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Morristown Family Law Blog

How Can the Ashley Madison Leak Impact Your Divorce?

So you've discovered your spouse had an account with the infidelity-facilitating website, Ashley Madison, or perhaps you've discovered your spouse had an affair by other means. Now you want a divorce, and you want to know how the Ashley Madison leak and adultery in general can impact the outcome. The answer in New Jersey is probably not at all.

Applying the Amendments to the Alimony Statute as to Cohabitation to Post-Judgment Orders Filed Before the Statute's Effectuation Date

When the amendment to the alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(n), relating to cohabitation was effectuated, a question arose as to whether the amendment applied to post-judgment Orders finalized before the effective date of the statute. In October 2015, the New Jersey Appellate Court addressed that very question in the case of Spangenberg v. Kolakowski, 442 N.J. Super. 529 (App. Div. 2015) and found that post-judgment Orders filed before the effective date of the statute are not subject to the amendments to the alimony statute.

Cell Phone Evidence in Domestic Violence Proceedings

In the case of E.C. v. R.H, plaintiff alleged defendant had been harassing her by sending her many unwanted text and social media messages, along with voicemails, filled with profanities and derogatory and upsetting comments. At the start of the hearing, plaintiff wished to introduce evidence of multiple allegedly harassing communications stored on her cell phone. Plaintiff's request was not uncommon. Litigants in domestic violence matters often seek to introduce evidence on their cell phones but questions always arise as to how to properly introduce the evidence into trial. E.C. v. R.H. noted that our laws of evidence and civil procedure have struggled to adequately keep up with the fast pace of technological advancement and as a result, some of the more traditional methods of introducing evidence into court do not address the specialized needs and practical problems that arise when parties come into court and seek to introduce information stored on their cell phones directly into evidence, such as texts, e-mails, social media messages, or audio/visual evidence.

Papa Don't Breach...The Custody Agreement

For the past several weeks, the custody dispute surrounding Rocco, the fifteen year old son of Madonna and Guy Ritchie, has garnered significant attention in the media. Notwithstanding the inevitable hype due to the celebrity status of this former power couple, the issues surrounding this case are particularly interesting due to the international forces at play. That is, Madonna is a resident of New York while Guy Ritchie lives in England. After Rocco refused to visit with Madonna for the holidays, a New York Judge ordered that he return to her.

Attorney-Client Privilege and Duty of Confidentiality

The attorney-client privilege entitles a client to refuse to testify and prevent his or her attorney from testifying in court regarding communications between them. It also applies to confidential communications made by an individual to an attorney who is sought out for the purpose of obtaining legal advice. In order to be privileged, the communication must be between the client and the attorney for the purpose of obtaining legal advice and with the expectation the communication would remain private. Disclosure of such communications to or in the presence of third parties destroys the confidential nature of the communication and renders such communications non-privileged.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Family Law

In general, HIPAA governs the confidentiality of medical records and regulates how certain health information can be used or disclosed by certain persons and entities while protecting patient privacy. Issues related to confidential medical records and health information often arise in family law matters. Judges are frequently called upon to weigh the privacy interests of a party against the best interests of the children. In addition to HIPAA, New Jersey case law has historically emphasized the importance of protecting a party's privacy, while at the same time underscoring the importance of balancing the competing interests at hand before ordering a party to produce his or her medical records and information.

Attorney's Work Product Protection

New Jersey Court Rule 4:10-2(c) provides protection against disclosure to the work product of a party's attorney prepared in anticipation of litigation, including the "attorney's mental impressions, conclusions, opinions or legal theories." A party may obtain such materials from an adverse party only upon a showing that the party has a substantial need for the materials and is unable, without undue hardship, to obtain the substantial equivalent by other means. The fundamental test of applicability of the work product privilege is whether the materials sought to be discovered were prepared in anticipation of litigation rather than in the ordinary course of business.

The Court Reinforces the Importance of the Alimony Factors

Gnall v. Gnall, 222 N.J. 414 (2015) stems from a fifteen year marriage that ended in divorce. The trial judge found, among other considerations, that permanent alimony was not appropriate due to the relatively young age of the parties, their educational levels, and the duration of the marriage. The judge determined that the marriage "certainly was not short-term, but neither [was it] a twenty-five to thirty-year marriage." The trial Court awarded the Wife limited duration alimony for a period of eleven years. The Wife appealed, arguing she was entitled to permanent alimony. The Appellate Division reversed and remanded the case for an award of permanent alimony, reasoning that a fifteen-year marriage is "not short-term," therefore precluding "consideration of an award of limited duration alimony."

Past Violations of Matrimonial Court Orders may be considered in Domestic Violence Actions

In the recent case of N.B. v. S.K., New Jersey's Appellate Division addressed the "not uncommon circumstance" where during settlement of a divorce action, a domestic violence victim agrees to vacate a Final Restraining Order (FRO) in favor of replacing it with restraints in the divorce action ("matrimonial restraints"). The Appellate Division found that the trial judge had erred in granting an involuntary dismissal of N.B.'s domestic violence action because the judge mistakenly failed to give sufficient consideration to S.K.'s past and present violations of matrimonial restraints contained in the parties' Property Settlement Agreement. Although a domestic violence action cannot be sustained absent proof of one of the specifically enumerated acts contained in N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(a), which does not include violations of a matrimonial order, the N.B. Court held that domestic violence claims may nevertheless be supported and demonstrated by evidence of violations of relevant matrimonial orders. The Court found that because determinations as to whether the domestic violence statute has been violated are fact-sensitive and contextual, the history of the parties, which includes past violations of matrimonial orders, should be considered.