Search Site
Menu
 Whippany, New Jersey | New York, New York
Free 30-Minute Consultation 973-428-0800

Settlement agreements often offer divorcing spouses an opportunity to resolve many or all of the issues related to their split in an effective and mutually agreeable way. It is important to remember that these are legal documents, however, and that they should be carefully crafted by an experienced family law attorney. A recent case out of New Jersey’s Superior Court makes that clear.

graduationHusband and Wife divorced in 2011, following some 14 years of marriage in which the couple had three kids. They entered into a property settlement agreement as part of the divorce. Husband and Wife acknowledged in the agreement that each was obligated to contribute toward their children’s future college expenses. The agreement noted that the couple had set up certain savings accounts to cover some of those expenses, as well as a portion of each child’s tuition. It stated that the remaining expenses would be paid proportionately, based on income and assets.

Wife returned to court in 2014, alleging that Husband had failed to live up to his end of the bargain and seeking an order to require him to pay more of their daughter’s (Daughter’s) college expenses. The judge instead ordered Daughter to pay $5,000 worth of the expenses herself and told Husband and Wife to split the remaining costs.

 

Reversing the decision on appeal, however, the Superior Court said the trial judge wrongly strayed from the property settlement agreement’s explicit terms. “New Jersey embraces the resolution of marital controversies through PSAs, which are voluntarily entered into and promote post-divorce stability,” the Court observed. Although a judge has the power to modify the terms of an agreement, the Court said he or she may do so only after finding that it’s warranted by a change in circumstances among the former spouses.

In this case, the Court said there was no such finding, The Court noted, in fact, that the trial judge didn’t even hold a hearing to consider the matter. Such a hearing would have been particularly helpful in this case, according to the Court, since the agreement’s terms weren’t entirely clear. In one section, it stated that the respective incomes and assets of both parents and each child should be considered in allocating college costs. In another, the agreement provided that the costs should be split based on the parents’ incomes alone. “The judge failed to consider this disparity, and on remand should consider whether the PSA contemplates only income itself, or whether the broader financial picture of the parties should be considered,” the Court concluded.

As this case makes clear, a person considering a divorce should consult an experienced attorney before proceeding and definitely before entering into any settlement or other agreements. The New Jersey child support lawyers at Helfand & Associates have more than 100 years of combined experience representing clients in a wide range of divorce, child custody, and support cases. Our lawyers work diligently to ease the stress on clients in what can be a trying process by building the strongest possible cases for the people whom we represent. Our offices are conveniently located in Whippany and New York City. We are happy to offer clients a free consultation in family law and other cases. Contact us online, call our New Jersey office at (973) 428-0800, or call our New York City office at (646) 213-9053 to set up an appointment with one of our attorneys.

 

Our Offices
  • Whippany Office
    575 Route 10 East
    Suite 1
    Whippany, New Jersey 07981
    Phone: 973-428-0800
    Fax: 973-428-0830
  • New York Office
    420 Lexington Ave.
    New York, New York 10170
    Phone: 646-213-9053
Testimonials
  • "Without Tanya and her time, the really unpleasant experience of getting divorced would have been even worse. They were able to settle the matter very quickly and helped me fit this into my tight schedule allowing me to leave to move abroad for my dissertation research on time without having to delay the trip because of the divorce. They also did all of it within my very tight budget. Thank you so much for your help and dedication to my legal matter!"  - AG

  • "Tanya and her Associates are outstanding! What I admire most about Tanya is her knowledge of the law with her keen negotiation skills to foster mediation. Her strategies efficiently resolve conflict leading to the resolution of cases. She and her team have an outstanding work ethic, know what data are needed, and get the job done. It is a pleasure to work with such wonderful professionals."  - Tara, Whippany

  • "I found Ms. Helfand's knowledge and tenacity most reassuring during the ordeal of my divorce. She was steadfast in her guidance and was very effective in her negotiations on my behalf. I would recommend her without a second thought."  -Jonathan

  • "Ms. Helfand was very professional and helpful with our bankruptcy case. Her advice was very useful and helped us make the proper decisions for our situation. In addition, she was very supportive during a very difficult time for us. Finally, she set very specific fee expectations and there were no surprises when it was completed. I would use her services again and would recommend her, without question."

  • "She is Incredible, very quick responding to the other party. Very professional and courteous. I highly recommend her. She has a great passion and love for every single case."

  • "Tanya and her team were very professional handling my divorce proceedings. She was very proactive in making the other attorney finally get the process moving forward. I would recommend her to anyone looking for legal services."  -Scott

  • "Ms. Helfand strategized & processed, both, my Divorce & Chapter 13 Bankruptcy. As both cases were emotionally and legally challenging, Ms. Helfand proved to be an empowering Mentor along the path to clarity for which I am truly grateful.I highly recommend her legal expertise to anyone who is seeking a confident, savvy & caring attorney to become at peace with self and any legal matters."  -Vas

Media
VideosView All

Podcasts
view All

Press Releases