FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’s):
Although every case is fact-sensitive, this blog post is created to address certain issues that often come up at divorce consults involving business owner clients.
Q. How long will it take to be divorced?
A. Perhaps surprisingly, this is the number one question I am asked---even above how much the divorce will likely cost.
The average divorce is approximately one year. For a divorce where one or more businesses are involved the average may be closer to a year and a half. The actual range, however, may be as little as one or two months to upwards of three or even four years in highly-contested matters. There are a number of factors that affect how long it takes to finalize a divorce, including whether the parties pursue mediation or litigation, the complexity of the case, the reasonableness of the parties and counsel in negotiating, the speed at which financial documents are exchanged, the ease of valuing the business, and the desires of the parties to bring the matter to a close.
Q. What are the legal fees involved in getting divorced?
A. Our divorce lawyers, like most new jersey divorce attorneys, bill by the hour. For the reasons mentioned above, it is therefore impossible to provide clients with a cost as it will range on how long it takes to get divorce and more specifically by the number of hours of legal work performed. The cost can therefore range from low four digits to low six-figures, although the range for most divorces is more likely between $5,000 and $25,000 and $10,000-$45,000 in cases involving business owners. We endeavor to work efficiently for our clients to provide encompassing advice while avoiding an overly burdensome cost. Generally I will seek at least a $7,500.00 retainer for a contested divorce involving a business owner. For motions or uncontested divorces the retainer amount will generally be less. Obviously a modest side-business may not require as much of a retainer or as much work but if you are reading this book it is assumed your business or businesses are your primary income source or primary asset.
Q. What are My Responsibilities while the Divorce is Pending?
A. Essentially both parties are required, while the divorce is pending (known as the pendente lite phase of litigation) to maintain the “marital status quo.” This means maintaining insurance, not encumbering or dissipating marital assets or incurring inappropriate marital debt, paying certain regular expenses, and the like. Parenting time and access to children should also maintain the status quo of the marriage.
Q. What if an Act of Domestic Violence Occurs?
You should immediately contact your local police department or the court and file a temporary restraining order.
Q. Will I be Entitled to Custody and Parenting Time?
A. In most instances, courts favor joint legal custody. There is even a movement towards joint physical custody. Joint legal custody involves the ability to make important decisions in a child’s life and physical custody addresses who will more often be providing daily care to the child. These cases are particularly fact-sensitive, but courts almost always favor parenting time for both parents unless same would be detrimental to the best interests of the parties’ child. Although custody and parenting time are generally not impacted by business ownership (and are written about more extensively in my first book, Happily EVEN After, the amount of time one spends out of the home and out building the business may impact custody claims. Likewise, the flexibility of business ownership may allow for additional parenting time or custody.
Q. How is Child Support Calculated?
A. New Jersey utilizes “Child Support Guidelines,” a type of algorithm that provides a weekly child support obligation based on various factors including the incomes (imputed or real) of the parties, the amount of overnights each parent exercises with the children, the number of children, and the children’s age. It is more difficult to impute income or calculate income in a business as it requires an analysis of reasonable business expenses. The same is true for formulating an appropriate alimony obligation.
Q. How Do I Know if I am Entitled to Alimony or if I have an Alimony Obligation?
A. Unlike with child support, New Jersey has yet (although this could change in the future) to enact alimony guidelines. Accordingly, Court’s address a number of factors such as the length of the marriage, the income/income potential of each party and the parties’ ages, in determining whether alimony is appropriate and if so, whether the alimony should be permanent, term, rehabilitative, or reimbursement. As stated above, alimony may also be provided “pendente lite.”
Q. Why should I Choose Carl Taylor Law, LLC for my Divorce?
A. Because we will work with you to assess your goals and help provide closure so you can move forward with your life. Hopefully this book will help answer the question of whether we will be a good fit or not for your important New Jersey family law matters. Managing partner Carl Taylor is a business owner and enjoys working with other entrepreneurs of all sizes. Our firm emphasizes the representation of hard-working business owners and provides resources and information to such clients so they can become an active and valuable part of their own legal team.
A Note on: New Jersey Divorce: Initial Consultations
A divorce initial consultation is very important. Generally, it is the first time an attorney and a prospective client meet one another. It is important for both parties to be prepared for the meeting and determine if a successful working relationship is possible. Some clients find the initial consultation stressful, so I wanted to address the nature of an initial consultation, at least how our firm handles them.
Q. What to Bring to the Divorce Initial Consultation?
There are certain intake procedures and forms that our firm utilizes prior to meeting with a client. The more information we receive prior to the initial consultation, then the better prepared we can be to provide preliminary advice on how to proceed. This is even more important when a party is a business owner as there will be no handy W-2’s or paystubs to demonstrate income. We will need at a minimum any prenuptial agreements, any prior orders, the last three years of tax returns, and K-1’s, incorporating documents, and other relevant business and personal documents. Although our firm is not formally retained until a retainer agreement is signed with our firm, we do like to provide clients with general information as well as more specific pieces of information such as likely alimony and child support ranges. As our website has numerous articles, videos, podcasts, e-books, and more available, we encourage you to visit www.mynjdivorcelawyer.com to learn more about our firm and about New Jersey divorce law prior to our initial consultation and throughout our firm’s representation.
Q: What Types of Questions Will You Ask Me During the Divorce Initial Consultation?
Similar to most doctor’s offices, I like to begin with asking basic information such as a prospective client’s contact information, date of birth, date of marriage, etc. Then, I generally will ask the prospective client why they are meeting with our firm. It is important to air out the marital issues so that we can later focus on more technical information gathering. Has the prospective client attempted marriage counseling? Is their marriage salvageable? Has their spouse already retained an attorney or filed formal divorce proceedings? These are all important questions that will be asked.
From there, I will generally ask a series of questions in hopes of learning the parties’ financial situation. New Jersey is a “no-fault” divorce state, so financial considerations are, along with child custody, the heart of New Jersey divorce law. Some of the areas I will address with a client include:
- Both parties’ income/employment (personal or business);
- The status of their children.
- Possible custody issues.
- Real property such as the marital home.
- Business assets and liabilities;
- Bank accounts.
- Investment accounts.
- Retirement accounts or pensions.
- College costs.
- Premarital, gifted, personal injury, or inherited property.
- Life insurance.
- Health insurance.
- Automobiles, vehicles, boats.
- Stock options.
- Profit sharing plans.
Once these important topics (and other such topics) are discussed, I will then be able to provide the potential client with some perspective on where their case may be heading. I may discuss alternate dispute resolution options with the client. If litigation is the likely outcome, I will provide some insight into how the case will likely turn out. I will also provide clients with a copy of my book Happily EVEN After (and if appropriate, a copy of this book as well) along with any other important articles. This allows clients to save money by being able to reference answers to some of their questions without being required to seek attorney or paralegal time. Of course, if we are needed we are always here to assist. This is the backbone of the efficiency that our firm prides itself on.
Initial consultations end with a question/answer session and information on the next steps if a prospective client wishes to become a client. Likely costs, attorneys’ fees, and the retainer amount will also be discussed at this time.
By focusing on the goals of the client and meshing those goals with the facts of the case and the relevant law, a tailored strategy can be crafted from early in a case to reach the desired outcome or goals. This is true for all divorces and is particularly important for divorces involving business-owners.