Articles Posted in Marriage

Gov. Chris Christie abandoned his appeal of a State Superior Court judge’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriages in New Jersey putting an end to a long-fought battle in the State – at least for now. (1)

The Governor’s decision to drop his appeal was announced just hours after the first same-sex couples exchanged vows to celebrate a State Supreme Court decision to uphold the lower court’s ruling, on a provisional basis, granting gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, effective 12:01 a.m. on October 21. The Court is expected to make a final ruling sometime next year.

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Although the State Supreme Court last week upheld a lower court decision to allow gay marriage, the issue has yet to be totally resolved. Still, gay couples throughout New Jersey are making arrangements to take advantage of this ruling as soon as possible. (1)

This past summer, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA), saying it violated equal liberties protected by the Fifth Amendment. In that decision, the Court ruled gay couples involved in state-sanctioned marriages would be granted the same federal rights and protections that traditionally married couples enjoy. While that decision did not say all states must recognize gay marriages, a New Jersey Superior Court judge this past September ruled that New Jersey’s ban on gay marriage went against this Supreme Court ruling and that such marriages would be allowed in the State effective October 21. (1)

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credit-cards.pngWhen we lose a spouse or parent, it is not uncommon for loved ones to be left to clear up his/her affairs and financial matters. It is natural to want to do this quickly while mourning, but our haste could lead to taking responsibility for matters for which we aren’t liable. For instance, when a loved one dies leaving behind credit card debt, are we responsible for its repayment? Generally speaking we are not, although there are exceptions. (1)

In community property states debts, like assets, accumulated during the marriage can be considered jointly owned. In that case, a surviving spouse possibly could be liable for credit card debt incurred by his or her deceased spouse. (1) New Jersey is not a community property state; it is a common law state. Therefore in this State, debt is the liability of the person who signed for and incurred it. (2)

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Any ideas that New Jersey would compete with Las Vegas for the spontaneous wedding trade were squashed last month when Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have ended the waiting period for obtaining a marriage license in the State. (1)

Supporters of the bill claimed the change could have helped to increase New Jersey’s tourist trade and its wedding industry by giving the State an advantage over neighboring states for those couples planning a destination wedding. (2) Both New York State and Delaware have a 24-hour waiting period for the issuance of marriage licenses; Pennsylvania has a three-day waiting period.

Like Pennsylvania, New Jersey also has a three-day or 72-hour waiting period for marriage license applications. (3) This waiting period was designed to allow couples time for sufficient consideration of what is supposed to be a lifelong commitment. In issuing his veto, Gov. Christie expressed concern that passage of the bill would only encourage “hasty weddings.” The Governor called marriage “among the most important and life-altering decisions” a couple will make and, as such, one that should be given careful consideration. (2)

In a landmark decision this week, the U.S. Supreme Court passed down a ruling that would give gay couples in state-sanctioned marriages the same federal rights and protection given to traditional married couples. This ruling overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1996, which, the Court said, violated equal liberties protected by the Fifth Amendment. (1)

According to the federal government’s General Accounting Office, more than 1,100 rights and responsibilities are given to married couples in the U.S. These include Social Security and veteran’s benefits; health matters, such as Medicaid, insurance, family leave and hospital visitation; retirement and pension savings; estate taxes and immigration issues. Because DOMA recognized marriage as a union “between a man and a woman,” these rights and benefits offered to couples in traditional marriages were denied to those in same-sex marriages.(2) The Supreme Court’s recent decision changes that.

This decision, however, did not say that same-sex marriages must be recognized in all states. Only 12 states and the District of Columbia currently recognize same-sex marriages.(1) Other states, including New Jersey, recognize civil unions or domestic partnerships. Generally, these relationships carry rights that are recognized only in the states where the couples reside.

engagement-ring.jpgThe engagement ring has long been a symbol of a couple’s intention to wed. But what happens to that ring if the engagement is broken?

It was recently reported that a New York City man filed a suit against his ex-fiancé, a Hillsborough, N.J., resident, claiming she refused to return the ring after their engagement had been called off. The man is seeking not only the return of the ring valued at $10,000, but punitive and compensatory damages and court costs as well. (1)

From a legal perspective, the question of who is entitled to possession of the ring when the engagement is called off is more complicated than one might assume. The ring could be considered a symbol of a contract. In that case, it must be determined what constitutes fulfillment of that contract – the agreement to marry or the actual marriage. Most states, however, consider the engagement ring a gift. How individual states classify the type of gift can help courts determine the ring’s rightful owner. (2)

1362457_roses_n_rings.jpgValentine’s Day focuses on love, and with love in the air, many couples begin to plan their next step – marriage. Today it is not unusual for couples to consider drafting prenuptial agreements before they tie the knot.

A common myth surrounding prenuptial agreements is that only the rich benefit from them. Not true. A prenuptial agreement can help any couple, regardless of their net worth. Prenuptial agreements can be helpful if you are significantly wealthier or significantly poorer than your spouse-to-be; if your future spouse has a lot of debt; if you own a business or are part owner; and/or if you plan to give up your career to be a stay-at-home parent.

However, for many people prenuptial agreements just aren’t romantic. After all, who wants to think about divorce when just starting out in a relationship? The fact is, though, the divorce rate in the U.S. still hovers around 50%, and even though New Jersey has the lowest divorce rate in the nation (1), chances of your marriage failing is still a possibility. The State’s divorce laws may offer a little financial protection, but some people prefer to take matters into their own hands.

A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Pictu...

A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Picture taken in Brazil, where 14-carat is the most common kind of gold used in jewelry. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The State Senate recently approved a bill that would change the way courts in New Jersey look at prenuptial agreements. Judges in divorce cases, under this bill, would be required to assess the conscionability of the prenup at the time the agreement was drawn up, in other words what is legally or ethically right, proper or fitting.(1) If, after reading the following, you need legal assistance with a prenuptial agreement, contact the family law attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm in Lebanon, N.J.

People enter into prenuptial agreements for a variety of reasons, the most obvious of which is to protect assets they are bringing into a marriage. (2) Prenuptial agreements, commonly referred to as prenups, can also help protect one spouse from the debts of the other; protect the inheritance rights of children from previous relationships; ensure that family property remains within the birth family; and also convey how you intend for your assets to be distributed upon your death. (3) (In terms of the latter, you should not neglect to execute other estate planning documents, such as a will, to ensure your wishes are honored.)

WASHINGTON – MARCH 16: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) listens during a news conference on gay marriage on Capitol Hill on March 16, 2011 in Washington, DC. Feinstein and sixteen other Democrats introduced a bill to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

There has been much talk in the news in recent months regarding the differences between “marriage” and “civil unions,” particularly in light of Gov. Chris Christie’s veto last month of a bill that would have made New Jersey the eighth state in the nation to recognize same-sex marriages. Those opposing that bill claim that civil unions grant gay and lesbian couples the same rights as marriage; proponents of the bill disagree. (1) If, after reading the following, you need a Hunterdon County lawyer to assist you with your rights under marriage or civil union laws, contact the family law attorneys at The Rotolo Law Firm in Lebanon, N.J.

New Jersey’s Civil Union Act was adopted in 2006 following the Supreme Court’s decision in Lewis v. Harris, in which the court ruled that New Jersey did not have to recognize same-sex marriages but had to grant same-sex couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. A committee appointed to watch the progress of the Act has found that the Act does not quite live up to its purpose. As a result, a suit has been filed alleging that New Jersey violates the Constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples by denying them equal protection of law. (1)

New Jersey service men and women no longer have to put off their wedding plans due to deployment to active duty thanks to new legislation signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie last week. The law allows for marriage by proxy for military personnel stationed overseas. (1) If after reading the following, you need a Hunterdon County lawyer that can assist you with a proxy marriage or other marriage issue, contact the family lawyers at The Rotolo Law Firm.

The new bill was a bipartisan effort sponsored by Republican Sen. Diane Allen and Democratic Assemblyman Herb Conaway. It gained full Legislature approval on January 9 and was signed into law on January 17. (2) As a result, New Jersey residents actively serving in our Armed Forces no longer have to put off the benefits of marriage merely because one of them is deployed for military action.

A marriage by proxy is one in which someone with a power of attorney stands in for the bride or groom who cannot be present for the wedding formalities. Proxy marriages are not new and, in fact, have been around for centuries — Napoleon married Marie Louise by proxy; a number of Japanese “picture brides” married their American husbands by proxy in the early 1900s; (3) and cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko married Ekaterina Dmitriev by proxy while he was serving on the International Space Station. (4)

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