Family Law

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Princeton and Greater Central New Jersey Family Law Attorneys

skey-law-family-healingAt Law Offices of W.S. Gerald Skey, we are committed to providing assertive, highly effective family law representation. With more than 40 years of combined experience, the attorneys of our firm help our clients secure the best available resolution to your case, from the simplest matter to the most challenging and complex of cases.

Decades of Helping Individuals and Families Through the Challenges of Family Law and Divorce

Family law pertains to the legal aspects of family and other personal relationships. Topics include marriage, annulment, separation, divorce, child custody, child support, domestic violence, alimony/spousal support, asset distribution, prenuptial and mid-marriage agreements, and other areas. Our firm brings exceptional family law representation to the benefit of those facing issues such as…

Alimony, which is sometimes called spousal support, is money paid to a spouse by the chief wage earner during the marriage. There are several types of alimony, and multiple factors that are considered in determining what, if any, alimony will be paid by one spouse to another. Contrary to popular belief, alimony is not automatically or exclusively payable by men to women, nor is it always paid in every divorce. If an alimony obligation exists, the higher wage earner is the paying spouse regardless of gender. Further, the spouse claiming alimony must prove an actual need for alimony and an inability for self-support after the divorce, which is not always possible. All sources of income are considered in the calculation, including access to investment income from assets received from the divorce. Disparity in income and the length of marriage are additional factors considered in an award of alimony. Alimony is tax-deductible to the paying spouse and taxable to the receiving spouse, which clients may consider when negotiating other aspects of the case such as child support or asset distribution.  Recent changes in the law make it critical for individuals to know their rights and obligations with respect to this important area of family law.

Custody, which also is called parenting time or visitation, consists of legal custody and residential custody. Legal custody concerns the major life decisions parents make for their children, including formal education, religious education, and health care. Residential custody concerns the physical residence of the child and which parent will be responsible for the child’s daily needs. Most families share legal custody between the parents unless there is a significant reason why one parent is unable to participate in this important aspect of child rearing on an equal basis with the other parent. As to residential custody, there are numerous ways to maximize both parents’ time with the child to meet the child’s best interests. Co-parenting a child of divorce can be a challenge and negotiating a workable parenting time arrangement that meets the needs of the child while accommodating the separate lives of the parents is an important part of the divorce process.

Several factors are considered when calculating child support. Disparity in the parties’ gross income, payment or receipt of alimony, support paid for children from other relationships, health care costs, day care costs, and the amount of time the child spends with each parent all combine to determine the amount of child support to be paid based on a mathematical formula established by the Court.
Typically, a child is considered emancipated at age 18, at which point child support obligations end, unless the child continues education on a full time basis after high school. The obligation will not stop automatically and must be requested from the Court by the paying party. New Jersey does not permit retroactive modification of child support, so it is important for a paying party to apply immediately for modification or termination of child support when appropriate. Child support may be required after age 18 under various circumstances, including cases where the child attends any type of post-high school education, such as vocational or technical school or college . The general test is whether the child is still under the influence of the parents or whether he or she is living independently as an adult. Having an attorney assist with this agreement is important to ensure that the parties and child are properly protected.

In addition to family law and divorce experience, we bring years of litigation experience to our clients to help address legal issues concerning general civil matters. We also have a strong network of attorneys who are specialists or speak foreign languages, to whom we frequently refer clients in all areas of the law.

Divorce law includes the case law and statutes that permit married individuals to dissolve their marriage by way of divorce or annulment and resolve all issues related to the marriage, including custody, support and asset distribution. Divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage. Annulment is the legal dissolution of a purported marriage that may be void or voidable, or that was invalid from its inception. Both types of dissolution are governed by New Jersey statutes, are under the jurisdiction of the Family part of the Superior Court.

Domestic violence, also called “intimate partner abuse,” “battering,” or “wife-beating,” refers to physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse that takes place in the context of an intimate relationship, including dating or marriage. Domestic violence is often characterized by long-term patterns of abusive behavior and control, and does not necessarily require a single, isolated event of physical assault. Domestic violence is gender-neutral and can occur to both men and women. Numerous resources and options are available to domestic violence victims to allow them immediate safety and security. Victims who obtain a temporary restraining order (TRO) against a perpetrator may have the police remove the perpetrator from the residence, be awarded temporary custody and child support pending a final hearing before a judge, and/or have attorney fees paid by the perpetrator.

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state where assets are not automatically divided 50/50. The law requires 15 factors to be considered by the Court when determining asset distribution, including the duration of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, the economic circumstances of the parties at the time of asset division, and the relative contribution made by each party to the acquisition of the asset. Distribution of marital assets can be done by agreement or by the court following a trial. Proper asset distribution is an important consideration towards ensuring financial stability post-divorce. Having an attorney explain and assist with this part of your divorce is important because any agreements made by parties prior to filing for divorce, even without the advice of counsel, may be enforced by a court.

Assets acquired prior to the marriage are immune from being distributed in a divorce. However, New Jersey has a complex history of case law that does not apply this rule in a black and white fashion. Depending on the type of asset, when it was purchased, and how title is held, a premarital asset may become subject to equitable distribution. Mr. Skey and Ms. Bhattacharya are well versed in this area of the law and co-authored this article on this issue that was published by the New Jersey State Bar Association.

A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) or Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) is a written memorialization of the terms of settlement in a divorce, and includes all issues of the divorce, including custody, child support, alimony, and asset distribution. An MSA is a binding contract that once signed, is extremely difficult to alter absent a legally significant change in circumstances. The permanency of an MSA means that parties should be careful to protect their rights and fully understand each and every term contained in the MSA before signing it. Hiring an attorney to help draft the document, or at a minimum to review it before signing, are crucial steps in order to ensure that individuals approach this very important final resolution of their divorce terms with full knowledge of the consequences of their agreement.

A pre-nuptial agreement is a contract between two potential marriage partners that specifies how assets will be divided should the couple divorce. While it is common belief that a pre-nuptial agreement relates only to assets owned by an individual prior to marriage, it also can address how assets acquired during the course of the marriage will be divided. Pre-nuptial agreements protect individuals’ past, present and future acquisitions. Thus, individuals who come to a marriage even without significant assets may consider entering into a pre-nuptial agreement to avoid the possibility of expensive litigation in the future regarding marital assets should they decide to divorce.

A less common occurrence but equally as important as the pre-nuptial agreement is a mid-marriage agreement, a contract voluntarily entered into after a marriage has occurred that delineates how assets will be divided should the couple choose to divorce. A Mid-Marriage agreement is akin to a Separation Agreement, but differs in that the couple may continue to live together after executing it.  It is an option for individuals who may acquire assets of significant value during the course of the marriage that both spouses agree should be retained as the acquiring or earning spouse’s sole assets.

Parties can enter into a separation agreement when they want to live separately from each other but are not yet ready for a divorce. A separation agreement is drafted in the form of a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), also known as a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA), which is used to settle the terms of a divorce. Parties can then use the document to live separately knowing that when they are ready, they may file for divorce and have the matter expedited since they already have all issues resolved. Parties sometimes choose this option as opposed to simply filing for divorce for religious reasons or for practical reasons such as the ability to continue medical insurance coverage for a spouse. The issues that parties must address when entering into a Separation Agreement are as complex as those for individuals involved in a divorce, and obtaining proper legal advice is important.

All too often people overlook the fact that changes in their family structure need to be reflected in their estate planning documents. We can assist with these matters to ensure that your plan fully addresses your new family structure’s needs while remaining compliant with the terms of your divorce. A Will is a detailed list of how an individual wants his or her assets to be divided upon death and names the individual or individuals responsible for managing the division process. Trusts are instruments that are included in Wills to provide a beneficiary with access to money with certain restrictions, which may be necessary for young children, elderly persons or spendthrifts. Without a Will, the New Jersey Statutes of Intestacy govern how an estate will be divided, and will not allow the decedent to determine which or in what proportions friends or family will receive the estate. Whether or not an individual currently owns significant assets, a Will can be drafted to account for future acquisitions. Thus, it is an important tool that every person, regardless of age, should have. Using an attorney for estate planning is important to help avoid estate documents from being challenged after death.

Law Offices of W.S. Gerald Skey can help in many areas of Family Law.  If your specific area of interest is not described above or you have additional questions please contact a NJ Family Law Attorney online or call us at (609) 436-5222.


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