, or account statement, as well as how property is titled. For example, if a divorced couple has two joint checking accounts and one joint credit card account, they are required to visit each financial institution and either close the account entirely, splitting remaining balances or amount owed in principal and interest, or one party can assign all rights and interest in the interest-bearing, savings or checking account to the other party. Similarly, if both parties have individual IRA or 401K accounts with their respective employers, they may both choose to keep their individual retirement accounts in play. Regarding real property, parties can choose to rent jointly titled property, sell the property and equally divide proceeds, or the home can be re-titled and one party conveys right, title and interest in the home or rental property to the other.

Because the parties may be closing multiple bank accounts, lines of credit, or losing equity because of property division, their credit scores may suffer. Married couples who owned a business together and are now seeking divorce also want to consult with an attorney as soon as possible regarding implications and financial health of the jointly owned business. Some things you can do to prevent a hit to your credit is opening an individual credit card account and making on-time payments, agreeing to keep a joint account open in the interim, and being conservative about your spending habits or financing large purchases while your divorce hearing is pending. Also gather copies of financial documents, paystubs, bills, invoices and any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements you have regarding equitable division of jointly owned property.

Contact Eveland & Foster, LLC for Help

If you are contemplating divorce or in the middle of contentious proceedings, contact our attorneys at Eveland & Foster, LLC for assistance. We practice exclusively in family law and understand how to navigate the property division process. We can also provide guidance regarding your overall financial health and how to recover fiscally after divorce. We are conveniently located in Morristown, New Jersey, and serve clients throughout the North Central Jersey Region. Schedule a consultation today.

Parental Alienation: What is it and How Does it Affect Children of Divorce?

Many couples seeking divorce are dealing with severe emotional strain, arguing, and sometimes a barrage of emotional, mental, and physical abuse. Understandably, a spouse can be so frustrated with their ex that they speak negatively and disparage the ex in front of the child. They may even encourage the child to make negative comments about their other parent or foster an environment in which discussing the other parent or even acknowledging their existence is forbidden. This scenario is not uncommon. It is called parental alienation, and it sets a dangerous precedent.

When you are divorcing a spouse and you have children together, that spouse will never stop being that child’s father or mother, and your child is made up of half of you and half of the other parent. Making disparaging comments about the child’s mom or dad can cause a child to internalize the comments themselves. Try to approach divorce amicably and with an attitude of civility. If you believe your child is experiencing parental alienation or you need help navigating a contentious divorce process, contact the attorneys at Eveland & Foster, LLC.

How Parental Alienation Affects Minors and Adult Children

Disparaging comments about a child’s parents can be internalized by the child. The child may feel caught in the middle. Often minor children blame themselves for their parents’ separation even though they are not at fault at all. If you have a split physical custody arrangement, you and your ex are expected to communicate and cooperate for the benefit of the child, their safety, and their happiness. Children are not meant to act as a referee, a therapist or social worker. Even adult children of divorce should not be saddled with negative comments and feedback regarding one parent from the other parent. Young children need space to grow and explore, and they need to know that both parents love them and want to work together to provide a loving environment. If your child comes to you with comments that the other parent has made about you, or they seem depressed or withdrawn, you should take notice and take action.

Coping Strategies

Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your child to speak freely about what is on their mind, even if it is negative or about the other parent. It is possible your ex is trying to manipulate your child or weaponize them to your detriment. This is abuse. Do not speak negatively about your ex-spouse in front of your child and do not tolerate the behavior from them either. Journal your thoughts, seek family counseling or offer to meet with your ex in a public place for a frank discussion.

Even if you or your ex still harbor feelings of angst against each other, understand that your child still loves both parents. Your child’s needs are paramount. If you know your child is exposed to negative feedback from the other parent or is being forced to choose sides, keep a log of this activity and contact our attorneys. Sometimes a simple phone call can help, but other times you might need assistance from a third party to get the message across. Do not tolerate an environment for your child that is not safe and encouraging.

Contact Eveland & Foster for Help

If you or a loved one need the services of a seasoned family law attorney, please do not hesitate to reach out to Eveland & Foster, LLC for help. We only practice family law and we can assist no matter where you are in the divorce process. Even if your divorce is finalized and you are seeking a modification, or if you believe your child is being abused by your ex-spouse, you do not have to suffer alone. Contact us today for a consultation.

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