Important Divorce Questions Answered


We field questions every day from people in our exEXPERTS community about everything and anything related to divorce.

And our whole goal is to help empower you with the information and answers you need so that you can navigate through your divorce as easily as possible.

So in today’s episode of the Divorce Etc… Podcast, we’re welcoming back one of our favorite lawyers and we’re going to give her a bunch of your questions so that you’re clear on how to move forward in a way that’s best for you.


We’re the exEXPERTS, Jessica and TH.

We help you navigate your divorce and successfully move on with your life.

Let’s bring in today’s guest.

Hey guys, TH here.

I am super excited to have Jennifer Lazor back.

She is definitely one of our favorites, My personal favorite as well, but we do love all of our ex experts.


So Jennifer is a family law attorney here in New Jersey with her firm at Lasorantis in New Jersey.

And I really have so many questions that I get from people who I coach.

So thank you Jen, for being here and for, you know, helping people get the answers to what’s on their mind.



I’m excited to be here and as you guys mentioned, I practice in New Jersey, so my answers are going to be through the lens of New Jersey law because that is what I do.

So let let’s hear what’s on the mind of your your, your people.


So this was on my mind for sure when it happened, and when someone asked me recently I was like, Oh yeah, I was pissed about that, but does it really matter?

So the question is, does it really matter who files first?



You mean who files a divorce complaint?

Or files for divorce first.

I think most people wonder about that through the lens that you seem to have TH, which is, is the judge gonna think I’m the worst, the worst party, because the other person beat me to filing?


Does he or she have more ’cause to get divorced than I do?

And the answer to that question through that perspective is no, the judge doesn’t care who filed first.

There are very narrow instances where it matters.


You know, I think I’ve rushed to the courthouse door in heels, running maybe twice in my career to be the first to file.

That has to do with usually a custody situation where you want to make sure you’re venued in the county That makes sense.


Or if there’s an Interstate dispute and a filing in New Jersey is time sensitive, then maybe it matters there.

There might be some other issues where it does matter, but they’re very specialized and it’s it’s not the ordinary thing that’s on the judge’s mind at all.


OK, so that’s what’s most important.

But what also goes with it for anybody who it does bother, it’s kind of still, it doesn’t really bother me anymore, but it like it’s a little like nudge, you know, it’s an emotional thing, right?


That’s kind of what screws up everything in the long run through your divorce.

Anyways, the emotional stuff.

I want to be the plaintiff.

I don’t want to be the defendant in my case.

So that label also for how you proceed, you have to just look at it.


It’s just it’s nothing.

It’s a word that’s really I meaningless or not.

But I have to.

I have to say that for me also.

I mean, you know, TH and I were both in situations where our husbands had had affairs and like, I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him fucking cheat on me and then file for divorce against me.


So I was like, that’s what happened to me.

I know, I agree.

I’m saying 100%, it mattered to me, like I was going to be the one to file for divorce.

It was very important to me.

But it’s it’s nice to know that like, legally, whatever, it doesn’t really matter.


But for sure I wanted to be.

But I do think that there are some people out there who don’t want to because they want to be the victim.

They want to be the underdog.

They want to be the person who the moneyed spouse is saying that, you know, they’re leaving that person and then they’re like, oh, woe is me.


Like, I didn’t want, even want to get divorced.

And so I need you know help.

So in an instance where it’s important to you emotionally and maybe not legally tell your attorney you can’t control it all the times, Sometimes people file, they don’t tell you, they file.


You know you find out when you also file divorce complaint.

And surprise, there’s one filed already.

But if it matters to you, tell your attorney you want to file.


Oh, where are you going to say something?


So no go.


Ahead, next question.

No, yeah.

I mean, everyone always is, is wondering about the money and the finances when it comes to divorce.

So should everyone get a financial planner when going through divorce?

Not necessarily.

I think everybody should have a financial plan when they’re going through a divorce.


But you know, financial planners, they cause fees, they charge fees for managed accounts, and some of them have a minimum asset requirement for taking you on as a client.

Not everybody is of a financial age where that makes sense for them, but a lot of times financial planners will, particularly younger financial planners starting out, They’ll have a foundational relationship with you, even if you’re not ready to invest with them yet in the hopes that when you are, you’re going to have this pre-existing relationship.


So it’s not necessary and well, what would you always be economically feasible?

For someone who it may not be economically feasible, but you started off by your your answer being everyone should have a financial plan.

So what do you suggest to people who are out there, who maybe don’t have tons of assets, but they don’t even know where to go to actually create a financial plan for themselves in order to, like feel comfortable moving forward?


You know they should research and there are a lot of great tools online as well.

Basics about investing, you know, Do you have a four O 1K?

So many people don’t even start there.

That’s if.

If you’re employed in a company that offers one, that’s a great place to start.


If you don’t have that option, an IRA of some some degree, you know, start investing that way.

I don’t want to get into the realm of giving financial advice ’cause believe me, you don’t want that.

But but can I get you divorced?


If you don’t have a financial planner, I can.

OK, great.

OK, another question for you, Jen.

Do you get child’s?

I know the answer, but this woman is finishing up her divorce and she was under the impression that the only way she would get child support is if she had sole custody.


That she wouldn’t get child support if it was joint custody.

So first of all, those labels can mean so many different things, right?

Sole custody under the New Jersey Child Support guidelines is a specific number of overnights.


Joint or shared calculations are situation where at least one of the parties, the alternate parent, the parent usually who pays, has 28%.

So to a lot of people, colloquially sole custody means that the child is only with me.


That’s actually a very rare situation.

Joint custody can mean anything to from 5050 in equal timeshare to something less.

So just resetting those definitions I think opens the answer to a more obvious solution, which is, yeah, it’s possible.


It’s a function of the economics.

It’s a function of the number of overnights and certain other variables.

Without getting too into the weeds, that’s generally it’s it’s generally yes you can.

So you know, a lot of things when people go to lawyers is about they’re hiring a lawyer and maybe not understanding how law firms work and that there are different associates and different levels of people being billed out to work on your divorce case.


So what would you say to someone who feels like their lawyer?

The person that they thought they were hiring isn’t the one ever really responding to their questions and is always just having a lower level associate respond?

Well, I I guess the foundational question is, is the associate doing a good job by your estimation, you know, sometimes look they’re different levels, right?


It’s a do you have somebody who’s just brand spanking new out of law school and doesn’t really or clerkship and doesn’t really give you that confidence vibe.

You got to trust your gut on that.

But if you have somebody who is been out a few years and is more of a senior to mid level associate range, that person might be giving you just great advice at a lower price point.


So I wouldn’t discount somebody purely because of their title.

However, if you feel like, hey, I hired you, whoever that may be and I haven’t seen you since I signed the retainer agreement, then then that’s a conversation that you should have with your attorney.


You know what, Why am I not a priority?

I I’ve paid for you or retained you and I want the benefit of your advice.

And sometimes what comes of that is, is a check in, you know, every other week or so there’s a phone conference among you, the attorney that you expected and maybe the associate is there to to kind of give some background information.


That’s an uncomfortable situation from a billing perspective, though, right?



You have to keep your eye on the bill.

Is is having a younger person involved, or I say younger.

Not necessary necessarily a chronologically younger person, but in terms of experience, is that person making it a more cost efficient situation or not?


And that’s a matter of reviewing the bill and asking questions.

Fair OK.

Another question is what does it mean to be in a no fault state?

It means you do not have to prove that somebody did something bad to you in order to get a divorce.


That’s a massive oversimplification, but I do think it it hits the main point of the definition.

It also in New Jersey means to an extent that alimony and equitable distribution, the assets that you receive only in certain circumstances generally defined as egregious, does fault factor in.


What are some examples of egregious fault?

Murder actually is 1, and there’s a decision about that less dramatically financial fault.

If somebody had, I don’t know, a a gambling situation or was jettisoning money of marital money, marital funds to a girlfriend or boyfriend, I mean, our law does take that into consideration.


You just don’t need to prove that something bad happened to you in order to move forward with your divorce.

Back in the day, we had AII felt like I was a soap opera writer fashioning some of these complaints for divorce because you you needed a ’cause, you needed a cause of action.


And now you can file on irreconcilable differences in New Jersey.

And there’s no negativity, no loss of claim, generally speaking, if that’s all you file on.

Rather inventing one of these soap opera like he made me feel she ruined my life.


You know, it get get quite dramatic.

And it also escalated things to a level that they, you know, the first filing that you received was this horrible, you know, document about every terrible thing that happened.

And that quite often, in my experience, was not what people wanted.


It’s what they felt required what we had to do essentially under our law at that time.

And then for for me and for Jessica being in New York and New Jersey, You know, correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding of being in a no fault state is no one really cared that he cheated It it wasn’t.


The act of cheating wasn’t going to affect my settlement one way or the other.

There were.

There was collateral damage from it where I could benefit.

But him and his character was kind of out of play, right?


It wasn’t a factor.

Is that right or no?

Yes, it’s it’s it’s a it’s a closely related concept.

And you know, I hate it when people say nobody cares that this happened to you.

It’s more so that the court is not in a position to make moral determinations in your marriage.


Well, that’s a nicer way to say it.

Well, it’s.

Sometimes you need like a wake up call and they’re like they don’t care, the judge doesn’t care, but they have other that come into play because that happened.

That’s true.


But I’ve also, I’ve also known judges to be very helpful in achieving settlements because they are highly sensitive and emotionally intelligent to the impact on on a party conduct the likes of which you’ve described.


So I said it’s a related concept because the concept of being no fault really does primarily speak to the fact of you don’t need to prove irreconcilable, you don’t need to prove that something bad happened to you.

You can move forward on irreconcilable differences, what you’re talking about when you get to the money of it and the the, the, hey, this happened to me in New Jersey at least if assets were dissipated, there is financial relief available to you.


Most of the time when you’re going to court, you’re going to the court for money, not for somebody to make you feel better, right?

I feel like we need to blast that statement everywhere.

That was gold.


I I will say the.


Last week, or maybe the week before, I read an article in the New York Post about how there is this archaic old law that infidelity and adultery is illegal in New York State.


And they were saying, like, this law is maybe going to be pushed off the books officially because of, like, today’s society and today’s day and age.


And I literally was reading this article and I was like, wait a minute, like, he could have actually gone to jail at the time.


Like, yeah, exactly.

That could have been a.

Wake up, call.

We’re going to take a quick pause here.

Because when Jessica and I were getting divorced from our exes, we hope someone would take us by the hand and make sure we didn’t make any mistakes with our kids, with dealing with our ex, with our settlement with our divorce team, with all of it.


You’re in luck.

Because just like building exEXPERTS for your purpose, we also created a divorce rule book for your benefit.

We share what we wish we knew back then so you don’t make the same mistakes we do.

If you want a copy, all you have to do is visit and it’s right there for you.


And the link is also in the show notes.

You don’t know what you don’t know, but the exEXPERTS do.

So, OK, Jennifer, you had talked about, you know the thing, obviously we’re talking about legal questions.


There are people out there who wonder, does everyone need a lawyer when you’re getting divorced?

So you can get divorced without a lawyer.

It’s hard you know.

And I’m I say this with so much sympathy because I talk to so many people in a given week, you know, who who are looking for an attorney and they have very limited financial resources.


It doesn’t make them less scared, you know, just because that maybe they don’t have assets to distribute or they don’t have a claim for support, it doesn’t make the process any less intimidating.

But at some point it becomes a cost benefit analysis.


You know, am I going to pay someone to shepherd me through this process?

Because it’s comforting to have that and and probably efficient in a lot of ways.

It’s not easy these to navigate this by yourself, but some people do have to make the financial decision to represent themselves.


There are some resources in the court’s website that makes that a little easier, but it is a bloated bureaucratic system in a lot of ways and it’s easy to get lost, especially now in New Jersey, we we, you know, we have a judge shortage staffing issues.


It’s taking so much longer to do purely administrative things and people do get confused.

I do think it is better, if you are able to afford that resource, to have someone to guide you through it and help you review terms and formalize your agreement and help you understand what you’re agreeing to or what a judge ordered and to advocate for you for sure.


But not everybody can afford that.

Yeah, we, we’ve worked with some of those online resources.

And when we say without a lawyer, listen, you can use your lawyer as much for as little as you want, right?


You can, you know, do what I did and I was in the office probably all the time and emailing every day.

Or you do as much as you can on your own and prepare on your own and then have check insurance to review what you have.



So next question, I have somebody who I’m also working with who said, OK, we’ve agreed we’re getting a divorce, me and my wife and we are just going to go to mediation and they just went to meet with a mediator and is that really the right thing to do or like should I?


I feel like he was just thinking, let’s just go and mediate and it’ll all be worked out.

So my question for you, is that really the right thing to do when you know you want to get a divorce and it is amicable, so you’re communicating and that’s great and that’s the process you want.


Is going and seeking A mediator the first step you should take?

I think it is hard to go right into mediation without knowing some foundational information about the law and your entitlements under the law.


Because it is not the mediator’s job to tell you what you’re entitled to.

It is the mediator’s job to see what you will agree to.

Whose job is it to tell you what you’re?

Entitled to.

You either figure it out yourself if you’re not going to get an attorney or you hire an attorney and have a consultation with a family law attorney or have the family law attorney represent you in the context of the mediation.


I I have a number of matters where people retain me to consult with me about their ongoing mediation.

Some of the some of them want me there.

Some of them don’t.

You know, they’re perfectly fine to go report back to me about what was discussed.


Get my take on it and proceed in that way.

The thing about mediation is it can get very expensive and it’s not binding.

So a lot of people I find have buyer’s remorse about their mediation because what will happen is they’ll engage in the process, they’ll reach this agreement and the OR MOU a memorandum of understanding which is the non binding document that you reach in mediation.


And then the mediator says, OK, go go find an attorney to go over these terms with you because we’re we need the attorney’s review in some context to help finalize it.

And then the people get the advice on the back end and they’re like this is the worst deal I ever heard of, you know and there goes all the time that you spent in mediation because they weren’t being educated along the way.


Now, I do think there are variations on this theme, right.

If if you have two individuals and they kept their finances separate throughout the marriage, maybe they have kids, maybe they don’t, but they paid for these expenses.

They each, you know, maintain their own investments.


They have a similar information field, similar income, they might have a better time at it than somebody who’s not in such a delineated This is mine, I kept it mine.

I understand this situation that makes sense to you.


So I I think it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, but it’s a one size fits most answer I am a fan of.

I do think mediation is a very valuable tool specifically as it particularly rather as it’s taking so long to move through our courts in New Jersey due to the judge issues and limits on staff.


I think mediation is is a very valuable tool, but it’s one that you should go into informed and in many instances I think aided by counsel, either behind the scenes so to speak, or at the table with you.


So off of that, what do you do or what would you say to someone who feels like their lawyer is pressuring them to close a deal and you’re not quite sure that you’re there yet, or you have other questions how, what, how would you suggest they proceed or handle that?


This, this is, this comes up a lot.

I find I I have a lot of consults from people who who come in and like, oh, they were in mediation and they want me to sign and I don’t understand and blah, blah, blah.

So let me, let me take it from a perspective of defining the pressure, right.


So sometimes you find yourself, you’re in the courthouse, you’re in a situation where the judge, your judge is present and is helping you conference and it’s the judge thing, OK, we got to get this done.

That’s really, really intimidating.


Another scenario where this comes up is perhaps less intimidating but not less confusing where maybe you don’t have the immediate time pressure of your judge staring you down saying why don’t you sign, why don’t you sign?

It’s your attorney, you you’re in his or her office after a mediation.


There’s or some settlement conference between council and there’s terms or maybe even a draft MSA and somebody saying sign here, sign here, sign here.

My first question would be why do you think I should sign?


This is it, you know, use your words, so to speak.

I feel pressured.

I feel not ready to sign this, and you are really strongly encouraging me to do so, and I want to understand why.


Is it because you think this is a really good deal?

And if so, explain to me why I’m not understanding it.

Or is it you think our case is so bad you’re afraid to take it to court?

We’re not going to win.

You know what is?

What is the motivation for you to have me sign this and and a conversation might unfold from there.


You know, you might learn that you’re unreal, reasonably hesitant to sign this because you didn’t appreciate that this actually is a good deal.

Questions, questions, questions.

And I feel bad for people in who feel like they can’t ask the question.


You can always ask questions.

You know, nobody’s gonna shoot you.

You know, in that situation, which is something a mentor of mine used to tell me, it’s it’s you have the option of asking a question without fear of physical harm, as crazy as that sounds.


But when you’re in the situation and everybody’s barking at you, it does feel that way, right?

It does feel like, Oh my God.

Like you need to be in a situation where whoever is representing you in whatever kind of divorce that you’ve chosen, that you have someone who you feel like is going to answer all of your questions.


That no question is too small.

That they’ll explain everything to you so that you 100% understand how you’re moving forward.

And and the importance of that is like something that we really stress.

I I really like your questions though like you know, why do you think I should sign this?


Is it because you think it’s such a great deal or do you think it’s because our case is really weak?

Like those are great explain.

It to me for.

People, Yeah.

Yeah, and.

You know, in general when you’re going through your divorce, I I advocate to have in like in the notes on your phone questions that when you panic and your mind freezes, let me go to my notes or not so much questions, things that buy you time.


Like I need a minute to think, you know, I I know that sounds silly but just having these catchphrases of, you know, can we revisit this in your office tomorrow?

I’m feeling overwhelmed, you know, just having these things that you say that are at the ready, that buy you some time to think, You know, I don’t.


Look, I don’t want to be unreasonable or lose a good deal either.

But I also need to understand it so I don’t feel like I’m in a position right now to understand it.

So I need you to advocate to the judge, to the mediator, to whomever to back the bleep off and give me some room here.


You know, you’re allowed in a polite way to to do that.

You know you’re in charge of this.

You’re you’re literally paying the bill, you know, right?

That’s what I was going to say.

You hired this person, you’re paying this person.


The other thing that definitely helped me when things were heated in my process was having my dad with me.

My dad was with me through the whole process.

And if you have somebody in your life who is going to be a great listener and someone who you can hear, it’s like going to the doctor for your diagnosis.


You’re not hearing actually anything they’re saying except the C word.

But everybody else is able to ask all of the important questions.

And I remember on the day of trial, my ex goes, we’re ready to settle.


I go no freaking way.

He just spent.

Four years and so much stress and money.

I’m going to trial, and if I were there alone, who knows what would have happened?

But my dad took me by the shoulders.


He goes, we’re done.

Beyond that door is more stress and more money out the window and we’re done.

And that was it.

So if you have somebody in your life who you trust unconditionally, then have them there with you along the way.


Because if you are not in an emotional place to look to your phone or even think of any of those things or feeling intimidated, you have an advocate standing right next to you.

And that’s not necessarily your lawyer or anybody who you hired.

It’s like your person.


So I would say that if that’s available to you, my father was priceless for me through the process.

I’m sure it aged him slightly, but we were right there together and and I was able to hear what he said, you know, after a while, the lawyers and everybody else, it’s just like chirping like wah wah wah wah wah wah can’t process.


So I I love having notes on your phone.

I love having prompts and having somebody in your corner through through it all for sure.

Yeah, super helpful.

Super valuable.

I mean listen, we we there’s always more questions.

There’s always more we can discuss.


But I think that’s a great place to end, just because I love also like tying it in with, you know, if you have a trusted person in your life that can really kind of help, you know, get through to.

You through.

All of the things that we’re talking about, it’s so crucial.


So Jennifer, thank you so much for coming back and spending the time to answer all of these questions.

We really appreciate it for sure and for everyone listening.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Divorce Etcetera podcast with the ex experts today, then please help a few girls out.


If you take a moment to subscribe, rate and review, then you can help us out and help others out at the same time because those who going through divorce can help find us in the resources that they need.

For more about Jennifer and her firm and services, please check out the show notes and of course, share this episode with anyone you know who can benefit from listening.


Have a great day.


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