Friday, July 31, 2009

Protect your kids - even when you are not with them

Cool new product - identification, medical information and purchasing power all on your wrist --- or your child's wrist!

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Quote of the Day

"Weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless."

- Bill Watterson

Have a restful weekend!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Unpublished decisions can provide guidance

Trial courts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey decide tens of thousands of cases per year. Some of those cases are appealed so that the next level of court also makes a decision (the appellate court). Dissatisfied litigants sometimes then take their issues to the next level - the Supreme Court of the state.

Most decisions result in an opinion – a written document from the judge, or a panel of judges, outlining the facts, issues, law and reasoning. Some of these decisions are published which means they become part of the written case law and provide precedential value for other judges, lawyers and litigants. Many decisions remain unpublished – which means they have no precedential value. However, a review of an unpublished decisions can still provide guidance as to court trends, tendencies of particular judges, the strength or weakness of arguments or a particular interpretation of another case or statute.

Opinions remain unpublished for a variety of reasons: volume of docket, number of other cases published on the subject or even the particular writing style of that opinion. Accordingly, by limiting your review of case law to only published opinions, you may miss some helpful information.

The tax exemption

Recently, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, in an unpublished decision, affirmed a trial court’s decision to allow the Mother to continue to claim the parties’ minor child as a tax exemption.

The Mother and Father had divorced in 2007, resolving all issues between them. At the time, Mother, as the custodial parent of the minor child, claimed her as a tax exemption, which she is permitted to do so under the law. Of course, parties can agree otherwise and some parents decide that the non-custodial parent will claim the tax exemption – or they will alternate it. However, no such agreement was made in this case.

After the divorce, Father asked Mother if she would agree to allow him to claim the minor child as an exemption every other year. Mother refused. Notably, the opinion indicated that Mother had requested that she and the minor child be permitted to relocate to the State of Washington. Father refused, Mother filed a motion and lost.

Father filed a motion with the court, requesting an order allowing him to claim the minor child every other year. The court treated this as a change in child support and granted Father’s request. However, Mother appealed and the Appellate Court sided with her, noting that circumstances had not changed since the original order so there was no grounds to direct that the parties alternate the tax exemption.

This case teaches litigants to think very carefully when coming to a final settlement agreement – on any issue - divorce, custody, support, etc. While some issues may be modifiable later by the court, the process entails a great deal of time and expense. Thinking carefully during settlement negotiations could save you time and expense in the future.

Just because you signed your Prenuptial Agreement and married in New Jersey, does not mean your divorce will be litigated in New Jersey

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court agreed with the trial court’s decision to dismiss a petition to enforce a prenuptial agreement. The parties had entered into a Prenuptial Agreement in New Jersey in 1988, and married the next day. A few years later, they moved to the Bahamas and have resided there ever since.

When they decided to divorce, Husband filed a petition in New Jersey, seeking to enforce the Prenuptial Agreement. However, New Jersey had not jurisdiction over the matter as neither of the parties lived there. Wife opposed Husband’s petition and also asked for counsel fees for the cost of responding to the New Jersey action. The court agreed that New Jersey did not have jurisdiction but found that Husband pursued his claim in good faith, so counsel fees were not warranted.

To review Pennsylvania Court decisions, click here. To review New Jersey Court decisions, click here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Divorce ABC

Overwhelmed, anxious, sad, scared, rejected, lonely . . . these feelings constitute just a few stops along the emotional roller coaster of divorce. If your divorce included disputes over children (whether financial or custodial), the stress increases exponentially.

The term “simple divorce” is often an oxymoron – how can the unraveling of a financial, emotional and romantic family unit be a simple process? Unless neither you nor your spouse have assets, debts, income or children, your divorce will involve some issues that need to be resolved. While an anxiety-free/stress-free divorce may be an impossibility (after all, you are disentangling from the person who you promised to be with “til death do you part”), keep the following three thoughts in mind: each tip conveniently beginning A, B and C.


Be realistic and reasonable, choosing your battles and concentrating on what is most important. Do not let the divorce process overtake you. Your divorce could take a few months or a few years – but you should not wait for your life to begin once the divorce is over – do not put your life on hold. As in many areas of life, a positive attitude will serve you well through what can be an unpleasant process.

Business like

When going through a divorce, you mourn the loss of the marriage but also move on to a new chapter in your life. Spending too much time and energy in the mourning phase will prevent you from concentrating on what you need for that next chapter. Perhaps most importantly, conducting yourself in the most efficient and business-like manner possible will help you make sound decisions – decisions that could affect you for the rest of your life. Treating a divorce like the closing or dividing of a business is the best thing you can do for yourself– both emotionally and financially. If you fall into the trap of using the divorce process to attempt to hurt your spouse emotionally, take positions merely to prove a point or principle or to play out revenge, you will usually end up costing yourself more in time and attorneys’ fees without advancing your position in the litigation.


Recognize what you can and cannot control. The cost and length of a divorce process depends on a variety of factors: your timely and cooperative participation, your attorney’s diligence, the other party’s cooperation or lack thereof, opposing counsel’s cooperation or lack thereof, the complexity of the issues involved, the court process (including the crowded docket), cooperation of experts involved and external factors (waiting for someone to receive a bonus or get a job, the sale of a house or business or the progress of the children, to name a few). Control what is within your power and domain but recognize what you cannot control.
Keep accurate records by maintaining a file, in chronological order of every piece of paper in your case: letters, pleadings, financial information, memorandums of phone calls and a calendar of events. By being organized, you will save yourself the aggravation of wasting time looking for things and you will be more knowledgeable about your own case.

Court dockets can be crowded and litigants often spend a great deal of court time sitting and waiting. Bring reading material or something else to keep you occupied - this will ease the stress of anxiety of what you will otherwise perceive as wasted time.

When the other side creates havoc, confusion and chaos, realize that there may be some tactics that your attorney can utilize to compel cooperation. However, not all bad behavior from the other side can be controlled. When facing this type of immutable situation, realize that although you cannot change the other party’s actions, you may be able to change your reaction.

So, while following these three guidelines will not guarantee you an effortless, stress-free divorce, keeping these particular A, B and C in mind will provide you some peace of mind and a good foundation from which to go through this very difficult process.