The decision that you need a divorce is never an easy one, but if you've come to the problematic determination that you do need a divorce, having a better understanding of the filing process in New Jersey can help you move forward with a clearer understanding of your goals. If you are facing a divorce, one of the most helpful steps you can take is obtaining the legal advice of an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney early in the divorce process.
The Dissolution of Your Marriage
In New Jersey, the divorce process is officially called dissolution, and either party can file as long as at least one spouse lives in the state. While your divorce will be singular to you and your divorcing spouse, the terms that must be resolved (as applicable) are no different for you than they are for any other couple, including:
- The equitable distribution of your marital assets
- Your child custody arrangements
- Child support
- Alimony or spousal support
The terms most likely to become sticking points as your divorce progresses include your child custody arrangements (and, by extension, child support) and the equitable distribution of your marital assets. Suppose you can resolve each of these terms without the intervention of the court. In that case, yours will remain an uncontested divorce, which is generally the most practical and less costly path forward.
The Grounds for Your Divorce
While most New Jersey divorces are uncontested divorces – or no-fault divorces, which are predicated on irreconcilable differences and do not require the court's intervention – fault divorces are available. If your divorce is fault-based, you'll need to prove your spouse's fault in the matter, which means your divorce will very likely proceed to court and will likely be a lengthier and more costly legal process. The grounds for divorce in New Jersey include:
- Deviant sexual behaviour
- Extreme cruelty
- Habitual drunkenness or addiction
Your No-Fault Divorce
If you do proceed with a no-fault divorce (which has a far greater chance of being an uncontested divorce), it can move in one of two ways, which include:
- If your no-fault divorce is based on separation, you and your spouse must have been living separately for at least the last 18 months.
- Your no-fault divorce can also be based on you and the other party having experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months before filing.
The Divorce Filing Process in New Jersey
The filing process for your divorce case in the State of New Jersey will proceed according to the following steps:
- You or your divorcing spouse will begin the process by filing the divorce complaint with the court and having the other party serve with the divorce papers.
- The other party must respond with either an answer to the divorce complaint that includes any counterclaims (which can state an alternative reason for the divorce) or an appearance, which means that the other party does not object to the divorce in general (but may object to the terms proposed).
- Both of you will file separate Case information Statements (CISs) with the court, which requires both parties to disclose all the financial information relevant to your case.
- From here, you and your divorcing spouse will attempt to reach a settlement agreement, your case will proceed to an Early Settlement Panel, in the event you are unable to reach a settlement.
- Economic Mediation is next – where economic issues such as the equitable distribution of your marital assets, alimony, and child support are addressed in a mediation setting.
- The final stop before an additional court date and/or trial is an Intensive Settlement Conference, which takes place in the courthouse.
- Any terms that remain unresolved will require the court's intervention at your trial date.
Suppose you can finalize the terms of your divorce without moving forward to trial. In that case, your divorce will remain an uncontested divorce (regardless of how much legal guidance you need along the way).
The Legal Information You Need to Know
When it comes to a New Jersey divorce, you need to know some basic legal information.
To file for a New Jersey divorce, one party must have been a resident of the state for at least one year before filing.
Where to File
In a New Jersey divorce, the filing spouse must file in the county where the actions that support the divorce happened. For example, suppose you and your divorcing spouse lived separately for 18 months. In that case, the county where the spouse who is filing lived at the end of those 18 months is the appropriate county in which to file (even if he or she no longer lives there). If, however, one spouse claims at least 12 months of desertion (in a fault-based divorce), the appropriate county for filing is the county in which the deserted spouse lived at the end of those 12 months.
Payment of Attorney Fees
The judge has the discretion and authority to require the other party to pay your divorce attorney fees (or vice versa) – either while your divorce case is pending or when your divorce papers are finalized – following all the factors that are deemed relevant under the circumstances.
Seek the Legal Advice of an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorney
Your divorce will have a profound impact on both your parental and financial rights, which makes proceeding with caution and care well advised. The seasoned New Jersey divorce attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C., understand the gravity of your situation and are committed to skilfully advocating for divorce terms that support your rights and that work for you and your children. For more information about what we can do to help you, please don't wait to contact or call us at 732-709-7757 to book your free legal consultation today.