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  • 27 Mar 2023 4:59 PM | Anonymous

    By Rebecca KuderkaWithum, AAML NJ Gold Sponsor

    When litigating a divorce case, one important item to consider is alimony. There is no set formula that can be used to calculate alimony and there are various types of alimony. The purpose of alimony is to allow both parties to maintain their lifestyle after the divorce. To understand the full alimony picture, it is important to be aware of the different types of alimony and the factors that are considered when determining alimony. 

    Types of Alimony

    In the time between the filing of the complaint and the judgment of divorce, the Court can order Pendente lite support, also known as temporary support. This support can be agreed upon by the parties or ordered by the court if necessary. This support does not continue after the divorce is finalized but may be replaced by the other types of alimony. 

    After the final judgment of divorce, the court can order, or the parties can agree on four types of alimony:  Open Duration, Limited Duration, Rehabilitation, and Reimbursement.

    Similar to the traditional Permanent Alimony, Open Duration Alimony has no set time limit.  Normally the payments continue until either there is a change in circumstances, i.e., the supporting party has a loss in income, or there is a termination of the alimony payments such as when the supported spouse remarries. Open Duration alimony will usually be considered for individuals married for 20 years or longer. 

    The second category, Limited Duration Alimony is typically considered for those married less than 20 years. With this type of alimony, the payments will not typically exceed the length of the marriage, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as the level of a former spouse’s financial dependence or the poor health of the dependent spouse. 

    Despite the name that seems health-related, the third category, Rehabilitation Alimony is considered when a dependent spouse is completing additional education or training needed to re-enter the workforce. This type of alimony is typically a short-term obligation and requires a detailed rehabilitation plan which should detail the requirements for the dependent spouse to complete the education/ training needed to achieve financial independence.

    Finally, there is Reimbursement Alimony.  This form of alimony is designed to re-pay an individual who made financial contributions to the education or career development of their spouse. The reimbursement alimony could include the payments that went towards tuition, cost of living (for the student spouse), and/or other costs to obtain the degree or professional training.  

    Factors Considered 

    There is no set formula to determine the amount of alimony payments; however, the New Jersey Statute, NJSA 34 N.J.S.2A:34-23, sets forth factors that are considered when making this determination. 

    • The actual need and ability of the parties to pay.
    • The length of the marriage or civil partnership.
    • The age of each party, as well as their health, both emotional and physical.
    • The standard of living the parties established during their marriage, as well as the ability of each party to financially achieve a reasonably similar living standard.
    • The earning capacity of each party, including their level of education, training, occupational skills and overall employability in the current job market.
    • The length of time the party requesting support has been out of the workforce.
    • A parties’ parental responsibilities.
    • How long and how much it will cost for the party asking for the support to complete the education or training that will allow them to secure employment, whether such training is available, and the prospect of future attainment of income.
    • The contributions of each party during the relationship. This includes both financial and non-financial, such as raising children and forgoing a career to support the other party’s aspirations.
    • The division of marital property. 
    • Whether investment income can be derived from any assets held by each party.
    • The tax ramifications to the payor of any alimony awarded.
    • The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
    • Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.

    It is best to be realistic when negotiating alimony. The best way to do this is to start with an accurate understanding of the parties’ finances. Be sure to identify all sources of income, including salaries, dividends, bonuses, business income, etc. If you are unsure that all income is reported, consider retaining a forensic accountant to investigate the spouse’s income.  This will enable you to determine their ability to pay. Finally, but equally as important, document your client’s expenses. This will allow you to establish the financial need for alimony. This financial need along with the ability to pay will ultimately be the basis of your negotiations to get your client the alimony he or she needs to maintain their lifestyle after the divorce.

  • 21 Mar 2023 2:38 PM | Anonymous

    By Jonathan Blinken | Strategies For Wealth, AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor

    Life after divorce can be liberating – but it can also be scary. And for couples who divorce and still need to raise children together, there is so much that may be out of your sole control for a long time. What you can control, however, is your personal financial health after divorce. Divorce can be financially devastating, often leaving people with merely half of what they’ve saved over their lives, and in many cases, forced to start over. Take heart in knowing that with knowledge and time, you can rebuild your wealth, if you are proactive and savvy. Below are 5 basic yet critically important steps you can take to get your finances in order after your divorce. 

    1. Take Inventory

    You will not know what you need to do if you do not first know where you are. List out all your assets and your debts, as well as your monthly incomings and outgoings. Note who your biggest creditors are and make a list of people who may owe you money. There are plenty of templates online to help you organize, and it is helpful to keep a small notebook or binder with bank statements, monthly bills, and correspondence with creditors so all your financial information is one place. Finally, check your credit score. You are entitled to a free annual check from various companies. Always use a reliable source that uses the FICO system. Monitoring your credit score can impact your future ability to invest and take out loans. Keep your scores in your binder.

    2. Make a Budget

    Now that you've gotten everything organized and you can see a snapshot of your financial health, make a budget. It is okay if you realize right after the divorce that your monthly expenses exceed your income. Do not beat yourself up about it – take action instead. Take a critical look at where you can cut back. Eat at home more often. Take up jogging outdoors or work out from home using YouTube videos instead of  paying for a gym membership. If any of your contracts with utilities are about to expire, shop around for the best deal. See if you can switch car insurers. If you're having a hard time figuring out where you can save, then get help from a financial planner to guide you. Once you've got a good idea of your budget, build in small, achievable goals. It will help you to save and work towards a goal, which will build your confidence when you've achieved it. Things, like paying off a credit card, or saving up for a short trip with your best friend, are all great things to focus on when rebuilding your finances.

    3. Get Professional Advice

    Of course, getting a financial planner might be a key step for you to take. But on top of that information, get advice wherever else you can. Seek out tax experts. Speak to the HR or pension source at your company to examine your retirement options. Take this information to a third party retirement expert who can give you objective advice. Consider hiring a company to invest in mutual funds on your behalf. The more support you have, the better and more confident you’ll feel – but this advice comes with a caveat. At the end of the day, it is YOUR money. If the experts you have hired do not take the time to speak with you, or explain what they are doing with your money, then move on. There are hundreds of companies that offer financial services. Find someone you trust. 

    4. Protect

    Look into getting adequate life insurance, if you do not already have it. If you can afford it, whole life insurance policies are ideal; however, getting term life insurance is still a good option if your budget does not allow for a whole life policy. If you do have life insurance, then make sure you change the beneficiary if your spouse was previously listed as beneficiary, unless language in your divorce order prevents you from doing so. 

    Umbrella insurance is another good option – it is basically extra liability insurance and will cover any claims that exceed the limits of your homeowner's and auto insurance policies. This will kick in if your underlying policies are exhausted. Disability insurance is something else you should get, particularly because you will be relying solely on your own paycheck for the time being. Talk to your boss to see if the company offers disability insurance for a low price that can be deducted from your paycheck automatically each pay period.

    Build up a good savings cushion for emergencies- most experts advise saving up to 6 months of living expenses in cash. Start with twenty percent of your earnings. This might sound like a lot, but remember it will only be for a short period of time. Finally, check to see if important legal documents, such as; your Will, Health Care Proxy or Durable Power of Attorney need to be amended. If, in your Will you left anything to your spouse, make sure you consult an attorney specializing in Wills to help you change this to someone else you trust, or perhaps draft an entirely new Will. If you did not have any of these documents, now is a good time to get all your paperwork in order, particularly if you have children. 

    5. Invest

    Interpret this broadly. You can invest in yourself. Look into earning new qualifications or a higher education to build higher earning power through the years. Invest in the stock market. This is certainly one of the quickest ways to build your fortune, but it is not without risk. Take a course on basic advice, or hire an expert to guide you (or invest on your behalf). The takeaway here is, once you have the ability to do so, invest, period. Perhaps you received some liquidity from the divorce. Look into buying a property to rent out for a few years and build up a steady side income. Understand that with investment always comes risk. When in doubt, go back to step 3 and get as much advice as you can before you put your money into an investment. 

    Be realistic every step of the way. Understand that rebuilding your finances after a divorce takes time. Don’t invest in anything too risky. Remember that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. A financial planner can help you come up with realistic goals and craft a realistic budget if you feel overwhelmed. And finally, take your financial health seriously, much like your own health. Monitor it regularly, and go see a professional for an annual ‘check-up.’ 

    For trusted, professional advice on any of these steps after a divorce, contact Strategies for Wealth at 212-249-9200.

  • 16 Mar 2023 2:20 PM | Anonymous

    By LEAP US, AAML NJ Silver Sponsor

    Over the past year alone, we have seen numerous cases where outdated software created numerous complications that cost valuable time and resources that can’t afford to be lost. From the Southwest Airlines shutdowns to the California State Bar Association data breach, it has never been more important to reassess your law firm’s tech stack and identify any red flags that could impact your firm. This article will review the four signs New Jersey family law firms should look for that indicate it’s time to move to a legal practice productivity solution.

    1. On-premises Hardware

    Between court appearances and client meetings, New Jersey matrimonial attorneys complete hundreds of hours of work outside the office. If a firm uses a software solution that requires users to be in the office, this immediately delays updates, causes collaboration gaps, and missed billable hours. Additionally, on-premises hardware adds extra expenses, including dedicated IT employees or consultants, faulty component and hardware replacement, electricity and utility bills, and ongoing updates. These challenges mean that law firms cannot establish efficient, profitable, and scalable operations, limiting their staff’s flexibility.

    Outside of that, on-premises hardware leaves firms vulnerable to multiple security threats. In 2021 alone, 25% of law firms reported that their firms experienced a data breach. The average practice cannot dedicate resources just for security, meaning client data can be compromised in break-ins, hacks, and natural disasters. This compromises a firm’s ability to continue working if a major event leaves them vulnerable to malpractice risks, which can lead to potential disbarment.

    2. Limited Features & Integrations

    Another red flag is if the software does not offer a comprehensive, all-in-one solution. When technology only caters to one business function, it creates a siloed tech stack that becomes unmanageable and creates more challenges than if it operated manually. A New Jersey family law firm should be able to communicate seamlessly to eliminate gaps in transparency, next steps, and collaboration with staff members, clients, and third parties. These gaps impact how quickly work can get done, data integrity, and employee and client satisfaction.

    Outside of the software’s native features, integrations are essential for successful software implementation. Integrations with leading legal and business solutions specializing in specific business needs support the software’s foundational features and simplify the implementation without disrupting everyday processes. If critical integrations (for example, LawConnect, LawToolBox, and Microsoft 365, to name a few) are unavailable, it causes law firms to invest in numerous software solutions that create an overwhelming tech stack and leads to data gaps and errors due to double data entry and clerical errors.

    3. Limited Paid Support

    A third red flag is if the provider requires them to pay for ongoing support post-implementation without providing comprehensive support tools. Particularly in the initial training phase, New Jersey matrimonial attorneys must have access to the training resources that will give them the foundation for success and are accessible in a way that works best for their learning style and schedule. Users should have access to a dedicated success manager, online live chat, on-demand videos, and how-to articles without breaking the bank. This support should also not be limited to user experience and should eliminate the need for manual, time-consuming, and expensive software updates and backups.

    Additionally, the support should remain easily accessible and affordable throughout a law firm’s entire interaction with a software provider. From new feature releases, newly onboarded staff, and existing users looking for a refresher, ongoing support is essential to ensure that the software is used effectively to establish streamlined processes that eliminate the challenges that led to the software investment in the first place.

    4. Complex Transition Process

    Last but certainly not least is reviewing the transition process. A seamless transition is the key to a successful software transition or installation. If the transition process takes up a ton of critical time, requires extensive downtime, and creates more manual work, it will make it even more difficult for New Jersey matrimonial attorneys and their support staff to start using a new solution. If the implementation requires months of disrupted work, manual data transitions, and countless hours dedicated to implementation, the software could cost more than its worth in thousands of dollars in missed billable work.

    Firms should also avoid software with several limitations on the data types that can be migrated into the system. For example, law firms should be able to transition all of their historical matters, correspondence, and accounting data seamlessly. Losing out on that data can create issues for clients on retainer, make it difficult to run conflict of interest checks, and create more work to find relevant information for open matters during the transition process.

    What Makes a Legal Practice Productivity Solution Different?

    If your current software provider, or a software provider you’re considering, has any of these red flags—or worse, all of them—then it’s time to consider switching to a legal practice productivity solution. LEAP is the only legal practice productivity solution designed to provide everything a New Jersey family law firm needs to be productive and profitable in 2023 and beyond. Here are a few reasons why over 61,000 legal professionals have already made the switch to LEAP:

    • Simplify IT Infrastructures - Cloud-based LEAP helps law firms establish simple collaboration with clients and creates a strong work-life balance for staff members to be successful. Hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), LEAP has a 99.99% uptime, which allows users to work from anywhere, at anytime online and offline, with autosave features to instantly capture changes, recorded time, and notify users of updates in real-time. Additionally, LEAP offers free backups, so New Jersey matrimonial attorneys can rest assured that their data is compliantly secured, mitigating malpractice risks.

    • Establish One Version of Truth - LEAP allows users to vet and onboard new clients with access to practice management, document management and assembly, legal publishing, and legal accounting features in a single solution. On their desktop or mobile device through the LEAP Mobile App, users can open electronic matters for all common New Jersey family law matters and access to automated common documents like Certification of Insurance Coverage Pursuant to R. 5:4-f (LD-NJ-FAM-0025) and Summons (Divorce) (LL-NJ-FAM-0123). Additionally, partners and bookkeepers can simplify complex office and trust accounting functions directly in the system with LEAP features and access to integrations with office, legal, and accounting software systems.

    • Leverage Free Training & Support - LEAP is committed to driving innovation for the legal industry. Part of that includes offering continuous updates to our training and support resources to provide users with all the tools they need to get out of LEAP. Available at no additional cost, 24/7, LEAP users can access the LEAP Help Center, LEAP University, the HelpDesk, and more, all through the LEAP User Portal. These solutions ensure that whether a user has used LEAP for three years or three days, they can always access the most up-to-date training materials without worrying about additional costs or finding time in their busy schedules for dedicated training sessions.

    • Transition Data Seamlessly - LEAP makes it easy to move to the legal practice productivity solution with minimal downtime, regardless of a firm’s previous software provider. Based on a firm’s needs, law firms can seamlessly transition their matters, correspondence, and accounting data to LEAP to pick up from where they left off after implementation. For firms transitioning from PCLaw or Time Matters, LEAP Strato is the only solution built specifically to transition data from those systems to the cloud quickly and accurately.

    There is no better time for New Jersey law firms to determine if their current software investments have the solutions needed for their firms to establish sustainable business processes. If firms identify any red flags hidden in their IT infrastructures, the LEAP legal practice productivity solution provides law firms with everything they need to run a family law firm in the cloud with an all-in-one solution that improves productivity, profitability, and employee and client experiences.

    See how LEAP can improve operations and reduce overhead for your New Jersey family law firm today.

  • 10 Mar 2023 12:00 PM | Anonymous

    By Kriste Rodriguez, Director | EisnerAmper, AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor

    Overview of the Marital Balance Sheet

    One of the tasks as a forensic accountant is to prepare a marital balance sheet to help facilitate the division of the marital assets/liabilities. The assets and liabilities of the marital balance sheet may include, but are not limited to:

    • Real estate
    • Bank accounts
    • Automobiles, boats, etc.
    • Tangible property, including artwork, furniture, jewelry, collectible items, wine, etc.
    • Brokerage accounts including stocks, bonds and securities
    • Retirement accounts, including pensions, IRAs, profit sharing plans, 401(k)s, etc.
    • Value of a business interest
    • Employee benefits, such as restricted stock, stock options, etc.
    • Cash surrender value of life insurance policies
    • Liabilities include mortgages, lines of credit, notes payable personal loans and credit card liabilities

    The value of certain assets listed above, such as real estate, pensions, jewelry, and wine collections, are determined by appraisers that specialize in these areas. Kelly Blue Book or similar services are often used to determine the value for automobiles, boats, etc. Account statements are reviewed by the forensic accountant to determine the value of assets, such as bank, brokerage and retirement accounts. Forensic accountants are tasked with determining the value of an interest in businesses to help attorneys determine the parties share of the business value for equitable distribution.

    Failure to Consider Tax Implications Could Result in Inequitable Division of Assets

    Certain assets may appear to be equal in value on the surface. However, certain events could trigger tax consequences, which could result in very different values.

    Take, for example, the marital residence. There is no issue if the parties agree to sell the marital home and split the proceeds. However, if one of the parties remains in the house and subsequently sells the home, the tax consequences, specifically capital gains tax (if any), could impact the value to that person after it is sold.

    The assets in a brokerage account portfolio may not really be equal in value. A brokerage account with cash of $100,000 does not have the same value as a brokerage account with $100,000 of stock on an after-tax basis. Once the tax implications are considered on stock when it is sold, the values become very different. The gain on the sale of stock is the difference between the cost basis and the sale price. This gain will be either subject to long-term or short-term capital gains, resulting in an after-tax value less than $100,000. Similarly, if the parties have two brokerage accounts each with $100,000 of stock in the portfolio, the cost basis for each of those accounts could be very different, resulting in more or less taxes. The tax consequences should be considered so that the asset is equitably distributed.

    Retirement Account Division – Understanding the Rules

    The division of retirement assets, such as 401(k)s should be carefully considered. Not only are tax implications involved, but specific rules also apply to the transfer of certain retirement assets. Failure to comply with these rules could result in unintended consequences. For example, if one party is entitled to a portion of a 401(k)the money should not be withdrawn and transferred to the other party without executing the proper paperwork. Failure to do so could result in early withdrawal penalties and incomer tax consequences. A document known as a qualified domestic relations order or QDRO should be drafted, which specifies how the spouse will receive their portion of the 401(k) without triggering any income tax or early withdrawal penalties. Eligible withdrawals from a 401(k) will be taxed at ordinary income tax rates and should also be considered when dividing this asset during settlement. The use of a forensic accountant with income tax experience can help you avoid the pitfall that can be encountered with 401(k) distributions.

    Liquidity of Assets

    The liquidity of an asset or the ability to turn the asset into cash is very important to consider when dividing up the marital estate. Cash in a savings or checking account is the most liquid asset. However, assets such as homes, wine collections and/or art collections are less liquid because it takes time to sell this type of asset. It is not practical for one spouse to receive mostly liquid assets and the other to receive primarily illiquid assets. Significant cash flow problems could result for the person receiving the mostly illiquid asset portfolio. One of the parties may keep the marital residence, in exchange for fewer liquid assets. It is imperative, specifically when there is a lack of liquid assets to be received in settlement, that a proper budget is considered to cover the expense of maintaining the home and other lifestyle expenses.

    Life Insurance Policies

    It is common in marital settlement agreements (MSA) for one of the parties to maintain a life insurance policy to cover their alimony and/or child support obligation should that party become deceased before their support obligation is over. The spouse that the insurance is obtained for should either be the owner or irrevocable beneficiary. This will ensure that the beneficiary will be notified if the premiums are not being paid or if there are any other issues with the policy. Failure to control the policy could result in a lapse or cancellation of the policy. As an alternative, the spouse that is maintaining the policy should provide proof of the policies on an agreed-upon time frame, whether quarterly, semi-annually or annually.


    Any one of these common areas discussed above in a marital settlement agreement could cause significant financial loss and/or future financial distress if not addressed properly at settlement. Therefore, it is imperative to analyze the assets and consider all financial/tax consequences that each asset may have so that the division of the marital estate is fair and equitable.

    Originally published on January 2, 2023.
  • 3 Mar 2023 1:09 PM | Anonymous

    By Elle Barr | Our Family Wizard, AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor

    Co-parenting works differently for different families. It’s important to select a parenting schedule that aligns with your children’s needs to ease the transition for them and for you. Read more to see if the popular 2-2-3 custody schedule will work for your family.

    What Is a 2-2-3 Custody Schedule?

    A 2-2-3 custody schedule is a co-parenting schedule where each parent has equal time with their child. Parents split alternating sets of days over a two week period. The 2-2-3 schedule offers kids frequent time with both parents but could present logistical challenges.

    2-2-3 is a common schedule rotation used by parents with joint physical custody, an agreement in which a child spends a lot of time with each parent. The 2-2-3 schedule, however, is an option that works specifically for co-parents who share time with their children on an equal, 50/50 basis.

    You’ll often see the 2-2-3 schedule rotation referred to as a “custody schedule” or a “parenting schedule.”

    50/50 parenting time rotations, like 2-2-3, work for some families and not for others. But a 2019 review published in the Journal of Family Sciences found that 50/50 arrangements could lead to positive outcomes for children. Still, they advised that blanket recommendations are inappropriate because every family’s situation differs.

    Before selecting a routine, you should consider your children’s schedule, your relationship with your co-parent, and your child’s age. The 2-2-3 schedule can be logistically complicated, but a digital co-parenting calendar can automatically schedule the rotation to help keep you on track.

    Michelle Dempsey-Multack, Certified Divorce and Co-Parenting Specialist summarizes the schedule nicely: “Although a 2-2-3 schedule doesn’t make sense for all families, it is a great option for co-parents whose work schedules allow for it, who have the ability to share in the parenting responsibilities equally, and who live near the other parent.”

    “This schedule is especially helpful for children under the age of 4, who are adjusting to co-parenting and may have a harder time separating from one or both parents,” says Dempsey-Multack.

    Key Takeaways

    • The 2-2-3 schedule is a 50/50 schedule that gives you and your co-parent equal time with your children.
    • The 2-2-3 schedule requires frequent exchanges and won’t work well if you live far from your co-parent.
    • Some kids thrive under a 2-2-3 schedule because they can see both parents regularly.
    • Other kids find the constant travel disorienting and stressful.
    • Parents use automated co-parenting calendars to best manage the 2-2-3 schedule.

    Read the full blog post HERE.

  • 28 Feb 2023 2:48 PM | Anonymous

    By Wilmington Trust | AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor

    As featured in Family Lawyer Magazine, financial experts and wealth strategists of Wilmington Trust’s National Divorce Advisory Practice share their first annual edition of divorce monthly tips. Using a thematic approach to tackle the many issues facing clients in transition, each monthly tip highlights a topic designed to propel action in a manageable yet disciplined way.

    By linking strategies to recognizable themes and breaking them down into 12 timely monthly subjects, attorneys can create a systematic roadmap to help guide clients impacted by divorce.

    Contact Sharon L. Klein, Head of Wilmington Trust’s National Divorce Advisory Practice at 212-415-0531 or to discuss ways Wilmington Trust can help your clients successfully navigate complexity and transition.


  • 21 Feb 2023 12:16 PM | Anonymous

    By Daniel Roche, CPA/ABV, ASA and Michael Saccomanno, CPA/ABV/CFF, CVA | MarcumAAML NJ Gold Sponsor

    Synergistic value is the additional value created in a merger between two companies due to synergies that can be exploited by the merged firms. Typically, these synergies come in the form of increased revenue or lower expenses, or a combination of both — thereby increasing the merged firm’s income and cash flow.

    Typically, in business valuation, we consider a hypothetical willing buyer and a hypothetical willing seller in our analysis of the subject company’s fair value and/or fair market value. Synergies aren’t typically considered in a concluded value because that would require using a specific (not hypothetical) buyer and seller. However, synergies exist in transactions in the real world.  

    For example, take Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter last year. The control premium Musk paid was approximately 38% greater than the publicly traded price on the announcement date. While not a merger in its truest sense, this premium price hinged on Musk’s belief that he could extract more revenue from the Twitter platform through a combination of revenue-generating and expense-reducing measures. That said, while synergies can be anticipated and paid for in a transaction, the ultimate realization of synergies happens post-transaction and is more a product of successful execution than financial modeling and math.

    As you are all aware, Marcum and Friedman recently merged (September 1, 2022) and the combined entity now has $1.1 billion in annual revenue, positioning us to be the 12th largest accounting firm in the United States (note: updated industry rankings are due in March 2023). The merger also integrated the Friedman and Marcum Valuation Forensic and Litigation Support groups (VFLS), which now in totality includes just under 200 professionals across the country and bolsters the Marcum VFLS presence in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York.

    The Marcum and Friedman VFLS leadership teams worked together for more than four months pre-merger and another five months post-merger to integrate our existing practices and professionals and to enhance the services we bring to our valued clients. 

    Our VFLS integration has been very successful, and the realized synergies have been greater than originally anticipated. Our New Jersey matrimonial group has doubled in size, and we now operate from four offices in four different counties within the state, sharing and developing staff and integrating our knowledge and client bases. We also bring much more enhanced and complete industry specialties including digital assets, private equity, cannabis, construction, food and beverage, real estate, consumer products, energy, healthcare, etc., with valuation, forensic, and litigation support experts immersed in these industries.

    So, look for us when you see us at events and ask us how our integration is going. We’re more than happy to talk about it with you. Hoping to see you all soon!

    Originally published on February 14, 2023.

  • 15 Feb 2023 1:58 PM | Anonymous

    By Jonathan Blinken | Strategies For Wealth, AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor

    Even under the best of circumstances, divorce is one of the toughest life events some of us have had to face. Not only are there emotionally complex relationships to detangle, but also there are also complicated financial arrangements and responsibilities to work through. From joint bank accounts, to car financing, to mortgages, the changes can seem overwhelming.

    It’s not all bad news, of course. There are significant benefits to finalizing a divorce. You may find that you are:

    • Happier with your life.
    • Healthier than you would be had you stayed in a bad relationship.
    • Less frustrated financially.
    • Happier in your next marriage, based on what you learned the hard way in the first marriage.
    • Seeing happier children, because two home parents who are happy, are better than one home with two miserable parents.
    • More prepared for retirement than you expected to be, particularly if you are female. A University of Connecticut study of 40 years of census information, supported the fact that women experienced greater earnings growth if they chose not to remarry. Why? Those women delayed drawing Social Security and therefore made more money to gain financial independence.

    However, you may also be losing a home you have grown to love and have worked very hard to purchase and maintain.

    Homes Owned by Both Spouses

    If you and your spouse owned a home together, try to get it paid off and whoever is keeping the house should attempt to qualify on their own to continue paying the mortgage and remove the other party from the deed. Since the initial mortgage approval was likely based on two incomes, becoming a sole owner may present challenges. You may both need to re-assess the need and benefits of selling the home versus keeping it under a sole owner. Perhaps a rental, or downsizing, is the better option for everyone for the short term. Give this due consideration and make the decision that works best for everyone.

    If you want your ex-spouse to remain in the home, with the children, and he/she is not able to refinance the mortgage alone, you may decide to leave it in both names for a period of time. That decision is a personal one, and if your spouse has been staying home to care for the children, it may be best for everyone to keep the home in both names. There is likely enough upheaval amidst the divorce for everyone without having to move everyone and everything out of the existing home.

    If selling the marital home is the final decision, be certain that both spouses have the proper legal documents in place to ensure any profits from the sale of the home are shared and distributed appropriately.

    Based on your relationship, it may be possible for both spouses to remain in the home during divorce proceedings, which may help save money. If that isn’t comfortable for everyone, you have other options, short of crashing on your friend’s couch:

    • Rent a one-bedroom apartment
    • Rent a small house or condo
    • Rent with the option to buy
    • A live-in hotel that includes a kitchen (if your company puts execs up at a location, you may be able to score the corporate rate)
    Mortgage Approvals

    If you’ve decided to buy, let’s review how a mortgage approval works. Bear in mind that regulations can change as quickly as bank procedures. While the following are good guidelines, you may find specific approval criteria have evolved.

    • Most banks and mortgage companies are want to see at least two years of continuous employment at the same organization and at the same, or increasing, rate of pay.
    • Be prepared to provide documentation of all your assets and income sources.
    • Be sure you have minimized your debt where possible document all liabilities, along with proof of the debt. This will include child support and alimony (or spousal support) obligations. You will need to document separation and divorce decrees.
    • The larger the down payment, the better your chances of approval. A minimum of 20 percent is recommended.
      • An 80 percent loan will help you avoid private mortgage insurance (PMI), which increases your costs. The lender is the only one who benefits from PMI.
    • A copy of your tax returns, W-2s, pay stubs, and any invested funds will also need to be accounted for and documented.
    • Be sure your credit report is clean, and your credit score is greater than 500. The higher your credit score, the better able you will be to secure a lower interest rate. Try to get your score above 600, 700s are even better.
      • Being late more than 30 days on just one bill could adversely impact your score. Be sure to stay diligent with your existing debt payments, especially if you currently have another mortgage liability.
    • If you have a prior foreclosure or bankruptcy on your record, approval is going to be harder, so brace yourself. You may have to rent until those items drop from your record. Depending on the specifics of the prior bankruptcy or foreclosure, it could be as few as two years or as many as ten.

    Before you begin shopping and talking with agents and sellers, I encourage you to obtain a pre-approval from your lender of choice. That serves two significant purposes:

    • You will know exactly what price range you should be searching.
    • The real estate agent and seller will appreciate knowing you have already been pre-approved.

    Remember, there is nothing wrong with waiting a few months, or years, to ensure you are fully prepared for one of the largest investments of your life. It may actually be better to wait until the divorce is final to seek your mortgage approval. Pending litigation may be a turn-off for the lender, because the alimony and child support obligations may still be unknown.

    Ensure you shop for a mortgage broker; consider rates, terms, and size. A larger bank or credit union may have volumes that permit them to offer lower rates. There are also varying products available, including: fixed rates; adjustable rates; 15, 20 and 30-year terms; balloon mortgages; VA; FHA; or an interest-only loan. You may have homework to do based on the extent of your financial capabilities and prior home buying experience. Make sure you ask questions about all the fees and interest rates. While federal regulations dictate a level of consistency across the board, in many cases, the lender may have a little wiggle room and it never hurts to ask!

    Devil Is In the Details

    As you begin the process of shopping for an agent, and a home, consider a few things before reaching out to anyone. The National Association of Realtors provides training, support, and a code of ethics and is a great starting place with more than one million members. It’s okay to “interview” the agent before making a commitment. Some items to discuss include:

    • How well they know the area in which you are looking for a home.
    • Their experience level, and how long they have been in the real estate business.
    • What current market conditions are like.

    You will want to find an agent that makes you feel comfortable and fully understands your needs and expectations. Having an agent that understands divorce implications, both financially and emotionally, can be an added benefit Be sure they represent you and not the seller!

    Location, Location, Location!
    • Do you want to be in a neighborhood with kids of a similar age to your children?
    • What is the local school system like?
    • Do you need to be close to the kids’ schools or daycare?
    • Do you want to be near religious or community centers?
    • Do you need access to public transportation? Are there suitable parks in the area.?
    • Do you need additional space for aging parents, or the kids should custody arrangements change?
    • What style home appeals to you, will you consider a condo or apartment?
    • Are there any community regulations and homeowner’s association fees?

    Plan to spend an average of 30 days to locate the perfect home, which will likely entail visits to 15 to 25 properties, or more. You’re probably going to be in your home for years to come, so find something that meets your needs and tastes, and fits within your budget.

    Financial Matters

    Divorce tends to be costly, even excluding housing costs. We all incur various expenses associated with ending a marriage, and in many circumstances, they can be significant. However, there are some steps you can take to ensure that you either remain financially sound or quickly return to financial security post-divorce. Here are a few tips I found helpful for my divorce:

    • Save as best you can, and remember there is a difference between needing something and wanting something. Try to exercise a little restraint on the wants, and only satisfy your needs, at least for the short term.
    • Protect your credit report and scores. While divorce itself may not have a direct impact, it’s easy to accidentally miss a bill if you’re unsure who is supposed to be paying. Not only does this incur late fees, but your credit score may also be impacted negatively. Any joint accounts you have with your spouse should be paid in full as soon as possible and the credit then re-established in your separate names. I know that’s easier said than done; however, getting rid of debt in both names is going to help both spouses.
    • If you don’t already have identity theft/credit monitoring protection, get it! With so many data breaches occurring these days, this should not be considered optional. This often includes additional features including access to your annual credit reports and scores.
    • The divorce may impact your taxes as well, another critically important financial consideration given your new family structure.

    You are navigating through an emotional time in your life. Some researchers report that divorce is the single most stressful event in anyone’s life, so be kind to yourself and be patient. You deserve the best life has to offer, so take the appropriate steps to ensure you are getting what you need and want out of life.

  • 8 Feb 2023 12:23 PM | Anonymous

    By Elle Barr | Our Family Wizard, AAML NJ Bronze Sponsor

    Valentine’s Day is all about sharing and celebrating love… so what do you do when you feel like your love has died, or even been replaced? This can be a tricky holiday for co-parents. Some even call it the worst day of the year. But it doesn’t have to be.  

    To salvage the holiday, look beyond romance toward other types of love. "Valentine’s Day is designed to have individuals express love and affection to those who are dearest to them,” says Robert Z. Dobrish, a matrimonial attorney and senior partner at Dobrish Michaels Gross LLP. “It’s an opportunity for divorced dads and moms to share thoughts and symbols of love with their daughters and sons."  

    Here are a few ideas to get you started, in three sections:  

    1. Things you can do with your kids 
    2. Things you can do for yourself to get through the day 
    3. One thing that’s crucial for you AND your kids
    1. For the Kids: Make New Family Traditions 

    Coordinate with your co-parent—or work around their schedule 

    Most shared parenting orders do not provide guidelines for holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Halloween, St. Patrick’s Day, and other such “second-tier” holidays, explains Candice L. Komar, founding member of Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertz LLC and a practitioner, litigator, and negotiator in matrimonial law. Dobrish adds, “In my manyRobert Z. Dobrish,  Matrimonial Attorney & Senior Partner at Dobrish Michaels Gross LLP years of practice, I have never seen a sharing of Valentine’s Day in any divorce agreement.” 

    You can still add it unofficially and switch off every other year. If it usually falls with you, it would be a generous gesture to share the day or swap days some years. If your child stays with you, consider arranging a video chat with their other parent on February 14, so they can be reminded that both their parents love them very much. Or, if your child is not with you on the holiday, try to celebrate on a nearby date.  

    Focus on parental love

    The important thing is to make sure the kids feel loved. If you snub the holiday, it could make the day feel difficult or empty. If your kids see the world celebrating love, and their parents are miserable about the concept, then Valentine’s—or even the idea of love itself—might feel inauthentic to them.  

    But if the kids realize that their lives are filled with love, even thoughDr. Deborah Gilman, Psychologist, Collaborative Divorce Coach & Child Specialist their parents are no longer together, the day could be fun or even comforting. Dr. Deborah Gilman, psychologist, collaborative divorce coach, mediator, and child specialist,​ explains, “Even if you’re hurting, you can model the importance of showing love and affection to people whose relationships you treasure.” 

    Dr. Gilman has a fun idea for showing your kids love (in addition to telling them how much you love them and making time to celebrate together). “Write little notes of appreciation and leave them around the house and tucked in the kids’ backpacks, jackets, and lunches so they can find unexpected, sweet messages throughout the day.” 

    Get crafty with the kids 

    “Make decorated heart-shaped cookies, beaded bracelets, artwork,Candice L. Komar,  Litigator & Founding Member of Pollock Begg Komar Glasser & Vertiz LLC cards, or other Valentine’s themed crafts,” suggests Komar.  

    To take it to the next level, encourage your child to give one creation to their other parent. This sends a message that the parents are still communicating and aligned. They’re no longer married, but that doesn’t mean they don’t care for each other.  

    “This is important because it shows you respect and value your child's relationship with their other parent,” explains Dr. Gilman. “It's also a great lesson in how to put your child's feelings first.” 

    And keep in mind, this isn’t for your co-parent’s benefit. Children thrive when their parents are friendly with one another, explains Komar. 

    Too often, Komar adds, parents hide behind excuses like “I don’t want the children to be confused” or “I don’t want the children to get their hopes up for reconciliation.” Then they’re standoffish and nasty to the other parent just to prevent those outcomes. But that only hurts the kids more. Seeing their parents act cordially toward each other can relieve a lot of stress and tension. 

    2. Make Your Day Meaningful

    The kids should be your focus, but you matter too. This might be a painful day, and you’ll feel better and function better if you take good care of yourself.  

    Show gratitude 

    Making cards isn’t just for kids! “Send little notes of appreciation to the friends and family who have sustained you through your divorce thus far,” suggests Komar. “Gratitude, next to love, is one of the most powerful emotions there is. Be grateful for all the love in your life—not just romantic love, but also your parents, friends, co-workers, and pets.” 

    Don’t slide into a downward spiral 

    You’re no longer with your former spouse or partner on Valentine’s Day. That might feel like a huge relief, or you might be grieving—or both. Either way, it might feel weird. It’s easy to give into depression when you’re dealing with complicated or negative emotions, but it’s not unavoidable.  

    “Expressing gratitude will go a long way in pulling someone out of a funk just because they are not with a special someone on Valentine’s Day,” says Komar. I am sure if you look back with an honest lens, not all the Valentine’s Days were perfect Hallmark moments with your ex-spouse. Keep thinking the best is yet to come!” 

    Lean on your resources 

    Komar recommends a book called Parenting After Divorce, Resolving Conflicts and Meeting Your Children’s Needs by Phillip M. Stahl, Ph.D. It explores the nuts and bolts of creating a parenting plan—including getting past your own emotions, tailoring the plan to your kids’ ages, responding to your kids’ questions, communicating effectively, and supporting a relationship with the other parent.  

    It also includes a chapter on taking care of yourself, under the theory that if you do not take care of yourself, you’re not going to be an effective parent.  

    And on that note, 

    3. Model Self-Love, The Key to Resiliency 

    “It is important that our children see us care for ourselves and love ourselves,” says Dr. Gilman, “even when life hasn’t been perfect. It is self-acceptance and self-compassion that model resilience during and after adversity.” 

    Check out Verywell Mind’s 7 Ways to Practice Self-Love—and talk about what you’re doing as you put it into action. When you go to bed, tell your kids you get consistent sleeping hours because it nourishes your body and improves your mood. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it and then talk through the practice of self-compassion. 

    "Watching a parent go through a difficult time, and still being able to love and accept themselves (and accept the negative situation), is a powerful way to encourage children to love themselves no matter what,” says Dr. Gilman. 

    Celebrate All the Love in Your Life, Especially Your Love For Your Kids 

    Remind your children that no matter how much upheaval they’ve faced, two things are for certain: you love them, and their other parent loves them. That will never change.

  • 1 Feb 2023 12:08 PM | Deleted user

    By Leap US, AAML NJ Silver Sponsor

    Compliant and efficient trust accounting practices are essential for New Jersey matrimonial attorneys to ensure success and provide their clients with high-quality legal services. Whether a partner or a bookkeeper manages trust accounting processes, outdated practices can leave family law firms vulnerable to inefficiencies, malpractice, and disbarment risks. While this is a daunting prospect, the good news is that legal trust accounting software can eliminate these challenges and provide automated processes that are simple, scalable, and efficient.

    Let’s take a closer look at everything New Jersey matrimonial attorneys need to know about trust accounting.

    What 3 Common Law Firm Challenges Impact Trust Accounting Practices?

    Often, family law firms have limited resources to dedicate to managing all the trusts they’re overseeing. This becomes especially true when there are no digital software solutions to eliminate challenges that prevent law firms from implementing streamlined and compliant trust accounting processes. The three most common challenges are:

    1. Time

    The biggest challenge New Jersey family law firms face is having the time to dedicate to maintaining healthy trust accounting habits. Between court appearances, meeting with clients, preparing documents, and managing payroll, lawyers and their support staff have a minimal amount of time left in a day to put effort into manual trust accounting processes.

    2. Poor Record Keeping

    Receipt management and time recording often occur “after the fact,” which leads to inaccurate records of how much time was spent on client matters or expenses being missed for reimbursement when preparing client invoices. When attorneys have to go back and guess how much work they’ve done or the amount of money spent on a client, it limits how much time can be spent on other tasks.

    3. Data Entry Errors

    Data entry errors are bound to happen if law firms work across spreadsheets and multiple siloed software systems. Without a centralized database, attorneys and bookkeepers can accidentally type in the wrong information or post updates to the wrong trust because they are trying to consolidate information from multiple sources. As a result, these mistakes can lead to overdrawing a trust and malpractice.

    While these challenges can seem overwhelming to solve, legal trust accounting software can eliminate these challenges for more streamlined operations.
    What is Legal Trust Accounting Software?

    Legal trust accounting software systems are a digital solution that enables attorneys and bookkeepers to manage, reconcile, and audit trust accounts automatically for their clients to meet bar and jurisdiction requirements. In addition, reporting should be available within the software to quickly review up-to-date reports on dormant matters with trust account balances, potential trust to receivables transfer, and retained trust accounts for an overview of all trust funds and to ensure that all money is handled compliantly.

    It is important to keep in mind that legal trust accounting software is different from general accounting systems. For example, general accounting programs do not offer the tools and features needed to complete trust accounting-specific functions or label funds appropriately when reconciliations occur at the end of the month.

    Legal Trust Accounting Software Benefits

    There are several benefits that New Jersey family law firms experience when they implement legal trust accounting software.

    • Save Time on Manual Work - Eliminate manual tasks that require attorneys, support staff, and bookkeepers to update spreadsheets, paper files, and siloed systems. When the right legal trust accounting technology is in place, there is no need for double data entry, so staff members can focus on completing more work in the same amount of time. Additionally, the right trust accounting software provides intuitive reporting for attorneys and bookkeepers to get an overview of current trust balances, outstanding next steps, and more.

    • Improve Record Keeping - Trust accounting technology provides a digital trail of all changes in real time in a single database. Financial transactions are saved to the matter for approval on disbursements, invoices, and client transactions. This ensures that reconciliation becomes faster with fewer discrepancies and that all actions are compliant.

    • Ensure Compliance - Software can provide peace of mind for attorneys that all transactions are IOLTA and state bar rule compliant. Trust accounting software can process large transactions at high volume while preventing trusts from being accidentally overdrawn, misused, or mingled with firm funds to prevent malpractice lawsuits.

    The need for compliant and efficient trust accounting practices will only continue to increase as trust accounting regulations evolve. Manual processes waste valuable time and resources for New Jersey family law firms and leave them at risk for malpractice lawsuits and potential disbarment.

    Firms that embrace legal trust accounting software for automation and reporting can eliminate redundant work, improve their records for smoother auditing and client updates, and mitigate compliance risks for their practice. The LEAP legal practice productivity solution provides New Jersey family law firms with everything they need to modernize their entire practice and centralize all data to automate and simplify trust accounting. To learn more about how LEAP could help your firm improve trust accounting practices, visit


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