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Tips for Mom’s beginning the process of separation and / or divorce from a legal standpoint

The first step should be to obtain a consultation with a matrimonial attorney in order to educate oneself on the parameters of an appropriate agreement and analysis of the family circumstances. In preparation for the consultation, the client should gather financial information which is pertinent including three years of income tax returns, social security earnings history statements for each party, current paystubs, information regarding the value of the family assets and debts, and information regarding budgetary expenses involving the shelter, transportation, and personal needs. It is the attorney's obligation to advise as to an appropriate financial settlement so that the needs of the mother and the children and their household expenses continue to be met. This will involve alimony in many cases, and appropriate child support, medical insurance and expense coverage, and daycare expenses and distribution of assets.

A most important issue to consider prior to the consultation is the parenting plan for the children assuming a separation ensues. The trend today is for joint legal custody which means that both parties have a right to full access for all medical and education records of the children and have a right to be involved in major decisions of health, education and welfare of the children. It is advisable that a parent of primary residence is established which is usually the person which whom the children principally reside and the person who has provided most of the daily needs of the children. It is advisable to maintain a record as to the daily parenting plan and activity arrangements which take place by consent of the parties, as the courts are often guided by the conduct of the parties in this regard. All issues which concern the client should be discussed with the attorney at the time of a consultation.

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New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the division of property in a divorce is to be done fairly, not necessarily equally. The court can take into consideration any factor it deems relevant when dividing property, but it must consider certain factors, such as how long the couple was married and the age and health of both spouses, the income or property brought to the marriage by each spouse, the standard of living that was achieved during the marriage, and the extent to which one spouse may have deferred career goals, among others.
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