How Do I File For Divorce In New Jersey?

by ECL Writer
How Do I File For Divorce In New Jersey?

Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally taxing process, and navigating the legal system can feel overwhelming. For residents of New Jersey contemplating the end of their marriage, understanding the steps involved in filing for divorce is essential. From meeting residency requirements to determining grounds for divorce, the process involves various intricacies unique to the state’s laws. explores the fundamental steps and requirements for filing for divorce in New Jersey. Whether you’re seeking a contested or uncontested divorce, knowing the procedures, timelines, and legal considerations can streamline the process and empower you to make informed decisions about your future.

From gathering necessary documentation to understanding child custody and support arrangements, we’ll delve into the key aspects to consider when initiating divorce proceedings in the Garden State. So, if you’re wondering, “How do I file for divorce in New Jersey?”—this article is your roadmap to clarity and empowerment.

What You Need To Know

If you’re considering divorce in New Jersey, navigating the legal proceedings may appear overwhelming. However, it doesn’t always have to be a daunting task, depending on your circumstances and the decisions you make.

When filing for a divorce in New Jersey, there are several avenues you can explore:

  • The conventional approach involves hiring an attorney to represent you from the outset.
  • Alternatively, you may opt for an online divorce service, which furnishes completed forms based on your responses to a questionnaire and guides you through the process. It’s important to note that these services typically handle uncontested divorces, where both parties have already reached agreements on all pertinent issues, either independently or through mediation.
  • Another option is the do-it-yourself route, where you manage the entire divorce process independently. Should you choose this path, it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with New Jersey’s requirements, including necessary forms, filing locations, and subsequent steps.

Should you elect to proceed with the divorce independently, the following advice can help you initiate the process.

Qualifying for a New Jersey Divorce

In order to apply for divorce in New Jersey, you or your spouse need to have lived in the state for the previous 12 months. This waiting time does not apply if your spouse’s adultery is the grounds for your divorce request. (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2A-34:10 (2021).)

In order to file for divorce in New Jersey, you must establish “grounds,” indicating a legally acceptable reason for ending the marriage. New Jersey law recognizes both “fault” and “no-fault” grounds for divorce. Fault grounds come into play when one spouse accuses the other of specific wrongdoing, such as adultery, mental or physical cruelty, or desertion.

On the other hand, with no-fault grounds, neither spouse assigns blame for the marriage’s breakdown. In New Jersey, there are two no-fault grounds:

  • Living separately and apart in different residences for a continuous period of at least 18 months.
  • Having “irreconcilable differences,” meaning the spouses cannot reconcile and have experienced a breakdown in the marriage for at least six months, with no reasonable expectation of reconciliation. (N.J. Rev. Stat. §2A-34:2 (2021).)

Preparing the New Jersey Divorce Forms

The self-help center on the New Jersey Courts website provides some of the necessary forms for initiating a divorce, but not all. For a nominal fee, Legal Services of New Jersey offers a comprehensive divorce kit containing all required forms and instructions. Alternatively, you can obtain the forms through an online divorce service.

If you’re initiating the divorce, you’ll be referred to as the “plaintiff,” while your spouse will be the “defendant.” To commence the divorce proceedings, also known as “dissolution” in New Jersey, you must complete the following documents:

  • Complaint for Divorce
  • Summons
  • Confidential Litigant Information Sheet
  • Certification of Self-Represented Litigant and Dispute Resolution Alternatives
  • Certification Regarding Redaction of Personal Identifiers
  • Certification of Verification and Non-Collusion
  • Certification of Insurance Coverage.

There are different forms for the complaint, depending on your grounds for divorce:

  • for no-fault divorce based on 18-month separation, use court form 1A.
  • for no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences, use court form 1D.
  • for a fault divorce based on desertion, use court form 1B.
  • for a fault divorce based on extreme cruelty, use court form 1C.

The divorce complaint outlines various topics that you may wish the court to address, such as alimony (spousal support), child custody, child support, and the division of property and debts.

If you’re requesting alimony in the complaint, it’s important to note that the court typically doesn’t factor in a spouse’s fault when determining the amount of alimony or whether to award it at all (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2A-34:23 (2021)). While there are exceptions, they are rare. Therefore, it’s generally advisable to file under a no-fault ground, as this often reduces hostility and legal conflicts in divorce proceedings.

Where to File Your Divorce Papers

To initiate the divorce process in New Jersey, you’ll need to submit the divorce complaint and related documents to the Family Division court clerk’s office in the county where you lived when the grounds for divorce occurred. For instance, if you’re citing irreconcilable differences and were residing in Morris County, New Jersey when the six-month waiting period ended, you would file your paperwork in Morris County. If you weren’t living in New Jersey when the grounds for divorce arose, you’d file in the county where your spouse resided at that time. If neither of you were residents when the grounds for divorce arose, you’d file in the county where you currently reside.

The court requires an original and two copies of your documents, but it’s wise to have extras on hand. Additionally, it’s recommended to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope to receive a filed copy from the clerk’s office. Electronic filing may also be an option; check the court’s website for details.

Prepare to pay a filing fee when submitting your case. Current court filing fees can be found on the New Jersey Courts website, which was $300 as of late 2021, with an additional $25 fee for the Parent Workshop if children are involved. If you’re unable to afford the fee, inquire with the court clerk about the possibility of applying for a fee waiver.

Serving the Divorce Papers

Once the court clerk furnishes you with a stamped “filed” copy of the complaint, it’s time to complete the summons and the attached proof of service in readiness for serving your spouse.

Typically, service entails delivering a copy of the summons, complaint, and other divorce documents either through a sheriff or a process server, who will personally hand them to your spouse at their residence or workplace.

The sheriff will levy a service fee; you can obtain fee details by contacting the sheriff’s office. Dispatch two sets of divorce papers to the sheriff while retaining one for your records. Additionally, enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope for the sheriff’s office to return proof of receipt of the paperwork. Ensure to include payment via check or money order for the applicable fees.

Alternatively, if your spouse consents to personal service or service through an attorney, secure a signed Acknowledgment of Service. Once you obtain confirmation that your spouse has received the divorce documents, submit this proof to the court and retain a copy for your records.

If the aforementioned service methods prove unsuccessful, or if your spouse resides out of state, or is in the military or incarcerated, consult the court clerk regarding alternative service methods. (N.J. Rules of Court, rules 4:4-3, 4:4-4, 4:4-5 (2021).)

Next Steps in a New Jersey Divorce

Answering the Divorce Complaint

Your spouse has 35 days from receiving the divorce paperwork to take one of the following actions:

  • File an “Answer” to respond to or contest the claims made in the complaint.
  • File an “Answer and Counterclaim” to respond to the complaint and assert any additional grounds for divorce or claims against you.
  • File an “Appearance” to indicate that they do not contest the claims in the complaint but wish to address issues such as custody, visitation, child support, alimony, property distribution, or other matters.

An Appearance is typically used when both parties have resolved their marital issues and have a marital settlement agreement in place.

Financial Disclosures

In the early stages of the divorce proceedings, both parties will be required to furnish comprehensive details regarding their financial standing including income, expenditures, possessions, and obligations. Each individual must fill out the appropriate Family Part Case Information Statement, which must be submitted to the court within 20 days after the defendant’s spouse’s filing of an answer or appearance.

This document necessitates the provision of extensive data about income and assets. It is advisable to gather as much of this information beforehand to ensure thorough completion of the form. Honesty is paramount, as failure to disclose any accounts, debts, or assets may result in penalties such as fines and potential incarceration in divorce cases.

How much does it cost to file for divorce in New Jersey?

A $300 filing fee and an additional $25 for a Parenting Workshop are required in New Jersey when filing for divorce, depending on whether custody or visitation is desired. In New Jersey, the typical cost of a divorce is between $12,500 to $20,000, which includes court fees, attorney fees, and other charges. Generally, an attorney would charge between $150 and $350 per hour. The intricacy of the case, open questions, and the requirement for supplementary services like appraisals or expert testimony can all affect the final cost.

How long does it take to file for divorce in NJ?

The length of time it takes to file for divorce in New Jersey varies from three to twelve months, depending on several circumstances including the parties’ cooperation, the intricacy of the issues at hand, and whether the divorce is disputed or not. In New Jersey, there is no set waiting period before a divorce can be granted; instead, the court will act quickly to settle disputes and finish all required documentation. The process of an uncontested divorce, which typically takes six to eight weeks if both parties are agreeable, can be accelerated if all issues are agreed upon. However, if issues must be resolved in court, contentious divorces may take longer—up to a year or longer.

Although it’s feasible to pursue a divorce independently, it may not always be the most advisable course of action. Opting for self-filing is most suitable in cases of uncontested divorces or when there are no minor dependents and minimal assets involved. However, in scenarios involving complex assets (such as family businesses or retirement funds) or contentious custody battles, engaging a qualified attorney is likely the wiser choice if feasible. Divorce laws can be intricate, and an experienced lawyer will possess a deep understanding of the legal nuances and the workings of the court system.

It’s crucial to recognize that the consequences of your divorce will likely endure long after the proceedings conclude. If errors are made during the process, rectifying them later on isn’t guaranteed. Therefore, ensuring accuracy and precision from the outset is paramount.

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