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Being involved in a divorce or family law matter can often feeling like you are playing the old arcade game Whack a Mole. Issues, problems, developments keep popping up unexpectedly. No matter how vigilant you are, you may feel like you’re never going to win. Working with an experienced attorney allows you to have another mallet to whack those moles! At The Durst Firm, we try to absorb as much of the responsibility for your case as possible. We can advise and predict what may happen, but sadly, we do not have a crystal ball. In addition to relying on your attorney, there are steps you can take when the unexpected happens. You can respond, rather than react.
Under good circumstances, family law matters are unpredictable. As we continue to deal with COVID-19, we are faced with an entirely new set of circumstances that we need to figure out on the fly. While we might not be able to stop something from happening, we can remain full control of what we do once it happens. We can respond. Or we can react. What’s the difference, you may ask.
When you “respond” you are making a deliberate, thoughtful, and constructive approach to whatever it is that may have occurred. A response is intended to acknowledge the situation and move you beyond it in a positive manner. A response should not add fuel to the fire. A response is about protecting your interests.
A “reaction” is different. When we react to a situation, it is often done spontaneously. That reaction is often driven by emotion: fear, anger, or resentment for example. These visceral reactions are entirely understandable but almost always counterproductive. Instead of advancing your own cause, you are giving the person that wanted to anger you or hurt you exactly what they want by being angry or being hurt. It is impossible to not have these feelings or experience these emotions, but you should not let them work against you. Take a deep breath, resist the urge to react. Take some time to review the situation with your attorney and develop a response. It can make all the difference.
The additional stress caused by everyone being at home together and financial pressures from being out of work often contribute to domestic violence. Know your rights. And know that help is available.
Click on the link or contact The Durst Firm for more information.
We have been fielding an number of questions about the stimulus checks that are to be issued by the federal government. A quick summary: subject to income thresholds and other criteria, individuals will receive $1,200, a married couple will received $2,400 and parents are to receive $500 per child.
If you are in the process of getting divorced or already divorced, take an approach that allows you to maximize what you may receive. Once divorced, the parents will often alternate claiming the child(ren) on their tax returns on an annual basis. Here’s where the trouble starts! Our understanding of the payment process is that the parent who most recently claimed the child will receive the payment. If the recipient parents has historically claimed the child(ren) this may be appropriate. However, in situations were the parents alternate claiming and are equally responsible for the children’s expenses, this can create an unfair result. As this is a new government benefit, there is no real guidance on how these funds should be allocated between the parents. Our approach is to recognize that while $500 per child is significant, fighting over how to allocate the money quickly becomes cost prohibitive. Why not agree to use the funds for agreed-to expenses for the child or fund a college account. Such an approach will keep you both focused on the child and realize the most bang for the buck.
As we head into the third (I think, not really sure) week of NJ’s social distancing quarantine, I’m sure I am not the only one trying to find some sense of normalcy. Life has been turned upside down. For families dealing with divorce or who may be recently divorce, these times are particularly trying. Job responsibilities may have changed or jobs may even have been lost. Children are home from school and parents are now assuming the role of tutor. Children are missing their social interactions and structure provided by being in school. At The Durst Firm we are experiencing these same challenges. We are here to help however we can.
Being flexible is critical to getting through these days. Accept that the old structures, the old norms, are not applicable. Life has to proceed differently now. This is not to suggest that there should be no structure or no order. But be realistic with yourself. And be realistic with your spouse or ex-spouse. Parenting time schedules may need to be adjusted to accommodate work or school functions. If a parent is working in a high risk occupation battling COVID-19 (AND WE THANK YOU) care and consideration must be given to how that parent interacts with the children. Please don’t exploit this situation and use it as a “reason’ to deny parenting time. On the flip side, if you are the “at risk”, recognize that loving your kids may mean you shouldn’t see them as often on a TEMPORARY basis. We are working with our clients who find themselves in this very situation to find alternative means of maintaining relationships with their children using technology and creating interim Orders that preserve a relationship and set the guidelines in response to this situation.