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Morristown Family Law Blog

Child custody: What unmarried parents should know

Not every New Jersey parent facing child custody issues is married. Many child custody situations involve co-parents who have never been married. Unlike divorce, where proceedings typically include property division or alimony issues, unmarried parents do not have to worry about such things. There are still numerous legal issues they might have to resolve, however.

In this state, a man must establish paternity before pursuing custody litigation. The mother's status is presumed, whether or not she is married. There may also be situations where a paternity test is required because a man denies that he is a child's father when another parent is petitioning the court for child support. It's also possible that one may be necessary in order to pursue claims for fathers' rights in court.

LGBTQ laws: Not all states created equal

The 2015 Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges was a huge win for same-sex couples. Finally, all states were required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and all marriages were recognized nationwide regardless of the jurisdiction in which the couple wed.

However, nearly four years after the Supreme Court settled same-sex marriage, inequalities still exist in many states – especially when it comes to family law.

Child support modifications require court approval

If a New Jersey parent is unable to meet a court-ordered child support obligation, he or she may petition the court for a change. A judge overseeing such a case would review the petition to determine if there is evidence of need, then grant or deny requests for modifications to an existing court order. A recent case in another state involved a woman whose ex had failed to pay child support for nearly 50 years.

She and her husband divorced in 1969. A year later, the man was ordered to make child support payments until his daughter reached age 18. Instead of adhering to the court order, however, the man reportedly wrote a bad check for the first payment, then moved to Canada and started a family with another woman. The man's former wife said that although she and her daughter lived a happy life together, they always struggled financially.

Things to know when seeking court order modifications

Many New Jersey married couples are preparing for divorce or have recently finalized their settlements. It is not uncommon for judges to issue court orders in such situations, perhaps regarding child support or alimony payments. As time passes, former spouses often have the need to seek court order modifications.

If a parent is making child support payments, any number of life-changes may occur that impedes his or her ability to continue making payments on time. For instance, a sudden job loss or medical emergency could definitely cause serious financial distress. A paying parent might also be inclined to seek lower payments if his or her former spouse receives a substantial pay raise or marries again and adds income to his or her household.

New Jersey child support modifications: Legitimate reasons needed

Raising kids is typically an expensive endeavor. When they are infants, parents fork out a ton of money on diapers and other baby supplies. As they grow, their needs grow with them, and by the time they are teenagers, many New Jersey parents quip that they feel like they must take out a second mortgage on their home just to afford all the sports fees, clothing and food that are part of their children's everyday needs. In divorce situations, high cost of living and other issues often prompt a need for child support modifications.

If a non-custodial parent is ordered to pay child support, he or she must adhere to the terms of the court order. If the parent loses a job, falls ill or somehow encounters some other situation that sparks a financial crisis, he or she cannot stop making support payments on time. The state understands that financial problems can be quite serious. However, there is a system in place that a paying parent must navigate in order to temporarily lessen or halt child support payments.

Tom Arnold's wife wants full child custody and spousal support

There may be New Jersey residents who are currently navigating divorce. Some will be able to achieve amicable settlements in swift, financially feasible manners. Others, especially those who disagree with their spouses about child custody or financial issues, may find it necessary to seek the court's intervention in order to finalize their plans. Actor Tom Arnold knows what that is like, as he has been divorced three times in the past and is currently trying to resolve several issues as he heads into proceedings for a fourth divorce.

Arnold and his current spouse have two children together. In fact, when she moved out of the family home, she left the kids with their dad. Arnold says he and his children have been living full lives together, and he wants the court to grant shared custody to him and his soon-to-be fourth ex spouse.

Issues prompting New Jersey judges to order supervised visitation

The New Jersey family justice system has children's best interests in mind whenever judges are ruling on custody-related issues in divorce. The court sometimes determines it is best to order supervised visitation. The types of issues that may prompt such decisions can vary, and each judge has full discretion to consider every case by its own merits.

Most parents understand that the highest priority in custody and visitation proceedings is to execute an agreement that helps children adapt to their new lifestyle in as healthy a manner as possible. If a parent has a substance abuse problem, for instance, it would definitely warrant further investigation that may prompt a judge overseeing the case to order supervised visits only, at least until such time that the parent in question shows evidence that he or she has been rehabilitated. Physical or sexual abuse are also serious issues that warrant supervised visitation. In fact, in some situations, the court may determine it best for children to cease all contact with a particular parent.

Real estate and other assets, complicated without a prenup

New Jersey spouses in high-asset situations may want to follow a case that is currently unfolding in another state if they plan to file paperwork to end their marriages in court. The situation is an example of how messy a divorce can get regarding real estate and other assets if a high-net worth couple failed to sign a prenuptial agreement before they wed. David Mugrabi, a member of a family who is known for its ownership of the world's largest private collection of Andy Warhol paintings, has become entangled in a nasty divorce situation that began when his wife allegedly found him lying naked alongside a house guest.

The Mugrabis had been entertaining friends at their lavish, nine-bedroom estate. The next morning, Libbie Mugrabi, age 37 and mother of two, apparently came upon a scene in her family room that suggested her spouse had been engaged in inappropriate intimate behavior with another woman. She has since filed for divorce, which has prompted an acrimonious battle over the Mugrabi art collection and the luxury townhouse.

Does a high asset divorce have to be messy?

The recent news of Jeff Bezos and his longtime wife, Mackenzie, splitting up has many people assuming there will be a long court battle. But Bloomberg reports the former pair plans to part “as friends.”

The Amazon founder has a net worth of $137 billion. After the divorce is final, Mackenzie may be the world’s richest woman. With that kind of money, experts point out he can afford to be generous. A generous settlement often means individuals with significant assets can reach a divorce settlement quicker.

"Southern Charm's" Thomas Ravenel fighting for child custody

New Jersey parents who disagree regarding what is best for their children in divorce may be in for a fight if one or the other petitions the court for sole custody. TV star, Thomas Ravenel has done just that, asserting that the mother of his two children is unfit because she is a prescription drug addict. Ravenel's allegations come after the children's mother, Kathryn Dennis had previously lost and regained child custody because of substance abuse issues.

Dennis is said to have failed a drug test in the past, which prompted the judge overseeing the case to take away her custody. She reportedly went through rehab and her custodial rights were restored. In a recent filing, however, Ravenel has not only requested sole custody of his two kids, but he has also asked the court to order Dennis to pay child support.

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