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  1. "Should I Separate or Should I Divorce?"

    You've decided that you can no longer live with your spouse.

    But you've also heard about divorce and how devastating it can be, not only to the husband and wife but to their children as well.

    It makes one wonder whether a long-term or permanent separation is a viable alternative to divorce for you.

    Or at least for now.

    Here are my thoughts.

    Although I have not seen much of this in my 36 years as a Monmouth County NJ Divorce Lawyer, many years ago I knew a couple who handled their marital problems by separating, but not divorcing, in what appeared to be a most successful manner.

    Over 36 years ago, I worked for "David" at a children’s summer camp in that he owned.  Chris also worked at the same camp, as the arts and crafts counselor.

    David and Chris had two children, both of whom were campers when I was there, and thereafter I heard that both children ultimately worked at the camp as counselors.

    David and Chris, like so many other people in the 1970's, reached the conclusion that they were not very good at living together, for whatever reasons.

    They separated.

    However, they both realized that they still excelled at being friends and parents.

    They never divorced.

    What is so amazing to me as an experienced divorce lawyer, is how they made it work.

    David smiled as he walked the campgrounds daily, overseeing everything from the swimming program, to safely unloading dozens of school buses, to successfully handling staff morale issues, and everything in between.

    Smiling and being kind at all times, Chris oversaw a full schedule of arts and crafts, pottery making, and the like.

    When they were together, they talked and joked as good friends often do.

    Of course, I do not know if they fought about child support or parenting time or distribution of property or the dozens of other issues that separated couples fight over.

    From what I could tell, though, they did not; they appeared to just work things out among themselves.

    I always wanted to ask them, over these past 36 years since I stopped working at their camp, how they made it work.

    What happened when David bought a new car and Chris wanted one but perhaps couldn’t afford it?

    Did she ask David for “a raise?”

    Did David simply buy her a new car without her even asking for it?

    Did Chris have to threaten to take David to court in order for him to give her more money?

    If so, how did they continue working together for all those years, smiling and seeming to be best friends?

    I will never know how they made it work. Several years ago, both David and Chris died.

    They were both 50-something.

    I heard that Chris died first. 

    Her obituary listed David as her husband, as if they had never separated.

    I was told that about five weeks later, David died.

    For me, as a divorce lawyer who has spent 36 years working on everything from simple uncontested divorces to the most complex child custody cases, the story of David and Chris is remarkable.

    That a man and a woman can have children and separate, and then continue to function at such a high level for so many decades after separating, is most reassuring.

    Does this story seem attractive to you?

    Might you want to separate from your spouse but not seek a divorce?

    Or are you seeking the finality that only a divorce can bring, and the opportunity to perhaps start anew with another spouse?

    THERE'S A LOT MORE FREE HELP WHERE THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM
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    Topics: Divorce, Marriage Counseling, Separation

  2. Why It's A Terrible Idea To Divorce Without A Very Good Lawyer

    Question: Why pay thousands of dollars to a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce case in New Jersey when legally you can do it yourself?

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    Topics: Divorce

  3. How Much Does It Cost To Divorce In Monmouth County?

    I am going to tell you.

    Not many, if any, divorce lawyers WILL tell you, but I am going to tell you.

    At the end of this article.

    Now, you can cheat, and just go to the bottom and read that part...

    But that would be silly.

    Because I assume that you are here reading this article to learn how to save money on legal fees.

    And that is why I am writing this article: to teach you what drives up the cost of so many divorces so that I can help you avoid doing that to yourself.

    If you want to save a lot of money on YOUR divorce, then you need to understand why it is so hard for this question to be answered honestly.

    So...if you really want to, ok...go to the bottom and you will see how much the typical divorce in Monmouth County NJ costs, from my experience...

    But then be sure to come back here to read the rest of the article, or else I fear that you will miss the most important lesson that I offer you: namely, how to keep YOUR legal fees as low as possible.

    They taught me in law school back in the 1980's to not answer that question, not to be obnoxious or sneaky or anything like that, but rather because it is impossible to know how the clients will behave, and because client behavior is the #1 reason that divorce costs can skyrocket.

    Why is it so difficult for even a highly experienced divorce lawyer to predict what your divorce will cost?

    Why don't most divorce lawyers just give you a firm price up front like building contractors do?

    Let me answer that question by way of an example that happened to me.

    I started practicing exclusively NJ divorce law in September 1987.

    My then employer brought one of my first clients, "Barbara" (not her real name), into my office.

    At that time, my initial divorce retainer was $4,000.00 and I billed at the rate of $100.00 per hour (needless to say, both rates have gone up quite a bit over the past 37 years.)

    During the consultation, Barbara asked me what I thought her divorce would cost her.

    I told her that no one knows for sure because it really is a function of how much time she and her husband spend fighting.

    I also told her that there are other variables that will affect her final legal bill, including whether her husband hires a cooperative lawyer or a combative lawyer, which judge we get, how complicated the issues are in her particular case, and other related factors.

    Out of respect for her, I respectfully refused to guess at how much her total legal bill for her divorce would "likely" be.

    Notwithstanding my refusal to estimate the total cost for her divorce, Barbara hired me.

    Six weeks later, on  November 1, 1987, Barbara called me.

    She said, "I'd like to have our 4-year old son, Michael, for Thanksgiving this year. My husband can have Michael for the first day of Hanukkah this year. Next year, we can switch.

    Will you please call his lawyer and try to work that out?"

    I told her, "Of course, Barbara. I'll call your husband's lawyer now and will discuss the issue with him. There shouldn't be any major problems."

    I then called the other lawyer who agreed with me that there shouldn't be any major problems working out that arrangement.

    The other lawyer told me that it made sense and that he would speak with his client and get back to me.

    The next day, I got a call from the other lawyer who said "Steve, I had an opportunity to speak with my client, David, about Barbara's suggestion.

    David does not agree...

    Rather, David suggests that this year HE should have Michael for Thanksgiving, Barbara can have Michael for the first day of Hanukkah, and they will switch next year."

    I said to the other lawyer, "Well, let me speak with my client and I will get back to you."

    I called Barbara and I said "Look, Barbara, I spoke with the other attorney who agreed with both of us that your proposal makes sense.

    However, your husband's lawyer then spoke with your husband who sees things differently.

    In fact, your husband insists that HE have Michael for Thanksgiving this year, you would get next year, and YOU would get the first day of Hanukkah this year."

    Barbara screamed. "Oh, no. That's not going to happen. I insist upon having Thanksgiving this year!"

    Well, at this point in the conversation, I reminded her of our discussion about legal fees during our first consultation by saying, "Barbara, do you remember back on September 15th when you first hired me and you asked me how much this case was going to cost you?

    Do you remember that I told you that I didn't know, and that it was going to be largely a function of how well you and David cooperate, and also a function of how well his lawyer cooperates with me?

    Well, his lawyer and I have been getting along great, but you and he are disagreeing over basic things.

    Is it really worth going to Court over this issue?"

    To which Barbara replied, "Yes, it is!"

    So, I did what Barbara instructed me to do.

    I prepared the Court papers.

    That took quite a few hours, with Barbara making many revisions.

    We went to Court.

    That took a few more hours.

    I argued that Barbara should have Thanksgiving this year and that her husband should have the first day of Hanukkah.

    David's lawyer argued that David should have Thanksgiving this year and Barbara would have the first day of Hanukkah.

    The judge ruled in Barbara's favor and she had Thanksgiving Day with the child in 1987.

    Why do I tell you this?

    Because this is an article about what can be done to reduce the cost of your divorce.

    I want you to know that Barbara spent her entire $4,000.00 initial retainer fighting over who was going to have Thanksgiving that year.

    She then needed to come up with another $4000 retainer to continue moving the case forward.

    And so, this goes back to the initial question that Barbara asked me during our consultation, namely, "How much is this divorce likely to cost me?"

    If I had attempted to guess at the answer at that time, by the end of her case I would have been way off, and Barbara would have viewed me as being dishonest with her.

    Indeed, when I first met Barbara, I had no idea how she and David were going to fight over Thanksgiving.

    I did know that if they fought over relatively insignificant issues that they would likely spend a whole lot more money than they otherwise might.

    So how can you dramatically reduce the cost of your divorce?  

    There are 5 "takeaways" from this article:

    1.Never forget that divorce lawyers bill hourly.

    2.Don't fight over relatively insignificant things.

    3.Keep your focus on the big picture of what you are trying to achieve.

    4.Try to treat the negotiation of your divorce case like any other significant negotiation in your life.

    5.And...before you begin to negotiate, you will need to have a complete grasp on your assets, your debts, your income...you will need to first prepare a complete Case Information Statement.

    If you are concerned about getting the best legal representation available but also having control over the cost of divorce, then it is important for you to understand that lawyers bill hourly for all of their time. 

    So try to keep a journal of your questions so that when you call your lawyer, you can get more "bang for your buck".

     

    SO HOW MUCH DOES IT COST ALREADY?

    For a short marriage, no kids, no assets, no debts, no fighting...easy case...very little.

    But once you add in facts like a longer marriage, kids, assets, debts, and fighting, then in my experience in the average case, each side will likely spend between $15,000 to $25,000 per person IN THE AVERAGE CASE.

    Yup.

    That has been my experience as a divorce lawyer in Monmouth County for the past 36 years.

    And I'm not talking about just MY clients...I'm talking about the average cost for any highly experienced Monmouth County divorce lawyer, based upon what I have seen.

    Now...that is for a "typical" case.

    YET...many cases cost much less...and many cases cost much more.

    Why? (did you skip the part above where I explain in detail why)?

     

    THE BOTTOM LINE

    The cost of a divorce in New Jersey is a function of how much time the attorneys spend on the case.

    The amount of time spent by the lawyers is a function of how much emotion the clients have, how they direct that emotion, how complex the legal issues are, how cooperative the lawyers are with each other, who the judge is, and many other factors.

    But lawyers bill hourly at the rate of hundreds of dollars an hour, depending upon the particular lawyer.

    If little time is required, the bill will be low.

    If a lot of time is required, the bill will be significantly higher.

    Would you like me to teach you how to keep the cost of your divorce as low as possible?

    Then stick around this website...I'll give you hundreds of useful tips that you will really find helpful

    THERE'S A LOT MORE FREE HELP WHERE THIS ARTICLE CAME FROM
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    Topics: Divorce

  4. Steve Kaplan’s Step-By-Step Guide To Divorce In New Jersey

    A very nice woman (let's call her "Susan"), who was frightened out of her mind, hired me recently.

    She had just been informed an hour earlier that her husband hired a divorce lawyer, filed for divorce, and that her divorce case was scheduled for TRIAL in 2 days!

    The email from the husband's lawyer gave her the address of the Courthouse, but told her that she "...really didn't need to appear in Court."

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    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court

  5. Steve Kaplan’s Step-By-Step Guide To Divorce In New Jersey

    A very nice woman ("Susan"), frightened out of her mind, hired me recently.

    She told me how she had been informed by an email from her husband's lawyer an hour earlier that her divorce case was scheduled for TRIAL in 2 days, gave her the address of the courthouse, but told her that she really didn't need to appear in Court.

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    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court

  6. NJ Divorce Court Motions

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    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court

  7. Drafting A NJ Separation  Agreement

    It has often been said that 99 out of 100 NJ Divorce Cases are ultimately settled, and that only 1 out of 100 divorce cases in New Jersey actually result in a trial before a Family Court judge.

    The way that a case is most often settled is through the use of a custom drafted document called a Separation Agreement (also called a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement (MSA) or an Interspousal Agreement or a Property Settlement Agreement.)

    There are many names for the same type of document.

    Drafting a Separation Agreement (MSA) in a NJ divorce case is not an easy task. It is sort of the metaphorical equivalent to what a sculptor faces when he sits down to create a sculpture. 

    I'm not a sculptor. I have never tried sculpting from a block of rock.

    Yet I imagine that if I were a sculptor, I would start with a square block of stone.

    I imagine that I would have a general idea of what I intended my final project to ultimately look like before I started chipping away at that stone.

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    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court

  8. Drafting A NJ Separation  Agreement

    It has often been said that 99 out of 100 NJ Divorce Cases are ultimately settled, and that only 1 out of 100 divorce cases in New Jersey actually result in a trial before a Family Court judge.

    The way that a case is most often settled is through the use of a custom drafted document called a Separation Agreement (also called a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement (MSA) or an Interspousal Agreement or a Property Settlement Agreement.)

    There are many names for the same type of document.

    Drafting a Separation Agreement (MSA) in a NJ divorce case is not an easy task. It is sort of the metaphorical equivalent to what a sculptor faces when he sits down to create a sculpture. 

    I'm not a sculptor. I have never tried sculpting from a block of rock.

    Yet I imagine that if I were a sculptor, I would start with a square block of stone.

    I imagine that I would have a general idea of what I intended my final project to ultimately look like before I started chipping away at that stone.

    Read More

    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court

  9. What Is A NJ Divorce Trial Like?

    Question: "What is a New Jersey divorce trial like?"

    Answer: "You don't want one."

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    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court, Trial

  10. What Exactly IS An Uncontested Divorce in NJ?

    New clients regularly tell me that they want an "uncontested divorce."

    What exactly is an uncontested divorce in NJ?

    To me, the phrase means two separate things:

    First of all, it means that the GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE are not being contested.

    Second, it means that there is no disagreement as to any of the financial issues, child related issues, or any other issues, and in fact these issues have been resolved.

    When you have settled all of the issues in your divorce case, the next step is to go to court for what is called an uncontested divorce hearing, the goal of which is to divorce you and your spouse and end the divorce process.  

    The uncontested divorce hearing usually lasts 10 to 15 minutes.

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    Topics: Divorce, Divorce Court, Trial