FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How does a court decide which parent will get custody of a child?
When the parents cannot agree on a custody arrangement, the court will make the decision for them. When determining the child's best interests, the court may consider many factors, including:
- The child's age
- The child's gender
- The child's physical and mental health
- The parents' physical and mental health
- The parents' lifestyles
- Any history of abuse
- The emotional bonds between the parent and the child
- The parent's ability to give the child guidance
- The parent's ability to provide the basic necessities, such as food, shelter, clothing and medical care
- The child's routines, including home, school, community and religious
- The willingness of the parent to encourage a healthy, on-going relationship between the child and the other parent
- If the child is above a certain age, the child's preference
- Who has been the child's primary caretaker?
What kinds of assets are divided in a divorce?
The parties in a divorce can agree to the division of (or the judge will divide) all marital or community property owned by the parties. Marital property generally includes most of the property the couple acquired during the marriage. Examples may be the marital home, second home, furnishings and appliances, artwork, vehicles, financial assets, investments, retirement accounts and privately owned businesses.
The value of intangible property may also be divided. Examples of divisible intangible property include the value of a patent on an invention, the value of the celebrity status of a spouse's name, the goodwill value of a business owned by one spouse and the value of a professional degree earned by one spouse. The value of these intangible assets will generally only be divided when both spouses made a substantial contribution to that value, either directly or indirectly.
How is the amount of child support calculated?
Each state has developed guidelines that help establish the amount of child support that must be paid. In New Jersey, the guidelines were developed based on an income shares concept which apportions the average amounts spent on children by intact families between the parents in proportion to their relative incomes. The purpose of the guideline is to aid the judge in determining child support amounts. Judges are free to deviate from the guidelines when there are good reasons to do so. If, for instance, one party or a child has higher than average expenses, the amount can vary. Or if the court determines that the paying parent is voluntarily earning less than he or she could for the purpose of minimizing the child support obligation, the judge can calculate the amount of child support based on what the payer is capable of earning.
Some general factors that are considered in the calculation of child support include: 1) The child's standard of living before the parents' separation or divorce; 2) The paying parent's ability to pay; 3) The custodial parent's needs and income; 4) The needs of the child or children, including educational costs, daycare expenses; and 5) medical expenses (health insurance or special health care needs).
Under what circumstances will the court award alimony or spousal support?
The obligation of spouses to support each other does not necessarily terminate when they divorce. If the divorce will leave one spouse with very little income and the other with enough to contribute to the low-income spouse's support, the court will usually award alimony, at least temporarily.
Spousal support is often awarded in cases in which one spouse has put his or her education or career on hold in order to raise the parties' children while the other climbed the career ladder and achieved a higher income. In such cases, the alimony will often be temporary, providing income for a period of time to enable the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. This temporary, or rehabilitative, spousal support enables the recipient spouse to further his or her education, receive job training, re-establish himself or herself in a former career or complete childrearing responsibilities, after which time he or she can be self-sufficient.
Factors affecting Alimony
Some of the possible factors that bear on the amount and duration of the support are:
Length of the marriage
Age of the parties at the time of the divorce
Relative income of the parties
Future financial prospects of the parties
Health of the parties
Standard of living during the marriage
Other assets available to the spouses