Category: Matrimonial Law

Woodbridge Family Law Firm: Changes to Catholic Annulment

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Pope Francis’ Changes to Catholic Annulment

There are big changes happening in the Catholic Church! Pope Francis has decided to change the annulment process for Catholics. Previously, the Code of Cannon Law listed some very broad reasons to receive a Catholic Annulment and the process was quite lengthy and expensive. But beginning December 8, 2015 new regulations will go into effect giving Catholics an abbreviated process for obtaining an annulment.

First, there will no longer be an automatic appeal. Previously, two tribunals had to agree that the couple’s reasons were worthy of annulment. Now, when there are certain circumstances in place, an abbreviated process can be used where a bishop can grant a nullity of marriage. They include:

  1. When it is clear one or both parties lacked the faith to give full consent to a Catholic marriage;
  2. When the woman had an abortion to prevent procreation;
  3. When one party remains in an extramarital relationship at the time of the wedding or immediately afterward;
  4. When one party is hiding the knowledge of infidelity, a serious contagious disease, children from a previous union or a history of incarceration;
  5. When physical violence was used to extort consent for the marriage.

Another big change is the amount of the donation to the church when one asks for an annulment. Under the current system, the donation can be quite large. The total cost for an annulment can be in the neighborhood of $1,000. In the future, the Pope states that the amount of the donation should not matter or hinder a person from receiving an annulment. Pope Francis deeply believes in helping the poor of the world and feels a process that deals so closely with one of the church’s sacraments should be available to everyone.

Contact an Experienced New Jersey Family Law and Divorce Lawyer at Lyons & Associates

For more information regarding the changes to the Catholic Annulment process go to:

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 by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Written By: Chris Ann Wright, Esq.

Theresa Lyons Interview on the AskBonBon Show

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Terry Lyons Interviewed Regarding the Ashley Madison Hack on the AskBonBon Show

Contact an Experienced Somerville Family Law and Divorce Lawyer

To obtain additional information about family or divorce law in New Jersey, or to discuss how we can assist you with your situation, please schedule a confidential consultation with New Jersey family law attorney Terry Lyons or one of our experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers by calling (908) 575-9777, or filling out our intake form. We provide personal attention for your personal matters.

Lyons & Associates serves the entire State of New Jersey including Somerville, Bridgewater, Somerset, Basking Ridge, Mendham and Morristown, Somerset County, Morris County and Union County.

Princeton TV to Feature Local Expert on Ashley Madison Hack

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Christine Kieran | Lyons & Associates, P.C.

908-575-9777 |

Jodi Topitz | we2me®

973-985-4386 |

Princeton TV to Feature Local Expert
on Ashley Madison Hack


4 Different Times to Catch the Show

we2me®- Divorce Décor hosts N.J. Social Worker and Matrimonial Lawyer to Provide Tips to Help the Cheated-On Survive


*** Jodi Topitz and Theresa A. Lyons are Immediately Available for Interviews ***


Monday, 9/14 at 7:30 PM. It will re-air on Sunday, 9/20 at 8:00 AM, Monday 9/21 at 7:30 PM. and Sunday, 9/27 at 8:00 AM.

Everyone is talking about the Ashley Madison Hack and the global fall out. The company marketed itself as the premier dating site for married people, and promised complete confidentiality for its 32 million users, but now the names and other information of those 32 million users have been made public for all to see. Many celebrities, government personnel, and everyday people have been caught up in its web.

But what are the innocent spouses – the non-cheating spouses – supposed to do when faced with such a life-altering cataclysm? If they are smart, they will take immediate steps to protect their personal interests, insulate their children to the extent possible, and start to rebuild their marriages or their lives.

Jodi Topitz, founder of we2me® Divorce Décor and Theresa A. Lyons, a social worker and certified matrimonial lawyer at Lyons & Associates, PC offer advice on the following topics, tune in to find out what to do:

  1. Determine the Level of Cheating – Was it a single drunken “one night stand” as opposed to a long-term relationship, or multiple “one night stands” with many different people. It also is important to know the level of your spouse’s infidelity because that can give insight as to whether and what types of physical risks (STD’s and the like).
  2. Assess Whether Your Marriage Can Be Saved –. After cheating, the question is not whether your marriage will be the same – it will never be the same. Instead, the question is whether a new marriage can be forged in which both parties can enjoy enough satisfaction to keep the marriage going.
  1. Shield Your Children from the Conflict –It is not your children’s fault that one spouse has decided to stray. Kids need and deserve stability. And while it usually is not a good idea to lie to your children (especially older children who can more easily ferret out the truth), it usually is a good idea to keep children as protected as possible from parental conflict.
  1. Have a Solid Plan B – Just in case your marriage can’t be saved, it is important that you get your ducks in a row regarding finances, children, support systems, and personal property. Being blindsided and finding out that your spouse has had an affair is bad enough. To get blindsided during the divorce process would be a double whammy.
  1. How to Restore a Sense of Permanency for your Kid’s – If divorce is the only choice, and parents will be sharing custody, it is important to make your kid’s feel at home in both parental homes.
  1. Home Staging- If it is necessary to sell the marital home, is it best to Home Stage or put no effort into the curb appeal of the house

These topics are just some of the information that will air as part of the Show we2me® – Divorce Décor, which will run on Princeton TV, Comcast 30 and Fios 45 on Monday, Sept. 14th at 7:30pm, Sunday, Sept. 20th at 8:00am, Monday Sept. 21 at 7:30pm, and Sunday Sept. 27 at 8:00am

Jodi Topitz is the C.E.O and founder of we2me® – Divorce Décor. She is an award winning Artist, Designer, TV Host and author of soon to be released, Seriously! As if going through divorce wasn’t bad enough…She specializes in helping families going from “we to me” married to single, through the healing power of color, design and coaching. For more information about Jodi Topitz, contact or call 908-575-9777.

Theresa A. Lyons is managing partner at Lyons & Associates in Somerville, New Jersey. She is a certified matrimonial attorney and holds a master’s degree in social work from Rutgers University. A former clerk for the Supreme Court of New Jersey, Lyons is admitted to practice in the United States Supreme Court. She Lyons is also author of the bestselling book, Sticks and Stones: Life Lessons From a Lawyer. For more information about Lyons & Associates, P.C., visit

Woodbridge Divorce Litigation Lawyers discuss If Getting a Divorce, is a Short Sale Right For You?

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Divorce Litigation Lawyers in Somerville, New Jersey

In New Jersey, especially, it is hard enough to makes ends meet for one household, but try to do it for two households and often, it’s impossible. People fall behind on their mortgages and can’t seem to climb out of debt. When divorce hits, matters can spiral out of control. Sometimes, the way out can be a short sale.

A short sale is when a couple sells their home for less than they owe on their mortgage. The key to a short sale is getting your bank’s approval before you sell, so that the bank will agree to forgive the debt. When a house goes into foreclosure, the bank has the right to sue you in court for the full amount you owe. If you proceed with a short sale, the bank will give you debt forgiveness and wipe away the difference between what someone is willing to pay for your house and what you owe the bank. In other words, the bank is “shorted”. There are pros and cons to a short sale, and you should discuss them with your lawyer.

Contact the Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates

Here, at Lyons & Associates, we understand that you are trying to make your finances work day to day. Many things change once you are divorced, such as your address, your expenses and your time with your children. Usually, the amount of money you earn does not. During a divorce it may become necessary for you to sell your home. If that need should arise, contact Lyons & Associates to explore the options available to you. Once you sell your house, you can move forward and live comfortably in a place you can afford. For a private consultation, contact us by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.


Written by: Chris Ann Wright, Esq.

Woodbridge Divorce Lawyers Discuss Civil Annulment vs. Catholic Annulment

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As an attorney I am often asked “What’s the difference between an annulment in court and a Catholic annulment? Aren’t they the same thing?” No, they are not. An annulment in court takes place before a judge in Family Court and a Catholic annulment takes place before a tribunal named by the Catholic Church.

An annulment is a legal procedure in the courts that declares a marriage null and void. In contrast, an annulment in the Catholic Church is a declaration by a church tribunal that a marriage originally thought to be valid according to church law, is actually not a binding union. The procedures for both are very different. If you obtain an annulment in Family Court, it is not a recognized annulment by the Catholic Church. If you receive an annulment in the Catholic Church, it is not recognized by the Courts of New Jersey or any other state, for that matter.

In New Jersey, the courts recognize the following causes for an annulment:

  1. Either of the parties has another wife, husband, partner in a civil union couple or domestic partner living at the time of a second or other marriage.
  2. The parties are within the degrees prohibited by law. If any such marriage shall not have been annulled during the lifetime of the parties the validity thereof shall not be inquired into after the death of either party.
  3. The parties, or either of them, were at the time of marriage physically and incurably impotent, provided the party making the application shall have been ignorant of such impotency or incapability at the time of the marriage, and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.d.
  4. The parties, or either of them, lacked capacity to marry due to want of understanding because of mental condition, or the influence of intoxicants, drugs, or similar agents; or where there was a lack of mutual assent to the marital relationship; duress; or fraud as to the essentials of marriage; and has not subsequently ratified the marriage.e.
  5. The demand for such a judgment is by the wife or husband who was under the age of 18 years at the time of the marriage, unless such marriage be confirmed by her or him after arriving at such age.
  6. Allowable under the general equity jurisdiction of the Superior Court. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-1

The Catholic Church allows the following reasons for annulment:

  1. A lack of due discretion
  1. Defective consent
  1. Psychic incapacity
  1. Informal cases (prior bond and defect of form) [This is used in cases of bigamy and Catholics marrying outside the Catholic Church.]

Contact the Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates

As you can see the reasons for a Catholic annulment are much broader than the criteria under the law for an annulment in the State of New Jersey. For more information regarding the annulment process in the state of New Jersey 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 by e-mail or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Written by: Chris Ann Wright, Esq.

The Relationship Between Addiction and Divorce

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image by michaelaw

image by michaelaw

“Until death do you part….” can be particularly difficult when you are married to an addict who denies their problems, or refuses to seek treatment. Addiction has a wide range of consequences, from financial costs to the loss of trust. Unfortunately, if you have been in the marriage for a long time, you have probably become an enabler. You may want to stay in the marriage, but that may only make it more difficult for your spouse to get the treatment he or she needs. You may be reluctant to pursue a divorce because of fears for your safety or the safety of your children. Or you may worry that separating your spouse and your children will be harmful for both of them.

Mental health experts acknowledge that divorce or the threat of divorce can lead to desperate or irrational behavior by an addict, but some also believe that it can often be the “rock-bottom” experience that actually brings about real change. Whether or not that is the case, the belief is almost universal that simply staying in the relationship without making major changes won’t bring about the necessary actions by your spouse to resolve their issues. Psychologists see addiction as a progressive disease—it will always continue to get worse unless the addict chooses to address the problem.

If you are married to an addict and you have reasonable fears for the safety of you and/or your children, you can ask the court to put a restraining/protective order in place, prohibiting your ex from certain types of contact or from being within a certain distance of your or your children. You can also require that visitation be supervised or even temporarily suspended, unless your spouse can demonstrate participation in treatment.

Contact the Experienced New Jersey Family Law Lawyers at Lyons & Associates

Contact our office online or call us at 908-575-9777 to schedule a confidential consultation. Lyons & Associates, PC, serves the entire state of New Jersey including Somerville, Bridgewater, Somerset, Basking Ridge, Mendham and Morristown.

New Jersey Family Law Firm: What Happens to Frozen Embryos if a Couple Separates? Modern Family Actress Sofia Vergara in Legal Battle With Former Fiance

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Click here to read the article.

Experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorneys

Our law firm and family law practice is focused on a variety of divorce and family law issues. To obtain additional information, please schedule a confidential consultation with New Jersey family law attorney Terry Lyons or one of our experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers by calling 908-575-9777, or filling out our intake form. We provide personal attention for your personal matters.

Woodbridge Divorce Lawyers: Filing for Divorce When Your Spouse is Mentally Ill

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At Lyons & Associates, the firm’s managing partner is not just a lawyer, but also has a master’s degree in social work. That makes Lyons & Associates particularly equipped to handle matrimonial matters that involve mental illness.

If your spouse has exhibited irrational or unhealthy mental behaviors, you may be considering ending your marriage. Here are some issues to consider before you file a complaint.

Determine the Nature of Your Spouse’s Mental Illness

Before you do anything, you need to have your spouse seek treatment and get a definitive diagnosis. If your spouse refuses to get treatment, you may have no choice but to file for divorce. However, based on the diagnosis, you may be able to manage their mental health and save your marriage. Some conditions, such as situational depression or anxiety, may be very effectively treated with medication. Others, such as borderline personality disorder, may be hard to diagnose and even harder to treat.

Don’t Feel Guilty about Leaving

Many people stay with a mentally ill spouse because they feel responsible for abandoning them if they leave. The reality is that leaving may be the best thing for their mentally ill spouse. Most likely, if they have lived with a mentally ill spouse for some period of time, they have unintentionally enabled that spouse in his or her unhealthy mental behavior. As long as they stay in the relationship, they will continue to enable their partner. Only by leaving can they force a “rock bottom” experience that may be necessary to facilitate change.

Don’t Unfairly Use Your Ex-Spouse’s Mental Illness against Them

If there are minor children in the marriage, custody and visitation should be based on what will be in the children’s best interests. If your ex’s mental condition prevents them from effectively parenting, or poses a risk of harm or injury to your child, consideration of that mental condition is important. However, if they are fully capable of parenting, even though they have a mental condition, it will be potentially more harmful to your children to try to deny visitation.

Contact the New Jersey Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates

If you or someone you know as questions about mental illness and divorce, contact Lyons & Associates, contact us online or call 908-575-9777 to schedule a confidential consultation. Lyons & Associates, PC, serves the entire state of New Jersey including Somerville, Bridgewater, Somerset, Basking Ridge, Mendham and Morristown.

New Jersey Divorce Lawyers: Amended Alimony Statute

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Many people are aware that New Jersey’s alimony law has changed, but are not quite sure what it means.

On September 10, 2014, Governor Christie signed a bill into law that amended the alimony statute in New Jersey. The revised statute now in effect addresses several issues including but not limited to: (1) the length, duration and amount of an initial alimony award when a couple initially gets divorced; (2) the modification of alimony based on the paying spouse’s retirement; (3) the modification of alimony when a paying spouse’s income is reduced; (4) the modification of alimony when a self employed paying spouse’s income is reduced; (5) the termination or modification of alimony when a spouse receiving alimony is cohabitating.

One of the most substantive changes to the alimony statute provides that for any marriage less than 20 years in duration, the length of the alimony term cannot exceed the length of the marriage, except in exceptional circumstances. This change, to a certain extent, has taken away the Court’s power to make an initial award of permanent alimony where the parties were married for less than 20 years, except where exceptional circumstances are present. Under the prior alimony statute, a 15 year marriage had been considered a long term marriage and the Court was permitted to make an award of permanent alimony without the presence of exceptional circumstances.

Furthermore, the revised statute also provides that based upon a paying spouse’s retirement at “Full Retirement Age” there is a rebuttable presumption that the paying spouse’s alimony obligation should terminate. Under the revised statute, “Full Retirement Age” is defined as the age when the paying spouse is eligible to receive full retirement benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act. Currently, for paying spouses with a date of birth of 1960 or later, full retirement age is defined as age 67. 42 U.S.C. § 416. Under the prior statute, spouses paying alimony were entitled to seek the modification or termination of alimony at age 65. An additional significant change under the revised alimony statute sets for that when a spouse files a motion to terminate alimony based on retirement, the spouse receiving alimony is now obligated to submit a current case information statement to the Court and the paying spouse, thereby disclosing his or her current income, expenses, assets and liabilities. Prior to the enactment of the revised statute, the spouse receiving alimony was not required to file a current case information statement or disclose any financial information whatsoever until the retiring spouse proved a permanent and significant change in his or her financial circumstances. Now, spouses who seek to terminate or modify their alimony obligations based on actual or even prospective retirement will be able to obtain financial disclosure from the spouse receiving alimony by simply filing a motion with the Court. This could be an advantage where the spouse who seeks to terminate his or her alimony obligation based on prospective retirement may obtain the former spouse’s current financial information. The paying spouse could then seek to terminate or modify his or her alimony obligation based on financial information the other spouse was required to disclose to the court. For example, if the paying spouse’s motion to terminate or modify alimony based on retirement is denied, the paying spouse could file another motion with the court to terminate alimony based on a significant increase in the other spouse’s income or assets, which the paying spouse would not have been privy to under the prior alimony statute.

Also, where a spouse paying alimony seeks to terminate or reduce his or her alimony obligation based on an involuntary reduction of income, the revised statute provides clarity regarding the timeline for filing an application with the Court under such circumstances. Now, the statute provides that no motion shall be filed for the termination or modification of alimony based on the paying spouse’s loss of income until at least 90 days after the loss of income. Under the prior statute, there were no guidelines dictating how long a paying spouse had to wait before filing a motion with the court to terminate or modify his or her alimony obligation based on a reduction in the paying spouse’s income. Under the old statute, spouse’s whose income was involuntarily reduced, would often have to wait several months before filing an application with the court to modify or terminate alimony under such circumstances in fear that the court would likely have denied such an application filed only a few months after the loss of income, finding that the loss of income was only temporary and therefore not a permanent loss of income that would warrant the modification or termination of alimony at that time. Based on the revised statute, it appears that spouse’s who have suffered a significant reduction in income based on an involuntary loss of employment may be able to avoid depleting his or her own assets to satisfy an alimony obligation due to the 3 month time frame provided by the revised statute. However, this does not mean that the Court could or would not, after 90 days, automatically terminate or modify the paying spouse’s alimony obligation.

With respect to cohabitation, the revised statute makes it clear that even if the spouse receiving alimony does not share a common household with the person he or she is alleged to be cohabitating with, the Court cannot base its finding of an absence of cohabitation based solely on the absence of a shared residence. In other words, even if a spouse receiving alimony does not share a common household with the person with whom he or she is in an intimate personal relationship, the Court may still find cohabitation exists nonetheless and may not find the absence of cohabitation based solely on the fact that a common residence is not shared.

Contact the New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates Today

If you or someone you know has a question about the revised alimony statute and how it affects his or her existing alimony obligation or how same may affect an initial award of alimony in a prospective or pending divorce proceeding then call a skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates at 908- 575-9777 or contact us online. The attorneys at Lyons & Associates have substantial expertise in such matters as this office exclusively focuses its practice on family law and family law related issues.


Woodbridge Family Law Firm: In the Middle of a Divorce – Do I Have to File a Tax Return Jointly With My Spouse?

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Typically, before engaging in the divorce process, a married couple files tax returns “married filing jointly.” Other times, the married couple may, after seeking advice from an accountant, determine it is more beneficial for them to file “married filing separately.” The IRS has created a number of benefits to both filing statuses and it is important to seek the advice of a tax specialist to make an informed decision.

This also applies in a divorce situation. Both parties should seek the advice of a tax specialist to determine what filing status is best for them. However, often times in divorce, there is a shift in thinking from what is best for the couple to what is best for the individual. This can lead to one spouse deciding he or she no longer wants to file taxes jointly. For example, one spouse may not want to file a tax return jointly because of concerns about unreported income and/or increased tax liabilities resulting from one spouse’s income. This may cause one spouse, after the divorce complaint has been filed, to dig in their heels and refuse to sign a joint tax return. Are they required to?

Case law in the State of New Jersey is split on the issue of whether a court can instruct an individual in the family court on how to file their taxes. However, a typical case permitting such an order is the New Jersey decision in Bursztyn v. Bursztyn, 379 N.J. Super. 385 (App. Div. 2005):

We do not find persuasive the argument that individuals have a federal statutory right to choose whether to file joint or separate income tax returns which may not be abridged by state courts. In matrimonial actions, courts routinely issue orders which have significant effects on individuals’ rights. For example, courts may infringe upon a parent’s right to relocate from one state to another. Baures v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91, 770 A.2d 214 (2001). By contrast, limiting an individual’s statutory right to choose between filing a joint or individual federal income tax return seems a minor intrusion.

Id. at 136.

To err on the side of caution, given the ambiguity in the law, couples going through a divorce are typically advised to file in a manner that is in the best interests of the marital estate. In other words, file in a manner that will result in the least liability for the couple as a whole. If one spouse is concerned about liabilities that may result from the conduct or income of the other spouse, then typically the spouse around whose income/conduct there are concerns, should be required to sign a Tax Indemnification Agreement before the parties file jointly.

Alternatively, when a couple is going through a divorce and both parties know they would like to file their tax return jointly, they should then be mindful of the date that their Final Judgment of Divorce is entered. Although a Complaint for Divorce is filed, as long as the parties remain married through December 31, the parties are able to file a tax return as a married couple for that year. However, if a Judgment of Divorce is entered on or before December 31, then the couple is required to file tax returns separately for that year. It is possible and permitted for a divorcing couple to reach an agreement on all of their divorce issues before December 31st, but wait to have their divorce finalized until the new year so that they may file their tax returns jointly.

Contact the New Jersey Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates, P.C.

If you or someone you know is involved in a divorce or family law matter, contact the skilled attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C. 908-575-9777 for a consultation. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Kristyl M. Berckes, Esq.