DOMESTIC CASES

We generally handle all types of domestic cases, including custody, child support, divorce, equitable distribution of properties, alimony, post-separation support, domestic violence, adoptions, parental right terminations, and more exotic causes of action such as alienation of affections, annulments and criminal conversation. We also regularly draft separation agreements, property settlements, pre-nuptial agreements, and consent judgments.

We cannot take domestic cases on a contingent fee basis (i.e. we’re paid only if we win) because our ethics code prohibits this. However, we can do so in equitable distribution cases, and we will on occasion if the marital estate is large enough. Domestic fees normally must be paid in full prior to the final court date unless adequate collateral secures the fee.

If you are living separate and apart from your spouse, and you do not intend to resume marital cohabitation, then you are legally separated for many purposes. You do NOT need some document to establish this. However, if you intend to stay separate and apart, we strongly recommend a Separation Agreement and Property Settlement which will resolve issues peacefully between the parties, avoid expensive litigation, and protect both parties pending a final divorce. A typical separation agreement will take care of custody issues, child support, personal and real property distribution, debts, etc. These agreements also normally allow both parties to live their respective lives as if they were each single even though they are not yet divorced. Please be aware that if you are dating someone else but still married, and do NOT have a separation agreement with such a clause, then you may expose yourself to claims for alimony, divorce from bed and board, etc. A Separation Agreement typically costs about 1/4 to 1/6 less than what a legal action for custody/support would cost. However, Separation Agreements are also voluntary, and must be agreed to and signed by BOTH parties.

If you do NOT have a signed Separation Agreement as discussed above, then you date at your own peril. A spouse may decide that your dating is proper fodder for an alimony claim, divorce from bed and board, alienation of affection suit, etc. Being separated is NOT the same thing as being divorced. For instance, even though you are separated and have been for over a year, if you have not yet been divorced, and have not yet got a signed Separation Agreement, then your spouse will still be entitled to share in your property if you die.

As long as you have been separated continuously for one year from your spouse, and have not resumed the marital relationship during that time, then you can file for a divorce. This is called an “uncontested” or “no fault” divorce. It means that you can get it without blaming one side or the other, and the other side cannot stop you from getting it. After we serve the Complaint on your spouse, he/she has 30 days to respond. Most spouses do not respond at all. However, others will file a simple answer in order to expedite the divorce.

Domestic issues, particularly custody and child support, are normally complex and cannot be resolved by a simple phone call. We strongly recommend a face-to-face appointment to discuss such issues in detail. If you think you will definitely separate, or believe there are strong grounds which would justify same, please give us a call. We can give you some good advice which will make the transition easier, less costly and hopefully less traumatic.