When individuals finally get divorced, in many instances they have reached the end of a long journey. Like Dante, they have gone through hell and purgatory in order to, hopefully, reach heaven. The hell of divorce is the uncertainty, the breakdown of a sacred trust that will affect everything from finances to the time one gets to spend with their children. The purgatory in my (admittedly extended) metaphor is the waiting—-waiting to finalize an Agreement, waiting for court dates for a trial, waiting. The type of heaven offered is merely this: the chance to pick up the pieces and move forward with your life.
Unfortunately, the finalization of a divorce does not often absolve one of dealing with an ex-spouse. Besides issues of co-parenting or finalizing the sale of property, there may also be retirement accounts to be divided (VIA QDRO), and a myriad of other loose ends to tie up. You should make plans to change your will, if you have not already done so.
As for the Marital Settlement Agreement, it is sometimes not the panacea people hope. I tell my clients that the Marital Settlement Agreement is essentially a rulebook. It advises the parties of their rights and responsibilities in their new post-divorce lives. This “rulebook” will provide guidance of who can claim the children on their taxes or who gets the children from Thanksgiving in even or odd years, but it cannot address every issue that might arise post-divorce. Nor can it, absent Court intervention, force the other party to comply with its language. It is the goal of most divorces and perhaps the most important document in family law, but it is neither all-encompassing nor intractable, no matter how well drafted. For instance, there are times when a post-divorce change in circumstances may warrant modifying the Marital Settlement Agreement. For instance, since the Recession, many individuals have successfully petitioned the Court for a downward modification of child support or alimony. While there is certain language that can be added to the Marital Settlement Agreement—such as “Anti-Lepis Language” to defeat certain modifications, none of us can guess the future and whether such language will be helpful or harmful to a client’s position in five, ten, or twenty years.
Some of the typical types of “Post-Judgment” Divorce Motions include:
1) Motion to Enforce Litigant’s Rights – Filed when one party is not complying with the terms of the Divorce or subsequent Orders of the Court.
2) Motion to Modify Alimony or Child Support – Is there a “permanent and substantial” change in circumstances warranting the modification—either upwards or downwards—of alimony or child support?
3) Motion to Emancipate Children – New Jersey uses a nebulous standard (“Has the child moved beyond the sphere and influence of his or her parents?”) to determine emancipation. Absent consent of the parties this often needs to be proven in Court via Motion practice.
4) Motion to Relocate – In New Jersey, the custodial parent generally needs the consent of the other party or the Court’s permission to relocate to a different state.
5) Motion to Modify Parenting Time or Custody – Is there a change warranting a modification of previously ordered or agreed to custody or parenting time.
6) And so on, specific to the facts of each case.
In short, when you are divorced and the bittersweet moment occurs and you are no longer legally married, remember that there might be additional issues in the future. Enjoy the moment but keep your records organized and make sure timely compliance occurs—and that you are in compliance as well. The more the parties can work together (absent domestic violence type issues, etc.), the more additional legal fees for post-divorce issue may be avoided.
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.