Shortly after attorney Loren LaForge graduated from law school in 2004, she realized she was a fit for divorce law thanks to her passion for helping others and her background in psychology, which helps her navigate the spectrum of emotions and concerns many people have as they deal with divorce. LaForge also decided early on in her career that she wanted to own and operate her own boutique firm, never handling more than 20 cases at a time, so that she can give each client the necessary focus and attention, and more importantly, her focus and attention, not that of an associate. “I treat each client as if I were fighting for my own family. When you hire me, you get me all of the time with no exceptions,” explains LaForge. While she represents men and women alike, as a mother, she gravitates more towards females. “I can certainly sympathize with moms attempting to do it all,” she says. “I come into contact with wonderful, smart, and talented women who are enduring possibly some of the worst times in their lives. I feel an overwhelming obligation, given my knowledge and expertise, to guide those in this time by providing the best legal representation.” We asked LaForge to answer some of our burning questions about the legal side of divorce and she obliged with plenty of helpful info we all hope to never have to use...
Is it true that New Jersey courts are favoring 50/50 parenting arrangements?
The simple answer to this question is yes. Case law in New Jersey is clear about the fact that both parents are equally entitled to raise and enjoy their children. While it is technically the law, the courts are sensitive to the fact that the parenting-time split is an extremely important decision and custody is always handled on a case-by-case basis.
So, what does the court consider to determine the split?
First and foremost, the court will look at which parent handled most of the parental responsibilities during the marriage. Some specifics would be who takes the children to and from school and extra-curricular activities, who schedules and attends doctor and dental appointments, who prepares meals, who schedules and attends play dates, who is responsible for bath and bed time routines and – especially if the children are under 10 – who do the children know and anticipate will be handling everyday details. As the working mother of young children, I am extremely sensitive to this topic and can attest to the fact that, although I live in a household where both parents work, most of the parental responsibilities still fall upon mom's shoulders.
How long will someone be entitled to alimony if she hasn't worked in several years?
In recent years, alimony laws have drastically changed in New Jersey. Courts are tending to favor that alimony be paid for approximately half of the length of the marriage, but this is not a hardline rule. It is crucial to have an experienced family law attorney advocating that alimony should extend past the typical term, especially if the agreement of the parties during the marriage was that one parent should be home with the children most of the time and the other would work outside the home and earn an income. The non-earning spouse is now at a disadvantage because he or she has been prevented from advancing their own career, making it much more difficult to re-enter the workforce. So, for example, if the parties were married 10 years and mom has not worked outside the home for eight years, I take the position that the alimony term should at least be equal to the amount of time she remained home performing the most difficult of jobs: raising the kids.
Does the fact that one spouse cheated affect an alimony or child support award?
In most cases, it does not. New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state meaning that the actual cause of the divorce has no bearing on the ultimate monetary awards. Only in limited situations, when the non-cheating spouse can prove with evidence that a large sum of money was spent on the affair, could a possible credit be given.
Is alimony and child support the only money one can receive?
No. All monies accumulated from the date of the marriage through the date of the divorce will be divided evenly. This includes homes, tangible personal property, bank accounts, stocks and stock options, retirement accounts, and more. Additionally, if either party opened a business during the marriage, the non-participating spouse is undoubtedly entitled to a percentage of its overall value.
If you’ve signed a prenuptial agreement, are you automatically bound to its terms?
No. We are seeing more and more in New Jersey that pre-nups are getting thrown out as invalid because one party felt pressure or coercion to sign it. My advice is to take the agreement to a reputable family attorney to ascertain if it can be set it aside.
Have other legal questions you want to ask? Join us for Bergen Mama's Facebook Live Event with Loren LaForge on Monday, July 19th at 8pm- sign up here!
160 Market Street, Suite 5, Saddle Brook
The above information contains general legal information. The legal information is not advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied. No lawyer-client, solicitor-client or attorney-client relationship shall be created through the use of this information.