Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce & Family Law

What are legal grounds for divorce? What is a no-fault divorce?

The State of New Jersey recognizes various legal grounds for divorce that include, but are not limited to, adultery, extreme cruelty and desertion. Most divorces, however, are filed under the category of "no-fault." The grounds for a no-fault divorce can be an 18-month separation or irreconcilable differences for at least six months. In a no-fault divorce, both parties agree that there is no blame to assign and any misconduct then becomes irrelevant to the divorce proceedings.

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How is alimony awarded?

New Jersey law requires the court to consider thirteen different factors when determining alimony. Generally speaking, courts will consider the duration of the marriage, the marital lifestyle, the supporting spouse's ability to pay, and the dependent's spouse's ability to contribute to his or her own support, and the income generated by assets.

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How is custody decided? How is child support calculated?

If both parties cannot reach an agreement on child custody, the court will make a custody ruling based on what it determines to be in the best interests of the child. Child support is generally based on a formula that calculates a percentage of each parent's gross income coupled with the amount of time each parent spends with the child. Work related child care expenses are also a factor.

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Can I relocate out-of-state with my children?

Court approval is required if the other parent does not consent. The court will examine twelve factors, including whether there is a good faith reason for the move and whether the move will be detrimental to the child's best interests.

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How are property (assets) and liabilities (debts) divided?

New Jersey's court system operates on the premise of "equitable distribution" of the marital property. While there is a presumption of a 50/50 split, there are sixteen statutory factors the court takes into account when dividing marital assets, including the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the parties and the marital lifestyle. Marital property includes real estate, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, pension plans, 401(k) plans and household effects, even pets. Marital property does not include inherited property, pre-marital property and gifts so long as they have not been made jointly held property.

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What is mediation? Is this an option for me?

Mediation is a form of alternate dispute resolution in which both parties endeavor to resolve their divorce issues amicably, often without the aid of attorneys. A mediator can facilitate the parties' discussions, working with them to reach a mutually agreeable dissolution of the marriage. Of course, the divorce decree must still be entered in court. If this is a consideration for you and your spouse, ask us about alternative dispute resolution.

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How long will it take to be divorced?

Assuming the parties cannot agree on a settlement, a divorce case will have to be tried before a judge, who will listen to the testimony of the parties and other witnesses and review documentary evidence in support of each side's position. Usually all unsettled cases are tried within a year to a year and a half of filing a complaint for divorce.

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Can a judgment of divorce be modified after the fact?

Yes. Depending on the circumstances, issues of child support, alimony, child custody and visitation can all be revisited and modified after the decree has been entered. This usually requires the party seeking modification to demonstrate a substantial change in circumstances.

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Personal Injury

Is there a consultation fee in a personal injury case?

No. We welcome the opportunity to discuss your case with you. You do not pay any up-front fee. We offer to work on a contingent fee basis, which means that at the end of the case when there is a recovery, either through a settlement or a jury verdict, we are paid a percentage of the net recovery. The standard percentage is 33 1/3% in personal injury cases when the injured party is an adult and 25% if the case is settled and the injured party is a minor. Otherwise, the fee for the claim of a minor is 33 1/3%.

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Do I have to pay expenses?

Expenses or disbursements for the case are advanced by the attorneys. At the end of the case, the attorney will be reimbursed the money he has laid out in advance for disbursements. Also, you can feel confident that the expenses are reasonable and necessary in order for us to properly prepare and prosecute your case. We will account for all expenditures to you at the end of the case with a detailed listing of the disbursements.

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How long will the case take?

It is in our interest, as well as yours, to prosecute the case as quickly as possible. We do not want cases to linger. The courts strive to resolve a contested case in a year's time. Because we handle only the cases that we choose, we are able to devote ample time to each case.

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Who will be handling my case?

A partner in the firm will be solely responsible for each and every case in our office, including the day to day activity and telephone and e-mail communications.

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Have you handled this type of case before?

We feel very strongly about our handling cases where we have a high degree of expertise which has been developed during the past 30 years. Each of the partners has worked extensively in plaintiff's personal injury cases over that period of time.

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Who will pay my medical bills?

In many instances, medical bills are paid through various forms of insurance coverage such as No Fault (in auto accident cases), Workers' Compensation (when the accident is job related) and your personal health insurance. Rest assured that we will energetically assist you in getting your medical bills paid through insurance when possible.

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How much is my case worth?

At the initial stage, it is impossible to give you a realistic estimate of value because your medical condition is subject to change and a medical expert's report is usually needed. However, we are eager for you to consult with us often during the case, and we will discuss your case's value when the time is appropriate.

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What is expected of me?

It is very helpful for you to do the following:

  1. Do not talk to anyone about your accident or injuries except one of the lawyers in our office;
  2. Keep an accurate record of all days lost from work due to your injuries;
  3. Keep a diary of your daily pain, disability, loss of sleep since these are easily forgotten as time passes;
  4. Obtain and duplicate copies of all medical, hospital and drug bills;
  5. Send us all photographs pertaining to the case such as your injuries, damaged vehicle or accident site location;
  6. Gather your W-2, 1099 and tax returns for us;
  7. If you change your address and/or phone number, notify us immediately.

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Real Estate

What is the process for buying or selling residential property?

Here is the chronology of a typical real estate transaction:

  1. Both parties (buyer and seller) sign a contract stating the terms of the sale (provided by a realtor if a broker is involved).
  2. The contract enters attorney review, a period which typically lasts three to seven days and allows for changes to the original contract or for either party to change his or her mind and cancel the deal without penalty or forfeiture of deposit.
  3. Buyer arranges for a home inspection to ascertain the structural condition of the home and to uncover hidden or latent defects to the major systems including plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning as well as to determine whether the roof or basement are free from leaks and/or water penetration, and to determine the environmental condition of the property, termite infestation, radon testing, oil tank testing and the presence of asbestos. The attorneys negotiate repair issues which often results in the Seller agreeing to make repairs or agreeing to a repair credit.
  4. Buyer secures a mortgage loan commitment needed to complete the purchase.
  5. Buyer's attorney orders and reviews the title and other searches and a survey.
  6. The attorneys prepare closing documents. Both parties usually attend the closing, where the seller signs final closing documents, including a new deed, and the buyer executes the loan documents and transfers the balance of the purchase price to seller. If a party cannot attend the closing, we can arrange for the client to presign the necessary documents and give the attorney a power of attorney, allowing the attorney to close title in his/her absence.
  7. The buyer's attorney pays off the seller's mortgage with the seller's funds, makes sure that the seller's mortgage gets cancelled on the county records, records the deed and mortgage and obtains title insurance policies.

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Do I need an attorney?

The purchase or sale of real estate involves complex legal issues and, for most people, represents the most expensive purchase they will ever make. An experienced real estate attorney is trained to protect your interests throughout the entire transaction and ensure that you get what you bargained for.

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How much will it cost?

Since each case is unique, please call Shaievitz & Berowitz for a free price quote.

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Should I use a Real Estate Agent?

Using a real estate agent is recommended for a buyer. A real estate agent should be well acquainted with information about a neighborhood, including the quality of schools, the number of children in the area, traffic volume, and more. A real estate agent will help you determine the price range you can afford and search multiple listing services for homes you may want to see. With immediate access to homes as soon as they are put on the market, the agent can save you hours of wasted searching. The real estate agent's fee is paid by the seller.

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