Lyons – Associates Your Lighthouse in the Storm 

Call 908-575-9777 to speak with an experienced lawyer at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our legal team has an impeccable reputation throughout New Jersey and beyond.

New Jersey Megan’s Law Lawyers

Sex Offenses, Megan’s Law, Registration, Community Notification, and Supervision for Life

Nothing is more life-altering than a sex offense conviction. The charges must be vigorously contested, or a conviction may result in consequences that will last one’s lifetime. A conviction of a sex offense resulting in the application of Megan’s Law means that one will have to register for life and will be evaluated to determine one’s risk the community. The establishment of a “tier” notification level may result in the notification of schools, childcare centers, and even one’s neighbors of the conviction and classification.

A conviction may result in notifications and parole supervision for life. The imposition of Megan’s Law will have severe consequences that may restrict one’s ability to secure employment, may restrict where one can live, may interfere with one’s family, interfere with their ability to make friends, and may even interfere with raising one’s own children, even if their children were born years after a sentence has been served.

Lyons & Associates, P.C. will provide the most vigorous defense at the earliest possible stages of investigation, and will fight so that a conviction does not occur. If a conviction is inevitable, we will do everything possible to mitigate jail, Tier Level designation, and conditions of supervision.

If you or someone you know has a conviction for a sexual offense and is subject to registration, community notification, and/or community or parole supervision and over 15 years has passed since the conviction or release from prison, they may be eligible to seek relief from registration, community notification, and supervision for life by filing motion in the New Jersey Superior Court to have the Megan’s Law conditions vacated. Call Lyons & Associates, P.C. to see if you, a friend, or family member may be eligible to file for relief from the conditions imposed by Megan’s Law.

New Jersey Lawyers

Experienced Attorneys

Our law firm is led by Terry Lyons, an attorney who started her career as a clerk for the New Jersey Supreme Court, New Jersey’s highest state court. She is very familiar with New Jersey family and divorce laws, as well as legal procedure, rules of the court and the legal process. Because Ms. Lyons understands the value of a judicial clerkship with the New Jersey Supreme Court, the attorneys she has selected to work at the law firm have all clerked within the courts. In addition, our collaborative approach gives you the benefit of our whole law firm’s experience and knowledge, even though Ms. Lyons personally oversees every legal matter.

Master’s Degree and Background in Social Work

Attorney Terry Lyons also has a background and Master’s Degree in Social Work, which allows her to understand your needs on all levels in addition to being able to aggressively represent you in court or settlement negotiations. Ms. Lyons’ degree and background have uniquely prepared her for cases involving the Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) abuse or neglect, including victim’s rights claims and divorce litigation. All lawyers within the firm have compassion and understanding consistent with social work principles.

Stellar Reputation Among Judges, Lawyers and Clients

Lyons & Associates enjoys an excellent reputation in the community. We are well-respected by judges and our peers. In fact, many attorneys retain us to handle their family law matters, and many lawyers refer their clients to us for divorce and family law issues, as well as other matters. We have even had lawyers and judges refer cases to us in which the issues are complex, involving multiple jurisdictions, or cases that pose novel issues of law or fact.

Recognized For Our Achievements

Being voted as one of the top places to work in New Jersey by the Best Companies Group is a recognition that gives us great pride at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We strive toward excellence by providing a supportive, professional environment for our staff and clients. Our positive work environment has been affirmed by the courts, peers, clients, and the media.
Most notably, some members of our legal team are certified matrimonial attorneys from the New Jersey Supreme Court and have been selected to the Top 25 Leading Women Entrepreneurs & Intrapreneurs, Super Lawyers, Rising Stars, and American Institute of Family Law Attorney’s list of the 10 Best Female Attorneys in New Jersey for client satisfaction.

Our Network of Experts and Professionals

One of the benefits of retaining our law firm is the access you will have to our vast network of experts and professionals to help bring your case to a fruitful conclusion. We have spent years cultivating relationships with individuals who are recognized as the top experts and professionals in their field, including private investigators, forensic accountants, financial planners, child psychologists, medical experts, employability experts and mental health professionals.


  • Adoption
  • Administrative Law
  • Appeals
  • Business Formation and Litigation
  • Child Custody and Child Support Issues
  • Criminal Law
  • Divorce
  • Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Matters
  • Elder Law
  • Equitable Distribution
  • Estate and Wealth Planning
  • Family Law and Formation
  • Gay, Lesbian, and Same Sex Couples Litigation
  • Grandparent Visitation Rights
  • Guardianship

New Jersey Administrative Law

Many people are unaware that there is an entirely separate dispute resolution system established by the New Jersey State legislature under the auspices of the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law (OAL). While the OAL is part of the Executive Branch, it has jurisdiction to hear disputes arising from numerous state agencies and state regulatory matters under the New Jersey Administrative Code.

The OAL itself is an independent state agency. The system provides a dispute resolution system that is litigated within the OAL and determined by full-time Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) who are appointed by the Governor. The New Jersey Administrative Code establishes the procedures to create a neutral forum where disputes may be resolved by the parties. N.J.A.C. 1:1-1.

When actions are taken by an agency that result in disputed claims, if the regulations provide, a hearing request may be sent to the agency, the matter is determined to qualify as a contested case, and the matter may be transferred to the OAL for docketing and assignment to an ALJ for resolution.

While it is an administrative hearing presided over by an ALJ, the rules of evidence are relaxed, and the system is slightly more informal than proceedings before Superior Court Judges. Similar to the civil court system, discovery is exchanged (N.J.A.C. 1:1-10.1 through -10.6), subpoenas may be issued to compel the production of information, (N.J.A.C. 1:1-11 through -11.5), and legal or discovery disputes may be resolved by way of motion practice. (N.J.A.C. 1:1-12.1 through -12.7).

Contested cases are conducted as a bench hearing, meaning without a jury. The ALJ sits as a finder of both the facts and the law. At the conclusion of a hearing, the ALJ makes factual findings and decides that matter. The parties may then file exceptions to the ALJ’s decision (N.J.A.C. 1:1-18.4). The matter is then forwarded to the head of the state agency where the ALJ’s decision may be affirmed, reversed, or modified by the agency head.

The final decision of the agency may be appealed to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. If the agency does not issue a determination on the ALJ’s initial decision within 45 days, the ALJ’s decision may then be appealed directly to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court. In special education matters, the ALJ’s decision is the final decision from which an appeal may be taken (N.J.A.C. 1:1-18.6).

The types of cases typically heard by the OAL include but are not limited to:

  • Appeals from civil service matters, discipline including suspensions, removals, removal from eligibility lists, etc.
  • Appeals from pension forfeitures.
  • Appeals from actions on professional licensing.
  • Actions by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, including prevailing wage cases and some actions relating to public contracting.
  • Special education matters.

The OAL has jurisdiction over a wide variety of other kinds of administrative matters. Cases that are not heard by the OAL include tax appeals, parole matters, Workers’ Compensation, and unemployment compensation cases.

New Jersey Alimony and Spousal Support

When a couple divorces, there are many changes that each spouse must adjust to, especially losing the benefits of a dual-income household. For countless couples, as the marriage comes to an end, so does the lifestyle they once enjoyed. In many cases, the marital breadwinner pays alimony to the spouse whose income and earning potential is below the standard of living the couple shared during the marriage.

New Jersey laws on alimony have gone through significant changes over the past few years. Former Governor Chris Christie passed legislation in September 2014 that replaced antiquated laws concerning spousal support. Most notably, a rule was enacted ending lifetime alimony. Provisions were also made for ending alimony if an ex-spouse was cohabitating with another partner or allowing payments to end when the payer reached the full retirement age of 67.

The new laws also take into consideration that women take up almost 50 percent of the American workforce, with one-third of them earning the primary income in the family. Armed with this knowledge, our New Jersey divorce lawyers help clients understand the rules that apply to their divorce, alimony, or spousal support claim.

Types of Alimony and Spousal Support

There are several different types of alimony and spousal support that can be awarded based on the couple’s earning capacity and income. The court has latitude when ordering alimony or spousal support as the state of New Jersey has not created a calculator or formula.

Pendente Lite Support: This type of spousal support is meant to temporarily provide financial assistance while the divorce process takes place. Clients may request this type of support or provide it as part of the divorce proceeding to protect from any undue financial hardship. Unlike alimony payments, this type of support is not considered taxable income.

This level of support is often used to provide good faith effort to support the spouse losing the income. We can also move to discontinue this type of support if a lower amount of alimony is due after the divorce is finalized. In short, we ensure that alimony is handled properly because clients could lose money or be taken back to court.

Limited Duration Alimony: This type of alimony is most common in marriages that have lasted less than 20 years. New Jersey’s updated alimony laws dictate that this type of support cannot last longer than the marriage. The alimony settlement can also be adjusted if the financial circumstances of the payer have changed.

The updated laws allow changes to be made as soon as 90 days following unemployment. We have an understanding of how flexible the courts can be, and we will help clients understand how to make these changes. Clients may also request an amendment to the alimony order if an ex-spouse has since remarried, and we can petition to terminate payments if a client has reached the full retirement age of 67.

This type of alimony allows us to make quick changes if a client must alter the agreement. Likewise, it can be frustrating if a client receives too little alimony. We work with the courts to move quickly, obtain the support needed, and help reach an amicable resolution when alimony must change.

Open Durational Alimony: The updated alimony laws in New Jersey put an end to permanent alimony that required a spouse in a long-lasting marriage to pay support to their ex-spouse until death. Now, this type of alimony can be revisited, modified, or ended when the payer reaches retirement age.

The payments can also be modified if the financial situation of the payer changes, specifically in cases of unemployment and disability. Clients may also petition to terminate alimony payments if an ex-spouse has remarried. We know that life can change at any time, and we will ensure clients file the appropriate paperwork. Because alimony is calculated using a range of factors, we will ensure that all factors are revisited.

An ex-spouse may not confirm they remarried in the hopes of double dipping; however, these things are a matter of public record. We can research their marriage license and show that they should no longer receive alimony or spousal support. If a client believes their permanent alimony should not be discontinued, we will show the court that they deserve to be paid in perpetuity. This is an important distinction because permanent alimony settlements reached before the law changed may not need to be altered.

Rehabilitative Alimony: Alimony that is awarded in this category is meant to provide temporary financial support to a spouse that needs to pursue educational or vocational training to increase their earning potential. The goal of rehabilitative alimony is to allow the lower income spouse the opportunity to become financially independent. Even if the spouse remarries during this period, the support may continue because their educational or vocational pursuits have not ended.

If a client believes their ex-spouse is not pursuing the educational or vocational goals that they used in their petition to obtain alimony during the divorce, we will petition to have those payments terminated. If an ex-spouse has reached their educational or vocational goals, a client can discontinue or alter the alimony payments to ensure clients are only paying when necessary. In extreme cases, an ex-spouse may continue to change their mind or alter their educational goals to receive alimony. We will petition to stop alimony payments in these cases.

Reimbursement Alimony: Couples often rely on one spouse to work while the other pursues education or training that will increase their earning potential. In the case of divorce, reimbursement alimony can be awarded to the spouse that provided financial support to their marital partner while they focused on education or training. Payments continue even if the spouse receiving the alimony remarried because the primary goal is repayment of debt. The judge determines how much a client should repay.

Our lawyers will help clients choose the form of alimony they believe is appropriate. Clients may have come to an amicable agreement with an ex-spouse, or they may want to fight their alimony petition because they believe they are being unfair. We have been on both sides of this issue, and we understand how to come to a resolution quickly.

Factors to Consider When Awarding Alimony

In a divorce proceeding, a judge will hear testimony from both spouses then consider factors before settling on an alimony payment. We must also consider the following factors before petitioning for alimony or arguing against what a client believes to be an exorbitant or unfair alimony order:

  • Age, as well as physical and emotional health of both spouses.
  • Actual need and ability to pay.
  • Cost and time allotment for education and training for a dependent spouse.
  • Earning potential, education, and income of each party.
  • Length of absence from the workforce.
  • Length of the marriage.
  • Monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage.
  • Equitable distribution.
  • Standard of living during the marriage.
  • Tax burden for both spouses.
  • Parental responsibilities for childcare.

These factors help the judge understand each situation. Married couples, however, often forget that people outside their marriage cannot understand the dynamics of the relationship. Only the ex-spouses have a clear understanding of who went to school and work and who looked after the children. The standard of living is also difficult to judge based solely on income, and the lifestyle that the children enjoy may be part of the plea for support.

The judge can order any sort of alimony they see fit, but we cannot argue for or against that judgment unless the client tells us everything we need to know. We will not pursue alimony or an adjustment in alimony payments until we have all the facts. We need to know:

  • If each spouse had any specific arrangements that were unique to the marriage.
  • If each spouse entered into any verbal agreements that concerned a potential divorce.
  • If each spouse violated any verbal agreements made during the marriage.
  • If each spouse mentioned certain factors in the marriage that would change alimony payments or the decision to grant alimony.

Explaining all sides of the story can help us build a case that allows our clients to pay or receive an appropriate amount of alimony or spousal support. We also work with clients who believe they should have received alimony when it was not awarded during their original divorce proceeding.

When to Consult a Divorce Lawyer

Temporary and long-term alimony can have a significant impact on the lifestyles and futures of both marital partners in the event of a divorce. It is imperative that both spouses consult an experienced divorce lawyer to protect their assets and provide a settlement that is fair. We will investigate each case thoroughly and question the dynamics that led to the divorce. We need to understand why clients believe they deserve alimony or why they should not pay too much. This is not a situation that clients should handle on their own.

We can also help clients create an agreement for temporary spousal support that will aid the ex-spouse as they move on with their life. Clients may not need to pay alimony after the divorce is finalized. Clients should also prepare for any impending life changes that will alter the alimony or spousal support payments.

Do not simply stop making payments because time is up. We will draft the documents necessary to help clients terminate or change payments based on unemployment, retirement, a move, remarriage, or other factors. Our experienced legal team knows how to help divorcing spouses reach alimony settlements that ensure their future income and earning potential are secure. We are committed to helping our clients fully understand the benefits and consequences of their alimony arrangements.

New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyers

The criminal justice system in the state of New Jersey can be a lonely and confusing place. If you are facing criminal charges, you want to ensure that you have skilled legal representation from a lawyer with experience in criminal justice matters. They will be able to detect flaws in a prosecutor’s case that could lead to a reduced sentence and even an acquittal.

Hiring an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible will allow them to represent you and be your advocate when you are dealing with both the police and the prosecutor. Our legal team knows the New Jersey court system and will protect you from any legal traps you may encounter and help you achieve the best outcome possible based on the available evidence.

Criminal Law Practice Areas

Our attorneys at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help you with a variety of criminal matters. If you are facing charges for any of the following offenses, our team will work with you to help you get the most favorable result possible:

  • White-collar crimes: Although these crimes do not involve any violent acts against people, they can certainly do their share of damage to others. White collar crimes may involve fraud, computer crimes, stealing money from businesses or other individuals. The more a person is accused of stealing, the greater the loss, the worse their potential prison sentence and fines can be. You will need a lawyer who is on your side who can evaluate the prosecutor’s case, investigate, and identify all defenses and prepare the best possible defense to defeat the charge or mitigate the sentence exposure.
  • Insurance fraud and health care fraud investigations and prosecutions: Insurance carriers can be quite aggressive in their audits of health care providers, and this area is highly regulated, so regulatory compliance with the New Jersey Administrative Code and state statutes is critical to prevent problems during an audit.
  • Drug charges: These can range from minor offenses to serious crimes. For certain charges, you can find yourself facing significant prison time and even losing your driver’s license. The type of drug of which you are in possession, the quantity found in your possession, whether there is an allegation of distribution, and your intent all play a factor in the charges that you could be facing.
  • Juvenile crimes: Although the criminal justice system for minors is different than that for adults, the consequences can also be severe. If your child is charged with a serious crime and they are under 15 years old, they will not face a jury but rather a judge in family court. We can help your child navigate through their legal problem. If the charge is serious enough, a prosecutor could make an application to have our child charged as an adult.
  • Sex crimes: Being charged with a sex crime in New Jersey can be a serious matter. If convicted, you could find yourself having to register on Megan’s Law and reporting and even supervision could potentially follow you for the rest of your life. The nature and degree of sex crime that you are found guilty of, or plead guilty to, plays a significant impact on whether you must register as a sex offender and whether you will be placed on parole supervision for life. We will fight vigorously to defeat the charges or work to reduce your charges to limit jail exposure and limit the chances of Megan’s Law following you around for the rest of your life.
  • Relief and removal from Megan’s Law and parole supervision for life: Our law provides a second chance for persons who have been convicted of a sex crime and have reporting requirements and/or parole supervision for life. If you are on Megan’s Law, you should consult with an attorney to determine if you qualify for relief from Megan’s Law.
  • Parole planning, appeals, revocations and modification of conditions of parole: If you have a family member or friend coming up for parole, you should consult with an experienced parole attorney four to six months before the parole eligibility date. There is no guarantee that an inmate will be released at the time of eligibility. It is critical to have an attorney prepare a proper parole plan and create a compelling record to maximize the inmate’s chances of being released at the time of the parole hearing(s).
  • Municipal court offenses: This is where disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses are heard along with motor vehicle offenses. Other common “minor” offenses may include harassment, disorderly conduct, simple assault, bad checks, and thefts under $200.00. While the court system may call such charges “minor”, they are not minor to you, and we treat the defense of all criminal matters as serious. Driving while intoxicated (DWI, DUI) is one of the most serious motor offenses that a person can be charged with, and DWI’s can never be expunged. All municipal court charges should be considered serious, and you should consult with an attorney prior to appearing in court.
  • Expungements: The state believes in giving individuals convicted of certain criminal offenses a second chance. It understands how difficult it can be to find a job, secure a loan, or engage in other activities with a criminal record. That is why the state offers the opportunity to expunge or eliminate certain criminal convictions from your record. We can assist you with that process and let you know if you qualify for an expungement.

Our lawyers have experience with a variety of criminal matters, and we want to use that experience to help you with your situation. No matter the size of the case or the severity of the charge, we will help you get through it and vigorously represent you so that we can help secure the best outcome possible.

What Are the Consequences of a Criminal Conviction in New Jersey?

Facing a criminal conviction is serious business in New Jersey. Although the obvious consequences can land you in jail or face a hefty fine or both, there are other long-lasting, and in certain cases permanent, consequences for having a criminal conviction on your record. Those consequences include the following:

  • Loss of rights: If you are convicted of a crime, you will be barred from having a Firearms ID Card and will not be permitted to be in possession of a gun. Possession of a firearm after the conviction of a crime or the imposition of a final restraining order gives rise to additional serious charges. Even being accused of domestic violence, it is likely you will have your Firearms ID card and firearms seized, and you may lose your right to own or possess a gun. Even if a gun was not involved in the crime for which you were convicted, you could still lose this constitutional right. A conviction for a crime will bar you from serving on a jury. You could also lose your right to vote. Although New Jersey does not take your voting rights away permanently, you will be prohibited from voting while you are in jail, on probation, or on parole.
  • Loss of child custody: If you have children, your time in prison may not be your only time away from them. You could lose custody of them if you are convicted of a crime or face accusations of domestic abuse. You may encounter a divorce or child custody battle years later, and your spouse can use your conviction as an argument for why you should not have custody of your children.
  • Inability to find a job or buy a house: Having a criminal conviction on your record can close doors for you in the future. Certain employers will be reluctant to hire a person with a criminal background, and potential employers are allowed to ask about and check your background. In addition, a criminal conviction will label you as a high-risk candidate when it comes to securing a loan to purchase a home. With that designation, it may prove difficult for a bank to lend you money.
  • Travel restrictions: While on probation or on parole, your ability to travel outside of the state might be limited. That means if you have any family functions or friends you were planning to visit, you will not be able to do so in the short term. A conviction may preclude you from traveling to other countries.
  • Professional license loss or suspension: If you hold a professional license that you maintain for your current job or your career, that license could be in jeopardy after a criminal conviction. Depending on the severity of your conviction, you could face a reprimand, license suspension, license revocation, or disbarment.
  • Immigration consequences: If you were not born in the United States or are not a naturalized American citizen, you may be put into deportation proceedings. If you leave the United States, you may be denied re-entry.

Given these ramifications, it is essential that you speak with a criminal lawyer who can fight on your behalf to defeat the criminal prosecution or to reduce the charges you face.

Why Should I Hire a Lawyer for My Case?

A defendant who represents themselves or is pro se will not have the experience or the knowledge to effectively manage a criminal case in New Jersey. That lack of experience or knowledge might mean a person could face greater penalties than they would have with a lawyer on their side.

A criminal lawyer knows the system and the legal process. A lawyer who has worked in a particular area may also know the prosecutor and the judge. These insights could be invaluable to you if you are seeking a plea deal. An attorney will also know how to approach the prosecutor and the judge so that they look as favorably on your case as possible.

In addition, a lawyer receives years of education and training to study the law. They know what to look for in a criminal case and where to find the flaws or the areas where they might be able to take advantage. The burden of proof is on the prosecution, and an experienced lawyer can find any defects or weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case that could turn the entire trial in your favor.

What Are the Levels of Criminal Charges in New Jersey?

New Jersey has its own method of classifying criminal charges that differs from the way other states break it down. Unlike many other jurisdictions and unlike what you typically see on television, New Jersey does not have “felonies” and “misdemeanors.”  New Jersey structures criminal charges as either “disorderly persons offenses” or “indictable offenses”, i.e., “crimes.” Within each of these categories are structured ranges of punishment for jail exposure, fines, and penalties.

Disorderly persons offenses are broken down into two levels: disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. The word “disorderly” in this instance is used to describe a level of offense and punishment. Not all disorderly persons offenses require you to be disorderly in your conduct as the term is commonly understood. Such charges are heard in municipal court. You do not get a jury trial in municipal court for disorderly persons offenses, petty disorderly offenses, or motor vehicle offenses.

Indictable offenses, i.e. crimes, are charges that are heard in New Jersey Superior Court. If charged with an indictable crime and you have a right to have the charges heard, in the first instance, by a grand jury, and if “indicted,” you have the right to a jury trial.

It is important when you are facing criminal charges you know the specific level of disorderly persons offense and/or the degree of the crime for which you are being accused.

Many charges including theft, bad checks, and assaults may be either disorderly persons offenses or indictable crimes, depending on the severity of the conduct, the severity of the injury, or amount of money that was taken.

Municipal courts hear motor vehicle summonses and disorderly persons offenses.

There are two levels of Disorderly Persons Offenses:

  • Petty disorderly persons offenses: This is the lowest level of criminal charge. There are numerous petty disorderly persons offenses, which may include harassment, disorderly conduct, obstructing public passage, failure to obey a reasonable request to move, disrupting meetings, smoking in public place that prohibits smoking, sale of cigarettes to persons under 21 years old, possessing alcohol on school property without permission, and numerous other offenses that are considered “minor” criminal offenses that do not entitle you to a jury trial.

Petty disorderly persons exposure: Up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

  • Disorderly persons offenses: There are numerous disorderly persons offenses, which include simple assault, theft under $200, shoplifting under $200 or bad check under $200, harassment, disorderly conduct, maintaining a nuisance, sale of cigarettes to persons under 21 years old, possessing alcohol on school property without permission, and numerous other offenses that are considered “minor” criminal offenses that do not entitle you to a jury trial.

Disorderly persons exposure: Up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Indictable Crimes Are Heard in New Jersey Superior Court and Have Designated Levels of Seriousness and Penalties

The level of offense or crime play a defining role in the types of sentences, jail, fines, and penalties you could be facing. Typically, but not always, prosecutors seek to secure a conviction in the highest level of a crime. A defense lawyer’s job is to prevent the filing of a charge to prevent a conviction, and if a conviction is to occur, to get the lowest and most favorable sentence for a client that is possible.

There are four levels of crimes:

  • Fourth-degree crimes: Up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.
  • Third-degree crimes: A three- to five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $15,000.00
  • Second-degree crimes: A five- to 10-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $150,000.00.
  • First-degree crimes: A 10- to 20-year prison sentence, with the potential for a 25-year, 30-year, or life sentence in some cases, and a fine of up to $200,000.00.

Depending on the specific statute charged, the fine and penalty exposures may exceed the general sentencing provisions.

When Should I Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

The earlier you can hire a lawyer, the better it will be for you and your case. As soon as you believe that the police suspect you of committing a crime, you should reach out to a lawyer. Although it might seem as if there is nothing a lawyer can do, there is plenty that they can do. Just because you are suspected does not mean you will be arrested, just because you are arrested does not mean you will be formally charged, and just because you are charged does not mean you will be convicted.

A lawyer should represent you with the police as they investigate a crime. There might be certain instances where the police may be convinced not to file a charge. If a lawyer is involved and a charge is inevitable, the attorney may be able to arrange for a voluntary and peaceful surrender.

New Jersey law, in some instances, permits a defendant to be held in jail without bail pending the criminal prosecution. It is therefore critical to obtain an attorney as soon as possible to seek pretrial release, investigate, and work on confirming facts for a defense at the earliest possible time. The earlier your lawyer is involved with your case, the more quickly they can investigate, interview witnesses, locate exculpatory evidence, and begin to build your defense.

If you become aware that you are the subject of a criminal investigation, before you speak with anyone, before any charges are filed, you should retain counsel because counsel may be able to prevent charges from being filed.

Divorce Mediation in New Jersey

Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution where a neutral third party attempts to help two adverse parties facilitate a mutually acceptable resolution. One of the goals of mediation is to resolve disputes without the help of the court system. The mediation process is becoming increasingly popular for resolving not only marital and family law issues, but also all types of business and personal disputes. In the family law context, a divorce mediator helps divorcing couples work together to come to an agreement about the terms of their divorce. New Jersey divorce mediators serve to assist the parties to come to an agreement. They do not make any decisions like a judge would if the matter was brought in the court system.

Unlike litigation, divorce mediation in New Jersey is meant to be a cooperative process. Securing the independent advice of a reputable divorce lawyer is extremely helpful, as it can make it easier for parties to be civil to each other when they are dealing with a neutral representative. The effects are particularly beneficial if children are involved. Typically, the parties split the cost of mediation.

Why Consider Mediation?

First, mediation is meant to minimize animosity between couples. Litigation can also be stressful to children who can feel caught in the middle.

Second, mediation is generally less expensive than litigation. There are no costs associated with paying lawyers to travel to court and wait for a judge. With mediation, couples have the flexibility to schedule meetings at mutually convenient times and in more relaxed environments. This environment of calmly resolving issues goes hand in hand with modern trends toward healthy co-parenting and uncoupling.

Third, mediation gives you more control over the terms of your divorce. In divorce litigation, the ultimate decision regarding property, child custody, parenting time, and alimony disputes are uncertain because a judge will be tasked with deciding these issues. In mediation, the parties come to an agreement that is amenable for both of them.

Is Mediation Right for Me?

Mediation is not always going to be the best course of action. The decision whether to mediate is very fact specific. To make the right decision, you should speak to a qualified New Jersey family law and divorce lawyer, however, there are some general guidelines.

Couples who cannot communicate at all may not be good candidates for mediation. To reach an agreement, couples need to compromise, willingly share information, and fully cooperate with each other. If even one party to the divorce is unwilling to cooperate, the matter may be destined for divorce court.

Also, when domestic abuse is a part of the picture, things can become complicated. If one party needs a restraining order then traditional divorce court will likely be the best option.

Wills, Trusts, and Estates

When planning for one’s passing, there are a wide range of legal and financial issues that need to be addressed. Ideally, these issues should be discussed when the individual is in good health and of sound mind. This will avoid having to navigate complex legal, tax, business, and health care decisions during a crisis situation where emotions are running high.

Not having a clear plan in place can lead to increased costs and a loss of control over key personal and financial decisions. An experienced New Jersey estate lawyer will address each client’s unique concerns, walk them through every phase of the planning process, and develop an estate plan that protects their loved ones when the need arises. A lawyer can provide hands-on asset protection and wealth preservation and ensure that the client’s affairs are in order.

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document that clearly and thoroughly describes the individual’s final wishes, including what should happen to their property and assets in the event of their death. When writing a will, there are a number of legal requirements that must be met, including the following:

  • The individual must have a clear understanding of the property that they have and what it means to leave the property to someone in the event of their death. In other words, the individual must be of sound mind when developing a last will and testament. The individual must also be at least 18 years old.
  • The document should name beneficiaries for some of the property.
  • The document must be signed by the individual as well as two witnesses.
  • It is not legally necessary to have the will notarized, but if the individual uses a notarized self-proving affidavit, it may make it easier to get through probate.

What Does a Will Do?

In addition to leaving detailed instructions about what should happen to an individual’s property and assets upon their death, a will also serves the following purposes:

  • Names an executor.
  • Identifies guardians for children of the deceased.
  • Determines how debts and taxes will be paid.
  • Acts as a legal backup document for a living trust.

It is also important to understand that a will also has limitations. For example, when writing a will, people may not put certain conditions on gifts, including property or other assets, such as leaving money or property to a relative only if they obtain a college degree. A will should not be used to leave specific instructions for an individual’s final arrangements.

Additionally, an individual should not use a will to make arrangements for property or assets that will be left another way. This includes property in a trust or property that the individual named as a payable-on-death beneficiary.

How Do I Prepare a Will?

There are a number of factors to consider when writing a will. While people have the option of writing their own will or downloading a template to help them get started, it is highly recommended that people consider hiring an experienced estate lawyer, particularly individuals who have accumulated multiple properties, extensive assets, and considerable wealth.

When preparing a will, a skilled New Jersey estate lawyer will assist a client with every step of the process. The process of preparing a will is listed below.

Conduct a Thorough Review of All Assets and Liabilities

It is very important for people to thoroughly review all assets and liabilities before writing a last will and testament. That way, they will know exactly how much the estate is worth. A person can then decide who the property and asset should be left to upon their death.

In most cases, certain pieces of property and percentages of financial assets are distributed among beneficiaries, including family members, friends, and institutions. The remainder of the estate is then given to a designated person or group of people.

Identify Probate and Non-Probate Property

There are limitations to the property that can be disposed of in a will. The following are examples of property that can and cannot be disposed of in a last will and testament:

  • Probate Property: These include real estate, bank accounts, and securities that are held in the deceased’s name alone. The individual may specify how this property should be disposed of in the will. If the individual is married and the property is owned jointly with their spouse, the property will automatically go to the surviving owner under the right of survivorship. This also applies to domestic partners and civil union partners.
  • Non-Probate Property: Examples of property that cannot be disposed of in a will include proceeds from a life insurance policy and retirement plans. In both of these plans, the individual will have already named the beneficiary for the investments. The plan’s assets will automatically go to that person upon their death, regardless of whether or not they have a will.

Name an Executor

The person named as the executor of the will can ensure that all of the deceased person’s assets are disposed of properly, that all taxes are paid, and all legal requirements have been met. Most people name a family member, friend, or lawyer as the executor of their will.

Regardless of who the person chooses, they should be responsible, trustworthy, and likely to be of sound mind and body when the person dies. It is also recommended that a substitute executor be named in the event that something happens to the person named as the executor.

Write a Letter of Instructions for the Disposal of Minor Items and Property

People do not always include small personal items in their will. Instead, they may choose to list specific items in a letter of instructions to the executor. By doing this, the person can avoid having to change the will at a later date if they want to leave the piece of personal property to someone else.

What Should I Do Once My Will Has Been Written?

A last will and testament is an important legal document that determines how a person’s financial holdings are going to be distributed. Therefore, there are a number of factors and steps to consider once the will has been written, including the following:

  • Copies of the will. The original copy of the will should be kept in a safe place, like in a locked safe or a safe deposit box. Copies should be given to the executor and the individual’s estate lawyer.
  • Changes to the will. If an individual wants to make changes to the will, they can cancel the original will by tearing it up. If a new will is written, the most recent version will determine how the property is distributed. If they want to make changes to the will without writing a new one, they may add a codicil, which is an amendment to a last will and testament. A codicil must be kept with the will once it is signed and witnessed.
  • Rules relating to children born after the will was written. In the State of New Jersey, children born or adopted after an official will has been written will receive the share of property they would get if their parents or guardians did not have a will. In some cases, the child may be required to prove their relationship to the deceased if there is a will but they are not named as a beneficiary.
  • How property is distributed if a named beneficiary dies. If a family member or friend that is named as a beneficiary dies before the person who wrote the will, the property that person would have inherited will likely be left to their children unless otherwise specified in the will. If they have no children, the property will go to the residuary legatee, who is the person named in the will to inherit the remainder of the property after all of the property has been distributed. If there is no residuary legatee, the property will be divided up as if there is no will.
  • Rights of domestic partners and civil union partners. When a spouse, domestic partner, or civil union partner passes away, the surviving spouse or partner has a right to one-third of the augmented estate, regardless of what the will states. It is highly recommended that the surviving partner seeks legal advice about what is excluded in the augmented estate, as this can be a complicated process.

What Is Involved in the Probate Process?

The probate process is important because it allows the court to review the will and ensure that it has been properly prepared and that it is valid and legal. In New Jersey, wills are filed in the Surrogate’s Office in the county where the deceased resided. Once the will has been filed, the County Surrogate has the power to accept the will for probate and authorize the executor that is named in the will.

If an individual passes away without a will, it is said to have died intestate. The administration of the estate will go through what is known as intestate administration, which is overseen by the County Surrogate. The process is similar to probate administration.

The process can be confusing and overwhelming, so it is highly recommended that individuals seek legal guidance from a skilled lawyer who can assist with every step of the process, explain the legal and financial ramifications, and avoid any of the common pitfalls. For example, portions of an estate may be paid to external executors or the state court for costs associated with probating an intestate estate.

What Is a Trust?

Wills and trusts are both strategic estate planning tools that protect a person’s property and financial assets. A trust is a fiduciary relationship where one gives another person authority to manage their assets for the benefit of their beneficiaries. A will and testament only becomes active after one’s death, but a trust is active the day it is created.

In addition, an individual may list the distribution of assets before their death. Like a last will and testament, a trust must go through the probate process where they are examined by an authorized court administrator. If the person dies, the trust is not required to go through probate.

Depending on the person’s goals, they may establish a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust. A revocable trust, also known as a living trust, is one where the owner can change the terms at any time. Advantages of living trusts include being able to remove beneficiaries, designate new ones, and add stipulations as to how the trust should be managed. Living trusts are more flexible compared to irrevocable trusts. However, assets are not protected from creditors the way they are in an irrevocable trust.

In addition, if the owner is sued, the assets can be ordered to be liquidated. With an irrevocable trust, the terms cannot be changed once the agreement has been signed. Oftentimes, people choose this type of trust because it removes the assets from the benefactor’s taxable estate. That means that they are not subject to estate tax upon their death. Irrevocable trusts require the assistance of a skilled and experienced lawyer.

What Are the Benefits of Estate Planning?

Regardless of one’s financial holdings, there are a number of reasons why people should be proactive about planning for what happens to their property, assets, and other items of monetary value after they pass away. The following are examples of some of the benefits of estate planning and how a skilled lawyer can help:

  • Peace of mind knowing that the individual’s assets, property, and other items of value are distributed according to their wishes.
  • Establish an advanced health care directive. This is a legal document that specifies an individual’s wishes in the event they become incapacitated. It prevents family, physicians, and judges from making health care decisions for the individual. This can be a standalone document or part of the estate plan.
  • Establish a power of attorney. This legal document allows an individual to appoint a person to act for them in the event that they become incapacitated. The person chosen should be expected to put the other person’s needs and wishes ahead of their own.
  • Avoid costly and chaotic court battles among family members over assets, property, and even child custody.

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