When you’re going through a trying experience, it’s natural to want to compare notes with and outcomes of those who have endured something similar. However, our Middlesex County divorce lawyers commonly must manage the expectations of clients who presume that the way a family law matter was handled for their sister, co-worker, friend or acquaintance will be the same for them as well.
The reality is that while there are certainly relevant statutes and case law for any legal matter, every divorce case is going to be different. The same judge may reach very different conclusions on things like equitable division, child custody, alimony and enforceability of prenuptial agreements in two different cases - even if it seems on the surface they have many similarities. Furthermore, what one judge rules to be binding in one case isn’t necessarily going to be binding in yours.
Our Middlesex County divorce lawyers know there are numerous commonsense and legal reasons for this. Consider that just as no two individuals are the same, neither are any two marriages - or the issues that arise from dissolving them.
For instance, a husband and wife may earn the same amount of money at the time they’re divorcing, but one is a steady, long-time worker of a healthy corporation while the other is the owner of a small business whose income is based on numerous variables from year-to-year. That will impact equitable distribution, alimony and child support in the case. Maybe you’ve been married the same number of years as your divorcing friend, but you and your spouse were gainfully employed the entire time while your friend put their career on hold for a few years to raise the kids. You might have the same number of kids as your divorcing co-worker, but perhaps one of those kids has special needs you aren’t aware of. Maybe you earn the same amount as your cousin who is divorcing, but they lived beyond their means while you lived frugally. There could be underlying health issues for the parties involved about which you aren’t aware. Courts in different states often have different approaches to child custody and divorce matters. These are the kinds of things that come out in Court that are often overlooked when folks are casually comparing their divorce case or custody issue to someone else’s.
In looking at the legal reasons, it’s important to understand that every judge must apply certain legal authorities in family law cases. Court Rules, published decisions and statutes help ensure fairness. However, the wild card is that the facts and evidence presented in each case will be different. That means even when the judge is looking at your case through the same legal lens as they might another, outcomes still vary.
Furthermore, not all decisions in family Court are dictated by an easy-to-follow formula or rule. Often, there are a host of factors the Court is responsible for considering - and Courts are given a great deal of discretion in deciding these cases. The same case may be fairly decided two different ways by two different judges - and neither would be technically “wrong” for it. (This is one reason why choosing the right East Brunswick divorce attorney is so critical. Sometimes it is as much about crafting a compelling narrative and argument from the facts as it is about knowing the law.)
Even if you’re looking at a family law judge’s written opinion in a certain case, that ruling isn’t necessarily going to be binding on another case. In fact, only those cases decided by the New Jersey Appellate Division and New Jersey Supreme Court that are published opinions are considered to be applicable in other cases. Only a small number of family law case opinions are published. If a trial Court publishes an opinion, that ruling isn’t binding on the state appellate Court, though it could be used to make a good argument for or against a point.
The main takeaway is it’s unwise to presume that just because one person’s New Jersey divorce case went a certain way that the same will be true of yours. An experienced East Brunswick divorce lawyer can carefully review the facts of your case and give you a frank analysis of potential outcomes.
Contact our Middlesex County family law attorneys today at (732) 810-0034 to schedule an appointment.