How to File for Divorce in New Jersey
The process of filing for divorce in New Jersey is not necessarily easy.
Few couples want to think about divorce. Nevertheless, some marriages are beyond saving.
Rather than prolong the misery it makes the most sense to file for divorce.
In New Jersey, it is rather easy to file for divorce, but you might need to do a lot of work ahead of time to ensure that the divorce proceeds smoothly.
Remember to Meet Jurisdictional Requirements
Not everyone can get divorced in New Jersey. Instead, at least one spouse must have been a resident of New Jersey for at least one year. The only exception is if you are alleging adultery as the reason for divorce, in which case there is no minimum residency required.
Filing a Complaint in Court
You can begin the divorce process by filing a complaint in your county court. In the complaint, you need to identify the reason for the divorce, called “grounds.” Most people choose irreconcilable differences as the ground, which means the marriage has irretrievably broken down. New Jersey also offers fault grounds, such as desertion or extreme cruelty, but there is rarely any benefit to alleging fault.
After filing the complaint, the spouse must serve a copy on their spouse so that he or she can respond. They have 35 days to file a response with the court and send you a copy.
Contested v. Uncontested Divorce
In a divorce, a judge will need to untangle a couple’s finances. To that end, the judge must:
- Divide marital property (things you acquired jointly as a couple during marriage)
- Divide marital debts (debts acquired jointly during marriage)
- Decide whether one spouse should pay the other spousal maintenance (alimony)
If you have children, then the judge will need to review and approve a child custody arrangement and determine whether one parent needs to pay the other child support.
If you and your spouse can agree on all of the above, you can get an uncontested divorce. Otherwise your divorce is “contested” and the process will be longer. To speed up the process, you should try to talk to your spouse about the above issues and come to an agreement. Of course, that is not always possible.
New Jersey strongly encourages couples to settle their differences themselves without involving the court. To that end, you will need to attend an Early Settlement Panel where volunteer attorneys will listen to your case and make a recommendation for settlement. If you reject the panel’s recommendations, you then will need to attend mediation.
If you and your spouse can reach an agreement on financial and child-care issues, then a divorce might only take a couple months from start to finish. You will sign a property settlement agreement and submit it to the judge.
Conversely, a contested divorce can be long and drawn out. You will need to engage in “discovery,” which is a fact-finding process that can take many months. You might also end up in court every month to give the judge status updates about how the case is proceeding. Any contested issues get decided by the judge at a trial where you can present evidence and witnesses in your favor.
Contact a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
Divorces are legally complex and often emotionally exhausting. If you have just started thinking about the process, you should reach out to an experienced divorce attorney today. Jordan B. Rickards offers potential clients a free consultation so that you can learn more about his experience. To schedule yours, please contact us today.