Articles Posted in Support

surrogacy-400-05337127dWhile they were married, actress Sherri Shepherd and her now estranged husband, Lamar Sally, entered into a surrogacy agreement with a Pennsylvania woman when they decided to start a family. Before that baby was born, however, the couple filed for divorce (he in California and she in New Jersey), and Ms. Shepherd was ordered to pay support the child. Ms. Shepherd sought to have the surrogacy agreement voided. A Pennsylvania court denied her request and, more recently, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld that ruling. See “Actress Sherri Shepherd loses surrogacy case, paying support.”

For some couples facing fertility issues and other factors that prevent them from beginning a family by traditional means, surrogacy is a viable solution. But it is a very complicated arrangement with many gray areas.  NJ state lawmakers last year grappled with a bill that would have clarified matters for couples entering into “gestational carrier” agreements with persons willing to bear their children for them. See “N.J. Senate approves bill expanding definition of surrogate parenting.” That bill, however, was vetoed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last July, leaving surrogacy arrangements a very tenuous solution.

Cohabitation: Photo of couple embracing with woman looking onThe New Jersey Alimony Reform Act of 2014 was supposed to have clarified certain matters that existed under the State’s previous alimony laws, including how courts define cohabitation, one of the conditions under which alimony can be terminated. One New Jersey man is now testing whether or not this has been accomplished.

A Mendham, NJ man is asking the court to terminate his alimony obligations to his ex-wife claiming she is cohabitating with a new partner. The ex-wife, on the other hand, insists she and her boyfriend maintain separate homes and therefore are not cohabitating. Proving cohabitation under the old law required evidence showing an ex-spouse was sharing the same residence with a new partner. Under the Reform Act, however, a couple does not have to live together full-time in order to be considered cohabitating. Rather, a judge must consider eight conditions to determine cohabitation, including whether or not the couple share finances and responsibilities for household chores.

Will this change make it easier to prove cohabitation or just deter divorced people from dating for fear of losing support payments? To read more on this matter see, “When can ex-husband cut off alimony to former wife who has boyfriend?

spousal support: photo of person's hand holding a pen and filing out documentsWhen it comes to divorce, the question of spousal support may be one of the most contentious issues couples can face. Initially there can be two extreme reactions: the spouse who wants a clean break and asks for absolutely nothing from his or her former partner and the spouse who wants to take their ex for every last penny. The reality is that a fair spousal support agreement falls somewhere in the middle.

In 2014, New Jersey lawmakers passed a bill that abolished “permanent alimony” and today the State recognizes four types of alimony or spousal support: temporary, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement. The goal of alimony or spousal support is to give both partners to the marriage the opportunity to adjust financially to their new, separate lifestyles. Often the role you held within your marriage helps to determine whether or not you are entitled to spousal support, the type and amount of spousal support you need, and how long you will need to receive that support in order to facilitate your adjustment.

In her article, “Making Your Case for Spousal Support,” Michelle M. Smith, a Certified Financial Planner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, offers tips on how to make your argument for spousal support and explains the documents needed to help substantiate your claim.

tuition-lawsuitNew Jersey once again is grappling with the issue of how far parents’ financial obligations toward their children should go, particularly in relation to paying for their higher education. At least one State lawmaker is looking at ways to keep such decisions within the family and out of the courtroom.

In a legal battle that began last year, Caitlyn Ricci, a 21-year-old New Jersey resident, filed a lawsuit against Maura McGarvey and Michael Ricci, her divorced parents, seeking to force them to pay for her college tuition. Last month, a judge ruled in her favor citing a 1982 New Jersey Supreme Court ruling that made divorced parents financially responsible for the college education of their children.(1)

Ms. Ricci’s case was originally filed in 2013 soon after she left her mother’s home and moved in with her paternal grandparents. At that time, Ms. Ricci’s parents were ordered to pay their daughter’s tuition at Gloucester County College, a public State school, provided Ms. Ricci applied for available scholarships and loans to help defray the costs. According to reports, the parents did not pay the tuition because their daughter did not meet her court-ordered obligations. This past summer, Ms. Ricci transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, and returned to court asking that her parents be forced to pay her tuition, which now amounts to $26,000 a year.(1)

In hearing the case, the judge referred to Newburgh v Arrigo, the 1982 State Supreme Court case that decided divorced parents are responsible for providing college educations for their children, and ordered Ms. Ricci’s parents to pay $16,000 of her Temple University tuition bill.(1)

This case is reminiscent of another case that made headlines earlier this year involving a then high school student, Rachel Canning, who went to court seeking emancipation and support from her estranged parents. That support was to include the continued payment of her private high school tuition costs, as well as payment of her future college tuition. That case eventually was dropped and Ms. Canning returned home to her parents’ house before moving to college this past fall.(2) Continue reading ›

400-05370392Governor Chris Christie recently signed into law long-debated changes to the State’s alimony laws. The new laws represent the first significant changes to a system which, for years, has been criticized as being too harsh and outdated.(1)

One of the major changes is the elimination of permanent or lifetime alimony. Under the new law, paying spouses can request their obligation end, or at least be modified, once they reach age 67, which is the federally recommended retirement age. A major criticism of the old law was that paying spouses often were forced to continue working well after reaching a reasonable retirement age in order to meet their court-ordered alimony obligations.(2)

The new law also imposes a limit on the duration of alimony payments in marriages that lasted fewer than 20 years. With the change, alimony payments awarded for such unions now cannot be ordered for longer than the term of the marriage. The law does, however, allow judges to order extended payments under certain exceptional circumstances.(2)

Another significant change is the ability for paying spouses to petition the court for a modification of their payment obligations when faced with the loss of a job. Under the previous law, the paying spouse usually had to be out of work for at least a year before a judge would consider a request for modification. Under the new law, such modifications could be requested if the paying spouse is out of work for three months.(2)

Additionally, the amended law makes it easier for the paying spouse to seek an end to payments, if the receiving spouse begins living with another person, with the inclusion of more specific guidelines about what constitutes cohabitation.(2) Continue reading ›


Earlier this month New Jersey law enforcement officials apprehended 760 parents who were delinquent on their child support payments, collecting about $130,996 of the $14,856,998 owed in back payments. In Warren County alone, 14 people, owing a combined $161,683, were arrested as part of this sweep and $240 in delinquent support payments was collected in Superior Court.(1)

This sweep, conducted over a three-day period from July 15 through July 17, was the sixth annual effort by the State’s Sheriff’s Association. Sheriff’s officers were assisted by other law enforcement agents in their efforts. The goal was to apprehend non-custodial parents who had fallen behind in their child support, as well as parents who failed to attend court hearings at which orders for child support or medical support were to be set.(1)

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state%20map.jpgWhen alimony is awarded as part of a legal separation or divorce settlement, it becomes a legally binding agreement enforceable by the court. As such, the receiving spouse has recourse if and when the paying spouse fails to meet his or her payment obligation. Usually, this involves filing a petition with the court that issued the order to have the obligation enforced, assuming both parties still live within the jurisdiction of that court. What happens if the paying spouse moves to another state?

The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA), originally drafted in 1992 and amended as recently as 2008, was designed to ensure that orders of family support were honored across state borders. (1) Although the Act primarily enforces the payment of child support, it also covers spousal support or alimony. (2)

Continue reading ›

alimony.jpg The New Jersey Bar Association has joined the fight for alimony reform within the State. The problem, however, is that now two groups are fighting over whose proposed bill is better.

For over two years now, a group known as NJ Alimony Reform has sought to eliminate permanent alimony in the State. This group is now joined by the State Bar Association, which is also seeking to bring changes to the current laws regulating alimony payments, but the two groups are going about their goals differently, thus creating competition for lawmakers’ approval. (1)

Continue reading ›


Couples who live together without the benefit of marriage cannot benefit from the protections of divorce and alimony laws should their relationship end. Instead, these couples can resolve their financial issues through a contractual arrangement referred to as “palimony.” (1) There are differences, however, between alimony and palimony that, if you are not aware of, could affect your chances of collecting.

The obvious difference between the two is that alimony is granted to married partners and palimony to partners who never married but lived in a marriage-like relationship. Other differences may not be so obvious.(1)

Continue reading ›

unhappy%20couple.jpgThe State Assembly currently is considering legislation to end permanent alimony and clarify the guidelines under which other forms of alimony are awarded. (1)

In New Jersey, there are four main variations of alimony that can be awarded upon the end of a marriage or civil union: limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony, and permanent alimony. (1)

Limited duration alimony is the most common. Also known as term alimony, this is payable only for a specified time and is usually intended to give the receiving spouse enough time to become financially self-sufficient. Rehabilitative alimony is also payable for a specified time, usually long enough for a dependent partner to gain the training and/or education needed to find employment. Reimbursement alimony is awarded when one partner makes financial sacrifices to enable the other partner to further his or her education in an effort to improve earnings potential. And finally, permanent alimony is usually awarded in the dissolution of long-term marriages or unions, particularly when the earnings potentials of the partners are drastically unequal due to one spouse sacrificing education and/or career goals in order to take care of the family. New Jersey also has a temporary, or “pendent lite” alimony, which is awarded to help take care of the living expenses of an unemployed or low-earning spouse during divorce proceedings. (2)

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