Divorce is the dissolution of a marriage. There are numerous causes of action for which a court may grant a divorce including but not limited to adultery, extreme cruelty, eighteen month separation, habitual drunkenness, imprisonment, or irreconcilable differences. It is not necessary to prove fault in New Jersey in order to get a divorce. If one party wants a divorce, the divorce will occur. However, before any divorce will be granted, the issues of custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution (division of property), as well as other issues, must be either settled by agreement or tried by the court. Once a Complaint for Divorce is filed, the parties have a period of time to exchange information relating to their finances, obtain evaluations or appraisals of businesses, real estate, or other assets, and determine their positions with regard to the issues in their case. If custody and parenting time are issues, then a custody or psychological evaluator must be employed to help the court (or the parties) determine what outcome is in the best interests of the children. There are many opportunities for settlement along the way and most cases do settle before going to trial. If the parties are too far apart in their positions and cannot settle, a trial will ensue and a judge will make the ultimate decision. Once a settlement is reached or a judge renders his or her decision after trial, the divorce can be entered.
A divorce creates profound stress and often precipitates many other major life changes. Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group is dedicated exclusively to helping individuals undergoing divorce and related matrimonial problems throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Our priority is to provide competent legal counsel with compassion and understanding. Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group thoroughly understands the continuously evolving case law and legislation that impacts the divorce process. In addition to acting as an advocate and advisor for our clients, our lawyers understand the pressure felt by those involved in the divorce process and work to address your personal concerns.
Members of Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group understand that clients benefit from our attorney’s knowledge of developments in divorce law. As a result, our attorneys are committed to continuously enhancing their own professional development through involvement in substantive professional organizations. Members of the group are active in many organizations including the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, the American College of Family Trial Lawyers, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, and the Family Law Section of the American and New Jersey Bar Associations. Additionally, members of the Divorce Group presently are, or have held the following positions:
- Co-Chair of NJAJ’s Boardwalk Seminar on Family Law
- Editor of New Jersey Family Lawyer
- Former Chairperson and current member of the Mercer County Family Practice Committee
- Member of the New Jersey State Bar Association Family Law Section’s Executive Committee
- An additional benefit to our clients is the size of Stark & Stark and its multiple practice areas. When circumstances dictate, the Divorce Group has the ability to tap the knowledge and understanding of Stark & Stark’s business, real estate, tax and estates lawyers when assessing the professional and personal circumstances often directly affected by divorce. Frequently, these related issues and perspectives are critical to developing and administering a balanced and effective legal strategy.
New Jersey Divorce Services
Together with our clients, we create a plan to ensure that we have a mutual understanding of the expectations, risks and costs associated with divorce or other family changes. We make ourselves readily available and refer our clients to outside counselors and therapists upon request.
Stark & Stark’s Divorce Group is comprised of attorneys who are recognized for their experiences, personal skills and dedication to effectively counsel clients through distressing situations. Perhaps most importantly, the group has the resources behind them to provide the full complement of legal expertise necessary when considering the best strategy in light of one’s overall personal, financial and professional circumstances.
On behalf of our clients undergoing divorce, we:
- Prepare and file legal documents and pleadings
- Negotiate aggressively on your behalf
- Prepare and conduct all pretrial discovery, including interrogatories, depositions and evaluations of the various assets
- Advocate and present your case in all pretrial motions, proceedings and, if necessary, at the time of trial counsel you on legal aspects of custody and visitation issues
- Assist you in considering legal issues and circumstances surrounding financial settlement
- Examine legal aspects of other issues directly related to divorce such as restructuring of business, tax consequences, financial reorganization, sale and disposition of real estate, pension funds and new estate planning
- Litigate, when necessary, with a combined 75 years of trial experience
High Net Worth Divorces
When parties have significant net worth and income, there are usually a multitude of specific challenges that present themselves in divorce litigation.
One issue that frequently arises in high net worth and income cases concerns the division of assets through equitable distribution. In many high net worth cases, the parties are frequently recipients of a sizable inheritance or receive income as a beneficiary of a trust. New Jersey case law provides that both inheritances and trust interests are not automatically subject to distribution to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. As this is the case, many issues need to be examined to determine the true nature of the possible exemption of either an inheritance or trust from equitable distribution.
The most relevant factor for purposes of equitable distribution of either an inheritance or trust interest remains whether or not the funds received from either instrument were “commingled”. Funds are often deemed commingled when they moved from a separate account interest into a joint account or into a joint asset. One example of commingling would be the deposit of inherited monies into a jointly held account or utilizing inherited funds to make improvements for a residence that is clearly jointly held by the parties. Courts will often look at such decisions as affirmative steps that classify once exempt monies into jointly held assets.
An additional issue that frequently arises in high net worth and income cases concerns the establishment of an appropriate child support obligation. The New Jersey Child Support Guidelines only establish a support amount for parties that earn less than a combined net yearly income of $187,200.00. Once the Child Support Guidelines reach their annual net income threshold, the Court has the discretion to enter an appropriate amount of child support that is commensurate with the additional financial needs of the children.
For example, if a child has specific medical needs or is involved in an extracurricular activity that requires a significant financial commitment, the Court will factor this in when assigning a supplemental child support award. It is important to note that both parties will more than likely need to recreate and isolate a budget for the children’s portion of the family expenses to properly development a child support obligation when the parties’ combined net income exceeds the threshold amount of $187,200.00 per year.
Post judgment refers to actions taken to modify or enforce a marital settlement agreement after a divorce has been finalized. Post divorce modification can be as small as correcting obvious typographical errors to more complex custody and financial arrangements including modification of child support and alimony. In many divorce modification cases involving children, alimony, relocation, or changes in income, court ordered modified agreements may be necessary after a divorce is finalized. While not every divorce situation requires post divorce modification, many cases find divorce modification imperative.
Some of the most common issues after a divorce involve the payment of college expenses, the modification and re-calculation of child support and emancipation of children, as well as modifications of alimony. Post judgment can also address more serious issues including the need to file orders of protection against violent or threatening ex-spouses, as well as the enforcement of compliance if certain terms in a divorce are not carried out fairly or if an ex-spouse is delinquent in paying support.