Divorce in NJ in 2022: You’ve made the decision to divorce this year. What’s next? For starters, you need to know that men navigating the New Jersey divorce process are at higher risk for making certain costly mistakes, resulting in a loss of both money and time. Ready to get your 2022 divorce off to the best start possible? Here’s a look at common men’s divorce blunders — and how to avoid them!
Divorce in NJ in 2022: Blunder#1: Failing to Pandemic-Proof Your Father’s Rights
With all the uncertainty around Omicron and the future path of the pandemic, it’s clear that divorced and separated parents still need to factor in public health emergencies when creating child custody plans.
For divorce in NJ in 2022, it’s recommended (and just plain common sense) for divorcing parents to include an “emergency plan” in their custody agreement to establish acceptable changes in parenting time should emergency measures ever be required again. Think back to the height of the pandemic when children were remote learning, some parents worked from home while other parents were first responders and essential workers, and travel restrictions had most of us stuck in place.
In a public health emergency, present or future, what kind of plans would be best to have in place to protect your access to your children? For example, in a case won by our firm last year, a doctor at a busy New Jersey hospital had his ex refuse to allow normal visitation with his children over concerns the doctor would make his children sick. The dad M.D. was able to show the courts the extreme measures he went through to protect himself from the virus. The courts sided with the doctor dad, stating that the distress of being from kept from their father was the greatest present risk for the kids.
In your emergency parenting plan, consider terms that protect your time with your children, including issues such as making up missed parenting time when unavoidable.
You can also address: Who will supervise your children if remote learning is needed? Who will watch your child if one of you becomes sick? What if your child needs to quarantine after close contact? What if your child becomes sick? Having a plan in place is an important way for co-parenting to calmly switch gears in case of an emergency.
What divorced parents must decide about Covid-19 vaccines
Children ages 5 and up are eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine. Do you want your kids to get vaxxed? To have influence over the decision whether or not to vaccinate your children, you need to first establish joint or sole legal custody. Physical custody decides where your children will live. Legal custody is decision-making power when it comes to concerns around medical care, schooling, religious upbringing, and more. A parent with sole legal custody has the ability to make these decisions on their own; co-parents with joint or shared legal custody both have a say.
Get clear on which legal custody option you wish to pursue. Learn more about Covid vaccines and your parental rights.
Blunder #2: Moving Out & Leaving Your Ex In Control
At face value, moving out of the family home after you’ve made the decision to divorce may seem like a no brainer. However, unless you are in an incredibly hostile situation, you may want to stay put. Here’s why:
1. You give away control of the house — and your kids. By moving out, you are essentially giving your spouse unrestricted access to the house. Your spouse might decide to change the locks without your knowledge; and they can do that because you left.
Your spouse will also control access to your children, so potentially moving out will affect your ability to see them, especially when you only strike a casual non-verbal agreement.
2. You end up paying for two households. When you move out, financially you have also accepted paying for two households because it was your decision to move out and create this extra living expense of your new home while still being obligated to pay (at least partly) for the old one.
3. Your divorce could end up taking longer. You thought this arrangement was only going to last a few months, maybe a year until the divorce was final, right? Well, in these Covid times, everything is potentially delayed in the court system, including divorce. If you need court hearings in your divorce, you may be waiting over a year for a single hearing — and paying for this arrangement the entire time.
Just because your spouse asks or even demands that you leave, does not mean you are obligated to move out, unless there are exceptional circumstances present (i.e., a restraining order).
If you do move out, it is important that you insist on a written, strong and detailed custody and parenting time plan so that there is no confusion or upper hand for either of you when it comes to the kids.
Blunder #3: Social Media Rants
If conflict in your divorce is spiraling and everything is turning into a fight, venting your frustration on Facebook or posting a Youtube rant may feel good in the moment. In the long run, however, vitriolic posts do nothing to lower conflict.
The problem for many angry spouses is that ranting online is addictive. When you vent to your hundreds of Facebook friends rather than, say, processing your feelings in a therapist appointment, you unwittingly create an audience eager to hear even more drama. What’s the incentive to dial down conflict when your Facebook friends and Youtube fans give you tons of comments and like clicks for airing all your dirty laundry?
When your ex gets wind of what you’ve been posting, even if their only evidence is a screenshot sent by a mutual friend, an angry rant can land in you hot water, including the possibility of cyber harassment or stalking charges.
Don’t fudge on dating sites!
Curious about getting back out on the dating scene? Be careful what you post in your dating site bio. If you post photos of yourself “living large,” even if you’re not, your ex may use photos of you showing off wealth or travel to exotic places as evidence that you’re hiding assets or should be paying more in alimony. One man even lost his custody case when his ex presented his dating profile which said he had “zero kids,” The profile was used as evidence that the father didn’t value his status in his kids’ lives — and the judge agreed.
Blunder #4: Leaving it up to your spouse to file
You made the decision to divorce. However, that’s not where critical decisions around divorce end — it’s actually where it begins. The next big choice you’ll face is filing the actual legal paperwork to start the NJ divorce process. This is no ordinary paperwork because the date you file is the cut-off date for marital assets or debts ceases to accumulate.
Before your filing date, any property or debts acquired in your marriage are consider jointly owned and will be divided in the divorce.
After the filing date, property or debts acquired are generally considered separate and won’t be part of the divorce.
Your divorce filing date is not one to leave up to chance, or leave it to your spouse to decide. Do what’s right for safeguarding your situation by taking the following steps to determine the best date to file:
Analyze all your financial accounts. Do you have retirement contributions, work bonuses, deferred compensation plan or stock option payouts coming up? If so, it may be advantageous to file legal papers as soon as it’s clear that divorce is a certainty. Even saving a several months of 401K contributions from asset division can contribute to heftier retirement savings that won’t need to be shared.
Do any “marriage duration” dates come into play if you wait to file? In New Jersey, a marriage duration of 20 or more years puts you in the category that your ex could claim “open durational alimony,” which alimony reform law reserves for longer term marriages. Here’s an example of how this can be a blunder: A man knew his marriage was over but dragged his feet for months before finally filing the day after what would have been his 20th wedding anniversary. Guess what? His ex immediately claimed longer term open durational alimony. Had he filed before his wedding anniversary, the marriage of 19 years would have been held to limited duration alimony standards, shortening the time he needed to pay.
Go through your debts. Is there evidence that your spouse has been buying a lot on credit, or is your divorce conflict at the level that you could possibly see your spouse spending excessively as a form of revenge?
Blunder #5: Beware! Alimony tax rules have changed
Since a 2019 tax law went into effect, spouses who pay alimony must claim alimony payments on their federal tax returns as taxable income; spouses who receive alimony are not required to claim alimony as income and receive this money tax-free.
The tax change represents a complete reversal of the old federal code in which paying spouses deducted alimony from their income as a tax break, while recipient spouses were required to claim payments as taxable income. Beware outdated information you may come across that still describes alimony as a great tax write off. Old pre-2019 are grandfathered under these old rules, but if you are created a brand new alimony order in 2022, come tax time, you’ll need to claim payments without the perk of a deduction.
A blunder men paying alimony often make is to not run their projected post-divorce taxes to understand the impact of alimony on their tax bracket and how much they will owe. Knowledge is power and, depending on much this affects your bottom line, you may want to negotiate a lump sum payment to get the tax burden over and done in a year, or negotiate other assets to reduce alimony payments.
Being smart now will save you money, time and stress in the long run.
Have questions about your divorce? Start safeguarding yourself today by scheduling a strategy session with one of our seasoned family law attorneys. Get answers to all your questions and a concrete action plan. Call us at 888-888-0919, or please click the button below.