By Christine Fitzgerald

The wreaths are up, carols are playing in stores, and decorations are coming down from the attic—the holiday season is here. Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukah are quickly approaching and winter break is right around the corner.

If you haven’t already agreed to a holiday schedule with your co-parent or are working on the details of a temporary schedule to get your family through the remainder of the year, now is the time to start or finalize them to ensure that plans are in place. By amicably addressing the holidays now, you have the opportunity to plan appropriately for your children to make the holidays fun and stress-free for them. 

Although creating a holiday schedule can appear daunting, it can be friendly and smooth if you focus more on your children than on disagreements with your co-parent. To make the most of your holidays with your holiday parenting plan, here are some Do’s and Don’ts to follow: 

  • Do start with a list of the holidays that you, your co-parent and/or your children celebrate and would likely alternate. Then, if your co-parent celebrates Hanukah and you celebrate Christmas, include that on the list of holidays that do not need to be alternated.
  • Don’t forget to check your children’s school calendar. There may be no reason to have an argument over a holiday that your children do not even have off school for.
  • Do consider offering your co-parent a holiday every year that has specific importance to them if it does not have importance for you. For example, if one parent has off of work on Martin Luther King Day and typically has planned an educational event with the children, consider letting that parent have Martin Luther King Day every year.
  • Don’t forget to consider how you and your family have previously celebrated the holidays. If you and your family always traveled over winter break, you may not want to address Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and winter break as separate holidays to allow for you to travel with your children on alternate years.
  • Do think about location. If both parents have families that reside far away, schedule holidays in larger blocks of time so that each parent can travel during his or her holiday to see their families.
  • Don’t forget about logistics. Occasionally, parents that remain in close proximity to each other split the holiday in two, with one parent having time with the children in the morning and the other in the afternoon. If the holiday is a heavily traveled day, build realistic time exchanges into your schedule.
  • Do feel welcome to invite your co-parent if you are on good terms and your children are old enough to understand that you and your co-parent are not reconciling.
  • Do wait to tell the children about your holiday or vacation plans until you have confirmed the details and schedule with the other parent.
  • Do enjoy your holiday with your children!

We at Seiden Family Law wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful holiday season!

By Christine Fitzgerald, Esq.

When used appropriately, social media can be extremely helpful in promoting yourself and your business and in staying updated on your community. But when you’re involved in a family law matter, social media has numerous dangers that all parties involved need to watch out for. 

If you don’t want to take a hiatus from social media while you are going through a divorce, we’ve developed a list of top tips to help avoid the nasty pitfalls of social media during this time:

Think Before You Post: This is perhaps the most important rule. Before you start posting about your luxurious vacation during a post-judgment application to increase your child support, or about your fun night out during a hotly contested custody battle, just don’t. 

Don’t Delete: Although you can unfriend your co-parent or ex-spouse, you cannot delete content from your social media account. That is called spoilage. If you delete any content from your social media, the Court is allowed to take a negative inference against you regarding the deleted content.

Check Your Privacy Settings: Ensure that you have the appropriate privacy setting on your social media accounts so that you can control who is seeing your social media content and what content is being shared with you.

Click Unfriend: If you and the other party are embodied in a contested litigation, unfriend him or her. (Extra tip: Don’t forget to also unfriend their friends and family.)

Coordinate With Your Friends and Family: You should absolutely let your friends and family know that you would like them to be careful about what content they are posting about you on social media, especially if the other party is friends with your friends and family.

Remember That Family Comes First: Even though you may be on good terms with the other party’s relative, remember that family comes first in most cases. If you are still posting during your divorce, be mindful of what information you are sharing online.

Don’t Badmouth: Under no circumstances should you, your friend, your new significant other, or your family badmouth or say anything negative online about the other party, the children, the other party’s attorney, the judge, the mediator, the other party’s family or friends, or anyone involved in the case.

Keep Things Confidential: The communication between you and your attorney is confidential and protected by attorney client privilege. Do not share this communication with the social media world. There is no need to tell the whole world a play-by-play of the details of your litigation either.

Look Out For the Children: If you have never posted pictures of or information about your children on social media before, now is not the time to start.

We at Seiden Family Law, LLC are happy to help you or someone you know determine what is and what is not appropriate for social media during a divorce litigation. Social media can be fun when used in the right way but not being careful during this difficult time can have a not-so-fun outcome. 

Article below was published in Law360

Article By Sheryl Seiden

This article is part of a series in which attorneys reflect on the formative life experiences that helped lay the groundwork for their careers in the legal profession. In this installment, Sheryl Seiden of Seiden Family Law LLC recounts how the searing experience of her parents' contentious, drawn-out divorce taught her to be resilient — and ultimately led her to a career in family law, helping other families during their own difficult times.

I like to call myself a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey who helps families in a time of need. But it took me a few stops to get there.

I was born in Philadelphia while my dad was finishing dental school. We then moved to Biloxi, Mississippi, where Dad served as a dentist in the U.S. Air Force and Mom played the role of the traditional military wife. From there, we went to Staten Island, New York, where Mom ran Dad’s dental practice, which was located in our house on Richmond Avenue. I recall many Saturdays when we had to leave the house because my dad was working.

It was just me with my parents until I was about six, when I was joined by a sister, another sister and then a brother. As a family of six we could no longer fit in the space above Dad’s office, so we moved to Marlboro, New Jersey. When my siblings came along, we grew to be very close, and as the oldest, I was very protective and looked out for everyone.

It was during my years at Marlboro High School that I first thought I might want to become a lawyer. I didn’t know what type of lawyer, but I was driven, hardworking and had a desire to help people (as I always helped my family) and a desire to be successful. I went on to study at American University's School of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., where I majored in justice. One spring, I interned for the U.S. attorney’s office in its sexual offense unit. It was this incredible experience that inspired me to want to become an assistant prosecutor. My plans were in place, and I was later accepted to New York Law School.

But it was when I had just completed my sophomore year in college, and was moving out of my dorm, that my world was turned upside down. It was a warm, sunny day in May of 1991, and I was looking forward to seeing my parents and being home with my family for the summer. When my mom arrived to pick me up, she came alone.

My dad wasn’t with her, and it was then that she explained to me that he had some emotional challenges that prevented him from being present for me at that time. For a long time, she worked hard to help him with his challenges and hide the pain from our family, but after years of not succeeding, she realized that it was best for her and for our family that they separate.

In the summer of 1993, just as I was graduating from college, my mother told me that my parents were getting divorced. I could not believe it. To others, we seemed like this perfect family of six. We had everything — a nice home, a luxurious lifestyle and two great parents.

It was then that I realized that not everything is always as it appears. Money can’t buy love. Money can’t buy happiness. And money surely can’t mend a broken home.

No child ever wants to hear that their family is breaking apart, especially one as close as ours was. For me, the perpetual fixer, the day I learned that my parents were getting divorced was truly one of the worst days of my life.

As the one in the family who always looked out for everyone, this was a hard time because I was powerless. I wanted to save our family — and I was convinced that I was going to be able to do it. I felt that I had to do it, not only for me but for my three younger siblings who needed my parents as they continued to grow up in our home during their teenage years. I remember many occasions when I bought Mom gifts from Dad (gifts that to this day she still thinks he bought her) desperately hoping that this would repair their relationship. I tried for years to get them back together, but nothing worked.

Their long and terrible battle lasted more than five years. While attending law school, and while my parents were in the midst of their contentious divorce, I decided I would become a bankruptcy attorney rather than an assistant prosecutor. At that time, I could never have imagined entering the world of family law, and I even dropped my family law class — the only class in law school that I ever dropped. As a third-year law student, I was the managing editor of the law review. This helped drown out the pain of my parents’ contentious divorce.

I started my legal career as an associate in the litigation department at a large New York City law firm, specializing in maritime law. I then ventured to another large New York law firm, where I practiced intellectual property litigation. I enjoyed both jobs, but didn’t feel a true passion in these positions. Having watched my parents go through their terrible divorce, I decided my calling was to focus on families, especially during the most difficult time in their lives.

Around that time a recruiter called me and tried to get me to leave my job. I told him that I would only leave if he could get me a job with Eleanor Alter, a world-renowned family lawyer and the best in the business. After much waiting, interviewing and soul-searching, I got my dream job working for Eleanor, and my life as a family lawyer started to fall into place.

What does it mean to be a family lawyer? For starters, it is one of the hardest areas of the law to practice in. Half of our job is to navigate clients through the complexities of family law, and the other half of our job is to counsel clients through the process. I chose to leave the world of litigation representing corporations to help people during the most difficult time in their lives.

Fast forward to the present: I am the founding partner of my own thriving law firm in Cranford, New Jersey. I recently became chair of the Family Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and I work every day to make family law in my state the best it can be. The lawyer that represented my dad during my parents' divorce, as well as one of the lawyers that represented my mother (with whom I am privileged to be co-authoring a book on family law issues), are both members of my Executive Committee.

I take time away from my family to help people in their own troubled times. I feel good about what I do, and I have helped inspire my children to help others. One of the worst periods of my life taught me how to be resilient and lead a family in a time of need, and

made me stronger as a person. Most importantly, it is the reason I’m here today as a family lawyer.

Sheryl J. Seiden is the founding partner of Seiden Family Law LLC.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

By: Shari Lee Genser, Esq.

When preparing documents to be exchanged in discovery, it is very important to be organized.  This organization extends beyond the documents you are producing, and equally applies to those documents not being produced. It is important to keep track of what documents you are producing in a detailed list, and likewise, to keep track of what documents you are not producing, and why.

By way of example, when a document request extends beyond the reach of what is available to you because you no longer maintain the original and a copy cannot be obtained, make note of your efforts to locate the original document, as well as any and all efforts to obtain a copy. This issue often arises with respect to requests for historic financial records that may extend beyond the record-keeping policy of your financial institutions. If your bank maintains statements for eight years, and the document request seeks 10 years of historic statements, you will likely be unable to fully comply. To avoid a discovery dispute, make clear at the outset what you are producing, as well as what you are not, with an explanation of your efforts to comply.

By way of further example, when a document request seeks items which are protected by privilege, such as medical records that are protected by doctor-patient privilege, or communications with an attorney that are protected by attorney-client privilege, make clear at the outset what your objections are to the document request. Your attorney may wish to review the documents with you before asserting these objections, but the privilege holder has the final decision whether to produce them or not. To avoid a discovery dispute, assert these privileges up front.

If your adversary is not put on notice of your reasons for not producing documents, a discovery dispute may arise and motion practice may follow. To avoid the expenditure of additional counsel fees on such discovery disputes, provide a clear explanation early on as to what documents are missing from your discovery production. While you ultimately cannot prevent the other side from filing a discovery motion if they reject your explanations, you may be able to successfully defend against such a motion and you will be better suited to submit the requisite opposition if you have already provided a clear explanation for the missing documentation.

By Christine Fitzgerald, Esq.

October signals time for pumpkin spice lattes, apple cider donuts, candy corn, and Halloween!

Halloween should  be a stress-free and fun holiday because there are no fancy dinners, large family gatherings, or gift giving involved. However, it  can be the complete opposite.  Costume decisions, trick or treat schedules and plans, and friendly gatherings can make Halloween a scary time, especially if you are a co-parent. If you are in this position, there is often even more to worry about with parenting time schedules and custodial decisions. By following my Tricks and Treats below, you can make Halloween a little easier and a Jack-O-Fun holiday:   

TREAT:  Do check your Custody and Parenting Time Agreement or Plan in advance of Halloween so that you avoid any miscommunications or misunderstandings about how Halloween is handled.  

TRICK:   When creating a holiday schedule, don’t assume you must alternate all holidays.  Halloween is a great holiday to share for co-parents that get along. Consider taking your kids trick or treating together. If being together makes your frightful, allow one parent to take the children to the school parade and the other trick or treating that evening.

TREAT:   Do make the most out of the Halloween season by taking your children pumpkin picking, apple picking, or to a community Trunk or Trick if  your kids are with their other parent for Halloween night.

TRICK:  Don’t make the holiday about you or your co-parent by putting the children in the middle of the decisions.

TREAT:  Do discuss with your co-parent costumes in advance so that your child is not the only one without a costume or with too many to choose from.

TRICK:  Don’t ignore concerns from your co-parent about your children’s safety.  As a family, discuss safety tips with your children to help ease any anxiety that your co-parent may have.

TREAT: Do help your children make a jack-o-lantern for your co-parent to encourage your kids to respect both of you and to promote healthy co-parenting..  

TRICK:  Don’t forget to let your co-parent know about any school activities or special events that your children are attending for Halloween.

TREAT: Do share pictures with your co-parent of your children dressed up in their costumes. .  

 Follow these Tricks and Treats so that you and your children have a ghostly good time!  Seiden Family Law, LLC wishes everyone a spook-a-ling and Happy Halloween!

By Christine Fitzgerald, Esq.

The first few months of school is a hectic time. Along with school clothes to buy, transportation to work out, healthy lunches to pack, and homework to manage, parents also have parent-teacher conferences to attend which can get tricky as a co-parent. 

For co-parents, the anxiety of meeting the teacher while seeing the other parent may cause added stress. I put together the following tips for co-parenting while attending these difficult situations:

  1. As soon as you receive the notification for a parent-teacher conference, share it with your co-parent to ensure they too can calendar the event.
  2. If you have a choice for parent-teacher conferences, check both your own calendar and your co-parent’s calendar so that the conference is scheduled when both of you can make it.
  3. Before any conference with your child’s teacher, discuss with your co-parent any issues that you intend to raise regarding your child and his or her education.
  4. Consider starting a Google shared calendar for the family so that you, your co-parent, and your children all can work off of the same calendar. This also helps eliminate unnecessary communication between you and your co-parent, thus, reducing unintended arguments.
  5. Make sure your children know how important they are to both you and your co-parent and that you are each taking an active and interested role in their lives.

By following these rules and remembering what is truly important – your children – you and your co-parent can have a successful and educational parent-teacher conference. If you need assistance handling co-parenting or other custodial issues, contact us at Seiden Family Law, LLC today. 

 

By Donald Schumacher, Esq.

If you’re like most parents these days, your kids’ lives are consumed by extracurricular activities. Team sports, gymnastics, karate, music lessons, horseback riding, and school clubs are just a few and the list goes on and on.  Parents are shuffling their kids to activities every day after school and there’s often no downtime until bedtime. In the case of divorce, kids’ extracurricular activities is an area that needs to be considered and factored into the agreement from the start.   

In our experience, a child’s activity level is a frequent bone of contention for separated and divorced parents. Some parents find it healthy to expose their child to many different activities so that the child has a better chance to experience what life has to offer. Other parents want to limit the activities to just a few, for the sake of time and academics, or to save on costs. Consider what the child enjoys and does not enjoy. You can enroll a child in an activity in order to challenge them, but make sure the child does not see the activity as something forced on them as a punishment.

When it comes to costs, activities can be outrageous. In addition to registration fees, there are uniforms to purchase, equipment to buy or rent, and other added expenses that come up throughout the year. When you add in travel sports, transportation and sometimes housing or hotels make the numbers go up fast. The Court Rules state that the costs for extracurricular activities are included in the child support guideline calculation that the Courts and practitioners frequently use, but it is not unusual for parents to agree that extracurricular activities should be handled as an additional expense that they would contribute toward, so long as they agree to the child participating in the activity and so long as they have the ability to pay.

When the activity takes place usually determines which parent must arrange for transportation to and from the activity. Even if it means arranging for a third person to transport the child or children to their activities, the party with parenting time on that day should be responsible. However, sometimes a parent will want the opportunity to travel with the child to their activities if the other is unavailable. Much like any other issue following a separation and divorce, good communication between the parents is very important.

In general, extracurricular activities are conducted in public. As long as there is no restraining order in place, both parties should be permitted to attend the children’s extracurricular activities, including  sports games, gymnastics meets, dance recitals, etc.  Yet, when one party refuses to contribute to the expense of an extracurricular activity, that party starts to lose the right to attend in some peoples’ eyes, including some Courts in New Jersey.

Extracurricular activities can be a great way for co-parents to stay involved in their kids’ lives together and on neutral territory. Getting an arrangement in place from the start as far as who pays for, drives to and attends what, makes for a smoother family life for all parties.

By: Shari Lee Genser, Esq.

 When co-parenting from separate households, parents must divide the time physically spent with their children. Under the best of circumstances, this division of parenting time presents opportunities for cooperative co-parenting, but in some instances, the division of parenting time becomes a major source of conflict. One area that parents are sometimes unable to agree upon is the division of vacation parenting time. 

With back-to-school in full swing, it’s time to take a look ahead at extended school breaks, when most parents desire to take their children on a special vacation or special day trips to celebrate the children’s time off from school and build lasting memories. Unfortunately, as children have a limited number of school breaks each year, parents who share regular parenting time between separate households are similarly forced to share this vacation parenting time as well. When both parents seek to exercise vacation parenting time during the same time periods, conflicts can arise. Consider the following tips to facilitate your vacation parenting time plans and avoid the added stress of an unnecessary co-parenting conflict.

TIP # 1: Be reasonable in considering your co-parent’s requests for vacation parenting time. Remember that your children will benefit from the opportunity to build lasting memories with both parents, and that your cooperation in facilitating a special vacation or special day trip for your child with your co-parent will go a long way in their future consideration of your requests for similar accommodations to facilitate a special vacation or special day trip for your child to enjoy with you.

TIP # 2: Similarly, be reasonable in your own requests for vacation parenting time. Remember that if you make vacation parenting time plans which are not appropriate for the age or maturity level of your children, your co-parent may voice a reasonable objection to your proposed plans.

TIP # 3: To facilitate cooperation, it is highly recommended to co-parents that they communicate well in advance as to proposed vacation parenting time plans. For example, if you wish to take the children out of town for a special vacation, it is advisable to discuss your proposed plans with your co-parent before booking any travel or accommodations. This will prevent you and your co-parent from booking simultaneous vacations and the resulting need for one of you to change your plans. In addition, if your co-parent is unreasonably refusing your request for vacation parenting time, advanced communication of your proposed vacation plans will give you adequate time to seek the assistance of counsel, or the Court’s intervention, as needed.

Vacations are wonderful bonding experiences for families and offer chances to make memories that last forever. Follow these tips to ensure planning your vacation goes as smoothly as possible and your trip is one that you and your children will always treasure.

By Sheryl J. Seiden

It’s Back to School time, and with that comes a whole host of responsibilities for parents to juggle. Divorced parents may find this time of year particularly challenging, but a good parenting plan will provide a full binder’s worth of guidance to help anticipate and plan for just this kind of co-parenting situation.

Working on your own parenting plan or simply determined to make sure this Fall goes smoothly? Here are some tips to deal with some of the financial and logistical challenges that divorced parents may face when the kids go back to school.

 First Day of School

It’s always a milestone to see your children off to their first day of school in their extra nice outfits with backpacks on their backs, ready to hit the books. Best co-parenting practice would be to invite the other parent over or to meet at the school to take photos if your relationship permits, but even if both parents can’t be there with cameras in hand, that doesn’t mean one of you needs to miss out entirely. Emailing or posting photos to a shared digital album that both parents can access will help everyone feel the excitement of the day, and the kids should be encouraged to share all the details of the new school year via phone when they get home from school.

School Supplies

From the school-provided list of supplies to other school-related items like lunchboxes, locks for gym lockers, and even new clothes, Back To School Shopping is a big deal – and a big expense. Parents can try creating a shareable Google Doc to keep track of what the children need. Consider divvying up what each of you has to purchase so that you are splitting the costs. Each parent should let the other know right away if they receive any notifications about what is needed for school, and these items can be placed into the Google Doc to keep both parties involved in the process of purchasing school supplies.

Back to School Night

The annual Back to School Night provides a chance to meet the teachers your children see every day, and that means it’s an event both parents may wish to attend. As soon as one parent receives the notice about Back to School Night, that information should be shared so that both parents can calendar the event, and the parent who has the children that night should make arrangements for childcare. If there are specific issues you want to address with your childrens’ teachers, it’s important to talk to your co-parent before Back to School Night to ensure that you are both on the same page.  The notice for Back to School Night and details regarding this event can also be shared between the parents in a Google Doc.

Activities

Many activities begin when the children go back to school, and that can mean a dizzying number of sign-up deadlines, registration fees, and scheduling challenges. From sports and music or dance lessons to math and science enrichment classes, co-parents need to discuss before the Fall which extracurricular activities the children will be participating in and who will take responsibility for their involvement. Once you’ve got a plan that everyone agrees on, it’s important not to let these activities fall through the cracks or wait until right before the deadline to sign-up.   

Nobody ever said co-parenting was easy, but with a bit of advance planning and some proactive communication, the childrens’ return to school can and will go smoothly. Keep your parenting plan and these tips at your disposal, and remember to prioritize your kids so that they can have a happy and stress-free start to the school year. We wish you the best of luck!

 

 

CRANFORD, NJ, August 19, 2019—Seiden Family Law founding partner, Sheryl J. Seiden, was included in the 26th edition of The Best Lawyers in America[1] for her work in Family Law. Best Lawyers, the only purely peer-review guide to the legal profession, announced the 2020 edition of The Best Lawyers in America on August 15, 2019.

Lawyers named to The Best Lawyers in America publication were recognized by their peers in the legal industry for their professional excellence in 146 practice areas. For the 2020 Edition, 8.3 million votes were analyzed, which resulted in the inclusion of more than 62,000 lawyers, or approximately 5% of lawyers in private practice in the United States.

Seiden has been recognized as a “Best Lawyer in America” since 2015 in the New Jersey area for her work in Family Law, .

Best Lawyers is the oldest and most respected peer-review publication in the legal profession. For more than three decades, Best Lawyers lists have been compiled by conducting exhaustive peer-review surveys in which tens of thousands of leading lawyers confidentially evaluate their professional peers. Recognition in Best Lawyers is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Seiden is a seasoned matrimonial lawyer, having practiced family law exclusively since 2000. In May of 2019, she was sworn in as Chair of Family Law Section (FLS) of the New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA). Previously, since 2008, has been an Officer on NJSBA’s Family Law Executive Committee (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 in 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.

[1] The Best Lawyers in America list is issued by Best Lawyers and U.S. News and World Report. A description of the methodology can be found at https://www.bestlawyers.com/methodology. No aspect of this advertisement has been approved by the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

By Donald Schumacher, Esq. 

Every once in awhile, parents get “curious” (but really worried and concerned) about what their children are doing on their devices. As a result, they install spyware and feel that it’s totally okay to ensure their safety.

However, installing spyware onto a spouse’s smartphone or computer without consent is not okay. In fact, doing so may be considered a predicate act of stalking. And, if the spouse proves that the spying causes them fear of harm, it could lead toward the issuance of a restraining order.

Before you brush this off as a slippery-slope argument, think about how many of us do not have the special set of skills necessary for discovering the spyware in our technology. If you are concerned that spyware has been installed, you should bring the device to a qualified technician to investigate. 

For example, pay attention if your spouse knows you are going to movies at 7 pm on a Friday night with friends and will be home late for dinner. In essence, if your spouse seemingly knows your plans before even you know them, unexpectedly showing up at events that you were attending, asking about specific events you attended the prior evening, these would lead any reasonable person to believe that they are being followed with the assistance of spyware. In such an event, private investigators can be utilized to scan electronic devices – but this can be expensive, as a forensic digital investigation can be quite complex. A more cost-effective remedy may be to just replace the device on which spyware has been installed but, if you do so, do not discard the device. You would be discarding the only evidence of spyware should the issue ever arise during the divorce proceedings.    

As a legal note to keep in mind, evidence obtained illegally is not admissible in court at the time of trial. That does not necessarily mean that one spouse may still consider installing spyware onto a device of their significant other. If you are concerned that your spouse has installed spyware on your electronic devices, you can report this to the local police. The police may not be able to assist you in proving that spyware has been installed or by whom, but calling 9-1-1 is not for the sake of pressing buttons on your phone. The police department will document the concern with the preparation of an incident report as to what were your concerns and the bases for the concerns. 

Although, in New Jersey, fault will generally never impact the ultimate outcome of a divorce action, if one litigant pursues litigation in a bad faith manner, bad faith can be a basis for an award of counsel fees. It would be awfully surprising to find a judge presiding over a divorce matter to not see installing spyware onto a spouse’s technology as being in bad faith. However, you would still need to prove to the Court that the spyware has been installed and by whom to demonstrate bad faith if you are trying to pursue a claim for legal fees.

Be aware, pay attention to the signs, and inform your lawyer of any suspicions.

DISCOVERING DISCOVERY: THE USE OF EXPERTS
By Christine Fitzgerald, Esq.

The decision of whether to retain an expert in a family law case generally is decided either at the start of the case or in the beginning of the discovery phase. The use of an expert to assist with resolving or litigating the case may be warranted depending on the type of issues involved in your case. There are many different types of experts that can be helpful in family law cases. Some of these experts and their specific roles are as follows:

  • Forensic Accountants: Forensic accountants assist family law attorneys with financial issues such as valuing a business, preparing cash flow and lifestyle analysis, calculating or capturing compensation, marshalling assets (generally when there are numerous and intertwined assets), and determining tax calculations.
  • Real Estate Appraisers: Real estate appraisers are primarily used to value real estate when one party wishes to buy out the other party’s interest in real property.
  • Property Appraisers: A property appraiser is helpful in a case where there is personal joint valuable property such as artwork, coin collections, jewelry, stamp collections, or antiques.
  • Pension Appraisers: A pension appraiser is used to value a pension when one party has a pension and wants to buy out the other party’s interest in the pension.
  • Forensic Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and other mental health experts: Mental health experts can be extremely helpful in many cases when there are custody or parenting time issues. Specifically, mental health experts perform custody or best interest evaluations, substance abuse evaluations, risk assessments, and psychological evaluations.

Once you have determined that an issue in your matter warrants or requires the use of an expert, the next step is to decide whether you wish to retain a joint expert or sole expert. A joint expert is retained as a neutral expert by both parties. A sole expert is retained by one of the parties. Generally, when one party retains an expert, the other party will likewise retain his or her own expert. There are benefits and disadvantages to hiring a joint expert or a sole expert. Some of these benefits and disadvantages are:

  • Cost: When a party retains a joint expert, the cost of the expert is shared, paid from joint assets, or paid by the primary breadwinner and there is only one expert to pay, which may make for a more cost-effective use of an expert. If each party retains his or her own expert, then the parties are collectively or separately paying for two experts as opposed to one expert.
  • Access to the Expert: The benefit of having your own expert is that you and your attorney can work with the expert to frame the issue in the most advantageous way within reason. Additionally, if your case is going to be litigated, your expert can assist with trial preparation. When you have a joint expert, that expert is a neutral party and cannot assist one party or strategize as how to frame the valuation, evaluation or analysis in a way that is more advantageous to one party.
  • Results: In a case where a joint expert is used, there will not be competing results, which may make settling the issue easier as there are not multiple determinations or recommendations. However, the disadvantage is that depending where the case is in the litigation phase, you may not be able to obtain his or her own expert or a rebuttal expert if the litigant does not agree with the joint expert’s result.
  • Resolution: Although both joint and sole experts are able to assist with settlement discussions, a joint expert is often in a better position to act as a go-between for settlement discussions.

The decision to retain an expert and whether to retain a joint expert or a sole expert depends on the specific circumstances of your case. If you or anyone you know wants to learn more about how an expert can help your case, call us today to schedule a consultation.

 

By Christine Fitzgerald

 We all love social media. It’s a great way to catch up with old friends, see what people from high school are up to, and generally keep in touch. We all love it until we don’t love it anymore. Perhaps unfairly, social media has been blamed for the fall of civilization, rising divorce rates, and laissez faire attitude of millennials. In reality, civilization has not fallen. Millennials are inventive, smart and are doing just fine. However, in the context of relationships and in family law litigation, social media does have a number of pitfalls that can have an impact.

For people in a relationship, the following issues often arise in social media usage and can impact the relationship:

Usage: Your spouse or significant other may feel left out or ignored by your constant use of social media depending on the frequency and overall time you spend on it.

Concealed Usage: Both Snapchat and Instagram have a feature that allows conversations or photographs to disappear without having to delete them. Between your close friends, this feature is fun to use and a way to send funny and unflattering pictures of yourself, but when it comes to a couple lacking trust, it can appear that the significant other or spouse is being secretive and using social media to conceal an affair or inappropriate relationship.

Privacy: Not every person wants to be on social media. If your spouse or significant other does not want his or her picture on the internet, then you should consider checking with him or her before posting. Privacy is a hot topic these days.

During family law litigation, social media is a topic that comes up often and can truly change the course of a case if you are not careful. Here are some ways that social media can impact your family law litigation:

Discretion: If you are not careful with your posts, you may find yourself in a situation where the other party has “dirt” on you that they got through your own social media! For example, the litigant that claims that he or she cannot afford to pay support but posts about his or her lavish vacation may see his or her post attached to an application to the Court. This same concept can be used in a cohabitation, custody or many other types of cases.

Forbidden Use of Social Media: Often during a marriage or relationship, significant others share passwords, credit cards, or other confidential information. While this may be acceptable during the relationship, it is inappropriate and may be illegal during litigation. More specifically, a litigant that uses his or her significant other’s password to obtain relevant evidence from the other person’s social media accounts may be in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:156-3(a), which is more commonly known as the Wiretap Statute.

Spoliation: Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have a feature that highlights other posts or highlights from your previous posts called memories. Often, looking back at these memories may cause you to want to delete the now embarrassing post. Other times, you have posted something that may have an impact on your family law litigation and want to delete the post. If you are in the midst of family law litigation, you cannot go back and delete these posts as it is considered spoliation, and a Court may sanction you for failure to provide discovery or find an adverse inference against you for destroying or concealing evidence among other remedies.

Social media can be tricky to navigate in your life and even more difficult during your family law litigation. As shown above, your social media usage can have a big impact. Speak to an attorney at Seiden Family Law to ensure that your social media usage is not harming your case.

 

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.    

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.