Category: Equitable Distribution

Equitable Distribution of Property

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Equitable Distribution of Property

Factors Affecting the Equitable Distribution of Property in New Jersey

Most, if not all, couples acquire assets throughout their marriages. When contemplating divorce, individuals want to understand how the Courts will divide marital assets that are subject to “equitable distribution.” Equitable Distribution includes all assets with a monetary value, including but not limited to retirement assets, the marital residence, vehicles, furniture and other household items.

First, both parties will complete a Case Information Statement (CIS) which the Court relies on to identify and value assets. It is necessary to provide the court with accurate documentation relating all marital assets, as those are generally subjected to distribution.

Second, the Court will look to the parties to reach an agreement about distribution of marital assets. If an agreement cannot be reached, then the Court examines the following factors when attempting to equitably distributing assets:

  • Length of marriage
  • Marital standard of living
  • Age and health (physical and emotional) of each spouse
  • Relative education of spouses (for example one spouse may need to further his or her education to become self-supporting)
  • Whether one spouse deferred career goals to tend to the family (homemaker contributions)
  • Value of separate property or debt
  • Tax effects of property distribution on each spouses’ finances
  • Whether trusts must be established for dependent children, for example if the children have special medical needs
  • Any pre- or post-nuptial agreements
  • Each spouses’ income and earning capacity
  • Each spouses’ debts and liabilities
  • Any other relevant factor

It is important to remember that equitable does not necessarily mean equal. The Court considers the above factors so the property can be divided up fairly. For example, if one spouse is does not have an income but is a homemaker, the court will take that into consideration when attempting to determine how much each spouse will get in retirement assets. The court operates under the assumption that the property acquired during the marriage was done so as a joint effort between spouses. Thus, the property is not automatically divided up 50-50, however, it will be divided up by what is fair in the eyes of the court.

If you or someone you know is filing for a divorce and wants guidance as to the division of property, please contact the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our skilled team of attorneys are here to help you. For a free consultation please contact us online or call us at (908) 575-9777.

Allocating Credit Card Debt During Divorce

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Allocating Credit Card Debt During Divorce

When parties are in the midst of a divorce, one bone of contention can be credit card debt. The general rule is marital debt is any debt incurred during the marriage for the benefit of the marriage.

How to Navigate Credit Card Debt During Divorce

When it comes to credit card debt that could be almost anything, but examples include home repairs, furniture, clothes for either spouse and food. If one of the spouses incurs a debt through the misuse of funds for example, an extravagant vacation taken alone or the purchase of an expensive boat, then court may assign that debt to the party making the purchase. Such debt would be characterized as “separate” debt, belonging the spouse who misused marital funds.

Under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.1, the state’s equitable distribution statute, the court considers the following sixteen factors when allocating debt:

  • The duration of the marriage or civil union.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • The income or property brought to the marriage or civil union by each party;
  • The standard of living established during the marriage or civil union;
  • Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage or civil union concerning an arrangement of property distribution;
  • The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
  • The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage or civil union;
  • The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
  • The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, or the property acquired during the civil union as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
  • The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
  • The present value of the property;
  • The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence or residence shared by the partners in a civil union couple and to use or own the household effects;
  • The debts and liabilities of the parties;
  • The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse, partner in a civil union couple or children;
  • The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
  • Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.

If you or someone you know is planning to separate and has questions regarding the family’s credit card debt during divorce, please contact the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our skilled team of attorneys are here to help you. For a free consultation, please contact us online or call us at (908) 575-9777.

Is my Ex-Spouse Entitled to some of my Stimulus Funds?

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Protect your credit after your divorce

Written by Joanna R. Adu, Esq.

As a result of the recently enacted Coronoavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (also known as the CARES ACT), eligible Americans have received, or are set to receive, a one-time payment from the federal government, referred to as a “stimulus” payment. The exact amount of any particular stimulus payment is based on the claimant’s prior year’s tax return; however, at most, each person can receive up to $1,200 per person ($2,400 per couple) and $500 per dependent child under the age of 17. For those in the process of getting a divorce, or who have recently finalized their divorce, many are wondering whether their ex-spouse, or soon-to-be ex-spouse is entitled to any portion of these stimulus funds.

As with many aspects of the current Coronavirus health pandemic, the rights and entitlements to the stimulus funds of a separated couple is a newly created issue of which New Jersey courts have not yet had the opportunity to directly address and establish precedent that would create guidelines for this situation. However, a review and consideration of each spouse’s entitlement to these stimulus funds is arguably analogous to each spouse’s entitlement to any other type of tax refund from the IRS. When a married couple has filed a joint tax return that results in a tax refund, a divorce agreement commonly provides that the parties will equally share in that refund, regardless of any differences between the respective parties’ earnings for that particular year. In equally sharing a tax refund based on a joint tax return, the parties also equally share in any tax credits or other financial benefits related to all claimed child dependents. As such, if the amount of stimulus funds received is based on a joint tax return filed in the previous year, each spouse is arguably entitled to an equal portion thereof. Under this set of circumstances, it is likely the easiest and most cost-efficient resolution for the parties to simply agree to an equal split of the stimulus funds, thereby saving the time and expense of arguing with your former spouse directly or through your respective attorneys.

However, each case differs and there are circumstances that may warrant one spouse being entitled to a larger portion, if not all, of the stimulus funds. For example, if separate returns are filed and one person is entitled to claim the child for that tax year, that person will likely argue that the full refund or stimulus funds attributed to the child should be his or hers alone. Under this type of scenario, or any case where the parties are unable to agree to a certain split of the stimulus funds, the division of same will likely need to be addressed as part of the overall negotiation of your divorce settlement. If you have questions and/or concerns about your entitlement to the stimulus funds it is imperative that you speak with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through an analysis based on your facts. Fortunately, the skilled and knowledgeable New Jersey family law attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C. have extensive experience in addressing this issue. We invite you to contact us online or give us a call at our office at 908-575-9777 to schedule a confidential appointment with one of our attorneys.

How Divorce Impacts the Marital Home

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How Divorce Impacts the Marital Home

During a divorce, couples have many concerns about splitting up their joint property and assets. One major consideration involves dividing the marital home. For couples who own a home together, the implications of a divorce have great impact on the terms of home ownership and occupation of the residence. Co-owners have several arrangements available as options.

Selling the House

The first option allows for the cleanest break; sell the home and split the profits. If the parties agree, this can happen before or after the divorce is finalized. This option seems to be the best way for couples who want to start over. The sale of the marital home may have the added benefit of cash available to each spouse so as to begin separate, post-divorce lives.

Buy Out

Another option for dividing the marital home is for one spouse to buy out the interest of the other spouse in the home. In other words, once the couple agrees on a fair price and one spouse pays the other spouse half of the home’s equity while at the same time refinancing the mortgage and/or the home equity loan into his or her name only. In return, the spouse being bought out, signs a quit claim deed, relinquishing his or her ownership rights in the home. By buying out your spouse’s interest, you achieve sole ownership of the property while maintaining some permanency for you and your children.

Continued Co-Ownership

Divorcing couples may agree that it is best to continue to own the home together, usually for financial reasons. This is common when children are involved, as parents may want to avoid additional family disruption during a divorce, especially if the children’s school situation would be affected by a change in residence. In this case, there is usually some financial agreement in place to determine who is paying house hold expenses such as the mortgage and utilities.

Complications Without Easy Solutions

Joint home ownership creates complications for divorce when the parting spouses lack consensus on how to best proceed. This is the case when both spouses wish to retain ownership after the divorce or one of the spouses wants to sell the house. In some cases, refinancing options may be limited, or market forces may indicate that selling the house could result in financial losses. If the house is already in foreclosure, the parties also have to deal with credit issues, the bank and possibly finding a new place to live.

Bridgewater Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Advocate for the Interests of Divorcing Clients

Joint home ownership complicates divorce proceedings. If you own a home with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, the Bridgewater divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 908-575-9777. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we represent clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

What Documents Should Be Gathered for a Divorce?

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What Documents Should Be Gathered for a Divorce?

Morristown Divorce Lawyers advise what documnents are needed when considering divorce. If you are considering a divorce in New Jersey, there are several documents that will be necessary for you to have as you prepare for the process. There are several reasons to gather this information even before you have a consultation with a divorce lawyer. The more information you can present at your first meeting, the better advice the lawyer will be able to give you. It will save you a little time and money if you come prepared. Should your spouse become hostile and uncooperative, it may become difficult to obtain copies of the documents you need, therefore, it pays to be prepared. Some spouses even destroy documentation out of spite and hostility.

The most important documents to assemble when you are filing for divorce include:

  • Tax returns
  • The last three pay stubs from both parties
  • Bank, brokerage account, and stock account statements
  • Statements of any savings accounts in the children’s names or 529 plans
  • Mortgage statements and statements from open lines of credit
  • Property tax statements
  • Pension and Social Security earnings statements, as well as any other retirement accounts
  • Documentation of any other assets, such as a property appraisal
  • Inventory of valuables, such as art, wine, jewelry, and antiques
  • Inventory of anything being stored in a safe or safe deposit box
  • Copies of any prenuptial or separation agreements
  • Credit card statements to show any debt being carried
  • Health insurance policies; this helps determine what your health insurance costs will be after the divorce
  • Homeowner’s insurance policies
  • Bills to show expenses, including utilities, school tuition, music lessons, and other family necessities
  • Wills, living wills, and power of attorneys

Another important step is to make a list of any assets you or your spouse owned before you got married and any assets you acquired individually during the marriage. These could be gifts or inheritances. If your spouse owns a business, then you will also need business tax returns and financial statements, including any assets or liabilities from the company.

It is important for your divorce lawyer to have an exhaustive list of all the property and assets that may pertain to your case, so that they can assess what your needs will be and help you make a solid plan for your financial future.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Provide Counsel to Clients Filing for Divorce

At Lyons & Associates, P.C., our skilled Morristown divorce lawyers are ready to assist you. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online today. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Bridgewater, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

Who Gets the Timeshare in the Divorce?

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Morristown divorce lawyers help navigate the allocation of assets including the timeshare.The division of assets and liabilities is an essential part of the divorce process. Just as every couple is unique, so is their financial landscape. Most divorcing spouses have to navigate the allocation of homes, vehicles, retirement monies, and other common assets.

In some divorces, there is yet another asset that can be a bit more challenging to divide. Timeshares may seem like a great idea; they offer the promise of a regular vacation in a favorite destination. Yet as the years go by and the restrictions, taxes, and maintenance fees become more cumbersome, they may not be as desirable an asset as they once were.

What Do You Do with the Timeshare?

Couples have several options for what to do with a timeshare in the divorce. Like a primary home, vacation home, or income property, a timeshare’s value inevitably fluctuates over time. Before making any major decisions about the future of your timeshare, it is important to have its value appraised. Depending upon market trends and demand, your timeshare may be easier or more difficult to unload.

After your timeshare is appraised, you can make an informed decision about its future. Here is a brief look at your options if you own a timeshare and are considering a divorce:

  • Award: In this scenario, you give the timeshare to your ex. This works if they want it more than you do and can afford to maintain it independently. They will buy out your portion of the property with cash or other assets.
  • Buy: If you are the spouse with the sentimental attachment to the vacation timeshare, you can propose to buy out your ex with cash or assets, equivalent to your half of the timeshare.
  • Share: A third option is to move forward with the divorce and agree to share the timeshare. Because timeshare stipulations are already complicated to begin with, it can be a headache to determine which spouse gets which vacation time and who pays various fees associated with the property.
  • Sell: Many couples opt to sell their timeshare in the divorce. Unfortunately, because they tend to depreciate over time, timeshares often become a liability, rather than an asset, making them difficult to sell. If this is still the best option for you, selling before the divorce is final allows you to pay closing costs or other related fees with joint accounts.

Valuing the Timeshare

Many families find that timeshares are ideal for their lifestyles. Yet when couples split, deciding what to do with the timeshare can be a tricky decision. Their value is not always apparent, and they can even become a costly liability that neither spouse wants to hold on to indefinitely.

After your timeshare appraisal, it is a good idea to contact a Morristown divorce lawyer to look at your overall financial picture and explain your property division options in greater detail.

Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help to Protect your Financial Future after Divorce

If you have questions about your financial future after divorce, schedule a free consultation with a competent Morristown divorce lawyer at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We understand the prospect of dividing everything you have acquired throughout your marriage can be overwhelming. We are here to make the process as simple as possible, while protecting your interests and setting you up for a great future.

Call 908-575-9777 or use our online contact form to get started. Our Morristown, New Jersey offices serve clients throughout New Jersey, including Morristown, Somerville, Somerset, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.

Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) Divorce Viewed Under the Lens of New Jersey Law

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Somverville divorce law firm assist clients with high asset divorces.Written by: Marissa Del Mauro, Esq.

Recent news outlets have reported that, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie Bezos have decided to file for divorce after 25 years of marriage. It has been reported that the divorce will be filed in Washington State, which is a community property state. This leaves the Bezos’ estate, worth an estimated $137 billion at issue. The following is an analysis of the Bezos divorce as if it were filed here in the state of New Jersey, an equitable distribution state.

Community Property State vs. Equitable Distribution State

In a community property state, the spouses are deemed to equally own all income and assets earned or acquired during the marriage. This includes any and all property that was acquired during the marriage with “community” money is deemed to be owned equally by both parties, regardless of who purchased it. This equal ownership also applies to debts incurred during the marriage, regardless of which spouse incurred the debt.

By contrast, in an equitable distribution state such as New Jersey, any and all property acquired and any and all debts incurred by either spouse during the marriage is subject to distribution between them, but not necessarily at an equal 50-50 split. In New Jersey, it is important to remember that “equitable” does not mean equal.

How the Court Determines How the Property will be Distributed

In New Jersey, the Court will undergo a three-step process to determine how property will be distributed between the spouses:

  1. Determine what property is subject to equitable distribution;
  2. Value the property; and
  3. Decide how that property will be divided.

Factors That Courts Use to Determine Equitable Distribution

Once the Court has determined what property is subject to equitable distribution and has valued the property, the Court will undergo an analyses under the New Jersey Equitable Distribution statute as to each piece of property to determine how it will be divided. Equitable distribution in New Jersey is codified under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(h) and is set forth below:

  1. The duration of the marriage;
  2. The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
  3. The income or property brought to the marriage by each party;
  4. The standard of living during the marriage;
  5. Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning an arrangement of property division;
  6. The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective;
  7. The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage;
  8. The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other;
  9. The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker;
  10. The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party;
  11. The present value of the property;
  12. The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence and to use or own the household effects;
  13. The debts and liabilities of the parties;
  14. The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse or children;
  15. The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals; and
  16. Any other factor which the court may deem relevant.

Having an experienced matrimonial attorney to carefully identify, analyze and advocate for equitable distribution of marital assets is integral to ensuring you have the financial security you seek and need.

Somerville Divorce Law Firm at Lyons & Associates Assist Clients With High Asset Divorces

For more information regarding high asset divorces and equitable distribution contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associates. At Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail, view our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Underage Marriage Ban

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Underage Marriage Ban

Mendham family law lawyers report on the new state law that bans underage marriages in New Jersey.It is estimated that over 150,000 minors were married in the United States from 2000 to 2010. While there are states that require individuals to be 18 years old before marrying, other states allow for children as young as 14 years old to be wed. Even in states that have minimum age limits for marriage, individuals under the imposed age limit may still legally marry under designated exceptions to state marriage laws. Many states, including New Jersey, have recently passed laws banning underage marriage.

Most state marriage laws carve out exceptions to age requirements to allow teens to marry in certain circumstances. In certain states, any teenager can get married with approval from a judge or permission from their parents. Although the exceptions to state laws allow minors to marry, as minors, these individuals are unable to initiate legal action in their own name. The married minor would be precluded from filing for divorce, forcing minors to remain married against their will.

Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Watch, Unchained at Last, and the Tahirih Justice Center, have lent their support to legislative efforts to ban underage marriage. These organizations are working to eliminate forced and arranged marriages and promote social and legal justice for women and girls. The underage marriage ban has received celebrity support with well-known personalities, such as actor and activist Sean Penn testifying before state legislatures on the negative impact that underage marriages have on minors.

New Jersey’s Underage Marriage Ban Bill

New Jersey legislators have recently passed a new law that bans underage marriages in the state. The bill, signed by Governor Phil Murphy, bans all marriages before the age of 18. Past New Jersey laws allowed minors as young as 16 to marry with the approval of a Superior Court Judge, parent, or guardian. A founding member of Unchained at Last stated that this law is a victory for all girls and women in the state. More than 3,000 minors were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2015, with 95 percent consisting of 16 and 17-year-olds.

Similar underage marriage ban bills are currently pending in several states, including Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. The United Nations has announced its own goal to eliminate child marriage by year 2030.

Mendham Family Law Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Represent Individuals and Families in New Jersey

If you or a family member needs legal assistance in a New Jersey family law matter, the dedicated Mendham family law lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. are here to help. We handle a wide variety of family law matters, including those related to divorce, separation, child support, restraining orders, child custody, guardianship, alimony, division of marital property, and visitation. To set up your free consultation today, call us at 908-575-9777 or submit an online inquiry form. With an office in Somerville, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains and throughout the state.

How to Prepare Your Finances for Divorce

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Woodbridge divorce lawyers recommend that you prepare your finances for divorce.If you are anticipating a divorce, you are probably thinking about what steps you can take to best prepare yourself. Money is often one of the most important things people worry about when getting divorced. The following list includes ways to prepare yourself before your divorce in order to ensure you are financially protected:

Gather your financial records

The first thing you should do is collect all of your important financial documents. Ideally, it is best to have your own copies of all bank statements, tax returns, payroll stubs, credit card statements, benefits information, property information, etc. Having these records in your possession will simplify the divorce process and safeguard you in case something goes missing.

Assess your family debt

In order to emerge from your divorce as intact as possible, you will need to be aware of your current financial situation. Obtain copies of your credit report and all credit card statements. Be sure to go through the statements and pay close attention to any outstanding debts. It is also important to categorize beforehand whether the debts were incurred individually or jointly during the marriage.

Visit safe deposit boxes

Some couples keep cash and other valuable items in their safe deposit boxes. If a divorce is pending, you should go to the bank where the safe deposit box is located and request that it be frozen. At the very least, make sure the safe deposit box is in joint names and take inventory and photographic evidence of the contents in the box. These steps will protect you if for some reason your spouse attempts to clean out the box and take the money.

Avoid large purchases

If you make an expensive purchase before or during a divorce, this could be included as marital property when it comes time for equitable distribution even if it is solely in your name. Moreover, if you foresee a potential dispute over child support or alimony in your matter, then buying expensive items could be used against you in your ability to pay or receive support.

Proper preparation before a divorce is critical for ensuring a favorable divorce outcome. Organizing your financial records, assessing the family debt, accessing any safe deposit boxes, and curbing major purchases are all important steps you can take today in order to better protect yourself while a divorce is pending.

For more information regarding how you can protect your finances before and during a divorce contact the law office of Lyons & Associates. At the law office of Lyons & Associates, we represent men and women throughout New Jersey who have unresolved family law matters. We place a premium on personalized service and attention. For a private consultation, contact us, on our website at www.lyonspc.com, or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Written by: Lyons & Associates, P.C.