How do I Protect Myself During Divorce?
We all know life as a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) can be challenging and not all marriages survive the challenges. Being a LEO can make obtaining a divorce a bit more complicated. As a law enforcement officer, you have benefits that many others do not have. When facing a divorce, the question you need to ask yourself is “How do I protect myself and everything I’ve worked for?”
First, many LEO’s work overnight shifts and weekends so coming to a custody agreement can be difficult. Often, the LEO needs flexibility. This can make determining custody of the children challenging. Obviously, the parenting time schedule needs to work around your off days. After dealing with your schedule for years, your spouse may not want to be very accommodating. In addition, you may no longer be able to take the overtime offered due to childcare issues or you may have to take unscheduled days off because your child is sick. A custody agreement can mean major life changes. Many LEO’s want to spend as much time as possible with their children, but do not foresee the possible ramifications to their careers. Remember, when calculating child support in New Jersey, overtime is included in your gross income, which means a higher child support amount is paid each week. Yet, if you wish to spend more time with your children once you are divorced, you will be collecting less overtime than you did during the marriage. This means the child support amount may not truly reflect your income, putting LEO’s in a difficult position when it comes to taking care of and spending time with their children.
Another aspect to consider is health care. Once you are divorced, the spouse of the LEO is no longer a dependent and therefore, not entitled to benefits such as healthcare. However, the LEO may continue to cover the children with a credit given when calculating child support. LEO’s may also receive non-taxable stipends such as a uniform allowance. While this amount may not be listed on your income taxes, it is listed on your pay stub and included as income for purposes of child support.
Finally, one of the most asked questions is “What happens to my pension?” Unfortunately, in New Jersey it is an asset that is divided between the parties during the divorce. In New Jersey, the marital portion of your pension, which is the amount that accumulated from the date of the marriage to the date the Complaint for Divorce is filed with the Court is divisible. Most often, the division is 50/50 but depending on circumstances can be different. In order to determine the value of the pension, an evaluation will have to be conducted. The actual division of the pension takes place after the divorce is final. After the Judgment of Divorce is signed a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is also signed by the Judge and gives the pension administrators the parameters for the division of the pension. The spouse is not able to obtain his or her share of the pension until the LEO retires. Some LEO’s opt to broker an agreement with his or her spouse so that LEO may retain the entire pension at retirement in exchange for another marital asset such as the family home. For example, the LEO may offer the spouse the entire amount of equity in the marital home (normally divided between the parties) in exchange for the LEO retaining his or her entire pension.
Above are only some of the issues that factor into a divorce for law enforcement officers. Divorces for law enforcement personnel can be complicated so it is important to seek advice and guidance from a firm such as Citizen Soldier Law. At Citizen Soldier Law, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved LEO family law matters, especially those in law enforcement. To contact our LEO Divorce Lawyers with questions, please call (973) 937-6040 or reach us through our website at www.citizensoldierlaw.com