Monthly Archives: April 2018

4 Things No One Tells You About Divorce

Statistically, half of the married population will end their marriages, and many will go through it more than once. Despite how often divorce takes place, the average couple is unaware of both the process and its aftermath.

Since knowledge equips participants, here are some things to know about divorce that likely no one has ever told you.

1. The divorce proceedings can be very long

Sometimes the process is quick but in other cases, it can last a year or more. Division of major assets can slow down a divorce significantly. Whether you have a complicated or a simple case, the more you and your spouse can work out ahead of time, the faster the process will likely be.

2. The process can last far beyond the date the divorce decree is issued

This is especially true if you have children, since you will potentially see your former spouse in the same courtroom until your youngest child turns 18. Even without children, you may find yourself back in court for things like a modification to a spousal support order.

3. Even collaborative divorces need court involvement

You and your spouse could agree on everything, but it will still take time for judges to approve certain issues. One example is QDROs – qualified domestic relations orders, which is a judicial order splitting a retirement or pension plan. Under a federal law,these need state court approval even if you and your spouse do not dispute the division.

4. States have residency requirements to file for divorce

Both New York and New Jersey have a residency requirement. In New Jersey, either spouse must have been a resident for at least one year except in the case of adultery, in which one spouse needs only to be a current resident.

In New York, the requirement is more complicated. Either spouse must have resided in the state for at least two years before filing OR have lived in the state continuously for one year AND meet one of the following criteria: (1) gotten married there, (2) lived there as a married couple, or (3) cite grounds for divorce that took place there.

If, as happens often, spouses separate long-term and one moves to another state, more than one state could be a viable location to file. In these situations, it is imperative to understand the effects of filing in each state because the differences in state law could have a drastic effect on the case.

Experienced family law firm serving Bergen County, NJ

The divorce you are about to go through may be your first but it is not ours. Each divorce, separation, dissolution, or child custody dispute will have its own circumstances that will direct its course, but experienced divorce attorneys understand how to spot and respond to the issues.

The lawyers at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are here to guide you through the entire process. We have walked through this process as advocates and confidantes countless times so we understand what you are going through and take the time to explain each step.

If you are headed toward a divorce in New York or New Jersey, put your trust in KGG, a trustworthy Rockland County and Bergen County family law firm.

Additional Resources on Divorce in NJ and NY:

  1. New York Courts, Residency and Grounds, https://www.nycourts.gov/courthelp/family/divorceRequirements.shtml
  2. Findlaw, New Jersey Divorce Laws, https://statelaws.findlaw.com/new-jersey-law/new-jersey-legal-requirements-for-divorce.html
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Is a Rear-End Collision Always the Following Driver’s Fault?

Two Drivers Arguing After Traffic Accident Crop Shot Of Crash.Most drivers realize that a rear-end collision is frequently considered the fault of the driver following the one hit.

Why? Because one of the basic safety rules of the road is to always leave sufficient space between your car and the vehicle in front of you to prevent crashes.

The space drivers leave needs to take into account road conditions, time of day and other safety factors, as it takes vehicles longer to stop if roads are wet or icy, and noticing the actions of another car may take a bit longer if it is dark.

The rule exists to ensure maximum safety on the roadways. The driver in front may need to stop suddenly to avoid a pedestrian, cyclist, another car, or an obstacle. The car may malfunction and come to an abrupt stop. If this or any other reason makes the car ahead stop abruptly, a motorist following the safety rule of leaving sufficient space to stop will be safe.

Comparative Negligence and Negligence

But there are situations where the following driver may not be at fault or may share blame with the other driver.

Fault is determined by an assessment of negligence. Negligence means that a party didn’t exercise reasonable due care in an action. Following at a safe distance, for example, is reasonable due care.

If other drivers are found negligent in a car accident, the insurance company or court can find them at fault. They may then have to pay compensation for any damages caused by the accident.

New Jersey also has a comparative negligence law. Comparative negligence means that insurance companies and courts may determine that both parties are at fault, and assign a percentage of the total to each. If an accident caused $20,000 in damage, for example, and the following driver was only 50% at fault, the insurance company will pay only 50% of $20,000, or $10,000.

When the Driver in Front May be At Fault

When may the driver in front be at fault for a rear-end collision, or partly at fault?

If the car has no brake light

Motorists are also required to keep the safety features of their vehicles in good working order. Normally, brake lights signal to other motorists that a car is slowing down to make a stop. If brake lights are not functioning on a vehicle, the motorist behind is not given sufficient warning to an intent to stop.

If the car backs up

Not all “rear-end” collisions are rear-end collisions! At times, when cars are stopped in a line at a traffic light or stop sign, a car may try to back up, perhaps to attempt to change to another lane or simply to put more space in front.

But if they aren’t careful, they can hit the car behind them. In this case, it may be that the driver behind did nothing but stay stationary, and was hit by someone driving backward.

If the turn signals aren’t working or used

Turn signals provide notice that a car is intending to turn, and will likely slow down. If a motorist hasn’t maintained the car well enough to have working turn signals, or doesn’t use turn signals, the driver may bear a degree of responsibility for being rear-ended.

If the car stops without warning

At times, cars may need to stop suddenly to avoid a crash. But if the car stops suddenly for no reason, the driver in front may be at fault.

Seasoned Car Accident Lawyers in Bergen County

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident, whether due to a rear-end collision or any other reason, the attorneys at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman are here to protect your best interests.

Our legal team has more than 40 years of experience litigating complex injury claims in New Jersey. Call us at (800) 711-5258 to schedule a free case review with a car accident attorney Bergen County trusts.

Additional Car Accident Resources:

  1. Maintain a Safe Following Distance (The 3-Second Rule). SmartMotorist.com. http://www.smartmotorist.com/traffic-and-safety-guideline/maintain-a-safe-following-distance-the-3-second-rule.html
  2. State of New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance. Auto Comparative Negligence Settlement – Frequently Asked Questions. http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/ins_ombudsman/ombuds_acnsfaq.html
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Your Sunroof Is More Dangerous Than You Think

photo large sunroof inside car, sky and cloudsSunroofs are loved by an increasing number of car-driving Americans. Over the past 6 years, the number of cars equipped with sunroofs has risen to reach 40% of 2017 total sales, versus 33% of 2011 total sales.

Sunroofs are also getting larger with each passing year.

But sunroofs can also be dangerous. Closed sunroofs were responsible for 230 deaths each year between 2002 and 2012, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data. Closed sunroofs injured 500 people annually in the same period.

Being ejected from either an open or closed sunroof killed roughly 300 people each year between 1997 to 2008, and injured 1,400.

Is Sunroof Regulation Needed?

The number of accidents is as high as it is because, somewhat surprisingly, there is no safety regulation that mandates that sunroofs must be constructed to keep people inside the vehicle. That point was litigated in a case in which a young woman had been paralyzed as a result of being ejected out through a sunroof in a car accident.

The car manufacturer successfully argued that it had not violated any government regulation in making the sunroof.

There are a number of potential safety features that could be added to sunroofs to make them safer.

One potential solution is to make them out of laminated safety glass, like that used in windshields. Most sunroofs are made of tempered glass, which is more prone to give on impact.

Many automotive manufacturers have argued against this, however, on the grounds that laminated safety glass would increase head and neck injuries, potentially catastrophic ones, from accidents.

A second solution would be a device that holds the sunroof in place, so it can’t pop out.

A third solution, developed in Asia, is an airbag for the sunroof, similar to airbags currently installed in cars.

The NHTSA has been considering augmented safety regulation for sunroofs for a number of years. Regulation has not been enacted for a number of reasons, including the manufacturers’ contention that some solutions, such as the laminated glass, would have negative safety implications.

Many car manufacturers, such as Volvo, have voluntarily developed sunroofs with laminated glass.

But there is also a growing consensus among consumers that the time has come for regulation.

Speak with a Car Accident Lawyer Bergen County Trusts

Sunroofs post a danger of ejection from a vehicle in the event of a crash. But they are far from the only dangers faced on the roads every day. All too many automobile accidents injure and kill residents of Bergen County ever year.

We have been serving the legal needs of New Jersey and New York residents for more than 40 years. If you or a loved one has been injured or even killed in a car accident, Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman invites you to speak with a car accident lawyer Bergen County has put its trust in for decades. All consultations are completely free of charge, and there is never any obligation.

More information on the potential dangers of sunroofs:

  1. ABC7 Chicago. “Shattered sunroof complaints investigated by NHTSA.” August 7, 2015. http://abc7chicago.com/news/shattered-sunroof-complaints-investigated-by-nhtsa-/911871/
  2. Jensen, Christopher. “Sunroofs Are Growing in Size and Popularity. Rules Haven’t Kept Up.” New York Times. February 22, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/22/business/car-sunroof-safety.html
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Mediation vs. Arbitration in Family Law: What’s the Difference?

Photo of couple speaking

There is no doubt the divorce process can be emotionally, financially, and even physically draining. To minimize these effects, many families turn to alternative dispute resolution to work out an agreement. In family law, as in other types of civil law, mediation and arbitration can reduce litigation costs – and friction – in what can often be a contentious process. Here are some of the differences between the processes.

ADR versus litigation in New Jersey family law cases

Couples facing family law disputes typically need to resolve two major areas: division of finances and parenting time. Both topics are hot-button and the litigation process heightens the stress. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods like mediation and arbitration offer parties the chance to resolve these areas outside of court.

ADR is less formal that court proceedings and is overall less expensive. The parties can feel like more active participants since they are not bound to strict procedural rules, which in turn can reduce the adversarial tone of the process. However, ADR is not suitable for all cases. For example, when domestic violence is a factor, the courtroom is a more appropriate setting.

Using mediation in family law

Many divorcing couples opt into mediation rather than court but New Jersey judges also have the option of referring family court cases to mediation, which operates like guided negotiation. The family court mediators are highly trained to help the parties work through those contentious issues like child custody so they can reach an agreement.

Mediation is non-binding so the parties work toward a voluntary agreement on key matters which is then drawn up into a contract which is enforceable. Parties participating in mediation have an incentive to reach an agreement because proceeding to a trial essentially takes the matter out of their hands; they will be bound to the judge’s order instead.

Family arbitration for family disputes

Arbitration is similar to a court proceeding in that each party presents its case before a neutral decision-maker. The decision-maker may be a single arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators chosen with the parties’ input. The arbitrators act like a judge, hearing both sides present their cases and then issuing a decision.

Arbitration may be non-binding but it is usually binding. Parties in binding arbitration do give up some rights. A very important one to consider is that, unlike in court, parties to an arbitration do not have the right to appeal except in extreme circumstances. With such a great disadvantage, it is important for consult with a NJ family lawyer before consenting to arbitrate.

Consult an experienced NJ divorce lawyer

What happens in a family law proceeding now can impact your rights for decades to come. If you are facing a divorce in New Jersey, be prepared by consulting with an expert family law firm Bergen County has put its trust in for many decades. Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman has spent the past four decades helping families in NJ and NY navigate through the matrimonial law process. We understand what you are going through and can help you through with knowledgeable legal advice and compassionate personal attention.

Additional family law mediation and arbitration resources:

  1. New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators, Family and Divorce Mediation, http://www.njapm.org/content/family-and-divorce-mediation
  2. New Jersey Courts, Rule 1:40-1 Complementary Dispute Resolution Programs, https://njcourts.gov/attorneys/assets/rules/r1-40.pdf?cacheID=0LNSTat
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How To Tell Children You’re Getting Divorced

How do you break the news to your children that it’s over between daddy and mommy? There’s no easy way to inform your kids that you and your spouse are getting a divorce. Even if the announcement isn’t a total surprise, every child is different in how they process – and respond—to this life-altering news.

No matter how you frame it or cushion it, the conversation will likely be difficult, especially for younger ones. Oftentimes parents can overwhelm the child with too much information, without considering their emotional state.

Family therapists agree that children who feel cared about and connected with their parents are less likely to experience negative fallout and trauma from the news.

Here are a few recommended strategies that put the emotional-wellbeing of your child first.

Before you tell the children

  • Make sure your own emotions are fully in-check
  • Work together with your soon-to-be ex and make a plan for telling the children together
  • Choose a private location to have the conversation, ideally in the family home, where the children feel safe and unthreatened
  • Avoid breaking the news near important milestones, like a child’s birthday, a special holiday, or just before a big exam

During the discussion

  • Begin with the positives – remind your children that they have two parents who love them very much
  • Make sure you explain that your separation is not their fault. You can frame this by saying that mom and dad grew apart, and will be much happier in two different houses
  • Keep a unified front, and do not assign blame. They will feel more comfortable knowing it is a joint decision
  • Avoid providing inappropriate information, bad mouthing the other or giving any other “adult” details that will only complicate matters
  • Expect a wide range of emotions. Tears, anger, resentment and fear are all normal. Listen to your children’s responses, and put the focus on them, not you. By accepting and acknowledging their feelings you can help minimize the trauma.
  • Be truthful and consistent when telling them what they can expect in terms of living arrangements and school.
  • Let them know you are both available to talk whenever they want to. Be open to their emotional needs.

After the conversation

  • Expect more questions, and lots of them. Why is Dad moving away? Will I have to change schools? Will I still have my birthday party here? Try and stay emotionally connected in this ongoing dialogue and answer questions with candor and honesty.
  • Be a good model for your children. Take care of yourself and try and remain calm, even during high stress periods. They will cue in to anxiety and anger, which only exacerbates their own insecurities.
  • As they process the information, expect a rollercoaster of emotions. If things get really tough, you can offer to bring in a family counselor or therapist for additional support.

Divorce lawyers serving Rockland and Bergen County

Here at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman, we know that having the right lawyer can make a world of difference in family-related legal matters. Our skilled legal team offers compassionate legal guidance in all areas of family law.

To speak with an experienced Bergen County divorce lawyer at our firm, please call (201) 576-8134 to schedule a consultation.

Additional Resources on Telling the Kids about Divorce:

  1. Parents, How to Tell Your Kids That You’re Getting a Divorce https://www.parents.com/parenting/divorce/children/how-to-tell-your-kids-that-you-are-getting-a-divorce/
  2. Psychology Today, How to Tell the Kids You’re Getting Divorced https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/schlepping-through-heartbreak/201509/how-tell-the-kids-you-re-getting-divorced
  3. Good Therapy, How to Tell the Kids You Are Getting Divorced https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-to-tell-kids-you-are-getting-divorced-1013165
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Divorce vs. Legal Separation: What Are the Financial Differences?

gold wedding rings and money, divorce If you are headed for a breakup of your marriage, you may be deciding between divorce and legal separation. While there are complex issues involved in any dissolution of an emotional bond, you should not avoid considering the financial differences between divorce and legal separation.

What Is Legal Separation?

It’s important to understand the ramifications of legal separation before discussing the financial aspects.

Legal separation refers to a legal agreement in which both parties in a marriage have resolved issues pertaining to living separately, such as alimony, child support, division of assets, and responsibility for debts.

It is very important for New Jersey residents to realize, however, that legal separation as such does not exist in New Jersey. It does exist in many states, but in New Jersey there are no laws and no courts covering legal separation.

But that does not mean that married couples cannot separate in NJ.

Many couples use a mediation process to arrive at a separation agreement. A mediator works with both parties to develop a document to cover all terms of a legal separation. The final document can be utilized either as a formal Separation Agreement or the foundation for a divorce settlement.

New Jersey also has a remedy called “divorce from bed and board.” One party in the marriage can bring a suit for this. This process means that the court will decide division of marital assets, child custody, alimony, and so on. Once divorce from bed and board is done, the partners are not legally divorced, but can separate legally.

Financial Advantages of Separation

Separation can provide some financial advantages, which are discussed below.

Health Insurance. It may be possible for one spouse to remain under the other’s health insurance coverage. Not all companies allow this, however, so it’s important to check fully with the relevant company’s Human Resources department.

Real Estate. At times, couples wish to dissolve their marriage for emotional reasons, but neither wants to leave a desirable home to which they are emotionally connected. It is possible for couples in this situation to both reside in the home, but to divide it into separate areas for each spouse.

Pooled Assets. If a couple owns significant real or other physical assets, such as boats, time-shares, second homes, and so forth, but does not want to divide them, they may agree to share them under the terms of a separation.

Social Security Benefits. The 10-year anniversary of a marriage is significant for purposes of receiving Social Security. If a marriage continues for 10 years, a spouse can receive Social Security benefits that are the greater of either their own earnings or 50% of the earnings of a higher-earning spouse. As a result, many divorcing couples nearing 10 years resolve to remain legally separated until the 10-year period is passed, so that Social Security benefits for the lesser earning spouse are maximized.

Potential Tax Benefits. There can be tax benefits for married couples filing jointly vis-à-vis single people, depending on the situation.

Retention of Military Benefits. People who are serving in the military and veterans receive certain benefits, including pensions and access to low-cost mortgages. These benefits extend to their spouses, but will stop for ex-spouses.

Financial Advantages of Divorce

There are also several financial advantages of divorce as compared to separation, which are itemized below.

Clear Division of Assets. While couples can divide their assets with a Separation Agreement, divorce decrees may provide a clearer division. Divorce can also provide a legal remedy for any attempt to seize disputed assets or claim bank accounts or other assets.

Protection from Debts. Divorce can protect one spouse from creditor claims regarding the other spouse’s debts. Divorce can be a form of risk mitigation for claims from student loan, credit card, and other forms of debt.

Experienced Bergen County Divorce Attorneys Can Help

As you can see, issues of legal separation and divorce in New Jersey are highly complex. The financial aspects of either have significant ramifications on the rest of your life. As a result, it is prudent to consult an experienced Bergen County divorce attorney at Kantrowitz, Goldhamer & Graifman to discuss these issues, whether you are heading for a separation or a divorce.

KGG attorneys have decades of experience in separation and divorce cases in New Jersey. Call us today at (800) 711-5258 or fill out the form on our website. We will be happy to meet you at our Bergen County, NJ offices.

More information on the financial differences between separation and divorce:

  1. Landers, Jeff. “Legal Separation or Divorce: Which Is Better Financially?” Forbes. January 10, 2012. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefflanders/2012/01/10/legal-separation-or-divorce-which-is-better-financially/#3efb27125ccf
  2. Sarno, Ronald Anthony. “How divorce and legal separation are handled in New Jersey.” Avvo. April 14, 2009. https://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/divorce-and-legal-separation-in-general-and-how-its-handled-in-new-jersey
  3. “Separation or Divorce? What Each Means for Your Finances.” Fox Business. January 11, 2016. https://www.foxbusiness.com/features/separation-or-divorce-what-each-means-for-your-finances.
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