You cannot imagine how many new clients begin our first conversation saying something along the lines of “My best friend Sol told me what I have to do is …”
However well-meaning, divorce tips that men and fathers in New Jersey receive from friends, co-workers, even loving family members, usually is wrong. Doing or paying attention to what they suggest makes as much sense as taking medical advice from the blog of a non-healthcare professional. Especially when it comes to a father’s complex child custody issues and concerns, resolving any differences between you and your spouse needs to be handled carefully and within what the law allows. Your buddy Sol may tell you to forget about custody when, in fact, courts are increasingly willing to balance the desires of each parent with the needs of the children.
So that you won’t have to listen to the Sol’s in your life, or your parents, or what your neighbor’s second cousin twice removed said about his divorce, here are seven things that men and fathers in New Jersey need to think about when they’re thinking about getting a divorce. At the end are suggestions on how to find and retain a family law firm in New Jersey.
1 – Plan ahead
If you’ll be making the first move, or if you know or strongly suspect that the marriage is heading towards a separation or divorce, start making plans as early as possible. Begin making copies of financial records, mortgage or loan agreements and tax returns. Create a list of assets you brought into the marriage such as investment or retirement accounts as well as those things that the two of you acquired after tying the knot. Open a bank account in your own name and deposit at least part of your pay in it regularly.
2 – Decide on your goals for custody
Judges are increasingly willing to listen to fathers who want to be the custodial parent, or have shared custody with the mother. But if your job or business requires you to travel frequently, it’s unlikely you’ll be awarded sole custody unless the mother has a demonstrable substance abuse problem or is physically abusive towards the children. Decide what you want and what is reasonable. New Jersey law requires judges to place the interests of the children above all other considerations. If the children are old enough, a judge is likely to ask them which parent they’d like to live with.
3 – Resolve not to involve the kids in your marital problems
As hard as your divorce may be on you, it will be even more difficult on your children and they may not be able to express what they’re feeling. Be determined to keep the kids out of any problems you have with their mother and don’t put them in a position of having to take sides.
4 – Buy or sell things before filing
Once you file for divorce, a judge is likely to issue an order barring you or your spouse from making substantial purchases, acquiring new debt or selling property because doing so could affect the settlement. Don’t empty a joint account if there is one but you may want to remove some or all of what you deposited into the account. If you have a business and need to make a substantial purchase, do it before we file or your spouse submits papers to the court. But be sure to consult with one of our men’s divorce lawyers in New Jersey before doing anything with your financial arrangements.
5 – Scout out possible living arrangements
Except in rare situations, you are not required to move out of the marital home when you begin divorce proceedings. But do you really want to share living space with the woman you are divorcing? Decide what your goals are for living arrangements during and after the divorce. As just one example of how a rash decision can affect you down the road, moving in with a friend or relative prior to filing can affect your chances of staying in the marital home after the divorce. We can advise you on how to best position yourself based on your long-term goals.
6 – Create a support network
This is an emotional time for New Jersey men and fathers. Don’t try toughing it out on your own. Develop a support network of friends who will be there for you on the bad days – and you’ll likely have some no matter how amicable the break-up might be. Many clients find it helpful to speak with a psychologist or psychiatrist to help them work through the issues they are dealing with. We can refer you to professionals. If you don’t have a support network, feel free to join our Divorce and Custody Support Group for Men. You do not need to be a client of the Micklin Law Group to participate.
Choosing a Family Law Attorney in New Jersey
At the same time as you are thinking about getting a divorce you should be thinking about what kind of attorney to represent you during the negotiations and – if it comes to it – a trial. You want an attorney who will work hard to negotiate a settlement, support and custody agreement but also can be tough when it becomes necessary.
If you want shared custody or to be the custodial parent, find a lawyer who has experience and expertise in explaining to your wife’s lawyer and to a judge the circumstances under which being with dad is in the best interests of the children.
Finally, you want a lawyer who will clearly explain your options, the likely outcome of the points you are fighting for in the divorce, and who will keep you up-to-date on developments in the case. Are they available by phone or email when you have a question or a situation arises? Do they have the legal backup with associates and paralegals to keep your case moving along so it doesn’t drag on longer than necessary? Do you understand the answers they’re giving you or is it a lot of legal jargon and mumbo-jumbo?
Talk with a Men’s Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey
If you or somebody you know is a man or father who is considering a divorce in New Jersey and have questions about what you need to think about before proceeding with an action, feel free to call me or one of our experienced family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.