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Family Law, Monthly Newsletter

Monthly Family Law Update

On August 8, 2013 the New Jersey Appellate Court drew a firm line in the sand regarding the hotly debated topic of permanent alimony.

In Gnall v. Gnall the court found that a “fifteen-year marriage is not short-term, a conclusion which precludes consideration of an award of limited duration alimony.” In other words, marriages of fifteen years would trigger so-called permanent alimony or alimony that lasts until the death of the payor or payee, remarriage of the payee or a substantial change in circumstances.

Simultaneously, the New Jersey Legislature is considering a proposal to eliminate permanent alimony for marriages of less than 20 years and to limit the amount of an alimony award based upon a percentage of a payor’s income.

Limited Scope Legal Services

From the first days of my practice, I have received phone calls from potential clients in need of legal services. Their need has always been real.

Often, the largest obstacle to assisting these clients was financial. The cost of engaging in a full service representation with all that it might entail including multiple trips to the courthouse, motion practice and potentially a full trial would easily exhaust the financial resources of the client and frustrate the process.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has adopted rules whereby attorneys can represent clients in a limited fashion. The benefits of this option are that the client can enjoy the advice, and document preparation services of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney while not paying for full service representation. The advantage for the attorney is that attorney can provide high-quality service for which the client can afford to pay. It is a good match for attorney and client in difficult financial times.

Importantly the rules also provide that the attorney must be must clearly define the scope of representation and analyze the feasibility of limited representation with the client before the engagement begins.

We are proud to offer limited scope legal services in those cases where they will benefit the client, service as good investment of the client’s limited financial resources and permit us to provide high-quality services to clients in need.

Collaborative Law Option for Divorce

I was proud to participate in the founding of the Jersey Shore Collaborative Group and more broadly promotion of the interest in Collaborative Law and Collaborative Divorce in New Jersey. Linda Piff, Esq. and I tried a bitter post judgment dispute to conclusion. Neither of our client’s was happy with the result or the bill.

We looked at each other simultaneously and asked why are we doing this? There must be a better way. We independently searched on the internet and found this concept called Collaborative Law that was in its infancy but growing quickly. The fundamentals of Collaborative Law are that the parties agree to not go to court and to waive confidentiality and privilege. When these barriers are down the parties and their lawyers tend to open up regarding creative ways to settle difficult issues without fear of their disclosure backfiring and being used against them in court. If a client insists upon litigating, the parties must obtain new counsel.

In tough economic times it has been sometimes difficult for parties to consider a process where they would need to retain new counsel and start over. Nearly every case can benefit from disclosure of the facts sooner rather than later, and exchange of the “big idea” sooner rather than later.