Robert A. Bonavito, CPA PC

Divorce in New Jersey - Process, Rules & Regulations

Video Transcript 

My name's Robert Bonavito, New Jersey forensic accounting. This video is part of a series of videos where I discuss forensic accounting topics for educational purposes only. If this was a litigated matter, I would take a different approach, have different conclusions based on different facts and circumstances.

Today, I'm going to have an educational video on the New Jersey divorce process. Every state has different rules and regulations. Really, what I'm going to do today is give you a brief overview of the process in New Jersey. Usually, when you're getting divorced, you'll have attorneys, some people go Pro se, which means I'm going to be do on my own, not advised. Typically, you'll need a forensic accountant if the divorce has certain financial issues that need to be resolved.

And the general overview is something like this. Usually, a divorce starts when a complaint is filed. You, or your attorney, will draw up a complaint saying I want to get divorced from so-and-so my spouse, we have differences that we could not reconcile. You don't have to put other stuff in there specifically saying why, years ago you did, but now you don't. And then, the spouse will answer saying, you know, I got this complaint and X, Y, Z. And that starts the divorce process in New Jersey.

The next step is the discovery process. And a big part of the discovery process is the CIS statement. And CIS stands for Case Information Statement. And what this does, it documents everything about your marriage that's important to getting divorce. Remember, when you're getting divorced, really what the state wants to do is divide up the assets and make sure the kids are taken care of. And this CIS statement is really the bedrock because what it does is list all the key facts that most people have to know about the divorce, how old you are, when you got married, how many children you have, when they were born, what are your assets, what's your income? Things like that.

I have a video on that in this series that we go into more detail. But, once the CIS statement is prepared, each party will then....Remember, not all spouses know what the other spouses are doing. And what you can do is get interrogatories where you send them a list of questions they have to answer. You can take their deposition. You can issue a notice to produce documents because maybe one spouse has information on a business that you don't have or they have a job that you don't have W-2s. And you guys can get, basically, all of the information so everybody has a good understanding of where you stood financially.

The Case Management Conference is usually the next step and what this is, this is usually run by two attorneys who volunteer their time to meet with both parties and their attorneys and their and forensic accountants if necessary. And they kind of discuss the divorce and try to settle it, try to really bring about the important issues in childcare and things like that. Most divorces are settled at that point and they're called uncontested divorces if they settle.

And, if it's uncontested divorce, what the attorneys will do, will draw up a Property Settlement Agreement and in the agreement, it will basically list what your understanding is. Who gets the house, who gets the cars, who gets the pensions, who gets a certain amount of alimony, who gets to see the kids on Father's Day, Mother's Day? Everything in your life will be addressed in the Property Settlement Agreement. Extremely important document because you're going to have to live by this.

So, if it's an uncontested divorce and you were able to settle, all of the issues, everything will be codified in that document. However, if it's contested divorce, things get a little bit more complex. And, you know, I always tell my clients is this, "Listen,you're going to have to live by this for the rest of your life and if you think that you deserve something that you are not getting, it's worth fighting for it." If you are willing to settle for the rest of your life, be happy with that settlement then settle the divorce. But, if something's important, the time to fight is now.

And, there's a contested divorce. You would have met with the early settlement panel, they'll have made their suggestions. You move onto the next thing. And here are the major issues that are usually, need to be discussed or resolved in a contested divorce. The first one is child custody, who is the primary parent? when did the kids visit the other spouse? Typically, lawyers will bring a psychologist and things like that if it's an important issue. And, let's face it, probably is the most important issue in a divorce.

And, once that's settled and agreed upon, or if it's not, it's settled at court, Other issues are then looked at, one of them is a Pendente lite motion. What is a Pendente lite motion? Well, usually in divorce, one spouse is the money spouse, which means they have the income, and the other spouse is not the money spouse, which means that they don't have the income.

And, so, when these spouses break up, you have a household with bills they can't pay. And, this motion what it does is, it has the other spouse pay the expenses for the non-money spouse. So she can live, or he can live in the house, feed the children, put gas in the car, those kinds of things. That's one of the things that's usually resolved, because remember, now it's contested divorce. You have to be able to live, both parties have to be able to live. So, somebody might have to pay somebody else's expenses.

Child support is a big issue in contested divorce. Fortunately, for us in New Jersey, based on the income, you can go to a schedule and it will tell you how much you should pay per week. $150 or $200 per child. Listen, New Jersey is a very expensive state, so I personally, think that the child support is not high enough. but at least there's some kind of guideline where you can go there look at your income and decide how much money one spouse is to pay the other spouse for child support.

Alimony, this is a big issue especially right now when I'm doing the video because the state senate is currently making changes to this. We used to have three types of alimony, they've changed it to now open duration, it used to be called permanent alimony. We have temporary alimony and rehabilitative alimony.

Temporary means it takes a while to get back on your feet. Sometimes, when you're married, you may have left the workforce and worked on the other spouse's career. Well, you need temporary alimony so that you can go back to school, and get retrained. And this alimony is supposed to enable you to do that. And rehabilitative alimony is the same thing.

Okay, your skills may not be where they should be. Maybe you need a couple years of schooling to get back on your feet, so you can get a job, that you would have otherwise had if it wasn't for you staying home to help the other spouse with his career. So, those alimony issues are very important. What we typically do is we have lifestyle analysis. And, remember, alimony is not what you need to live on, it's what you did live on. For example, I could live in the woods, in a foxhole, with a can of beans and that would maybe take me maybe $50 or maybe $10 a month, but if you have a standard living where you're used to having a house is Florida, and one in Switzerland, and one in New York, and you need $100,000 to live on a month, that's the alimony you should go for because it's based on your standard of living.

So, you need to keep the same standard of living. Why would your spouse have a great standard of living and you not? So, alimony is typically a very important issue and that's one of the biggest reasons, besides the child issues, that people have contested divorces.

And then, division of marital property. A lot of people don't know what the other spouse has. You know, I have had cases where we were brought in to find missing assets. And you can find safety deposit box stuffed with gold bullion, you can find, stock and companies worth millions of dollars. It's important to understand what your spouse has because, if you've been married a long time, and those things were co-mingled, or if you got these through a job when you were married, you're entitled to 50% of these assets. And, so what we do is go in and we find those assets. So, that, again, is a pretty important issue.The house, pension plans. Again, I have a segment later on in one of my discussions where we talk about pensions and stuff like that. But, those assets will have to be looked at and divided up between the spouses.

And, once you have all of the discovery, yo go to trial and in trial is where you present your case for alimony, for division of assets even issues involving the children. And this is where your experts of forensic accountants, sometimes psychologists, and your attorneys will be very important to you at this point if you have a contested divorce.

Thank you very much for your time. If you have any questions, give me a call or visit my website.

Return to Video Gallery