Category: Family Law

Your Guide to Emancipation in New Jersey

   |   By  |  No comments

Contrary to popular belief, child emancipation in New Jersey does not automatically occur on the 18th birthday. While age creates a presumption of emancipation, parents can challenge it for several reasons.

In some cases, you will need to take legal action to change your child’s emancipation status, especially if you wish to change your child support order.

If your current settlement agreement does not include language about when your child support will end, contact an experienced family lawyer to learn about your options.

Everything You Need to Know: Emancipation in New Jersey

Under normal circumstances, parents are legally and monetarily responsible for their children until at least their 18th birthday and/or the child graduates from high school. However, the emancipation of a minor can occur under several conditions.

Emancipation occurs automatically if a minor, or a child under 18, joins the military or gets married. If he or she has a child of his or her own or is attending college part-time, the court will consider an emancipation request.

After emancipation, a child is no longer entitled to monetary support from their parents, including child support.

Child Support and Emancipation

In New Jersey, a law in 2017 clarified child support and emancipation requirements. Child support automatically ends when your child turns 19, with several notable exceptions. Even with these exceptions, child support cannot legally continue after the child turns 23.

The custodial parent can submit a request for child support to continue past the age of 19 under several circumstances. These include if the child is still enrolled in high school or is studying at a college or trade school full time, or suffers from a physical or mental disability.

The court will also consider other extenuating circumstances, as long as the written request is submitted correctly.

Challenging Continued Child Support

Sometimes, the custodial and paying parent will disagree on whether a child can live independently. The paying parent can submit a request to end child support if the child is over the age of 19.

The court will decide if the child can be independent or requires continued parental support.

In any case, child support ends in New Jersey when the child turns 23. A child who, mainly due to physical or mental disabilities, is still unable to live independently, may still receive other types of support after the age of 23.

Settlement Agreement and Child Support

Because child support automatically ends at 19, your settlement agreement should include any extensions. If your child is planning on attending college or trade school full-time, it is essential to discuss how long the order will continue.

Work with your attorney to ensure that any agreements concerning child support are in complete compliance with New Jersey law.

Changing Your Child’s Emancipation Status

If you wish to change your child’s emancipation status, particularly in regards to your child support order, consider working with a dedicated family attorney. Lyons & Associates, P.C. attorneys have a wealth of experience in child support cases and can answer all your questions about emancipation in New Jersey. Contact our law firm online or call us today at (908) 575-9777 to set up your free consultation.

Understanding Legal Separation in NJ

   |   By  |  No comments

Understanding Legal Separation in NJ

Does NJ Have Legal Separation?

Officially, New Jersey does not have legal separation. There is no court process and there is no decree that states you are legally separated.

If you and your spouse choose to separate, it might be helpful to have a legal separation agreement drafted by a competent family law attorney. By drafting a separation agreement, you and your spouse will have clear guidelines during an otherwise uncertain time. A comprehensive separation agreement may address the following:

  • Custody, physical and legal
  • Parenting time, a specific schedule designating the days and times each party spends with the children
  • Child support
  • Alimony on a temporary basis
  • Household expenses while separated
  • Management of joint assets and debts
  • Where each party will live, distance from each other

If the two of you decide to divorce, such an agreement may serve as a roadmap. You may consider the separation period as a trial divorce. In other words, during this time you will be able to see what works for you as a family and what didn’t so that during the divorce process, you and your spouse can modify items going forward.

If you and your spouse decide to reconcile, a legal separation agreement may also help you improve your marriage. You may find that some of the items you agreed to are helpful in keeping the peace and should be incorporated into the fabric of everyday life.

Should you and your spouse not be able to amicably separate, there is always the option of going to court. Under our court system, it is possible to file an application with the court for support and custody, even if you have not yet filed a Complaint for Divorce. In such a situation, the court will help you and your spouse work through the issues regarding your separation and issue an order that addresses them.

At the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, P.C., we pay personal attention to personal matters. We are supportive of our clients and can assist you with legal separation in NJ. To speak to a lawyer about your family law case, please contact us online or call us at (908) 575-9777 for a free consultation.

The Best New Jersey Family Lawyer Has These 3 Qualities

   |   By  |  No comments

The Best New Jersey Family Lawyer Has These 3 Qualities

Garden State Family Law: How Do I Choose the Best New Jersey Family Lawyer?

Most people, when they are looking for a family law attorney, ask for recommendations. People often feel more comfortable hiring someone with good references. It is important to remember, however, that each case is unique. You want to hire a New Jersey family lawyer who has experience with your specific issues in the Garden State. For example, if you own a home, real estate issues may arise during your divorce. If you are unemployed and have credit card debt, one or both of the parties may be filing for bankruptcy. It is important to have an attorney who knows more than just family law. If you consult with a family law attorney who has never dealt with the aspects of law affecting your case, that person may not be the right attorney for you.

Second, it is important that your attorney is truthful in his dealings with you. Attorneys who are not truthful, but are sneaky and manipulative, develop a reputation as such. The person who is hurt the most when dealing with such an attorney, is you. Your attorney should be advising you as to the law, not telling you what you want to hear. If you are not properly advised, then eventually you will go to court and be sorely disappointed. A good lawyer will not only listen to your concerns and input but will also tell you the truth.

Third, it is important to hire an attorney who is diligent and pays attention to detail. Being a good lawyer does not only involve advocating for a client in the courtroom, but the attorney must also be an advocate outside the courtroom. Often the Court requires documentation supporting your case. Written documents such as letters, pleadings and discovery are another tool an attorney uses to further your interests. The Court often relies on these documents when making decisions so the paperwork and preparation that goes into appearing in court, is just as important as the court appearance itself. If an attorney cannot properly represent you in writing, most likely he or she will also have difficulties in the courtroom.

At the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, P.C., we pay personal attention to personal matters. We are supportive of our clients and guide you through the entire court process. To speak to a New Jersey family lawyer about your family law case, please contact us online or call us at (908) 575-9777 for a free consultation.

What is a Domestic Partnership?

   |   By  |  No comments

What is a Domestic Partnership?

Domestic partnerships are legally formalized relationships that carry similar legal protections as marriage. The specifics of domestic partnerships vary by state. It was originally instituted to protect same-sex couples, but some states make domestic partnerships accessible to all cohabitating couples or cohabitating seniors.

Comparing Pros and Cons: What is a Domestic Partnership in NJ?

Domestic partnership in New Jersey is regulated by the 2004 Domestic Partnership Act, amended in 2007.

Only non-related, non-married people whether they are the opposite sex or the same sex, aged 62 and older are now able to enter into a domestic partnership. Same-sex couples who formed their domestic partnership before February of 2007 and couples who have entered domestic partnerships with similar rights and obligations outside of New Jersey may continue to operate under the domestic partnership framework.

Pros of a Domestic Partnership in NJ

Domestic partnerships carry much of the same legal and economic incentives as marriage. Domestic partners can be considered next-of-kin for medical decisions, visit each other in the hospital, and, in some cases, be covered under the same dental and medical insurance.

This formalized union comes with tax benefits. You can file your qualified domestic partner as a dependent and receive a $1,000 tax exemption in the State of New Jersey. You’ll also qualify for state inheritance tax exemption for transfers from one member to another by way of a will, contract, or survivorship.

If you are a public employee in the State of New Jersey, your domestic partner and his or her children may be added to your employee health insurance and a domestic partner is also entitled to state pension and retirement benefits.

Cons of a Domestic Partnership in NJ

Entering a domestic partnership in NJ is accessible to a relatively small group of people, making a civil union or marriage the only option for many couples in the state.

Civil unions and marriages carry more legal and social weight than domestic partnerships, which exist mainly to offer financial benefits to couples.

Because domestic partnerships are state-operated, your partnership status may not be recognized by other states or countries in the way that marriage is. Domestic partnership isn’t federally regulated, so you’ll have to file separate tax returns, and you won’t be eligible for your partners’ social security benefits.

Benefits Unique to Marriage

Benefits Unique to Marriage

Marriage is federally recognized and comes with benefits, including the choice to change your last name, sponsor your spouse’s immigration, and receive social security, pension, and veteran benefits merited by your spouse.

Marriage is also an almost globally-recognized institution, making the importance of married couples’ relationships more readily recognized.

How to File a Domestic Partnership

How to File a Domestic Partnership

You must legally formalize a domestic partnership to be eligible for its financial benefits. Both members must agree to be responsible for each other’s wellbeing and basic living expenses, which is often evinced by joint financial accounts or property ownership. In addition, both people must share a common residence, both must be 62 years of age or older, neither person can be married or in an civil union currently, neither person can have terminated another domestic partnership in the last 180 days unless the previous partner has passed away, both people must not be legally related to each other by blood, adoption or marriage closer than the fourth degree (third cousins or closer) and both must choose to share their lives in a committed relationship of mutual caring.

You can jointly file an affidavit of domestic partnership with your local registrar of any municipality in New Jersey, and the claim is handled by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services’ Office of Vital Statistics.

Couples who chose to marry or enter a civil union with each other end their domestic partnership at that point.

Need More Information?

Now that you have the answer to “what is a domestic partnership,” you might better understand the choice of marriage vs. domestic partnership.

If you’re still wondering if domestic partnership or marriage is right for you, contact the family law experts at Lyons and Associates, P.C. Call us at (908) 575-9777 for a free consultation to discuss your needs.

Appeal of a Family Court Decision 101

   |   By  |  No comments

Appeal of a Family Court Decision 101

Obtaining a divorce can be very emotional. Often, a judge is making a decision about your family without being fully aware of the dynamics involved. If a judge makes a decision you are unhappy or uncomfortable with, you have the right to an appeal.

How Appeal of a Family Court Decision Works

An appeal occurs when one party to a case asks a higher court to review the decision of a lower court, such as the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Division. When this occurs, the court can only review final orders, one where the judge reaches a final decision on a matter, such a custody arrangement rendered in the Final Judgment of Divorce. However, if the decision is reached via motion and the Final Judgment has not been rendered, then the litigant may first file a motion for reconsideration with the lower court within 20 days of receiving the decision. See Rule 4:49-2. If a final decision is not rendered and the motion for reconsideration does not change the outcome, then the next step is to file a motion for an interlocutory appeal. Basically, you make a request to the appellate court to file an appeal, even though your matter is not finalized. It is up to the appellate court as to whether they hear an interlocutory appeal.

If you have a final judgment or order in a family matter and there are no other outstanding issues, then you have a right to file a Notice of Appeal within 45 days of the entry of the judgment or decision. A case may have grounds for an appeal when it is based on errors in procedure, insufficiency of the evidence, or other specific legal errors committed by the court during your case. It is important to remember, when it comes determining the facts of the case, the appellate court often defers to the family court due to their expertise in family law.

Once the appellate court hears the appeal, the decision will follow one of three options; affirm the lower court’s decision, reverse the lower court’s decision, or reverse the lower court’s decision and remand the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The appellate court does not retry the case. They review the transcripts from the first case, sometimes hear oral arguments, and render one of the decisions previously mentioned. If the case is remanded back to the lower court, there will most likely be a new hearing by the lower court regarding the issue.

If you or someone you know is considering an appeal of a family court decision, please contact the Law Offices of Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our attorneys pay personal attention to personal matters. For a free consultation, please contact us online or call us at (908) 575-9777.

Trusted Family Lawyer Near Me

   |   By  |  No comments

Trusted Family Lawyer Near Me

How to Find the Right Family Lawyer Near Me with Lyons & Associates

If you are looking for a professional, yet personable, New Jersey family lawyer, you can count on Lyons & Associates to fight for your interests.

As highly experienced, professional family law attorneys, we understand what it takes to help you through family disputes. We offer more than just legal counsel: We’re here to listen, support, and aggressively pursue your goals and protect your interests in court.

A Family Law Attorney That’s Right For You

Whether you’re getting divorced, fighting for child custody, settling a financial dispute, or in need of help with some other area of family law, we’re here to help bring you closure.

Our unique team is an approachable mix of professional and down-to-earth personalities. Each family law attorney at Lyons & Associates has clerked for the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Court or Supreme Court, positioning us as one of the top family law practices serving Somerville, Morristown, and the surrounding areas.

Our managing partner and lead attorney, Theresa (Terry) Lyons, is committed to helping those involved in family disputes. Having served as a clerk at the New Jersey Supreme Court, she is familiar with the family legal system and can leverage her knowledge and skills to give you the best representation.

A Well-Respected Family Law Practice

You can learn a great deal about us through our word-of-mouth reputation. We have a stellar standing in the community and we’re highly respected by judges and peers. Our reputation reflects the dedication we give to resolving cases favorably and can improve your chances in court or when negotiating a settlement.

When you partner with us, you have access to a professional network of family and divorce lawyers, each operating within our law firm’s mantra “personal attention for personal matters.”

An Attorney for Every Family Law Matter

Regardless of your case, we have an attorney with the right knowledge and experience to provide the professional representation you need to get the right result.

Lyons & Associates is a family law firm that is committed to our clients as well as their cases. We work hard to form strong client/attorney relationships; it’s important that you feel comfortable when working with us. When dealing with some of the most challenging times in your life, Lyons & Associates is there to support you.

We give your case the attention it deserves, without making you feel intimidated or confused. We’re here to guide you every step of the way and allow you to start a new chapter in your life.

Find a Family Lawyer in New Jersey

We’re not only family lawyers, but our firm also operates like a family. We offer professional, yet personal service to ensure that you feel heard but at the same time we act with your best interests in mind. We are highly attentive to all our clients, making the legal process for your family case as smooth as possible.

To speak to a New Jersey family attorney at Lyons & Associates, P.C., call us at (908) 575-9777 for a free consultation. Alternatively, you can start a conversation using our online chat service.

New Requirements for Child Care Facilities

  |   By  |  No comments

New Requirements for Child Care Facilities

Recently, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order 149, which provides the COVID-19 childcare standards for childcare facilities which opened June 15, 2020. For working parents, this is good news as it allows both parents and childcare providers to go back to work. The following is a list of the guidelines childcare providers are obligated to follow.

First, NJ is requiring that the centers must screen all staff and children for fevers and other COVID-19 symptoms every day before entering. If anyone has a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or any other COVID-19 symptom, he or she will not be allowed to enter.

Second, the centers cannot have group sizes exceeding 10 children, with very limited to no interaction between different groups. In addition, each staff member will be assigned to a specific group of children and remain with that group. Each group must stay ten feet away from other groups at all times, including when outside. The groups are to play outside in staggered shifts and cannot play any games that include close personal contact. In limiting contacts, the centers must also ensure they have adequate educational materials so that each group has its own and children’s personal belongings will be stored in a separate area.

Another major change is no field trips. Childcare centers will be prohibited from conducting any field trips and off-site activities. The only way a center could conduct a field trip is if the trip is within walking distance and social distancing can be maintained throughout the trip.

Much like every other business, face masks will continue to be required for all staff, and when feasible, children. However, cloth face coverings shall never be put on a child that is under the age of two due to the danger of suffocation.

These guidelines will be part of the landscape for the foreseeable future, so it is important to stay informed and remain vigilant about your children’s safety. For more information regarding the effects of COVID-19 and any issue facing your family, please contact the Law Office of Lyons & Associations, P.C. At the law office of Lyons & Associates, our team represents parents throughout New Jersey. We give personal attention to personal matters. For a free private consultation, please contact us by e-mail, visit our website, or call our office at 908-271-8998.

Posted by Lyons & Associates, PC

Can I obtain a Final Restraining Order Against Someone I Never Physically Dated In Person?

  |   By  |  No comments

Can I obtain a Final Restraining Order Against Someone I Never Physically Dated In Person?

The New Jersey Appellate Division recently found that it was appropriate to enter a Final Restraining Order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act against a defendant where the parties never experienced a single in-person date, never visited each other’s homes, never met each other’s friends or family members, never engaged in sexual relations, never kissed, and never even held hands. C.C. v. J.A.H., No. A-4425-18T3, 2020 N.J. Super. LEXIS 52, at *11 (Super. Ct. App. Div. May 4, 2020).

In some circumstances, in order to obtain a Final Restraining Order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (hereinafter the “Act”), a victim must first prove that the Act applies to the relationship the victim has with the defendant. Where the parties were never married or never resided in the same home, the Court is not able, by law, to issue a final restraining order. Under the Act, the victim must first prove a “dating relationship” existed between the parties. See N.J.S.A. 2C:25-19(d).

To determine whether the parties’ have or had a “dating relationship” the Court must consider the following factors:

  1. Was there a minimal social interpersonal bonding of the parties over and above a mere casual fraternization?
  2. How long did the alleged dating activities continue prior to the acts of domestic violence alleged?
  3. What were the nature and frequency of the parties’ interactions?
  4. What were the parties’ ongoing expectations with respect to the relationship, either individually or jointly?
  5. Did the parties demonstrate an affirmation of their relationship before others by statement or conduct?
  6. Are there any other reasons unique to the case that support or detract from a finding that a “dating relationship” exists?

S.K. v. J.H., 426 N.J. Super. 230, 235 (App. Div. 2012).

However, the Court looked beyond the factors set forth in S.K. and determined that, “….dating is a loose concept undoubtedly defined differently by members of different socio-economic groups and from one generation to the next.” C.C. v. J.A.H., No. A-4425-18T3, 2020 N.J. Super. LEXIS 52, at *9 (Super. Ct. App. Div. May 4, 2020) citing J.S. v. J.F., 410 N.J. Super. 611, 614 (App. Div. 2009). The Appellate Division also provided that the factors set forth in S.K. must not be rigidly applied when determining whether a dating relationship exists and recommended that trial judges “consider the parties’ own understanding of their relationship as colored by socio-economic and generational influences.” Id at 9-10 citing J.S., Supra. 614. The Appellate Division further found that when deciding whether the parties had a dating relationship under the Act, “…the court must view the facts through the prism of the State’s strong public policy against domestic violence.” Id citing J.S., Supra 614.

The Appellate Division upheld the trial court’s finding that a dating relationship in fact did exist where their relationship was demonstrated “…by the intensity and content of their communications, including the exchange of nearly 1300 highly personal text messages.” C.C. v. J.A.H., No. A-4425-18T3, 2020 N.J. Super. LEXIS 52, at *2 (Super. Ct. App. Div. May 4, 2020). The Appellate Division further stated that, “…the volume and intensity of text message communications can establish a dating relationship, even in the absence of a traditional in-person date.” Id at 15.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence and has questions about obtaining a final restraining order under the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, please contact my office at (908) 575-9777. At Lyons & Associates, P.C., we pay personal attention to personal matters and specialize in all facets of family law and are uniquely suited to handling such matters.

By: Mark Gabriel, Esq.