Protecting family-owned business from divorce - photo of couple standing outside storefront of grocery businessFamily-owned or controlled businesses are an important segment of the American economy. They account for about 90% of all American businesses, from large retailers like Walmart to small mom-and-pop shops, and produce more than half of the country’s gross domestic product. These businesses face all the same risks as publicly-owned businesses do – growing competition, changing technology, increasing costs of supplies, and the like. On top of that they face one more risk that their publicly-owned counterparts do not – divorce.

What happens to a business that is owned by a couple facing divorce depends largely on the steps the couple took, if any, to protect the business before their marital troubles began. Often the family has the majority of its assets tied up in the business, so one spouse buying the other out is not always an option. A recent MarketWatch article, “How to protect your family business during a divorce,” discusses different options available to couples who want to protect the businesses they worked so hard to create.

photos of two pet dogs standing next to owner's legs, all wearing bright green rain bootsFor an animal lover, a pet is more than a possession – it’s a member of the family, and a beloved one at that. But what happens to that “family member” when the family unit dissolves through divorce?

Most courts don’t share the sentiment that pets are family but rather view pets as property. However, this “property” is not as easy to distribute as say a house or a car. When it comes to deciding the post-divorce fate of a pet, courts consider the people involved rather than the animal: Who paid for the pet? Who cares for the pet? If children are involved, should the animal stay with them? That’s about to change, however, for one state.

Alaska recently became the first state to amend its divorce statutes so that courts are now required to consider the well-being of the animal in divorce cases (read, “In a first, Alaska divorce courts will now treat pets like children”). The amendments will even allow judges to award joint custody of a pet, if that arrangement is in best interest of the animal, and to include pets when issuing protective orders in cases of domestic violence. Time will tell if more states will follow this lead.

Photo of "To Do" list written in black ink on white paper with green markerYoung New Jerseyans are waiting longer to walk down the aisle, get married and start families, according to the 2011-2015 American Community Survey. And that’s if they get married at all.

Data from the survey indicated that the median age of New Jerseyans getting married for the first time increased by about one year since the last survey was conducted and that the number of residents that have never married has increased by about 5%.  Read “The slow death of marriage in New Jersey” to learn about the factors contributing to this trend as well as the future financial implications it can have.

Property Distribution: Photo of gray house with white trim with double Adirondack chair on porchThe distribution of property in connection with a divorce is a complex legal issue. Even answers to seemingly simple questions like who should get a marital home that was purchased before the wedding may surprise you.

Courts consider a number of factors when determining the distribution of property, including whether or not the couple has a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, and if the state in which the couple lives is a community property or common law state.

New Jersey happens to be an equitable distribution, or common law, state. Even here, ownership documentation like deeds and registrations alone may not be enough to establish who is entitled to what property. Courts consider other mitigating factors in making their determination. In the case of a marital home, for example, courts will consider not only who initially purchased the home, but also whether or not marital funds were used to pay the mortgage or make improvement to the home. For more insight into how marital property is treated in divorce proceedings, read “Martial Home Purchased Before Marriage: How Is It Treated?

winter-coats-400-04545880d-224x300Now that winter has arrived and the temperatures are dropping, most parents want to make sure their children are bundled up against the cold. Be aware, however, that the same coats that keep children warm when outdoors in the winter months can inadvertently threaten their safety while in the car.

Bulky coats and jackets can produce a gap between children and their safety harnesses when the children are buckled in to their car seats. These gaps prevent the harnesses from doing their intended job, which is to keep children securely fastened in the event of an accident. So, what’s a parent to do? Read “NJ parents – This super-simple precaution can protect your child in the car” for some helpful tips.

forensic-accounting-400-06176410dA crucial part of the divorce process is dividing up the couple’s assets and debts in as equitable a manner as possible. Sometimes this distribution of assets is simple, while other times it is much more complicated, especially for couples who have complex financial portfolios that include such things as stock options and restricted stocks, deferred compensation, retirement and insurance plans, properties located in other states or countries, and exceptionally valuable tangible assets such as artwork, antiques or collectibles.

The settlement options you agree to during your divorce proceedings can have a long-term impact on your financial and tax situation. If your situation is complex, it may be prudent to seek the help of a financial specialist, such as a forensic accountant, before agreeing to terms. For more on how a forensic accountant may be able to help in your divorce negotiations, read the New Jersey Business Magazine’s article, “Forensic Accounting During Divorce Proceedings.”

gifted-child-400-07411176dFor many children, extra-curricular activities are a trial-and-error means of discovering their interests and talents. New Jersey’s guidelines for child support recognize this and generally take into account the costs associated with such activities in the basic child support payments. What happens, however, when a child is gifted in a particular area, requiring more extensive involvement to develop his or her special skills?

A New Jersey judge ruled recently that a parent could be ordered to pay additional child support to help cover the costs of his or her gifted child’s endeavors to improve the child’s talents. To learn more read the nj.com story regarding “Divorced parents of gifted children …

divorce-attorney-400-07974910d-(1)
Victor Rotolo and the attorneys at the Victor Rotolo Law Firm have been offering legal counsel on all matters related to divorce — both simple and complex cases — since 1992.

The internet may have made it easier to obtain a divorce without the help of an attorney, but would you want to? Do-it-yourself divorces are legal; however, to be successful couples must be:

  • in complete agreement regarding all terms of their divorce settlement;

Halloween-dangers-400-08199921dIt’s that time of year again. Today while children everywhere will run excitedly door-to-door in search of treats, medical professionals will be busy manning phones for agencies like the New Jersey Poison Center 24-Hour Help Line and fielding calls from frantic parents. Most parents know by now to check their children’s Halloween bounty for the possibility of tainted candies, but the poison center warns us that there are other dangers far more common than tampered treats to watch for.

The poison center reminds parents to look for unexpected dangers this Halloween. Items like broken glow sticks, button batteries used in flashlights, cheap Halloween makeup, and food allergens can threaten the safety of children and pets alike. For more information and advice on what to do for your child in the event of an emergency, read “NJ Poison Center warns of Halloween dangers in unexpected places.”

spusal-benefits-400-04352086dIf you are divorced, nearing retirement age and have not yet remarried, you may be entitled to receive spousal Social Security benefits based on your ex’s work record, provided you meet certain qualifying criteria.

Your eligibility for spousal benefits is not dependent on your ex’s current marital status, the number of divorces he or she has had, or even if your ex is alive or deceased. But the rules for determining your eligibility can be complex. For starters, you must be at least 62 years of age (60 if your ex is deceased), have been married to your ex for at least 10 years, and not currently be married. For other conditions that would apply to your situation, visit the Social Security Administration’s website and read “Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced.”