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Experienced Union Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions on Family Law and Real Estate in New Jersey

Below are answers to some questions frequently encountered by New Jersey family law and real estate attorney John B. D’Alessandro as he advises and represents people in divorce and real estate transactions in Union, Middlesex and Essex counties. We hope this information is helpful to you. If you have other questions or need advice and assistance with a New Jersey family law or real estate legal matter, please contact the Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro in Union for a consultation.

Family Law FAQs

What are the grounds for divorce?

Grounds for divorce in New Jersey can be found at New Jersey Statutes 2A:34-2. They are:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion (ceased to cohabit as man and wife for a year or more)
  • Extreme Cruelty (physical or mental)
  • Separation (18 or more months)
  • Voluntary Drug Addiction or Habitual Drunkenness (a year or more)
  • Institutionalization for Mental Illness (2 years or more)
  • Imprisonment (18 months or more)
  • Deviant Sexual Conduct without consent
  • Irreconcilable Differences (for six months or more)

What is the difference between separation and desertion?

Desertion may apply even if the couple continues to live together, so long as they are not cohabitating “as man and wife.” This could mean, for instance, they are sleeping in separate rooms and not having sexual relations. Separation requires living separate and apart in different habitations for 18 months with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Do we have to live apart for six months to get a no-fault divorce?

No. The no-fault ground for divorce (irreconcilable differences) must have existed for six months or more before filing for divorce, but the parties are not required to live apart for any period prior to filing or even after filing for divorce. While the people of New Jersey decided to adopt no-fault divorce to remove the previous difficulties in obtaining a divorce, we still recognize that divorce is not a step to be taken lightly and not unless the couple is certain there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

What is the difference between marital and separate property?

Generally speaking, marital property includes all assets and debts acquired during marriage by either spouse, and separate property is property which was owned by one of the spouses prior to marriage or acquired after a petition for divorce has been filed. However, it is possible to acquire separate property during marriage, such as when one spouse receives a gift or inheritance specifically to that person alone. Also, it is possible that separate property can become marital property based on how it is treated by the parties, therefore subjecting it to an equitable distribution in a divorce.

Determining whether a particular asset or debt is marital or separate property is an important initial step in the property division during a divorce. Union divorce lawyer John D’Alessandro is skilled and knowledgeable in locating, characterizing and valuing marital assets.

Real Estate FAQs

What items should we bring to the closing?

If you are the buyer, bring a cashier’s check for the amount due at closing. In addition, you should have a photo ID and a copy of your homeowner’s insurance policy. If you are the seller, bring the deed to the property, affidavit of title, and a photo ID. Also bring final meter readings for the utilities, as well as proof of compliance with New Jersey laws on smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Last but not least, don’t forget all the keys and garage door openers!

What is a reverse mortgage?

A reverse mortgage is a way for homeowners 62 years old or older to get cash in exchange for the equity in their home. So long as you continue to live in the home, you will not be required to make any interest or principal payments on the mortgage amount. A reverse mortgage is often an attractive option to retirees who have run into a large expense and need cash to cover it, or whose income and savings are not enough to meet their living expenses. Of course, a reverse mortgage does reduce the value of the homeowner’s estate. Whether a reverse mortgage is preferable to a conventional mortgage, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or other available option is something to be determined after analyzing the facts and needs in your particular situation.

Are restrictive covenants legal?

In general, yes. A restrictive covenant is essentially any clause in the property deed or lease that limits what the landowner/lessee can do with the property. Common restrictive covenants include restrictions on how much square footage a house can be at a minimum or maximum, whether additional buildings can be constructed on the property, and how close to the property line a structure can be built. Other covenants may restrict the ways in which a home could be remodeled. All the lots in a particular development or subdivision are likely subject to the same restrictive covenants, in order to preserve the “look and feel” of the neighborhood.

The use of restrictive covenants is not unlimited, of course. For instance, racially restrictive covenants that discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity or certain other factors are unconstitutional. When considering the purchase of a property, make sure you understand what restrictive covenants apply to the property before committing to the purchase. The seller or agent should disclose these facts to you.

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