Practicing exclusively family law for over 20 years, Rita has helped hundreds of families with divorce, separation, child support, custody, guardianship, post-judgment, and related matters.
Each one of her clients can expect their matter to be handled in an efficient, compassionate and empathetic manner. Rita works collaboratively with clients to identify their personal goals while paying attention to their financial, emotional and practical needs. With Lawrence Law’s deep bench and team approach, Rita has the resources to handle complex and high net-worth family law cases. In family law, unlike general litigation, cases rarely have a winner and a loser. Rita defines success for her clients as moving through the family law process to a better place in life.
Rita’s handles divorce litigation matters throughout the State of New Jersey. She regularly appears in courts in Somerset, Hunterdon, Warren, Morris, Essex, Union, Bergen, Monmouth, Ocean, and Sussex counties.
Rita is a trained Collaborative Divorce Attorney and a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. She has both trial experience and alternative dispute resolution training in matrimonial actions.
Recognized by the New Jersey Superior Court as a Qualified Family Law Mediator, Rita is a Panelist for the Superior Court, Early Settlement Panel in Somerset County and and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Somerset County Family Practice Committee. Rita has been trained by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers as a Divorce Arbitrator.
Rita is the Current Co-Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation’s Family Law Litigation Committee for the current Bar year and has served in that capacity since 2015. She was previously recognized as Outstanding Subcommittee Chair for her 2015-2016 and 2017-2018 terms. Rita has also served as Editor of the American Bar Association Family Law Litigation Subcommittee’s E-Newsletter. She is a member of the ABA’s Diverse Speakers Directory on matrimonial and family law matters.
Rita is a member of the Family Law Executive Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association and serves as the Liaison to the American Bar Association for the Executive Committee. She is a member of the Appellate Practice Committee of the New Jersey State Bar Association. She is also a Trustee for the Somerset County Bar Association, with a three-year term commencing in September 2018. She is an author of articles and blogs published by the American Bar Association and the New Jersey State Bar Association’s NJ Family Lawyer.
She was named to the Board of Editors for the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation Appellate Practice Journal, commencing with the Spring 2018 edition. Rita is also a Member of the Editorial Board of the New Jersey Lawyer Magazine, which is the legal publication of the New Jersey State Bar Association.
Rita is a frequent lecturer on legal topics, including the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Institute of Continuing Legal Education, at its Hot Tips and Family Law seminars, as well as the American Bar Association. She is also a member of the District XIII Ethics Committee.
Western New England College School of Law | J.D., 1997
Drew University | B.A., 1993, cum laude
American Bar Association
New Jersey State Bar Association
Somerset County Bar Association
Morris County Bar Association
New Jersey Collaborative Law Group
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
New Jersey Women Lawyer’s Association
Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
New Jersey Association for Justice
New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators
“Hot Tips in Family Law,” NJSBA Family Law Section in association with the NJICLE, New Jersey Law Center, New Brunswick, NJ, November 12, 2018
“Post-Obergefell – Part 2: A Look at Case Law and Recent Developments in 2018,” ABA Section of Litigation Family Law Litigation Committee Roundtable, Call-in, May 30, 2018
“Shades of Grey: Seniors and Divorce,” NJICLE in cooperation with NJSBA Family Law Section, Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick, January 26, 2018
“Demystifying the Trial: Preparing for and proceeding to trial in matrimonial and domestic violence matters,” Hot Tips in Family Law, NJSBA Family Law Section in association with the NJICLE, New Jersey Law Center, New Brunswick, NJ, November 10, 2017
“The Next Round of Litigation after Obergefell: Four Key Cases for 2017,” ABA Section of Litigation Family Law Litigation Committee Call-in Seminar Co-sponsored by the LGBT Litigator and Civil Rights Committees, July 26, 2017
Second Saturday, The Women’s Institute for Financial Education, Florham Park, NJ, July 20, 2017
“Using Evidence of Civil Restraints to Support the Claim of Harassment”, “Hot Tips in Family Law The Top 40: New Spins on the Oldies but Goodies,” NJICLE & NJSBA, New Brunswick, NJ, November 11, 2016
“How to Avoid (or at least manage) Secondary Trauma in Family Law Cases,” “Hot Tips in Family Law,” NJICLE & NJSBA, New Brunswick, NJ, November 11, 2015
“Where is My Witness? Out of State? Use of De Bene Esse Depositions in Family Law Matters,” Volume 39, No. 1 – April 2019 Edition of New Jersey Family Lawyer, a publication of NJSBA’s Family Law Section
The main goal of every divorce case is to reach an agreement with your spouse. A Marital Settlement Agreement, written and signed by both spouses, is a contract that defines the terms of their divorce. Depending on the issues in your case, the Marital Settlement Agreement must address a variety of issues. First, custody…Read More
In New Jersey, child support is an issue in cases including children. The tool used to calculate the child support awards are Child Support Guidelines. The Guidelines must be used as a rebuttable presumption to establish and modify all child support orders. A rebuttable presumption means that an award pursuant to a guidelines calculation…Read More
The factors that must be considered by the court for purposes of determining equitable distribution of assets and debts acquired during marriage are identified in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1. Items included for purposes of equitable distribution are: marital properties vehicles bank accounts stock options retirement accounts mortgages credit card debts automobile loans any other assets and…Read More
In a New Jersey divorce, it is crucial to know the income of both parties. It is equally important to know what each is capable of earning. The income of the parties must be known in order to resolve issues like alimony and child support. In many divorces, however, the income-producing spouse suddenly acquires…Read More
On October 18, 2013, the New Jersey Supreme Court recognized same-sex marriages in the State of New Jersey. As part of that decision, the Court said, “[S]ame-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today. The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative.” The rights couples to…Read More
It is frustrating when the other parent constantly violates a clear Order governing custody and parenting time for my client. New Jersey court rules and previous cases provide for a host of remedies to enforce a Court Order. For example, a court can award compensatory parenting time in the event an Order is not being…Read More
While each case is different, there are general issues every client must contemplate when considering a divorce in New Jersey. Custody & Parenting Time The first and foremost consideration is if there are any children of the marriage. If so, the issues of custody and parenting time must be addressed. There are two different…Read More
Retirement accounts are often a divorcing couple’s largest asset – the home being another. A QDRO must be entered by the court to divide retirement assets during a divorce in New Jersey. What does QDRO stand for? Unless you are going through, or have gone through a divorce, you have probably never heard of a…Read More
In reality, the vast majority of divorce cases settle. It is a rare case that is tried to conclusion. The damage done to the parties and, more importantly, the children after a divorce trial is severe and pervasive. I would say it is probably so traumatic that one never truly recovers from the wreckage of…Read More
In some New Jersey divorce cases, one party may use technology to hide or move money. The good news is that there will almost always be a trail that can be traced. Cyrptocurrency The use of cryptocurrency to conceal assets is a concerning trend. According to Wikipedia, “A cryptocurrency (or crypto currency) is a digital…Read More
In New Jersey, there is limited case law addressing who keeps the family pets after a divorce. Just because there is limited case law, does not mean there are not disputes and issues when it comes to Poochie. As of now, New Jersey courts view and treat pets as personal property and not a custodial…Read More
Divorce is a scary time for anyone thinking about it or going through it. Divorce is also something that people do not understand until they are in the process. Therefore, I have created a list of key terms that are helpful to those new to divorce. Property Settlement Agreement/Marital Settlement Agreement – A written contract…Read More
Going through a divorce is a life changing event. It is an uncertain and scary time. During the divorce, you will make very important decisions that will affect the rest of your life. The assets you have acquired during the marriage need to be identified, valued and distributed. Your marital lifestyle will need to be…Read More
Generally speaking, alimony is often the hardest part of my job. Unlike child support, there are no alimony guidelines. Alimony is based on statutory factors and case law interpreting these factors. 12 New Jersey statutory factors The actual need and ability of the parties to pay. The duration of the marriage. The parties’ age, physical…Read More
In a recent case, M.G. v S.M., the New Jersey Appellate Division decided in favor of the plaintiff husband. The issue was whether or not a restricted stock award from the husband’s employer, which vested after the filing of a Complaint for Divorce, was subject to equitable distribution. The trial court found that the wife was…Read More
I am passionate about the practice of family and and am very active in the New Jersey State Bar Association (currently Treasurer). I recently participated in the NJSBA’s Women’s Leadership in the Law Forum at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. A bonus from the event is the compilation of the insights and…Read More
More than half of the families in the United States were formed by remarriages or recoupling of relationships. Based on current statistics, half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce. And, the average length of a marriage is seven years. With the ending of marriages, the subsequent remarriages or the forming of…Read More
One of my hardest jobs as a divorce lawyer is managing an angry and bitter client. It always troubles me when a client demands that I get them justice or retribution through the divorce process. It is generally a difficult conversation and contrary to every stereotype believed by the client. Justice is not always, and…Read More
I recently came across this article Day after Valentine’s kicks off divorce season on CNN’s website. It discusses the increase in people seeking divorce, and in one study, this increase was about 40% during this particular season of love. According to the article, some believe Valentine’s Day triggers spouses to make a move in their marriage. It also mentions several other factors, such…Read More
If you are considering a divorce in New Jersey, a wise starting point is to inventory your financial records and documents. Here is a list of 14 records you should gather: Social Security Earnings Statement. This is a snap shot of both parties’ respective income. The statement shows a clear picture of the earning history…Read More
In a New Jersey case where the parties’ agreement calls for them to “equally divide…school costs,” and one party does not contribute to the costs for years, even though not explicitly asked to do so, a court can enforce the agreement and compel contribution. In the unpublished Appellate Division case of Hnatowski v. Hnatowski,…Read More
Divorced parents in New Jersey have an obligation to contribute to their children’s college expenses. On the other hand, married parents in New Jersey do not have the same obligation. The case of Newburgh v. Arrigo provides a list of factors for a court to consider in assessing the obligation of the parents. This…Read More
Clients are often misguided as to their rights and obligations in a divorce and, because of this, their expectations are often unrealistic. Often, clients will tell me what they believe the law to be; only for me to have to tell them otherwise. Below are 6 of the the most common misperceptions that I…Read More
This Sunday, America will be celebrating our non-official national holiday – The Super Bowl. As a divorce lawyer, I sometimes get asked, “Is it true that there are more domestic violence incidents on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day?” The Myth During my 21 years of practicing divorce law, I have not seen an…Read More
The basic presumption in New Jersey is that Court records are open to the public. This means that anyone can go into a New Jersey courthouse and review a divorce file of a relative, friend, or even a stranger. Before irreconcilable differences became a viable option as a cause of action for divorce, many…Read More
Wife beating had been a fact of life for centuries. Marital abuse was traditionally acceptable and early common law recognized a husband’s right to beat his wife. Domestic violence was considered proper discipline. An old English proverb “A woman, a horse, a hickory tree, the more you beat ‘em the better they be” was the…Read More
In the world of New Jersey family law, cohabitation is a term of art. It involves a mutually supportive, intimate, personal relationship where parties share the duties, responsibilities and privileges typically associated with marriage. Said another way, it is a relationship that has the hallmarks of marriage, but without the marriage ceremony. Evidence is Key…Read More
Statistically speaking, 97%-98% of all divorce cases settle before trial. Of the remaining 2%-3%, half of those cases settle during trial. If you are going through a divorce, it is safe to say that your case will settle. I tell my clients that generally it is not a matter of “if,” but a matter of…Read More
Often in custody disputes, there are disagreements over who is responsible for transporting the children to and from parenting time. In the Appellate Division case of Devorak v. Devorak, the court held that the parties were to share equally in the driving responsibilities. When the parties’ divorced, both lived in Woodbridge, New Jersey. They agreed…Read More
In the recent Appellate Division case of M.F.W. v. G.O., the court upheld the lower court’s order requiring the father to contribute to his daughter’s college costs. The court, on motion, allocated the daughter’s college expenses 70/30 and declined to hold a hearing on the issue, finding that there were no issues of material facts…Read More
There are headlines all over the Internet about how Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are getting divorced and do not have a pre-nuptial agreement. Granted, there was no way they could have imagined that their fortune would be at valued at approximately $137 Billion. I guess this is good news for MacKenzie as she can make…Read More
After fifteen years of exclusively practicing matrimonial and family law, there are things I know for sure about divorce. If you are already divorced, going through a divorce or contemplating a divorce, please read the following list. Commit yourself to living by it. It truly will be the best gift you can give your children. Here…Read More
In this case, the court found the husband to have stalked his wife, adding that his intention in doing so was to gain evidence against her to use in their pending divorce proceeding.Read More
Relocation/removal cases are some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching of all. This change in the law is welcome, and will hopefully reduce the strife and stress in children’s lives.Read More
The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law on December 22, 2017, by President Donald J. Trump. The Act leaves family lawyers eager to understand its implications in preparation for an overwhelming number of questions from clients. The Act repeals the deduction for the alimony payments and their inclusion as income to…Read More