Family-Focused, Compassionate Representation

Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law

Where Can I Get My Field Tax Returns?

My spouse always handed our taxes and returns. I cannot locate my tax returns. How can I obtain them without asking my spouse?

If you used an accountant or CPA to prepare the returns, you can request a copy from that provider. Also, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) makes your returns available to download at

Contact Wernik & Salvatore with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

How Many Parents Can A Child Have?

Multiparenting situations are arising today due in part to reproductive technology and to divorce. Sometimes multiparenting arises out of a divorce or separation. Other times, however, families are formed by three or more individuals agreeing to be parents to a child to be born. The law regarding multiparent families is evolving. The recognition of a person as a legal parent requires that person to provide financial support and provides certain rights, such as, custody, inheritance rights and Social Security benefits.

New Jersey has been at the forefront of change in recognizing multiparent families. Our attorney, Robin T. Wernik, represented the Plaintiff in V.C. v. M.J.B., 163 N.J. 200 (2000) (see link to Supreme Court case) where the Supreme Court found V.C., who was not biologically related to her children, to be their psychological parent and entitled to visitation with them. A psychological parent is an individual who has formed a parental bond with a child they are not biologically related. Such recognition protects children from being cut off from a person to whom they are bonded to as a parent.

New Jersey expanded the rights of multiparenting in KAF v. DLM, cite 96 A. 3d 975, (2014). In that case, the former domestic partner of the biological mother of the child was found to have standing (i.e. the right to bring the case) to file for custody of the child she had resided with for eight (8) years. This was over the objection of the biological mother and the child’s other legal parent. There, the court found that both parents must consent to the formation of a parent-child bond. The Appellate Division overruled the decision and found only one parent need to consent. This decision opened the door for step-parents to seek parenting time and custody in New Jersey.

If you are involved in a situation where you are in a multiparent family or believe that an issue may arise regarding your child, contact the attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore for advice and assistance.

Can I move to another state with my child?

Relocating to another state with your child can only be done legally if you have the consent of the other parent or permission from the court. If the other parent will not consent to your relocation, the court will hold a hearing and consider the following:

  • Any custody agreement;
  • The reason for the move;
  • The reasons for the opposition to remove;
  • The relationship between the child and the other parent;
  • Any special needs of the child;
  • The age of the child.

Recently the New Jersey Supreme Court changed the law that existed for 16 years finding that trends in the law have changed. In Bisbing v. Bisbing the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that courts must use the best interest test that is used in custody cases to determine if relocation is warranted and conducting a hearing. The best interest factors are set for in N.J.S.A. 9:2-2 and include some of the factors listed above. At the end of the hearing, the court must make a determination on whether the move is in the child’s best interest.

Contact an attorney at Wernik & Salvatore to discuss your particular situation.

Can I get support from my spouse before the divorce is final?

If your spouse is refusing to provide you with money for food and other necessities pending your final divorce, you can request temporary support. Both parties have an obligation to maintain the financial status quo during the divorce process. So if you are a spouse, for example, who has not worked during the marriage, your spouse has an obligation to provide you with money as he or she did prior to the filing of divorce. Further, if your spouse paid the mortgage or other expenses, he or she must continue to do so. If your spouse refuses to maintain the status quo, then you can file an application with the court for support. Since each situation is unique, you will need to discuss your particular situation with your attorney to determine the best cause of action. In order to make an application to the court for support, you will need to gather all of your financial documents; such as, tax returns, pay stubs, bank account statements, etc. Also, you will need to complete a Case Information Statement which your attorney can provide you with.

Contact the attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore today to discuss your rights.

Ways to help your child deal with the divorce

A divorce can affect the whole family, especially the children. Children can feel a variety of emotions during the divorce process; such as, anxiety, anger, sadness, embarrassment, separation anxiety and self-blame. The key is to minimize such emotions so that your child can remain healthy and happy. Also, there are certain steps you can take to minimize stress on your child during the divorce process.

  • Be Consistent – Speak with your co-parent regarding anything that would effect your child; such as, bedtime, rules, curfew, etc. Good communication between co-parents, if possible, is the best for any child.
  • Don’t Involve Your Children in Adult Issues – Don’t confide in your children regarding the divorce, the process or any adult issues. Don’t argue in front of the children or use them as pawns. Remember, the children didn’t ask for a divorce.
  • Be Open and Honest with Your Children – Talk to your children about what they can expect, in simple terms appropriate for their age. Make sure you tell them the divorce is not their fault and they are not to blame. Give them an opportunity to speak with you about what is going on and tell you how they feel.
  • Make Them Feel Secure – Tell them you love them and that although Mommy and Daddy will no longer be married or live together, you will always love them and be their parents.

Contact the attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore with any questions.

How can social media affect your case?

Social media has changed how a divorce/custody case is handled. The rise of social media has contributed to the break-up of marriages and can have consequences in how a divorce or custody case is negotiated.

Many clients are on some form of social media; i.e, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. Social media has given rise to us sharing our whereabouts, feelings or anything happening in our lives at that moment. Even though we often limit our posts to “friends,” sometimes a message we think can only be seen by a friend becomes public.

Your spouse or spouse’s attorney will review your social media to see if there is anything posted that will assist you in your case. Even if your spouse blocks you and you cannot see his or her page, your mutual friends may have evidence. For example, there may be pictures of trips your spouse has gone on with a friend, or maybe there is a post on a friend’s Facebook page that shows your spouse sold his/her boat to that friend. Other social media sites, such as, LinkedIn, which is used for business connections, may provide good evidence as to your spouse’s business endeavors. Also, dating websites may provide information about your spouse that could be used in a custody case.

Emails and text messages also provide good evidence and can often be subpoenaed to use in your case.

Social media, texts and emails can provide you with useful information and prove that your spouse is not being truthful or contradicts what he or she has portrayed to the court.

Remember that social media can be used against you as well. Even deleted posts can be found at times or perhaps someone took a screenshot of it prior to it being deleted. Social media puts the information you post out to the public for all the world to see. Do not post or share any information you would not want the world to see as it might be used against you at some future date.

What can I do if my spouse is hiding money or assets?

First, make a copy of any financial documents you can find in your house. Such documents include bank statements, annuity, IRA, 401(k) and pension statements, tax returns, business statements and pay stubs. Take these documents to your attorney for him or her to review. Tell your attorney if you believe there are missing assets or your spouse has not disclosed them. If that is the case, an asset search can be conducted to potentially find assets. Further, a forensic accountant can be hired to evaluate your spouse’s income and assets and ultimately testify in court if necessary. Discuss your concerns with your attorney so a strategy can be made.

How to prepare to meet with your attorney for the first time in a family law or divorce matter?

If you are meeting with your divorce or family law attorney for the first time, it is helpful to have certain information and documents available so the attorney can review them and give you the most accurate advice possible. Since divorce cases involve support and division of assets, it is helpful for you to have the following documents available. If you do not have the documents, don’t worry; your attorney can assist you in obtaining them.

  • State and Federal Individual and Business Income Tax Returns for the last three years
  • W2 and/or 1099 statements for the last three years
  • The last three pay stubs from your employer for both parties
  • At least one year of bank statements for all individuals and joint accounts
  • Statements for any mutual funds, bonds, stocks, annuities, CDs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, 529 college funds, trust funds for at least one year
  • Most recent student loan statement
  • Most recent credit card statements
  • Lease or loan agreement for vehicles
  • Documents for any existing loans
  • Statements of any outstanding bills
  • Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements
  • Court Orders or Divorce Agreements
  • Partnership or business agreements and/or most recent quick book statements for the business
  • Information regarding your health, life, automobile and homeowner’s insurance that includes the name of the insurance company, policy number, group number and individuals covered

Contact the Middletown attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore with any questions regarding your specific call and to schedule an appointment.

What information do I need to bring to my attorney to make a will?

In order to prepare your will, you will need to tell your attorney the names of the people to whom you will leave your assets. These people are called beneficiaries. You will need the full name, address and date of birth of your beneficiaries.

You also will need to name a personal representative known as an executor in your will, as well as a second individual known as an alternate executor to act if the initial executor is unable to fulfill the role for some reason. An executor is the individual who will manage your estate after your death. Such a person is required to administer your estate according to the wishes set forth in your will.

If you have children under the age of eighteen (18), you may decide to name a guardian for those children. You need that person’s name, address and date of birth for your attorney to prepare the will.

You will also need to have information regarding your assets. It is helpful if you bring a list of assets, most recent bank statements and statements from other investments, as well as any documents related to any other assets you may own. In addition to your asset information, it is helpful for you to list any debt you may have. Such documents may include mortgage, credit card debt, student and car loans. Once you have that information available, please call to make an appointment with any attorney in our office.

Contact the Holmdel attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore with any questions and to schedule an appointment.

How long does it take to get a divorce in New Jersey?

Most cases are resolved within a twelve-month period of the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. The court is required to move the case along as expeditiously as possible. In fact, the Administrative Office of the Courts mandates a twelve-month resolution window. However, some cases may take longer if they have more complex issues and need business and/or custody evaluations. If you and your spouse come to an agreement, you could be divorced in a few weeks or a month.

Contact the Monmouth County attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore to discuss your particular situation.

Can I leave the marital home prior to the divorce?

You can leave the marital home prior to the divorce being final. However, before you choose to do so, please speak with your attorney regarding any negative consequences that may occur that could impact your finances or obtaining custody of your children.

Contact the Hazlet attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore with any questions.

No-fault divorce vs. fault divorce

We often have clients ask if New Jersey is a “No Fault State.” New Jersey has a cause of action called Irreconcilable Differences. In a Complaint for Divorce with irreconcilable differences, you do not have to allege fault against your spouse. Irreconcilable Differences is just a legal way of nicely stating “We don’t get along anymore.” The advantage to not alleging fault is neither party has to make allegations against the other party that might hurt or embarrass them. It also makes it more amicable in terms of trying to settle the issues.

If you feel it is necessary, you can file for a fault divorce, which allows you to make allegations against your spouse based upon acts they committed against you during the marriage. The grounds for a fault based complaint include:

  • Extreme cruelty which is physical, emotional or mental cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Willful desertion for 12 month also known as abandonment
  • Alcohol or drug abuse of the spouse

There is no specific advantage to filing a fault divorce in New Jersey. A judge will not give you more money or property as a result of such filing. Judges can consider such conduct when determining an alimony award, although this is rarely done.

Contact the Monmouth County attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore to discuss your matter.

What is a legal separation?

A legal separation, also known as a Divorce from Bed and Board, is rarely used when couples separate. However, some couples seek a Divorce from Bed and Board for various reasons. For example, one spouse may need to remain on the other spouse’s medical insurance which would not be allowed if the couple was divorced. Other reasons include tax or business implications or religious beliefs. A divorce from bed and board resolves all issues between a couple except the marital status. You would remain married; however, all issues such as division of property, child support and custody and alimony would already be decided, be placed into an agreement and become a formal Court Order. At some time in the future, if either party decides to get divorced, that agreement would become part of the divorce.

Contact the Hazlet attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore with any questions.

How much will my divorce cost and how long will it take?

In a first meeting with a client, the first two questions usually asked are how long will my divorce take and how much will it cost. These two issues are often intertwined and are case-sensitive. If your spouse does not want a divorce and intends to fight every issue, this will drive up the costs and make your case take longer to go through the court system. The cost of a divorce can run from hundreds to many thousands of dollars. A divorce attorney requires a retainer, which is an upfront fee. The attorney then bills his or her hourly rate against the retainer. If there is a balance at the end of the case, that amount is returned to the client. If the retainer is exhausted, the client is required to provide additional retainer. To a degree, you can control how much your divorce will cost. The costs can be kept lower if you and your spouse come to an agreement quickly and minimize the emotional issues that are not relevant to resolving your divorce.

If your spouse does not want a divorce and is intent on “getting back at you”, your divorce will take longer. Of course, the court will make sure your case moves expeditiously through the system. However, your spouse can still make the process difficult by contesting every issue and refusing to settle. If you are unable to settle, your only option is to go to trial and have a judge decide your case. It is always optimal to enter into an agreement with your spouse, as you have control over what is in your agreement. If you go to trial, you have absolutely no control over the judge’s decision. Further, trials are extremely expensive. The court requires cases to be resolved or go to trial within one (1) year of filing the Complaint for Divorce, although some more complicated cases take longer.

In the end, in order to keep your cost down and not let your case drag on, it is best to enter into an agreement with your spouse. Agreements can be reached with the assistance of court-ordered mediation with your attorney present to advocate on your behalf.

Contact our Monmouth County attorneys to discuss your particular situation.

How to chose a divorce attorney?

It is hard to know who to turn to when you are facing a divorce. It is a major life change and a difficult process. If you are able to, talk to your friends and family about recommendations for a lawyer. You can also talk to your therapist (every person going through a divorce needs a neutral party to assist him or her through this emotional process) for recommendations. Further, you can search online viewing websites and recommendations.

Finding the right attorney for you will make the process easier. Schedule appointments with potential attorneys and interview them. Your attorney is hired to represent your interest in the divorce process and get you the best settlement. The attorney is not your friend or therapist. It is important that your attorney understands the emotional issues; however, it is not his or her job to resolve them. Remember, your attorney charges you an hourly rate, and you need to focus with your attorney on the legal issues.

After you meet with the attorney, ask yourself: Do I feel comfortable with him or her?; Can I work well with him or her?; Does he or she specialize in Family Law/Divorce?; Does he or she know the law?; Did he or she help me to understand the process?

In the end, you must trust and feel comfortable with the attorney. Finally, make sure the attorney shares your goals in ultimately settling your case.

Divorce/Family Law/Custody cases are highly emotional. If you are thinking about a divorce or have a family law/custody issue, you need the advice of an experienced divorce/family law attorney. The attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore concentrate in divorce/family law and are dedicated to making sure you understand the process and represent your interests in the most cost-effective way possible.

Please contact the Hazlet attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore to discuss any questions you may have.

 Can child support be paid directly to the child?

Child support is an important issue in a divorce settlement. Child support is calculated by using the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines formula. On occasion, a parent will ask if child support can be paid directly to a child. A recent case from Ocean County set forth parameters for a noncustodial parent to pay part of their child support directly to a child over 18 years of age. The court would have to find that the child who is over 18 can manage the money and use it for the intended purpose. The child can be required to show receipts for how the money was used. Although the case in Ocean County exists and provides guidance on the issue of paying child support directly to the child, the case is not binding in other courts since it is a trial level decision.

Traditionally, child support cannot be paid directly to a child at any age. However, an experienced attorney can make an appropriate argument regarding this issue.

Please contact the Hazlet attorneys at Wernik & Salvatore to discuss any questions you may have by calling 732-201-3888 or by filling out an online contact form.