Divorce & Family Law Insights

Be open and listen. The skill of opening the ears, putting down the phone, and actually listening is something that we all can work on…

Nicole A. Kobis, Esq., partner in Lindabury’s Divorce and Family Law Practice Group, discusses her thoughts on how to lead and succeed in today’s constantly evolving world as a featured guest on Lawline’s Lawyers Who Lead Podcast, with host Sigalle Barness.

While the war in Ukraine rages on, Good Samaritans are doing everything they can to help its people. Karolina A. Dehnhard, partner in Lindabury’s Family Law Group, speaks about her involvement with efforts to help Ukrainian orphans in Poland as a return guest on the New Jersey Morning Show.

As a Divorce Lawyer, I deal with family law issues all the time and some of the sensitive issues the we deal with are those of children, parenting, adoption, what happens with the kids. Imagine how lucky children are when they have even one parent. Now think about a situation where you have hundreds, if not, thousands of children living in over 650 orphanages in Ukraine, some of which have now been destroyed by the war, who have no one. So what we found over the last several weeks, is that many of these orphans have come into Poland and are now in our orphanages or care centers in our country but with that comes all these questions. Who’s responsible for these kids? Where’s the jurisdiction? Is it with Ukraine? Is it with Poland? We have now learned that adoptions have been suspended until the Russian war is over. So there are so many things to talk about, and one of the things we are going to do as lawyers, as judges, as philanthropists, is heading over there to lend a helping hand.

No one goes into a marriage expecting to be divorced, but when a family makes that tough decision, the last thing you want is for your children to be caught in the crossfire.

Nicole A. Kobis, Esq., partner in Lindabury’s Divorce and Family Law Practice Group, discusses the challenges of Divorce & Your Children as a featured guest on RVN Television’s Legal Breakdown, with host Erin Brueche.

Births, deaths, marriages and divorces reshape the definition of “family” for individuals on a constant basis. It’s no wonder, then, that family law and estate planning often go hand in hand. Estate planners and divorce attorneys alike are often presented with “what if” questions that span both areas of law. Here, we explore a few common questions clients may have when faced with these life transitions. The goal of this article, is to help clients make decisions that protect their loved ones and their assets.

Changing a Will

Can I change my will while getting divorced and should I? Although the last thing that many clients want to do once the divorce action has begun is to engage another attorney, it’s actually a good idea for them to review their estate plan this time.

While divorce looks different for every client – some saddened, some shocked, some happy to move on – a common emotion surrounding divorce is nervousness. For many, divorce may be the first time a person has prolonged involvement with the Court system. Understanding the Court System’s divorce process can help lessen anxiety and fear surrounding the divorce process.

Initiation. The first step in any divorce proceeding is the Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint essentially informs the Court of the general facts of your case and is the formal notice to the Court and your spouse that you are seeking a divorce. Your spouse will then have the chance to file an “Answer” to your Complaint.

Financial Paperwork. Generally, both parties to the case will individually file a “Case Information Statement”, which summarizes income and spending of the parties. It will also list any assets or debts that you have. This gives the Court an overview of your financial situation.

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Divorce inevitably results in a major life transition for all parties involved. Whether or not both spouses wish to end their marriage, divorce presents changes in family structure, time spent with children and financial resources. During a divorce, decisions need to be made about the most precious and important aspects of an individual’s life while they navigate the intense emotional effects of materially altering the way they may have envisioned their future. In order to protect yourself during a divorce, I advise my clients that the best way to make those decisions is to arm themselves with information so that they become informed consumers. I ask them to gather their financial information, including account statements and tax returns, think about what they want as they transition to life after divorce and what matters most to them as we begin to discuss the issues associated with dissolving their marriage. There are terms that are foreign, processes that are new and decisions that once made can change their lives forever.

The divorce process in New Jersey is focused on settlement- keeping as much control as possible with the spouses themselves who arguably know what is best for themselves, their children and their families. Many litigants turn to alternate dispute resolution means, such as mediation or collaborative divorce, to resolve the issues associated with dissolving their marriage. These processes allow for more creativity in settlement and more communication about the specifics of each issue. In cases that involve more complexity or discord, parent coordinators who help facilitate decisions regarding the children are brought in to manage parents even after the divorce has ended.

While divorce does create change, that change does not have to be for the worse. Surrounding yourself with trained professionals who can help navigate the process, the court system and help educate you while you move through the divorce will help ensure a smoother transition into the next chapter.

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Births, deaths, marriages, and divorces reshape the definition of family for individuals on a constant basis. It’s no wonder, then, that family law and estate planning often go hand in hand. Estate planners and divorce attorneys alike are often presented with “what if” questions that span both areas of law. Here, a few common questions are explored which can help guide people faced with these life transitions as they make decisions to protect their spouses, children, and assets.

Can I change my Will while I’m getting divorced? Should I?

Although the last thing that many people want to do once the divorce action has begun is engage another attorney, it is actually a good idea to revisit your estate plan at this time. Public policy prohibits disinheriting your spouse, so a spouse who is not named in the other’s Will could file a claim for the “spousal elective share” to receive a portion of the deceased spouse’s estate. The filing of a divorce complaint does not prevent a soon-to-be former spouse from inheriting an equitable share of marital assets. The New Jersey Supreme Court has analyzed what should happen in this situation and applied a remedy which does not allow the surviving spouse a windfall, but at the same time recognizes that at the time of the death, the parties were in fact still married.[1]

It is not uncommon in these difficult times for one ex-spouse to seek a modification of the divorce decree.  COVID has caused changes in everyone’s life. A party may have lost income or even their job and seek to decrease alimony and child support. Or concerns over the safety of unvaccinated children or the failure of an ex-spouse to receive a vaccination may lead a party to seek to modify visitation.

Litigation over these issues was already time consuming before the pandemic caused a backlog of matters before the courts.  You and your family may be better served by bringing your issues to mediation with a retired judge. During my 27 years on the bench I served 6 years as the Family Presiding Judge where I tried hundreds of cases and assisted in the settlement of many more. These cases involved alimony, child support, equitable distribution and custody. I also ruled on hundreds of post judgment applications. I believe my experience can be beneficial to ex-spouses who wish to reach a mutual resolution of their family law issues in a timely manner.

Nicole Kobis, Partner in Lindabury’s Divorce & Family Law group, recently contributed an article to Above The Law on the challenges of being a sympathetic divorce lawyer.

The task of the compassionate divorce lawyer is not easy: it requires balancing sympathy and acknowledgment of the emotional turmoil occurring in my clients’ lives while at the same time ensuring that they understand the boundaries of the law. I work even harder now to make sure that when a client leaves my office, they know that divorce is not the end of their lives. Instead, I help them finish one chapter and immediately turn the page to begin a new chapter which though different, could be even better than the one before.

You can read Nicole’s entire article here.

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