Johnson & Johnson, Attorneys At Law

Florham Park Legal Blog

Pros and cons of arbitration in a divorce

The decision to end a marriage is seldom entered into lightly in New Jersey. When a couple decides to divorce, there are different options that can be exercised as to how divorce negotiations will proceed and to what extent the courts will be involved. Arbitration is one such option that reduces the role of the court and has an added benefit of taking place privately rather than in a public courtroom.

When a couple makes the decision to enter into arbitration, it is often to aid in the resolution of issues that they cannot agree on. The arbitrator listens to each side and can then make a ruling. If both parties agree to the ruling, the issue is considered to be resolved. Divorce negotiations can be completed with the arbitrator.

Estate planning a gift of the season

It's October and the holiday season will soon be here. It is often said, by people young and old in New Jersey, that they just have too much stuff. There has been a move of late to give to charitable contributions in lieu of gifts to loved ones. Another option would be to get the young adults in one's life started on a long term savings and retirement plan or other aspects of estate planning.

A $5,500 contribution can be made to a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA -- to one or the other or to a combination of the two. The total of the two accounts cannot exceed $5,500. Be sure to verify that the recipient's income falls within the guidelines. A single person earning $118,000 or less is eligible for the full contribution amount.

Estate planning should be reviewed in the event of remarriage

Divorce and remarriage in New Jersey are very common in this day and age. Complex family structures are often one result of this phenomenon. One result of all of this is more complex estate planning. When both partners have offspring from prior marriages and possibly children together from the new marriage, they may want to ensure that children are provided for fairly after their deaths.

Estate plans occasionally need to be updated and a new marriage would be one of those occasions. If one spouse wants to ensure that part of one's estate goes to the children of a previous marriage and not everything to the surviving spouse there are options. The simplest is that one spouse designates part of an estate to the children and part to the surviving spouse. Another option involves creating a trust for the surviving spouse that would provide a distribution to the surviving spouse for the duration of his or her life and the balance would then pass to the children.

Plan for your kid’s college tuition in your divorce settlement

In recent years, a New Jersey teen sued her divorced parents for tuition support payments and won. The case gained international news as it raised questions over whether parents —divorced or not — should be legally required to provide financial support for their children through college.

If you are separated from your spouse or anticipating a divorce, college may be far from your mind — especially if your children are young. However, as a college degree becomes increasingly standard for job entry and overall financial success, it’s an important topic to discuss with your ex.

Collaborative divorce: The middle method

With the increasing amount of divorcing marriages in the country, the states have incorporated more ways for couples to separate depending on the condition of their marriage and their properties. Litigation can be costly and leads to intense arguments in the courtroom, but it might be the best option for couples who cannot agree at all in the settlement. Mediation is known as a more peaceful option, but some divorcees are unsatisfied with how one person gets to determine everything.

So what happens if you and your spouse find yourselves in between? You want to settle the divorce peacefully, but there are still several assets you have disagreements on where a mediator might not be the best option. Thankfully, New Jersey established the Family Collaborative Law Act a couple of years ago, allowing couples to have a more peaceful option than litigation while still settling with some difficult areas of your marital assets.

Estate planning: The final gift to loved ones

Few things in life are guaranteed in New Jersey, but death and taxes are among them. According to one 2017 report, more than 50 percent of Americans have not established a will or a trust and many of those will die without establishing an estate plan that could leave their heirs with a hefty tax bill. Estate planning is vital to ensure that one's final wishes are successfully carried out. Many famous people have passed away without having a will or a trust. Among them are Jimi Hendrix, Prince and Aretha Franklin.

Aretha Franklin's estate has been valued at over $80 million and will be subject to estate tax. In addition, as she had no trust in place, the estate will be subject to probate and therefore the proceedings will be public. Had a trust been put in place, that may have been avoided.

Outdated beneficiary can have unintended consequences in divorce

The decision to divorce in New Jersey is seldom made lightly. Once the decision has been reached, there are a number of issues to be addressed. Not least among these is the division of assets. Among assets that are occasionally overlooked in divorce proceedings are items such as life insurance policies and 401(k)s. It's not that their existence is overlooked, but that the designated beneficiary status is, and in many cases, a spouse is designated as the primary beneficiary.

Failure to change the beneficiary can result in unintended consequences. If an ex-spouse is named as a primary beneficiary on a life insurance policy or retirement account, he or she may receive the funds, even if that was not the intent of the decedent. In some states, including New Jersey, a law now exists that replaces the contingent beneficiary as the primary upon dissolution of the marriage based on the belief that the deceased did not intend for the funds to go to an ex-spouse and that failure to change the information was an oversight.

Estate planning should be a continuing process

A person in New Jersey feels he or she has done a great job of planning for his or her future. Estate planning has been thought out and put in place and life is good. Time passes, things change and an estate plan may need attention to ensure it is still serving a person well.

There are certain aspects that need to be periodically reviewed to ensure that an estate plan continues to clearly represent a person's wishes. Not least among these are the personnel entrusted with carrying out various parts of a person's plan. People entrusted with acting on a person's behalf, also known as trustees, have the power to make final decisions on designated matters. Having the right person in such a position is important.

Establishing financial identity prior to divorce

Divorce brings with it many financial concerns and considerations in New Jersey. People considering divorce may want to establish some level of financial independence prior to a divorce. There are many options and issues to be considered.

One of the first things to do to obtain financial independence is to establish individual accounts in lieu of jointly held accounts. This will assist in establishing a credit rating but not necessarily how the accounts will be parsed in a divorce. New Jersey is an equitable division state. This means that assets and liabilities amassed in a marriage are divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, in a divorce settlement. For example, credit card debt, regardless of whether the account is individual or joint is considered marital debt in the eyes of the divorce court.

Visitation rights of New Jersey grandparents

Grandparents across New Jersey often experience the sad process of the divorce of a child and their spouse. Though the attendance of family events and the stress of custody now infiltrates your daily life, you prove most affected by not seeing the grandchildren you love so dearly.

In New Jersey, upon the decision of parental custody arrangements, grandparents may seek visitation time if their son or daughter does not receive sole or joint custody. The court recognizes that the relationship between a child and their grandparent may hold an unbreakable bond. Divorce should not unnecessarily terminate the connection between loved ones.

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Johnson & Johnson, Attorneys At Law

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Florham Park, NJ 07932

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