Getting Started with Our Family Law Firm

Introduction

Divorce is both an emotional and a legal process. Your attorney’s main role will be to work closely with you to achieve your goals and ultimate favorable result. He or she will help you to resolve the issues of custody, parenting time, support and division of assets with the goal of meeting your present and future financial needs and those of your children.

Use of the Guidebook

This guidebook contains a brief explanation of the legal terms and procedures that you may expect to encounter during the divorce process. It also includes answers to some of the most commonly asked questions concerning divorce. You should read this document to learn information to prepare you for your divorce and as a tool to help you through this process. As a well-informed client, you will be able to actively participate in your own case and will be more likely to achieve your goals.

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Joseph J. Russell, Jr
Joseph J. Russell, JrShareholder & Chair of the Family Law Department
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This Guidebook is not legal advice. It is for informational purposes only.

Table of Contents

I. The Legal Process
II. Frequently Asked Questions

How do I decide if I want a divorce?

2. How do I select the right divorce attorney?

3. How soon will I be divorced?

4. How can I shorten the divorce process?

5. On what basis may a divorce be granted?

6. Does fault make a difference?

7. What are my rights in divorce?

8. What are the Child Support Guidelines?

9. What is equitable distribution?

10. What is a legal separation?

11. May I leave the marital home?

12. Can I force my spouse to leave the marital home?

13. How does the Court determine custody?

14. What does a typical parenting time schedule look like?

15. What if I want to relocate after my divorce?

16. Can my spouse and I use the same attorney?

17. Will the Court award alimony and how was it determined?

18. What is Complimentary Dispute Resolution or Alternate Dispute
       Resolution or collaborative divorce?

19. What can I expect at an Early Settlement Panel?

20. How much will my divorce cost?
III. Glossary

I. The Legal Process

Either you or your spouse may begin the divorce process or any other family law action by filing a Complaint. The Complaint, also known as a pleading, officially announces your requests, such as custody and alimony, to the Court. The party who files the Complaint becomes the plaintiff and the other party becomes the defendant. If the defendant also wishes to file for divorce, he or she will file a pleading called a Counterclaim.
Each party to a divorce action prepares a Case Information Statement that sets forth his or her income, expenses, assets and debts. You and your attorney will obtain more information about the marital finances through the discovery process. This process may include interrogatories (written answers to questions), depositions (questions answered orally under oath and transcribed by a court reporter) and the exchange of other relevant documents such as bank statements, title to real and personal property, retirement account statements, credit card bills, business records and personal financial documents. You and your attorney may find it helpful to work with financial experts, such as real estate or pension appraisers, forensic accountants or the like to determine the value of assets such as property, businesses, or deferred retirement plans. The information gained during discovery may help you and your attorney settle the issues in your case or be used for trial if your matter is contested. The settlement process may include having a conference with both parties and their lawyers, a “4 way conference”, an appearance before the Early Settlement Panel, negotiations between lawyers, settlement conferences with the Court or mediation.
In addition to financial issues, you may have child custody and parenting time issues to resolve. Your attorney should discuss with you the use of mental health professionals, such as psychologists, social workers or other custody experts who will prepare reports that will be used for settlement or trial.

Sometimes problems occur before trial and require immediate attention. These issues may include a need for support or parenting time with the children. Your attorney may file an application with the court for relief pending the outcome of a trial. This application is called a Notice of Motion or an Order to Show Cause (if an emergent matter) and results in a temporary court order.
Mediation, arbitration and collaborative divorce are alternative methods to the traditional adversarial litigation process for settling divorce-related issues. Ask your attorney about the pros and cons of these methods and whether they may be appropriate for you and your spouse.
When and if a settlement is reached, both parties will briefly appear in court for an uncontested divorce. If both parties cannot agree upon a settlement, a trial is scheduled. Because of the time and expense involved, few cases actually go to trial. However, there may be a more limited trial, or hearing, on a specific issue such as parenting time disputes, if some but not all of the issues are resolved by agreement.

II. Frequently Asked Questions

1.  How do I decide if I want a divorce?

Whether or not to file for divorce can be a very difficult decision. If you are considering divorce, you should consult with an attorney to determine your rights regarding custody, child support, alimony and equitable distribution. You should weigh various factors such as whether the marital discord is acute or chronic, whether you think marriage counseling or individual therapy could solve whatever problems you have been having, and whether there is any history of domestic violence or substance abuse. You should also consider the emotional and financial impact of divorce on you and your children.

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2.  How do I select the right divorce attorney?

Selecting the right lawyer can significantly impact the outcome of your case. Choose a lawyer who will be empathetic to your emotional needs and who will at all times focus on achieving your goals. When meeting with a potential attorney, you should consider, among other things: (1) the experience, knowledge and reputation of the lawyer and the firm; (2) the rapport that you develop with the attorney (will you feel comfortable working with this attorney); (3) the responsiveness of the lawyer; (4) the mutuality of both of your goals; and (5) the fee arrangement.

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3.  How soon will I be divorced?

Many factors impact the time it takes for a divorce to become final. Some cases are concluded in a few months while others take much longer. Mediation or arbitration of one or more issues can expedite a case. The extent and type of assets subject to distribution, complexity of the issues, the availability of the court for conferences or trial, as well as how well both parties are able to cooperate in reaching an agreement, are all factors that will impact on the length of the divorce process. In most cases your divorce will occur shortly after you and your spouse reach an agreement. Your case will then be deemed uncontested and the agreement will be incorporated in the divorce judgment.

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4.  How can I shorten the divorce process?

Be reasonable and be guided by the advice of your attorney. Your assistance in providing documents, cooperating with discovery, and responding promptly to your attorney’s requests concerning motions and certifications filed by the other party, will avoid delays and speed settlement. The sooner a settlement is reached, the sooner the case can proceed to court for a final uncontested divorce.

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5.  On what basis may a divorce be granted?

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2 provides the following grounds for divorce:

    • Adultery
    • Willful and continued desertion for at least 12 months
    • Extreme cruelty (physical or mental);
    • Separation, for at least 18 months in separate residences with no reasonable presumption of reconciliation
    • Voluntary addiction or habitual drunkenness for at least 12 months subsequent to the marriage;
    • Institutionalization for mental illness for at least 24 consecutive months subsequent to the marriage;
    • Imprisonment for at least 18 consecutive months subsequent to the marriage;
    • Deviant sexual conduct; or
    • Irreconcilable differences that have occurred for at least 6 months with no reasonable prospects of reconciliation

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6.  Does fault make a difference?

N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2 does not explicitly distinguish between “fault” and “no fault” grounds for divorce. The fault or wrongdoing of a party in a divorce action generally has no bearing on the way in which assets acquired during the marriage are divided. The court may consider the grounds for divorce as a factor in determining alimony only if the behavior of the party at fault has negatively affected the economic status of the parties, or if ”the fault so violates societal norms that continuing the economic bonds between the parties would confound notions of simple justice.” Mani v. Mani, 183 N.J. 70, 72 (2005). Even though marital fault is an emotional factor in a divorce, it has little influence on the terms of a final settlement or decision of a court if a trial occurs.

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7.  What are my rights in divorce?

You have the right to seek custody of or parenting time with your children, alimony, child support, equitable distribution of a business or personal assets and debts, and counsel fees. You may also use the divorce as an opportunity to resume using your maiden name or otherwise alter your name. Depending upon individual circumstances, you may have additional rights, such as money damages for injuries inflicted on you by your spouse or the fraudulent transfer of assets.

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8.  What are the Child Support Guidelines?

The court has adopted Child Support Guidelines which assist in fixing the child support obligation of each party to a divorce. Because the Guidelines are intended to apply to families with a combined net annual income of $187,200 or less, an adjustment may need to be made for families with higher incomes or where the children are attending college or have special needs. While the court presumes that the Guidelines are correct, you and your spouse may negotiate child support amounts which are higher or lower. The court may also modify the levels in the Guidelines if it decides that, due to the particular circumstances of your family, the amount is unjust or inappropriate. Child care costs and the children’s healthcare expenses are also routinely allocated between the parties.

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9.  What is equitable distribution?

Equitable distribution is a right to have a fair division of the assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. A Court has the discretion to divide the assets and debts in any manner that it determines is fair — although not necessarily equal — based on the following factors set forth in N.J.S.A 2A:34-23.1:

    • the duration of the marriage;
    • the age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
    • the income or property brought to the marriage by each party;
    • the standard of living established during the marriage;
    • any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning an arrangement of property distribution;
    • the economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
    • the income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage;
    • the contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
    • the contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, and the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
    • the tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
    • the present value of the marital property;
    • the need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence and to use or own the household effects;
    • the debts and liabilities of the parties;
    • the need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse or children;
    • the extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
    • any other factors the Court may deem relevant.

Gathering the factual underpinnings for each of these factors is critical to adequately presenting your case. Depending on your goals, you and your attorney may attempt to convince the Court that these factors dictate that you receive the highest possible percentage distribution of assets.

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10. What is a legal separation?

Although New Jersey law does not provide for a formal legal separation, it is possible for you and your spouse to agree to live separately and to resolve all financial and child-related issues in a written agreement. This agreement may be incorporated into a Judgment of Divorce in the event you or your spouse files for divorce at a later time. It is also possible to obtain a divorce from “bed and board” pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-3, which allows you to continue to be married while still giving you and your spouse rights normally granted by the court in a divorce, such as equitable distribution of assets.

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11. May I leave the marital home?

You may leave the marital home before the divorce is final, but you should first discuss this, or any other major change of circumstances, with your attorney. In many cases, leaving the home may have serious negative consequences for you, particularly if you are seeking custody of your children and they remain with your spouse in the marital home. Your departure from the home may also create a financial burden for you and your spouse because you are duplicating the expense for housing and utilities. However, in some situations, particularly where there is violence in the home, physical separation is advisable if the safety of you or your children is in jeopardy. You also may file an action to remove your spouse from the home in the event of domestic violence.

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12. Can I force my spouse to leave the marital home?

The court rarely orders one party to leave the marital home until the divorce is final, except in the event of domestic violence. If you are the victim of physical abuse or harassment, you should call the police for protection. You may also obtain an emergent temporary order from either a municipal or Family Court judge to exclude your spouse immediately from the marital home if an incident of domestic violence occurs. A hearing will be held within ten days after the temporary order is entered. If the court determines that there is sufficient evidence to restrain your spouse from returning to the home on a permanent basis, an order will be entered to that effect.

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13. How does the court determine custody?

When the parties cannot reach an agreement regarding physical custody and parenting time, the Court will determine which custodial arrangement is in the best interests of the children. To establish custody and parenting time, the Court often hears testimony from both parties, mental health experts, and any other persons who have direct knowledge of the ability of each spouse to parent the children and other evidence. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:2-4, the Court considers the following factors in awarding custody:

    • the parents’ ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the children;
    • the parents’ willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse;
    • the interaction and relationship of the children with their parents and siblings;
    • any history of domestic violence;
    • the safety of the children and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent;
    • the preference of the children when they are of sufficient age and capacity to form an intelligent decision;
    • the needs of the children;
    • the stability of the home environment offered;
    • the quality and continuity of the children’s education;
    • the fitness of the parents;
    • the geographical proximity of the parents’ homes;
    • the extent and quality of the time spent with the children prior to and subsequent to the separation;
    • the parents’ employment responsibilities; and
    • the ages and number of the children.

Gathering the factual underpinnings for each of these factors is critical to adequately presenting your case.

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14. What does a typical parenting time schedule look like?

No two parenting time schedules will look alike. Each parenting time schedule will be uniquely tailored as best as possible to the needs, ability and desires of both parents and the children. In a joint custody arrangement, one parent is typically designated as the parent of primary residence (PPR) and the other parent is designated as the parent of alternate residence (PAR). The PPR has physical custody of the child(ren) for at least 51% of the time. The parenting arrangements can range from equal time sharing to supervised parenting time. A general starting point for the PAR’s parenting time is alternating weekends, with a weekly dinner visit and alternating holidays. When determining a parenting plan that is best for you and your children, it is also important to consider special circumstances that would fall outside of the typical parent plan such as holidays, birthdays, travel and school vacations.

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15. What if I want to relocate out of state with my children?

During or after your divorce, if you are the primary custodial parent and want to move with your child to another state or country, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 9:2-2, you need permission of the child’s non-custodial parent or a court order. The court may grant the primary custodial parent the right to relocate with the child if they able to establish that: (1) the party has a good faith reason to move and (2) the child will not suffer from the move. Once prima facie proof of the above factors has been presented, the court will consider twelve factors (which are weighted on a case by case basis) in order to make its final determination. The factors include:

    • The reasons given for the move;
    • The reasons given for the opposition;
    • The past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it bears on the reasons advanced by both parties for supporting and opposing the move;
    • Whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here;
    • Any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation and whether such accommodation or its equivalent is available in the new location;
    • Whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child;
    • The likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent if the move is allowed;
    • The effect of the move on extended family relationships presently existing and in the new location;
    • If the child is of age, his or her preference;
    • Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent;
    • Whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate to the new location; and
    • Any other factor bearing on the child’s interest.

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16. Can my spouse and I use the same attorney?

Although neither party is obligated to retain an attorney for a divorce, it is a conflict for one attorney to represent both parties or other family-related matter. If the parties reach an agreement between themselves, it is advisable for an independent counsel to review their agreement. This will assure each party that their rights have been protected and that the agreement reflects their intentions.

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17. Will the Court award alimony and how is it determined?

The Court may award one or more of four types of alimony to a spouse: permanent alimony; rehabilitative alimony; limited duration alimony or reimbursement alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is support for a fixed period of time, which is calculated to permit a spouse to re-enter the job market. Limited duration alimony is alimony for a fixed period of time and may be appropriate where the court determines that a permanent award is not warranted. Reimbursement alimony may be awarded where one party supported the other while he or she obtained an advanced education. Permanent alimony is typically granted when the parties have been married for a significant amount of time and one party is unable to maintain the previous lifestyle. Permanent alimony will automatically terminate on remarriage of the payee or the death of the payor or payee. Permanent alimony can also be subject to termination, reduction or suspension if the payee derives a significant benefit from cohabitating with another party or the payor spouse offers proof of a significant change in circumstances, such as reduced income or retirement.

The Court may also combine the types of alimony. The following factors are considered by the Court in making an alimony award:

    • the actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
    • the duration of the marriage;
    • the age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
    • the standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;
    • the earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills and employability of the parties;
    • the length of absence from the job market and parental responsibilities for the children of the party seeking alimony;
    • the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
    • the history of the contributions to the marriage by each party, including financial support and contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
    • the equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution out of current income;
    • the income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
    • the tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment; and
    • any other factors that the Court deems relevant.

Gathering the factual underpinnings for each of these factors is critical to adequately presenting your case.

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18. What is Complimentary Dispute Resolution or Alternate
      Dispute Resolution or Collaborative Divorce?

Complimentary Dispute Resolution (CDR) and Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) refer to alternative methods other than litigation which may be used to resolve all the issues in a divorce including economic and custodial issues. These methods which include mediation and arbitration, limit reliance on the courts. They may permit you to retain more control over the expense, duration and scheduling of the divorce process. The parties typically pay the mediator and arbitrators and you can have counsel present during mediation.

In divorce mediation the mediator helps the parties settle their issues by acting as a neutral facilitator. These direct negotiations between the parties and the mediator limit reliance on courts and adversarial attorneys. A mediator can, with the cooperation and consent of the parties, request discovery (investigation of relevant facts concerning assets or custody issues). If an agreement is reached in mediation, the mediator will prepare a memorandum of understanding to memorialize the agreement. The parties are advised that the memorandum is not binding until each party obtains independent counsel to review and accept the terms. If one party has a domestic violence restraining order against the other, or one party is overly dominant, mediation is not generally appropriate.

In divorce arbitration, the parties present evidence before a mutually chosen arbitrator who acts as a private judge. The arbitration process is much like a trial except it is more informal and is held in an office rather than a court. However, like a judge, the arbitrator decides the issues. If the arbitration is binding, the decisions cannot be appealed to a court unless the parties agree otherwise. Arbitration requires that the parties be represented by counsel, but the time involved is likely to be much less than is required for a court trial.

In a collaborative divorce, the parties agree not to go to court until they have a signed settlement agreement resolving all issues. All participants, including the attorneys and other professionals, sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement, which makes the process confidential and requires all professionals to withdraw if either party decides to litigate the case. Collaborative Divorce takes a team approach to resolving the issues and involves open communication among the couple, attorneys, accountants, mental health professionals and any other professionals that may be necessary depending on the circumstances of the case. The professionals must have specific training in the collaborative model to participate.

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19. What can I expect at an Early Settlement Panel?

The exact procedure for the Early Settlement Program (“ESP”) varies depending on the County where the case is venued. Some counties require that an ESP statement setting forth the issues in dispute and a proposed resolution be submitted to the panelists prior to the ESP proceeding. In some counties, a formal ESP statement is not required.

On the day of the ESP, the parties and the attorneys appear before the Judge assigned to the ESP in the morning for the calendar call, during which time, the Judge will address the benefits of the ESP and settlement with the litigants. Thereafter, each case is assigned to a panel of either one or two volunteer attorneys who regularly practice family law in that particular county. The panelists will then bring the attorneys and parties into a conference room, address the issues and provide the parties with a recommendation for settlement. If both parties accept the recommendations, they may be divorced that day. The recommendations, however, are non-binding. If a settlement is not reached, the parties must leave court with a Court Order scheduling economic mediation with a neutral third party attorney or retired judge. The recommendation is confidential, non-binding and not provided to the court.

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20. How much will my divorce cost?

The total cost of a divorce is impossible to predict. The emotions of the parties, the reasonableness of the parties, the nature and extent of the assets, the complexity of the legal issues, and the cooperation of the parties are all significant factors. Most attorneys require an initial retainer fee before commencing their representation. Usually, you are billed on an hourly basis against that retainer for legal services as they are rendered. You receive periodic statements advising you of the status of your account. If your initial retainer is insufficient to cover all legal fees and costs, you are expected to pay for services rendered to keep your account current. If, at any time, you have a question about your bill, you should feel free to discuss it with your attorney.

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III. Glossary

Appeal. The process of contesting the judgment of the trial court by submitting the issue to a higher court, generally the Appellate Division. An appeal of a final order or judgment must be made within 45 days of its entry. If an order is not final, it is deemed interlocutory and can only be appealed if the court grants permission.
Case Information Statement (CIS). A multi-page financial document that must be completed by each party, describing the details of income, expenses, assets and debts.
Certification. A sworn document setting forth facts related to a particular issue, similar to an Affidavit. A certification is filed with a Notice of Motion or in opposition to a Notice of Motion brought by your spouse.
Deposition. Procedure during which an attorney questions a witness or a party to the divorce under oath and the questions and answers are transcribed by a court reporter.
Discovery. The exchange of information regarding all issues relevant to your divorce. The most frequently used forms of discovery are interrogatories, depositions and requests for documents.
Early Settlement Panel (ESP). A conference at the Court House attended by you, your spouse and both attorneys. The facts of your case are presented to a panel of experienced family law attorneys who volunteer their time to assist in the settlement of cases. These panelists consider the specific circumstances of your case and make a recommendation for settlement. While non-binding, this recommendation frequently helps the parties and their attorneys reach a settlement agreement.
Equitable Distribution. The process for creating a fair distribution of the assets and debts acquired by the parties during their marriage. See Question #7 for factors relevant to the distribution of assets.
Interrogatories. Written questions used as part of discovery which are answered and sworn to by each party.
Joint Custody. There are two aspects to joint custody:

  1. Joint legal custody means that the parties share the rights and responsibilities for making decisions concerning the significant aspects of a child’s life, including educational, medical and religious issues.
  2. Joint physical custody means that the child lives with both parents on a virtually equal time-sharing schedule.

It is not unusual for parents to have a shared parenting arrangement with joint legal custody where one parent has sole or primary physical custody (the Parent of Primary Residence) and the other has substantial parenting time with a child (the Parent of Alternate Residence.)
Judgment of Divorce. A document that memorializes the granting of a divorce. The Judgment may include the Court’s decision following trial or the agreement reached by the parties on all relevant issues. The Judgment will be certified by the court as a True Copy to be used for any official purpose.
Notice of Motion. A written application to the court for an order for support, discovery, parenting time, counsel fees or other relief. The Notice lists the relief requested and is supported by the certification of the party seeking the relief. If requested, the Court will generally permit attorneys to appear and make arguments on behalf of their clients on the return date of the motion. Clients may appear in court on motion days to observe the procedure. The Court makes its decision after reading the papers submitted and the argument of counsel. After the decision is entered, an Order is prepared to memorialize the judge’s decision.
Order. A document that reflects the Court’s decision after hearing a Motion or Order to Show Cause. Orders are also entered after conferences with the court on scheduling matters.
Order to Show Cause. A request filed with the court when emergency relief is sought, such as when one parent has taken or threatens to take a child out of the State or has dissipated or threatens to dissipate assets. This document places the burden on the opposite party to show why the requested order should not be entered.
Trial. If the parties cannot resolve their differences through negotiation, mediation or ESP, the parties and their witnesses testify and present evidence in open court, subject to interrogation by the other spouse’s lawyer. At the conclusion of the trial, the Court renders a decision called a Judgment. If it is a final judgment, it is appealable in 45 days.

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This guidebook was prepared by the FAMILY LAW DEPARTMENT of WILENTZ, GOLDMAN & SPITZER

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OUR SHAREHOLDERS

Joseph J. Russell, Jr
Joseph J. Russell, JrShareholder & Chair of the Family Law Department
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David M. Wildstein
David M. WildsteinShareholder
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OUR ASSOCIATES

Jenna N. Shapiro
Jenna N. ShapiroAssociate
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Joseph M. Freda, III
Joseph M. Freda, IIIAssociate
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CLIENT TESTIMONIALS

client testimonial stars
“Joe continually had a firm grasp on the pulse of my case. His insight as to how to proceed with each step was spot on, and proved to be invaluable to me and the settlement of my significantly complicated divorce case. Joe is honest, trust worthy, and demonstrated several times throughout my case his desire to NOT take a course that would have increased his fees-but rather the best course-even if it meant it would minimize legal costs. I would highly recommend his services to my family and friends.”
Gary M., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“Mr. Russell is one of the most professional, compassionate, trustworthy, fair and kind human beings that I have had the pleasure and good fortune to have known and had in my corner during a most difficult time. Joe always went out of his way to be thorough and patient in explaining the process every step of the way. I highly recommend Mr. Russell to friends and family.”
Denise V., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“Joe was extremely professional and knowledgeable throughout the whole divorce process. Joe also showed real compassion, he was honest, practical, patient and very responsive to all my questions and needs, which made the difference, and this difficult time much more bearable. I could rely and trust his advice thus would highly recommend Joe to my friends and family!”
Tsipi F., Essex County, New Jersey
“I was extremely pleased with the service I received from Joe and his team throughout my divorce process. Whenever I emailed or called with any questions or concerns I was contacted back in a timely manner. Joe’s professionalism and understanding made this difficult process much less stressful. I would highly recommend him (and have) to friends and family in the future.”
Jennifer F., Ocean County, New Jersey
“Mr. Russell not only kept me highly informed of the entire process… he also reached out to me personally via email and telephone contact. He was extremely responsive to my needs during this difficult process, and always had a way of keeping me at ease. He was extremely confidential and trustworthy. I would highly recommend Mr. Russell.”
Marcy P., Ocean County, New Jersey
“Joe kept me in the loop and provided me with the best course of action throughout the entire process. I felt comfortable knowing he was working toward the best possible resolution for myself and my sons.”
Chris H., Morris County, New Jersey
“I spoke with several lawyers before I hired Joe to represent me in my divorce. What I liked most was his straight forward style, i.e., he did not tell me what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear in order to view the divorce with less emotion and more like a business transaction. I trusted that he was not looking to draw out the process for more legal fees, but to realistically come to a settlement, and was mindful of my priorities throughout the process. Divorce is emotionally charged and contentious by nature, but at the end of the day the law provides some ground rules and structure, so being mindful of a realistic outcome is important if you do not want to drive up legal fees to only, most likely, get the same results in the long run. I think in a successful / fair divorce settlement both parties leave the table not 100% happy. Joe did a great job in navigating through the emotions and keeping on task, while also fairly representing my best interests. I would not hesitate to recommend Joe and never regretted my choice in placing my trust in Joe.”
Maney F., Somerset County, New Jersey
“Take every misconception and misnomer you may have regarding lawyers and throw them out the window, because Ms. Jenna Shapiro has confidently, yet humbly, destroyed stereotypes and won our hearts. She possesses a patience, thoroughness, and resolve that all clients seek (but do not always get) from an attorney. She seeks amicable methods of resolving conflicts… those that are in the best interests of children, should they be involved, are among her highest priorities. However, she is not afraid to stand nose-to-nose with adversaries should the need arise. This is particularly important when working with sensitive matters, such as those commonly found in family law. It is these traits which endear her to her clients, such as my wife and I. Knowing Jenna is on our side puts us at ease when matters arise that require legal intervention, and it is precisely why we’ve recommended Jenna to friends and family members who have needed counsel as well.”
Anthony and Christina C., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“I am writing to you today to boast, praise, brag and just admire Jenna Shapiro. After 7 years of being a single mother with no child support being paid to me I decided to finally go to court for my daughter. I “shopped” lawyers for months because, lets face it, if I am spending big bucks I want the Pit Bull of lawyers to fight for what I deserved all along. I met some pretty boring and nasty lawyers who wanted nothing but the dollar and did not care about my needs or my daughters. The second I met Jenna I calmed right away. Her and I sat for hours and she really wanted my back story everything from the beginning. I cannot tell you what it feels like to know and be comfortable from the first moment you meet someone. I knew right away not only was this woman going to FIGHT for us but she and I would be friends someday. Jenna I cannot thank you enough for everything you did for us. You allowed and opened so many doors for us. We are now living in our new home, my daughter is in private school and thriving. I am so blessed to call you a friend now. Always there when I need you and YES WE WON!!! Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.”
Monica B., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“I have worked with Joseph Freda for over 6 years and can say that he is without question a top notch attorney and client advocate. Unfortunately for me, I have had a host of very serious post-divorce issues that continue even to this day. Throughout all of the conflict, Joe has never steered me wrong and is always concerned about doing what is in the best interests of his client. Unlike many attorneys, Joe never ran up my legal fees and was always available to assist me whenever I had any questions, concerns or worries. I am very thankful that Joe has ALWAYS given me his thoughtful, straightforward and honest advice-even if I did not want to hear it at times. If settlement was the way to go, Joe found a way to settle. If settlement was not humanly possible, Joe was not afraid to bring forth litigation and was always very comfortable and prepared in court with the results speaking for themselves. Above all, Joe is a trustworthy and extremely knowledgeable attorney who is passionate about family law and truly cares about his clients. I honestly do not know where I would be without the professional expertise of Joe Freda… He is one in a million!”
Cathy, Union County, New Jersey
“Mr. Freda, in my opinion, happens to be a superior, very well trained and dedicated family law attorney. He was a true gentleman who showed compassion by always being available day or night on his personal cell phone to be there for support and hand holding. He was a superior litigator having knowledge of the law, and my case details, and was able to articulate all of that information into precise briefs, which were essential to enable me to achieve an extremely favorable outcome. He wasn’t afraid to challenge my advisory or even the judge assigned to my case if he felt that I was being taken advantage of. I would therefore recommend Joseph Freda to represent ANYONE who is looking for an extremely competent and fair family law attorney. We all know that going thru a divorce is a very trying, stressful, expensive and an emotional roller coaster. Mr. Freda was someone who made this experience as palatable as possible. Mr. Freda is the type of attorney who truly changed my opinion about family law attorneys.”
Elesa, Essex County, New Jersey
“I hired Joe Freda from an excellent recommendation from my realtor in October of last year. I am extremely happy with the divorce settlement that he worked on for me, and my divorce was done and over with by mid-May. He is personable, intelligent, returns emails and phone calls… he put me at ease through the whole divorce process and it was a good feeling to have someone on my side who KNOWS divorce! If you are going through a divorce it is in your best interests to get a lawyer that only does divorce, especially Joe! All in all, excellent lawyer!!”
Janet, Somerset County, New Jersey
“I had a very difficult and long divorce. My ex was an attorney in his own practice and represented himself, which made it that much worse. I had spent over $100,000 in legal fees with a firm who did nothing for me, but run up my bill and battled my ex over things that were irrelevant to the divorce. Three years later, I still had nothing and wasn’t any closer to getting the case resolved. I hired Joe to take it over, based on a referral from his former adversary. Joe wrapped it up in a matter of months! He’s a no nonsense guy with the patience of a saint. He was on top of everything – always returned phone calls and emails promptly, and did whatever he could to get this done. He knew my case backwards and forwards within a very short period of time. I know I was a little unreasonable at times with some things (and he let me know when I was being an idiot) and I don’t feel like I got the lion’s share, but I did get a fair settlement and a far better one than I would have had I used my prior attorney who wasted my time and money. I would definitely recommend Joe to anyone who needs a great divorce lawyer. I’m sorry I didn’t find him sooner.”
Jaki, Morris County, New Jersey

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