Family Law can be one of the most complex areas of legal practice due to the multitude of issues that often arise. Many of our colleagues in other areas of legal practice think it’s simple: when you get divorced you sell the house, split the proceeds, everything else is divided 50/50, child support is determined by the guidelines grid, and alimony is one-third of the difference between the parties’ gross incomes. If it were that simple, there would be kiosks in public places where people could input their information and the result would spit out.
Some cases can be that simple, and when we represent folks in that circumstance, we thank them for the easy work. But many more are not. For example, custody and parenting time disputes can be extremely difficult, and not just because of the emotions involved. In situations where one party has been a stay-at-home parent for years, forsaking any thoughts of a career, and the children are still quite young, it may be more expensive to pay for child care than that parent could earn. If any child is disabled, and the house was specially outfitted to accommodate that, it may not prudent to sell it. If it’s not sold, the other party must somehow be compensated for their share of the equity. The resolution of custody and parenting time issues has an impact on child support, as one of the factors in the guidelines grid is the number of overnights spent with each parent. These examples only address some of the issues related to custody and parenting time. Resolution of the parties’ financial issues – who gets what and how and when – is often quite complex, particularly in longer-term marriages where they have had an opportunity to accumulate multiple assets and liabilities. In other words, this area of the law is fact-driven: the factual details of the parties’ lives when they were together must be reviewed in order to work out how they will live once they’re apart.
Because some colleagues think it’s such easy work, they have been known to dabble in it, even though their primary legal practice is in another field, such as real estate, civil litigation and the like. When faced with this type of adversary in a not-so-easy case, I know it will be a learning curve for them. I’m happy to educate them, but resent when it’s at the client’s expense. The same can happen in Court, since new judges are commonly assigned to the Family Part even though they’ve never had a family law practice, or in at least one case, never even had a family of their own. Fortunately, most judicial appointees are educable. We know to submit legal briefs on virtually every issue presented until they’re more seasoned.
The importance of having competent representation in a family law case cannot be over-emphasized, even in the so-called easy cases. A good family lawyer knows that every single issue has an impact on all the others, and has ideas on how to resolve the case in a global manner. We invite you to review the contents of this website with an eye towards learning how we can assist you in what can be a very difficult time in your life.