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Dividing 401(k) and other retirement assets in divorce

New Jersey residents who are approaching or going through divorce are likely to have disagreements about financial matters. According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the top things divorcing couples fight about are alimony, business interests and retirement accounts. When it comes to dividing 401(k) assets, couples can sometimes make mistakes. Here are a few things to keep in mind when splitting up a 401(k).

If one spouse has a retirement plan through his or her place of work, the only way for the other spouse to claim part of the funds is via a qualified domestic relations order, also known as a QDRO. Typically, an attorney will put the QDRO together and submit it to the judge for approval. It is a separate legal document from the divorce decree, but its terms are based on the divorce decree. A QDRO is required to split the assets in a 401(k) or a traditional pension plan.

Thinking about the potential for change when getting divorced

A divorce causes many changes in a person’s life. But of course, change is not unique to divorce. Life is full of changes, and a person can experience many changes after they get divorced. Examples include job losses, pay cuts and health changes. Such changes sometimes have major financial implications.

Now, some divorce orders can later be adjusted in the face of future changes. For example, alimony and child support arrangements can be modified under certain circumstances. However, other orders are generally final and can’t be modified. Property division orders typically fall into this category.

Do I need an ignition interlock device if I don’t own a car?

New Jersey increased the severity of its DUI laws, which means more penalties for impaired drivers. One of the harshest penalties for a DUI is an ignition interlock device – a breathalyzer that measures the blood alcohol level of a driver before starting the engine.

Under New Jersey law, a first-time offender can receive a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock with a BAC was over .08 percent, which can be complicated if you do not currently own or operate a vehicle.

Do I really need to purchase title insurance for my home?

First-time homebuyers soon realize that purchasing a home is even more expensive than they expected. There are fees for home inspections, termite inspections, appraisals, surveys, administrative expenses and title insurance - just to name a few.

Finalizing a restraining order in New Jersey

If you have been involved in a domestic altercation or a situation of domestic violence and you or another person called the police, it is likely that you, as the allegedly abused person, were granted an immediate order of protection. If this was the case, you might be concerned about making sure that this order of protection is extended to protect you from abuse for the foreseeable future.

In the state of New Jersey in 2014, more than 26,000 temporary restraining orders were issued, and a strong percentage of these were upheld to be more permanent arrangements. If you would like to be protected by a restraining order in the state of New Jersey, it is important that you understand how the law works around this issue.

Growing marijuana in New Jersey is still a serious crime

State laws about marijuana have changed in New Jersey. Between the addition of a medical marijuana law in 2010 and the creation of a state patient registry in 2012, there's a lot of confusion about what is legal and what simply isn't. Perhaps further muddying the waters is that state laws about low-level possession seem to be lenient at first consideration.

Possession of up to 50 grams (just under two ounces) results in a disorderly person charge that carries up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. The same penalties apply for any amount of marijuana extracts or concentrates.

Why should you pay for a buyer's title policy on your new home?

There are a lot of additional expenses beyond the actual cost of your home when you purchase real estate. In fact, when you look at your settlement statement, the amount due is often thousands of dollars more than the purchase price of the property.

The reason for those extra costs stems from the various professional services rendered as part of the closing process. The person inspecting the property for defects has to get paid for that work, as does the appraiser verifying that the home value matches the mortgage amount.

Driving while intoxicated in New Jersey is a serious offense

Getting behind the wheel after more than a drink or two is against the law. New Jersey has clear laws in place that make it illegal to operate a motor vehicle (including a motorcycle or even a boat) when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 percent or higher. It's also illegal in cases where your BAC is below the legal limit but it's clear your ability to drive is impacted. Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a crime that carries very serious penalties.

Instead of choosing to drive, it's safer and smarter to ride with a sober friend or just call for a taxi. These days, you don't even need to make a call. You can open up an app, like Lyft or Uber, and order a ride from where you are to your home in a matter of seconds. Those who decide to drive could end up facing serious criminal penalties, even if they don't cause an accident or hurt themselves or someone else.

Can you protect your business from divorce?

When you are a business owner, divorce can prove absolutely devastating. Depending on the protections you set up to keep your business separate from your marital property, you may lose the business entirely in the property division portion of the divorce process.

Depending on where you are in the life of the business and the marriage, you may have many different protections available. In some cases, you may even have more options than you might expect. These may range from pre- and post-nuptial agreements to leveraging other assets to keep the business intact throughout the divorce.

A prenuptial agreement offers protection, not a backup plan

The term “prenuptial agreement” doesn’t get many people excited. In planning for a wedding, thinking about the “what if” is borderline taboo. But, like most of life’s more important decisions, a proactive approach can simplify matters later and protect important property.

In a New Jersey divorce, marital property is divided in a “fair and reasonable” way. This may or may not mean equal 50/50 value, depending on circumstances. Discussions during the divorce settlement will determine who gets what — which is often a contentious process.

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