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 AAML NJ Blog


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  • 30 Sep 2020 9:39 AM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    By Jeralyn Lawrence Esq. 

    As of August 2020, over 150,000 Americans have died because of COVID-19. While evidence suggests that children are at a lower risk of experiencing symptoms of the illness, this is not always the case. There is also a possibility that they will acquire the illness and spread it to others, and this may be something to consider when it comes time to hand your child over to his or her other parent.

    You Generally Cannot Unilaterally Modify Parenting Time

    It is important to understand that you don’t have the authority to defy or attempt to modify a parenting time schedule on your own. Instead, you can talk to the noncustodial parent about any concerns that you have about your child’s safety during this unprecedented time. If you have a good relationship with the noncustodial parent, it may be relatively easy to come to an agreement without the need to go to court. However, if issues do arise, don’t hesitate to contact Lawrence Law to speak with one of our divorce attorneys to learn more about your options.

    Review the Parenting Plan

    Ideally, you and your former partner created a parenting plan that would outline how you two would work together to raise your child. The plan should spell out what happens in the event of a custody dispute and how any arguments should be resolved. For instance, the document might stipulate that disagreements are to be resolved with the help of a mediator.

    Most mediators have worked as family lawyers or otherwise have the training and experience to help resolve issues in a timely and civil manner. Working with a neutral party can be especially helpful considering that you probably didn’t anticipate custody issues stemming from a global health emergency.

    Gather Evidence to Justify Your Position

    If you’ve already taken steps to limit parenting time, consider reaching out to an attorney. A divorce lawyer can help you gather evidence that might justify any steps that you took to defy or modify an existing custody order. For instance, if the other parent tested positive for the virus, you may be justified in not allowing your child to see that individual. If you know that your child has shown symptoms of the condition, you could claim that you were looking out for the other parent’s health and safety.

    Medical records or physician testimony could be used to show that you have been immunocompromised and at higher risk for contracting COVID-19 after spending time in close proximity with others who tested positive. Medical professionals have also found evidence that individuals with asthma, who are overweight or who have diabetes experience greater side effects of the coronavirus. One of our family lawyers at Lawrence Law could help you obtain medical records or help to put them into context during a court hearing.

    A judge might agree with your decision to withhold custody in the event that the other parent has traveled to an area where the virus is prevalent. Finally, it may be possible to avoid penalties for defying an existing court order if you can show that your child will be exposed to individuals who don’t practice social distancing.

    The Other Parent Still Has Rights

    As a family law attorney will likely tell you, the other parent still has the right to be in your child’s life. Even if arrangements are made to avoid physical contact for the time being, you should allow your child to call or write letters to that person. Depending on your child’s age, it might be appropriate to allow your child to communicate with a parent through social media.

    It may also be a good idea to allow for video chats so that your child doesn’t have to go weeks or months without actually seeing his or her mother or father. Whatever arrangement that you and the child’s noncustodial parent come to, it is important that it takes your son or daughter’s best interests into consideration.

    What Happens If You Violate a Custody Order?

    You could face a variety of consequences for violating a visitation order. The severity of those consequences will depend on your actions, if you have violated the order in the past and the judge’s discretion. In some cases, offenders are simply be told to comply with the order or risk being in contempt of court. If you are in contempt of court, you could be fined, sent to jail or lose custody of your children on a temporary or permanent basis.

    family law attorney may be able to provide greater insight into what will happen if you don’t follow the parenting time schedule. Legal counsel could help you prepare for a hearing and share advice about how you should act in court. Ideally, you will come to a hearing well-rested and looking respectable, and it is also a good idea to be polite to the judge and the child’s other parent. By showing that you take the matter seriously, the judge will more likely to show leniency when making a ruling.

    The Parenting Time Schedule Might Be Modified

    There is a chance that the judge overseeing your case will modify the current parenting time schedule. This may ease your concerns while still doing what is in the best interest of the child. For example, the noncustodial parent might be allowed to come over for a family dinner once or twice a week. It’s possible to stipulate that visitation will be suspended until after the noncustodial parent tests negative for the coronavirus for a certain period of time.

    Consider Whether Your Objections Are Truly Related to COVID-19

    When a relationship ends, there is a good chance that you will experience a variety of emotions such as anger and sadness. However, it is important that you don’t let your personal feelings for your former spouse or partner get in the way of doing what is best for your children. One of the best ways to avoid allowing negative emotions to stop you from being a great parent is to process them in a healthy way.

    For instance, it might be a good idea to talk with a therapist, enroll in a yoga class or start running every night after work. Any healthy hobby can be good for dealing with stress. A divorce lawyer will tell you more about the benefits of controlling your emotions and where you can get help coping with what has happened in your life. Generally speaking, learning how to become mentally strong makes it easier to help your child deal with the changes that he or she is being forced to adapt to.

    Seek Legal Assistance Before Making Rash Decisions

    If you need a family law or divorce attorney, feel free to contact Lawrence Law at your earliest convenience. You can reach us by calling 908-645-1000.  It is also possible to get in contact with us by sending an email to info@lawlawfirm.com. We’re prepared to answer any legal questions related to child custody and the COVID-19 crisis.

    Original Post: https://lawlawfirm.com/why-covid-19-might-not-be-a-good-reason-to-deny-parenting-time/

  • 16 Sep 2020 11:02 AM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    Post by AAML NJ Electrum Sponsor Wilmington Trust 

    In this podcast by Family Lawyer Magazine, Christy Watkins, Wilmington Trust’s Senior Investment Advisor and member of the National Matrimonial/Divorce Advisory Practice, discusses the types of financial information family lawyers need in order to negotiate the best deal possible for their clients.


    Link to the podcast: https://familylawyermagazine.com/articles/financial-information-family-lawyers-need-negotiate-best-deal-for-clients/


  • 14 Aug 2020 1:00 PM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    By Jeralyn L. Lawrence, Esq. 

    One of the most stressful things that parents are dealing with is parenting time issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. I came up with these general guidelines regarding custody and parenting time during this crisis.

    1. If there is an order in place addressing custody and parenting time, follow that order. The only exception is if the best interests of the child dictate otherwise.
    2. Courts do not like self-help and unilateral violations of court orders. How one behaves and co-parents now and the good faith, or lack thereof, shown to the other parent will matter. Courts will hold the parent acting unreasonably or in bad faith accountable, in time.
    3. Now more than ever, parents must work their hardest at cooperating, communicating, compromising, and co-parenting.
    4. Executive Orders issued by a State’s Governor must be followed. Social distancing, stay-at-home and all other COVID-19 directives are to be followed.
    5. Exposure alone to someone infected to COVID-19 is not enough to deprive a parent of their parenting time. Should someone show symptoms or evidence of illness, that may yield a different result and an expectation to self-quarantine away from the child.
    6. Your child is listening to you. Be careful in how you speak and what you say. Do not instill unnecessary fear or worry. Limit exposure to the media.
    7. Be creative. If one parent misses parenting time, offer virtual time and be generous with make-up time.
    8. Find ways to turn this crisis into an opportunity to create vivid, yet fun, memories with your child with stories for them to tell for years to come.

    The above guidelines are achievable. I recommend that you adopt them. By doing so, parenting time issues during the COVID-19 pandemic will be limited. Please let me know if you have any questions about this blog post.


  • 14 Jul 2020 12:42 PM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    Post by AAML NJ Electrum Sponsor Wilmington Trust 

    In this video interview by Family Law Magazine, Sharon L. Klein, Wilmington Trust’s President of Family Wealth, Eastern U.S. Region and Head of the National Matrimonial/Divorce Advisory Practice, and Mark Bank, Michigan Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, review their top tips & traps for negotiating divorce settlement agreements.

    Link to the interview: https://familylawyermagazine.com/articles/top-tips-for-negotiating-divorce-settlement-agreements/

  • 4 Jul 2020 9:00 AM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    By Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq.

    New Jersey has entered Phase II of its reopening, and more and more people will be venturing out of quarantine, into what’s being called ‘the new normal’: six feet apart, outdoors, wearing a mask, etc. We urge you to follow CDC guidelines and take the necessary precautions, but also to enjoy some summer sunshine (for more on this, please see my previous blog post: https://lmllawyers.com/save-the-pandemic-summer-from-being-a-total-bummer/).

    Part of summertime is, of course, celebrating our country over the Fourth of July weekend. With the global pandemic still in effect, and each state at a different timeframe in their re-openings, we realize some of the July 4th weekend may look different: postponed fireworks, so as not to attract large gatherings; a car parade instead of a traditional parade; and smaller grill-outs that may include ‘doubling your bubble’ or only taking your mask off to eat.

    You can still, of course, celebrate the Fourth, and if you have children, and are in the middle of a divorce, or just in a rocky place in your relationship (heightened by quarantine!), here are three tips on how to celebrate nevertheless:

    1.      Consult with your co-parent/spouse/partner. Now more than ever keeping the lines of communication open are vital. It’s important to know what your co-parent is comfortable with: going to a public beach, and staying socially distanced? having a child’s best friend over to use the pool? venturing out to a theme park? Everyone’s going to have different opinions as to what’s safe to do this summer, and it’s best to consult with your co-parent, and respect his or her level of comfort.

    2.      Be creative! Use this odd time to find new ways to celebrate July 4th, and even educate your children about the history of America. That could mean writing and performing a short show in which your children play Uncle Sam, George Washington and Betsy Ross, or leaving it to the professionals and firing up Disney+, popping the popcorn, and settling in with your family for a quarantine-watch of the mega-smash, original cast Broadway musical Hamilton on Friday, July 3rd. Either way if you’re not yet comfortable gathering with folks outside your bubble— or if rain dampens your socially-distanced, outside celebration— there are plenty of innovative ways to celebrate the founding of the country.

    3.      Remember the ‘me’ time! Our Megan Hodes has written before on the importance of ‘me’ time as it relates to co-parenting (https://lmllawyers.com/good-co-parenting-means-making-me-time/), and it’s even more relevant both during this global pandemic, and when a holiday weekend comes up during ‘the new normal.’ Everyone’s given to feelings of stress, exhaustion and overwhelmingness, and even though it can be tough to carve out just one hour to soak in a bath, take a walk, get lost in a novel or have a glass of wine and just sit, it’s more important than ever to take some ‘me’ time. Not just for you, but for your mental health, for your ability— and patience—  to parent, and for your ability to really relate to your co-parent.

    Everyone at our firm wishes you a safe, healthy, fun and Happy 4th of July weekend!

    A version of this article already appeared on my blog, https://lmllawyers.com/category/lets-talk-about-divorce/

    *****

    Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq. is the co-Chair of the Family Law Department at the New Jersey-based law firm of Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC (www.lmllawyers.com). Madeline is a Diplomate of the American College of Family Trial Lawyers. She is a prior President of the national American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as past President of its New Jersey Chapter, and past Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association.


  • 23 Jun 2020 2:00 PM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    In this video interview by Family Law Magazine, Sharon L. Klein, Wilmington Trust’s President of Family Wealth, Eastern U.S Region and Head of Wilmington’s National Matrimonial/Divorce Advisory Practice, and Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, past president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, reveal their top tips and traps for negotiating premarital agreements.

    Link to interview: https://familylawyermagazine.com/articles/watch-top-tips-for-negotiating-premarital-agreements/


  • 19 Jun 2020 12:27 PM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    By Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq. 

    Warmer weather and longer days are here— we’re officially in summertime— but let’s face it: this is weird. Coping with the ongoing novel coronavirus, and dealing with phased re-openings as the pandemic persists throughout summer, will feel different because it is different. And if you’re co-parenting, it may even feel more difficult than co-parenting through quarantine, because our— and our kids’— natural desires are to go out and enjoy summertime fun in the sun!

    And you still can. But there are a few things you and your co-parents should talk about, and do, before you all leave the house and enjoy the season.

    1. Prioritize health: Agree with your co-parent that everyone’s health and safety is paramount. If that means strict quarantining for 14 days before or after taking a trip or expanding your circle (or “bubble,” in our new pandemic language), so be it. If it means patiently explaining to a child that they have to wear a mask when they go to a park with a friend, it’s worth it. Safety first.

    2. Consult with your co-parent: With summer plans changing (okay, we’re not going on our usual getaway this year) or outright canceled (goodbye, summer camp! Maybe, to the beach?) it’s more imperative than ever to consult and talk honestly. It means being flexible and adaptive in giving your children— and your co-parent— a chance to enjoy a bit of my favorite season, and everyone a chance to make a summertime memory during the pandemic.

    3. Be creative: A day at the beach too crowded? What about a wading pool in the backyard, complete with all the make-your-own popsicles you can eat? You can even set up a lawn chair with amenities and escort your child to their reserved spot. An afternoon movie matinee at the local cinema out of the question? Screen a classic summer blockbuster and set up a snack stand, with admission tickets and hand-drawn movie posters. Family trip to the ice cream place after dinner out of the question? Set up a make your own sundae bar or, if you really want to go for it, make your own mason jar ice cream. Use your imagination this summer!

    4. Make it fun-damental: Just as it isn’t a ‘normal’ summer, it wasn’t a ‘normal’ school year. Most schools transitioned to remote learning at some point, and pretty much any teacher or parent will tell you something was lost in translation in Google Classroom, or over the transom of the Chromebook. Therefore, encouraging children to pursue a vigorous summer reading list, or keep a journal of their pandemic summer, or watch online educational videos relating to science, math, English and history could be a positive way to continue learning throughout the summer— especially if you and your co-parent can agree on how to jointly promote learning. The same way adults working from home many not realize what day it is, the lines between summer and school are going to be blurred this year. 

    5. Stay cool— and stay safe: Even without the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus, we know, due to climate change, it’s going to be another hot summer. The temptation may be to flee to the beach or town pool immediately, but even if these facilities are open, it’s important to use them wisely. Wear a mask. Consult with your co-parent so that everyone’s following the same recommended guidelines. Stay 6 to 10 feet apart from other families on a beach. And if you don’t feel comfortable cooling off in a public place, see if you can make your home a cool one. That doesn’t mean you have to rush to add an expensive pool; an investment in a long, new hose, plenty of water balloons on hand, or a reasonably priced slip-and-slide might just do the trick.

    6. Give everyone a break: Just like a normal summer family trip or experience, there’s going to be meltdowns. Rainy days when no one wants to do anything but sulk. Tears over something not being the way it used to be— and not just from the kids. And that’s okay. It’s okay to be not okay this summer, and to try and simply get through it— and to try to enjoy what summer moments you all can.

    7. Remember: how we act toward each other, during this pandemic, will set a tone for after the pandemic. We hope you have a responsible, safe, happy— and healthy— summer!

    A version of this article already appeared on my blog, https://lmllawyers.com/category/lets-talk-about-divorce/

    Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, Esq. is the co-Chair of the Family Law Department at the New Jersey-based law firm of Lesnevich, Marzano-Lesnevich, O’Cathain & O’Cathain, LLC (www.lmllawyers.com). Madeline is a Diplomate of the American College of Family Trial Lawyers. She is a prior President of the national American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, as well as past President of its New Jersey Chapter, and past Chair of the Family Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association.


  • 12 Jun 2020 9:40 AM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    By Jeralyn Lawrence, Esq. Managing Member and Founder of Lawrence Law

    The main goal of divorce is to reach an agreement with your spouse. The terms of the agreement are memorialized, in writing, in a Marital Settlement agreement. This agreement is also known as a Property Settlement Agreement. A very high percentage, meaning almost all, divorce cases settle. In other words, a very small percentage of cases go to trial. At trial, a Judge will decide the issues relative to the divorce.

    There are two people that control how long a divorce takes and how much it costs. Those two people are the couple getting the divorce. As soon as they are able to agree upon terms, their case will be settled and a divorce decree obtained. To be able to reach an agreement, both parties will need to be able to communicate, cooperate and compromise. Any agreement reached will contain many compromises by the parties. As such, they will each have had to give up on issues to gain an advantage on other issues. It is important that both parties make concessions, not just one party. In the end, both parties must feel that they are reaching a durable and sustainable agreement. And that, the agreement meets both of their needs.

    Transparency is a Requirement

    It is important for both parties to feel fairly treated through the divorce process. This starts with full and fair disclosure of all financial records. Both parties need to be open and fully transparent about their assets and debts. The value of all assets must be ascertained to get a complete financial picture. This is common with business owners. A value of the business must be ascertained, as well as an accurate understanding of cash flow, before the settlement of a case.

    While a divorce is painful and emotional, there is no substitute for preparation. Preparation will allow you to negotiate and to reach an acceptable agreement. When settlement is impeded by the emotions of one of the parties, it may be important to bring a mental health expert into the process. This expert can address and strengthen the client throughout the process. Once the divorce is over, to goal is for the client to be able to embrace the next chapter in his or her life with a renewed sense of hope. And, a restored sense of self and security.

    As a lawyer, it is my job to lead the client to a better place. The goal of a divorce is to reach an agreement while positioning the client for long-term success. In my view, long-term success includes financial and mental health.

    Original post: https://lawlawfirm.com/the-goal-of-divorce/

  • 29 May 2020 3:09 PM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    Sharon Klein, president of Wilmington Trust Family Wealth, Eastern U.S. region, discusses the urgency for estate planning while divorce is pending, particularly in light of COVID-19, with Dan Couvrette, publisher of Family Lawyer Magazine. Now is the time to confirm designated heirs are up-to-date and that the right people are named to make important financial and health care decisions on documents like Health Care Proxies and Powers of Attorney.

    Click on the link below to watch. 

    https://www.divorcemag.com/articles/watch-estate-planning-and-covid-19

  • 20 May 2020 1:10 PM | Kirsten Peterson (Administrator)

    By Carolyn N. Daly, Esq. of Daly & Associates LLC

    With the onset of COVID-19 and Governor Murphy’s stay-at-home order, the court system has had to implement a number of procedures and protocols in order to allow courts to continue functioning while we all continue to social distance.  Although jury trials and other criminal proceedings are suspended, most other dockets are continuing.  The court system has indicated that, come May 10th, they have enough confidence in their online operations to largely proceed “as normal” (albeit a new normal), with more and more proceedings happening every day.  According to Morris County, they are conducting an astounding 420 virtual proceedings each week, or 60 per day.

    However, with these virtual proceedings come questions on the ability of the judiciary and the attorneys to perform the same functions they would be performing in the courtroom.  How does an attorney deal with scheduling meetings while also needing to parent young children?  How do litigants, particularly in divorce matters, attempt to work out parenting time schedules and other issues related to the children when the children may be there, listening?  It’s a difficult situation that everyone has had to adapt to, but there’s no denying that some proceedings are better able to adapt than others.

    Take trials, for instance.  While jury trials are postponed indefinitely, other types of trials and testimonial hearings are moving forward.  The judiciary has made clear that divorce trials, custody hearings, domestic violence trials, and more should proceed forward.  In fact, if the court is ready to hear your matter, they will hear the matter by Zoom, or other video teleconferencing platforms whether you consent to proceeding in this matter or not.

    When it comes to testimonial proceedings, this can be particularly concerning.  In a courtroom, a judge can see all the parties – the witness, the litigants, the attorneys – and make assessments in real time.  He or She can assess credibility not just from the witness testifying, but also from the parties, when they are sitting at counsel table and listening to the testimony, and perhaps even from the attorneys themselves.  But on a video call?  A judge can often only see a portion of any individual on a call and they may not be looking at the camera or in front of the camera all the time.  In court, the judge knows exactly what a witness has in front of him.  On a zoom call, the court has no idea what the witness has in front of them or who may be in the room with them helping them, outside of the view of the camera.  It raises some sticky questions, and in some cases, some serious due process concerns.

    In what can now be viewed as an ironic coincidence, the court actually set the table for allowing virtual hearings in a decision published in January, just before entry of the stay-at-home order, in Pathri v. Kakarlamath, Docket No. A-4657-18T1 (you can read the decision for free here).

    In the Pathri case, the parties filed for divorce in 2018, and the matter was scheduled for trial in June of 2019.  (Attorneys and litigants who are currently going through divorce proceedings will likely express shock at the speed of this trial as most divorce cases take significantly longer than one year to proceed to trial.)  Mr. Pathri, the Plaintiff, moved back to India after filing for divorce.  One week before the trial, he informed the court he could not get a Visa to fly back to the United States, and asked to instead appear and testify from India via video conferencing.

    The Judge denied Plaintiff’s motion to testify from India.  In doing so, the Judge relied heavily on a case from 1988 entitled Aqua Marine Products, Inc., v. Pathe Computer Control Systems Corp., 229 N.J. Super. 264 (App. Div. 1988).  In Aqua Marine, the court ruled that telephonic testimony could only be taken in limited circumstances where (1) the party testifying telephonically could somehow verify that he or she was who he or she claimed to be, and (2) there was some exigency, or emergency, that required testimony by telephone, unless the other party consented.  The court ruled there was no exigency, and thus denied Plaintiff’s motion in Pathri.

    Plaintiff appealed, and the court reversed.  Noting first that Aqua Marine came from a time when video conferencing was not only unavailable, but largely unfeasible, the court set down factors for a court to consider when determining whether to allow testimony via video or telephone, although the court clearly expressed a strong preference for video technology:

    • The witness’ importance to the proceeding;
    • The severity of the factual dispute to which the witness will testify;
    • Whether the factfinder is a judge or a jury;
    • The cost of requiring the witness’ physical appearance in court versus the cost of transmitting the witness’ testimony in some other form;
    • The delay caused by insisting on the witness’ physical appearance in court versus the speed and convenience of allowing the transmission in some other manner;
    • Whether the witness’ inability to be present in court at the time of trial was foreseeable or preventable; and
    • The witness’ difficulty in appearing in person.

    The court then walked through each factor, providing guidance to judges of the importance of each factor and considerations a judge should take into account when evaluating each factor.  Left untouched, of course, is the continued requirement of authentication; the court still must confirm that the person testifying is in fact who he or she says he or she is.

    This decision and the factors set forth therein can assist us in determining whether, in fact, we can proceed via Zoom or other video conferencing platforms, even after this pandemic has ended.  There is no question that there will be significant delays caused by insisting on the witness’ physical appearance in court (as of now, we don’t even know when courts will reopen for in person appearances) versus the speed and convenience of allowing the transmission by video or telephone.  Many cases have been impacted and delayed because of the unavailability of a witness or party.  This decision favors continuing proceedings, unless there are serious issues with respect to the other factors.  For example, in domestic violence cases, attorneys (particularly for Defendants) are already honing arguments that their client’s rights under confrontation clause to a full and complete cross examination is hampered by having all parties proceed via video.  Therefore, consideration should be given, if the Defendant wants, to simply continue the TRO until trials can occur in person as the victim is not negatively impacted by the delay since the restraints remain in place.

    The bottom line is that it is clear parties will be required, for the foreseeable future, to conduct their conferences, trials, and other hearings via video conferencing or telephone.  Parties and attorneys are going to have to adapt to this new normal and work together to ensure their matters proceed in a manner that ensures the best outcome for them.

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