Category: Matrimonial Law

Woodbridge Divorce Lawyers: Can I Make My Husband Move Out of the Home?

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Like many things within the law, the answer is “it depends.” If you or someone you know has a question about who gets to live in the house while a divorce is pending, call the skilled matrimonial attorneys at Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777.

In the typical divorce, courts generally will not force a spouse out of the marital home before a divorce is finalized. Either spouse may be permitted to move out voluntarily, but most times courts will not expel one spouse out of the home against his or her will until the divorce is complete.

However, there are two main exceptions that could cause a court to kick your spouse out before the divorce is done. One exception has to do with domestic violence. Under New Jersey’s Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, a person who is the victim of abuse can apply for a Restraining Order that permanently bars the offending spouse from the home.

Another main exception relates to certain behavior that could be seen as dangerous to children. So, for example, if a spouse is engaging in addictive or criminal behavior that jeopardizes your children’s safety, then a court also could eject your spouse from the home early on in your case.

Contact the New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates

Again, every case is different. So, if you have questions about whether you can force your spouse to leave the marital home, call Lyons & Associates for a consultation today at 908-575-9777. You can also fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Theresa A. Lyons

New Jersey Divorce Lawyers: Avoid These 5 Big Mistakes in Your Divorce

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These are not legal mistakes that your divorce attorney might make, but mistakes you could make if you go into the divorce process without first educating yourself. A good divorce lawyer will talk you through some of these issues, but the more you know before you even talk to a divorce attorney, the better prepared you will be.

Don’t overestimate what you will get from the divorce.
It rarely works out as easily as, “I get half and he gets half, and we share the kids.” If you think you and your ex can easily negotiate a simple divorce agreement—more power to you. However, conflicts arise during a divorce that are almost impossible to predict, and you will discover that your priorities change when you think about your future life as an unmarried person. Define and limit your non-negotiable issues, choose your battles, and approach everything with an attitude of compromise and realistic expectations.

Don’t predict your spouse will be easy to work with.
Even if your spouse is the one who wanted the divorce in the first place, don’t be surprised if he or she gets uncooperative—or even downright nasty—at some point in the process. Divorce is rough, and you will both feel vulnerable, sad, angry and jilted at some point. Even if your marriage was full of kindness and reciprocal respect, and if the divorce is the result of “growing apart,” do not be surprised if your spouse gets mean once you’re on opposite sides of the word “versus” in divorce documents. Expect the worst behavior, behave as well as you possibly can, and be pleasantly surprised if your spouse treats you well throughout the divorce.

Don’t expect fairness from the legal system.
“The judge will see what I mean.” Try to remove this sentence from your vocabulary during the divorce process. No matter how obviously right and fair you think your position is, a judge can always see the same issue from another perspective. In a way, that’s part of their job. You may not even be allowed to give the judge all the information you think he or she should consider when making a decision (about kids or property or spousal support) because the judge and the attorneys must follow procedural rules about the types of evidence that can and cannot be used.

Don’t use your heart to make divorce decisions. Use your head.
This is a common mistake that an experienced and empathetic attorney can help you avoid. Your emotions will run wild during the entire divorce process. Use every psychological tool—and trusted friend—at your disposal to make decisions based on what your brain tells you is logical and in the best long-term interests of you and your children. It may feel satisfying to get revenge against your ex now, but don’t do it at the expense of your own post-divorce future.

Use your Lawyer’s time efficiently.
Ask your lawyer how you can help, and do your best to limit your phone calls and emails asking for updates unless absolutely necessary. Remember, the more time your attorney spends talking to you on the phone, or listening to you vent about your ex, the less time he or she may spend actually managing the important details of your case. Channel your worry and anxiety into other activities during this difficult time. If you feel your lawyer is not adequately handling your matter, then by all means communication is critical. But it is equally important to understand that in the law, just as with everywhere else, that time is money. So, use your time and money wisely when it comes to your lawyer.

Contact Lyons & Associates to Talk With Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyers

At the Somerville, New Jersey, family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we use our legal experience to make the divorce process as pain-free as possible. We bring a high level of personal attention to every case we handle. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

16 Important Questions to Ask Before You Hire a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer

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If you are interviewing divorce lawyers, your impressions of the attorney’s personality are just as important as the answers to these questions. In some ways, selecting a divorce attorney is similar to selecting a general practitioner doctor for yourself or your child: the person’s qualifications are very important, but it’s equally important that you feel able to communicate freely and openly, and that you feel respected. These are some of the questions you should ask when interviewing a lawyer to determine your comfort level and how your relationship with the attorney will work:

  1. How much do you charge? Do you charge a different rate for courtroom time? If you charge a flat fee, exactly what work does that cover and what are some tasks that might cost me extra?
  2. In what kinds of divorce cases do you think mediation is appropriate? When is it not appropriate?
  3. Will you handle my case yourself? Who else will work on any parts of it?
  4. What do you know about my spouse’s lawyer?
  5. Do you have an office policy about returning phone calls and emails within a certain time period?
  6. How important are my children during this process? What can we do to protect them?
  7. What would a dissatisfied client say about you?
  8. What would a satisfied client say about you?
  9. Do you have references?
  10. Have you or another lawyer in your firm every gone to trial on a divorce or other family law case?
  11. Have you ever appealed a family law case?
  12. Will you send me copies of all documents and letters and court papers relating to my case?
  13. How many divorce cases have you handled? How many of those settled out of court?
  14. Do you know my spouse?
  15. What are your personal feelings and professional observations about spousal support? About joint custody versus sole custody?
  16. May I see an example of the bills you send to clients?

By exploring these issues with an attorney during your initial consultation, it will give you a much better understanding as to what you can expect from your attorney-client relationship.

Contact the Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates

At the Somerville, New Jersey, family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we will answer these questions and any others you have during your search for a divorce attorney. We bring a high level of personal attention to every case we handle. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

Somerville Family Law Firm: Can I Make My Ex Pay My Student Loan Debt in a New Jersey Divorce?

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When you’re feeling especially angry, perhaps spiteful, it can be a fulfilling pastime to mull over all the different ways you could use divorce to throw a monkey wrench into your former spouse’s future. Student loan debt is an awfully heavy burden for most people who carry it … wouldn’t it be lovely to transfer the burden from your shoulders to your (insert your favored adjective here) ex?

We are sorry to have to report that the answer, mostly, is no. Most frequently, student loan debt belongs to the person who borrowed the money. As with answers to many legal questions, there is a “but” …. In some specific situations, your ex might be on the hook for some or all of your student loans. In other situations, you may be able to maneuver so that he or she gets ordered to pay some of your debt.

  • Did you incur all the debt before marriage?
    The debts are yours to repay, except in some limited circumstances. If you consolidated the student loan debt with your ex, then the student loan company could go after your ex if you stop paying. If your ex signed other loans with you during the marriage, the student loan company might try to go after your ex if you default.
  • Did your ex co-sign any of your student loans?
    If so, he or she is on the hook if you stop paying.
  • Did the loans pay for education that benefitted the marriage?
    In other words, did the degree enable you to get a higher-paying job, thus increasing the marital income bracket? If so, a divorce court judge may rule that the debt is partly your ex’s responsibility.
  • Did the loans pay for living expenses while you got an education?
    Almost all divorce courts will rule that such debts belong in equal part to both spouses.

Contact Lyons & Associates for Answers to Questions About Assignment of Student Loan Debt in a New Jersey Divorce

Student loan debt is often the biggest financial burden at stake during a divorce. Deciding what to do with it, and how to negotiate, is a critically important question for your financial future. At the Somerville family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we will work with you to resolve your property division questions, including your student loan debt (or your ex’s student loan debt). We bring a high level of personal attention to every case we handle. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

New Jersey Family Law Firm: Social Media – DOs and DON’Ts When Going Through a Divorce or Custody Battle

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Everyone “likes” social media – the constant connections, the catching up with friends, the keeping up with trends – but when going through a divorce or when in the middle of a custody battle, social media can be a dual edged sword. At Lyons & Associates, we specialize in all things family law, and we find that in more and more cases, social media comes into play during divorces and custody battles.

Here are a just a few examples of social media postings that have been collected and used against people in court:

  • Postings about social activities during work hours when employment or job searches are in dispute.
  • Pictures or references to alcohol, drugs, or “partying” during parenting time when custody is an issue.
  • Dating advertisements or profiles where people set forth their income and it does not match what they state to their ex or the judge.
  • A woman posting her happiness to her friends about her new Prada shoes while her request for alimony was pending in court (she had told the judge that she was “barely making ends meet” and needed more money from her ex).

In each of the above scenarios, by the time the litigant realized his/her mistake, it was too late. So, with that said, here are some crucial dos and don’ts:
DO be careful who your “friends” are. Maybe you have “unfriended” your ex, but if someone your ex knows still has access to your postings, that person can easily print things out and forward them to your ex or your ex’s attorney.

  • DO pay attention to what your ex is posting on social media. You might be surprised as to what you find.
  • DO alert your attorney if you have made some poor social media judgments in the past so that your counsel can be prepared to defend you in case the issue comes up.
  • DON’T post anything on social media sites that you would not want a judge to see or that you would not want read in open court.
  • DON’T post embarrassing pictures or references to drugs, alcohol, or any other dangerous activity.
  • DON’T post anything that might go against what you have been telling a judge in other places. Remember those Prada shoes?

Contact the New Jersey Family Law Firm of Lyons & Associates

If you or someone you know has questions about the impact of social media on their divorce or custody battle, call one of the skilled lawyers at Lyons & Associates at 908-575-9777, or fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Theresa A. Lyons

Somerville Divorce Lawyers: How Do You Divide Frequent Flier Miles in a New Jersey Divorce?

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Any income or assets acquired during a New Jersey marriage are marital property and must be divided equitably (fairly) upon the couple’s divorce. Frequent flyer miles that one spouse accrues during the marriage are marital property, then, and must be split fairly between the spouses if they divorce, right?

Yes, in theory. However, frequent flyer miles (and loyalty currency, more generally) have characteristics that make them notoriously difficult to divide during a divorce. It is possible to find creative solutions, however, and the Somerville family law attorneys at Lyons & Associates will help you find a way to divide frequent flyer miles that works for your circumstances.

What is it about frequent flyer miles and other types of loyalty currency that makes them so tricky?

  • The cash value of frequent flyer miles is notoriously difficult to pin down, since the price of airline tickets and the number of loyalty miles required for purchase change often without warning.
  • In many loyalty programs, the customer does not actually own the miles according to the member agreement. The miles actually belong to the airline, hotel, etc., and the member only has the right to use them, not gift them to anyone (at least not without paying a fee).
  • The fee charged to transfer miles from one person to another is usually extremely high, and sometimes higher than paying cash for the plane ticket, hotel room, or other so-called perk.

With all these quirks, what are some successful – and unsuccessful – strategies for dividing frequent flyer miles in a divorce?

  • Negotiate a cash payment agreement from the spouse who “owns” the miles to the spouse who does not.
  • The spouse who “owns” the miles agrees to make them available for use to the other spouse after the divorce. This solution comes with a host of additional problems, as told by frequent flyers in the article “Death, Divorce and Miles,” published in Inside Flyer magazine.
  • The spouses mutually agree that the miles will only be used for the benefit of joint children.
  • The court might be convinced to issue a court order to the frequent flyer program, ordering it to split the miles between two accounts, so long as the spouses pay the required fee.

Contact Lyons & Associates for Answers to Questions About Division of Property in New Jersey Divorces

At the Somerville family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. We will work with you to resolve your property division questions, including unique issues like frequent flyer miles or other loyalty currency accounts. To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

New Jersey Family Law Firm: ‘Divorce From Bed and Board’ and Federal Health Care Reform

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Many divorcing couples find themselves in a pickle when it comes to deciding how to manage each spouse’s health insurance after the divorce. If you have both been insured via a health care plan offered by one of your employers, the non-employee spouse will no longer have access to that health insurance once the divorce is final, unless the non-employee spouse elects to pay out of pocket for COBRA.

Before passage and implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act (popularly known as “Obamacare” or “health care reform”), the prohibitive cost of private health insurance caused many New Jersey couples to think twice before divorcing. Spouses who chose to stay married in name only, for the sole purpose of continuing health care coverage, were not alone.

Another option for New Jersey couples to consider was called “divorce from bed and board.” This legal action is not a final dissolution of the marriage. Instead, it acts much like a legal separation does in other states. Because the spouses are still officially married, the non-employee spouse can maintain coverage via the other spouse’s employee-sponsored health insurance.

There are two current legal developments that may make “divorce from bed and board” a less-often-utilized solution to the problem of obtaining health insurance after a divorce.

  1. The Affordable Care Act (ACA, or “Obamacare”) promises to make private-payer health insurance more affordable and to provide access to Medicaid or tax credits for those families whose income is still too low to make revised health care costs affordable. Open enrollment for health insurance coverage begins October 1, 2013. Get more information at the federal government’s website, healthcare.gov.
  2. Pending legislation in New Jersey would remove access to continuing health care benefits for spouses of public employees who are “divorced from bed and board” of the public employee. The legislation, which was introduced in the Assembly in June 2013, would exclude from the definition of spouse “any spouse during the time that a judgment for divorce from bed and board shall remain in force and effect.”

These federal and state legal developments make it more important than ever to get careful, knowledgeable legal advice about how to manage your health insurance needs following a New Jersey divorce.

Contact Lyons & Associates for Answers to Questions About Health Care Coverage After a Divorce

At the Somerville family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment to discuss your health care needs and how to best strategize to protect your access to health insurance after a divorce, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

New Jersey Divorce Law – Annulments Versus Divorce

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A divorce and an annulment both end a marriage. The main difference between a divorce and an annulment is that an annulment legally erases the marriage, as if it never happened. A person may want get or an annulment for religious reasons or to completely erase an event that quickly became a terrible mistake.

In New Jersey, you must meet one of four requirements to get a legal annulment, which is formally called a judgment of nullity:

  • Bigamy: Civil unions and domestic partnerships count, as well as legal marriages
  • Incest
  • Incurable impotence, as long as you didn’t know about it before you got married and have not since agreed that it doesn’t matter to you
  • Lack of capacity, which means you were intoxicated, have a mental condition that prevents you from giving consent, or were under duress
  • Under 18, and you didn’t re-consent to the marriage upon reaching age 18
  • Fraud or misrepresentation: If you can prove that your spouse lied or “neglected to tell you the truth” about something central to your marital happiness, then you may qualify for an annulment. Commonly cited examples include a lie regarding ability to have children or failing to mention still being married to someone else.

Because a legal annulment in New Jersey erases the marriage entirely, the family law judge does not have the power to order a division of joint property. However, you can still get whatever property settlement you need by negotiating a basic civil contract, like you would with a business partner or roommate.

You can read the entire New Jersey marriage annulment law here: N.J. Rev. Stat. 2A:34-1.

Contact Us for Answers to Questions About Annulment in New Jersey

At the Somerville family law firm of Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a legal annulment compared to divorce, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.

My Spouse is Sexting – Could my Spouse’s Sexting Impact my Divorce or Custody of my Children?

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There has been much talk in the press about former United States Representative, Anthony Weiner. Everyone was interested during his original fall from grace from Congress in June 2011 when caught sexting, and that interest has peaked again now that a new round of sexting allegations has arisen, jeopardizing Anthony Weiner’s current bid for Mayor of New York.

But does sexting, or other types of lewd behavior, really matter in New Jersey divorce courts? What does the law truly have to say about such activities? And could such behaviors impact child custody?

In general, on the divorce front, New Jersey is classified as a “no fault” State. What that means is that, unless the marital fault is extremely egregious (like domestic violence that causes permanent injury), or unless the fault leads to an actual decrease in marital earnings or the worth of marital assets, the courts generally will not take into consideration a spouse’s poor or lewd behavior when it comes to financial issues. So, even if a spouse engages in sexting, or engages in other acts of lewd behavior, it is not likely to impact the divorce in any monetary way (i.e., alimony or the division of assets). There could be an exception, however, if a spouse uses a martial asset (like takes out a second mortgage or incurs large credit card debt) to support an affair. Or, another exception might occur if the lewd conduct caused the spouse to lose his or her job and ability to earn what he/she earned during the marriage. In those cases, a court might consider the marital fault, but not because of any moral judgment as to the spouse’s particular behavior, but simply because the behavior had a concrete monetary impact that hurt the married couple’s finances.

Custody and parenting time is a tougher question. While it is true that, when making custody determinations, New Jersey judges must consider “the fitness of the parents,” N.J.S.A. § 9:2-4c, it is equally true that “A parent shall not be deemed unfit unless the parent’s conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child.” Id. Thus, when looking at any parent’s behavior, whether that be sexting, watching porn, getting drunk at parties, etc., the key question is not whether the parent’s conduct is bad, but whether that conduct has “a substantial adverse impact on the child.” Thus, there could be situations where a parent engages in questionable behavior, but does so only during adult hours and never does so in front of the child. Under those circumstances, it is very likely that a lewd parent – even a sexter – could enjoy frequent and liberal parenting time with his/her child. There are things that can be done in order to try to protect your child from harm, but they are not always easy and not always straightforward. What it really boils down to is, not necessarily how bad the parent’s behavior is, but whether that behavior substantially impacts the child.

If you or someone you know has questions about sexting, other behaviors, and how they might impact divorce or child custody, call one of the skilled matrimonial attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C. at 908-575-9777, our fill out our online intake form.

Written by: Theresa A. Lyons, Esq.

New Jersey Alimony Laws May Change Dramatically in the Near Future

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Following the lead of Massachusetts, a move is underway to dramatically change New Jersey’s alimony laws. Currently, alimony may be temporary or permanent, and the divorce court judge has a lot of discretion in how alimony (usually called spousal maintenance) is calculated. The proposed new alimony statute would eliminate permanent alimony and introduce strict guidelines for calculating temporary alimony payments, similar to the child support calculator New Jersey (and most states) use to calculate child support.

If your divorce is finalized before any new alimony law takes effect, then your alimony calculation will be under the existing law. The Somerville family law attorneys of Lyons & Associates can explain how alimony works currently and whether you would benefit from waiting to divorce until a new spousal maintenance statute goes into effect.

Under current New Jersey law, one or more of five different types of spousal maintenance may be available to either spouse:

  • Temporary alimony: To help low-income spouses with living expenses while the divorce is in progress
  • Limited duration alimony: Intended to help with living expenses after the divorce is final, but for a limited time.
  • Permanent alimony: Rarely granted, always after a long marriage during which one spouse left the workforce to raise the children of the marriage or to help the spouse’s career or education, or where there is a big difference in the parties’ incomes.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: To help pay for necessary education or vocational training to re-enter the workforce and become self-supporting
  • Reimbursement alimony: To compensate one spouse paid for something on behalf of the other spouse and is entitled to be paid back.

Even if you meet one of these spousal maintenance situations, an alimony award is not automatic. The divorce court judge will also consider the other spouse’s financial ability to pay along with other factors like the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, each spouse’s parenting responsibilities, and each spouse’s contributions (both monetary and non-monetary) to the marriage.

Read an April 2013 news story about New Jersey alimony reform on the website of New Jersey public television station NJTV.

Contact Us for Answers to Questions About Alimony and Spousal Maintenance

At Lyons & Associates, we bring a high level of personalized service and attention to each of our clients, in every family law case we handle. To schedule an appointment to discuss divorce and spousal maintenance questions, contact us online or call our office at 908-575-9777.