Once you’ve made the decision to end your marriage, understanding how the New Jersey divorce process works will help prepare you for what lies ahead. While the attorney you choose to represent you will be helping you every step of the way and preparing you for what is to come, it’s still good to know what to expect.
At least one of you has to have been a New Jersey resident for at least one year in order to meet the residency requirement for filing for divorce in New Jersey. If you are claiming adultery, one of you must be a resident at the time of filing but there is no time limitation.
Grounds for divorce in NJ
New Jersey has both no-fault and fault divorce. The grounds for a no-fault divorce including living separately for at least 18 months or irreconcilable differences that have lasted at least six months. The grounds for fault divorce in New Jersey include adultery, desertion, extreme mental or physical cruelty, alcohol or drug addiction, imprisonment, institutionalization for mental illness, or deviant sexual behavior.
Filing for divorce in NJ
Your attorney will file a Complaint for Divorce with the court and copies of the complaint will be provided to your spouse, who then has 35 days in which to respond to the Complaint. He or she will then file an Answer if they agree with everything in the Complaint, an Appearance if they agree to the divorce but disagree with some issues, a Counterclaim if they wish to provide more grounds for divorce, or they may choose not to respond at all. In that case, the court may enter a default judgment in your favor.
Uncontested vs. contested divorce
If you’ve been married for less than five years and agree on alimony, property division, and child custody and support, you may qualify for an uncontested divorce. These divorces proceed to a final hearing before a judge, who reviews and signs the final decree.
A contested divorce means that you and your spouse cannot agree on one or more issues and opt to have a judge make the final decision. The judge may recommend mediation in which both sides try to resolve their differences outside the courtroom. This is less expensive than a trial and is usually encouraged. If mediation is not an option for you, then a trial before a judge will be required. You and your attorney will gather evidence to support your claims for division of property, alimony, and child custody and support. The judge will consider many factors as set forth in NJ divorce statutes; your attorney will go over these carefully with you in order to craft the best argument for your case.
At Murphy & Cistaro, we are not only concerned with your divorce today, but also with your quality of life long after your case is over. Your family law issues deserve to be managed with dignity and respect. You can prepare to civilly resolve your divorce, heal, and move on with your life with a legal team that has helped individuals all over New Jersey to heal and prosper. Contact us today for your free consultation.