How to file a divorce in New Jersey

by ECL Writer
How to file a divorce in New Jersey

Navigating the complexities of divorce proceedings can be a daunting task, especially in a state like New Jersey with its own set of legal requirements and procedures. Whether you’re contemplating the end of your marriage or have already made the decision, understanding how to file for divorce is crucial for a smooth transition.

Eastcoastlaws.com break down the essential steps and considerations involved in filing for divorce in New Jersey. From determining eligibility and grounds for divorce to the intricacies of asset division and child custody arrangements, we’ll provide comprehensive insights to help you navigate this challenging process with confidence.

Whether you’re seeking an uncontested divorce or anticipating a contentious battle, knowing the procedures and requirements can make all the difference in achieving a fair and amicable resolution. Let’s delve into the essential information you need to initiate the divorce process in the Garden State.

Filling For Divorce In New Jersey

In New Jersey, filing for divorce involves several steps. First, you need to meet the residency requirement, which typically means either you or your spouse must have lived in New Jersey for at least one year before filing.

Then, you’ll need to fill out the appropriate forms, usually the Complaint for Divorce form, which outlines the reasons for the divorce and any requests for child custody, support, and division of assets. You’ll file these forms with the Superior Court Clerk’s Office in the county where either you or your spouse resides. After filing, you must serve your spouse with the divorce papers, either through personal service or by certified mail.

Your spouse then has a set amount of time to respond. If there are no disputes, the divorce can proceed relatively smoothly. However, if there are disagreements, mediation or court hearings may be necessary to resolve them. Finally, once all issues are settled, a judge will issue a Final Judgment of Divorce, officially ending the marriage.

Residency And Where To File

One of the following conditions must be satisfied to file for divorce in New Jersey: One of the parties must either (1) have lived in New Jersey for a minimum of a year, or (2) if adultery committed in the state is what led to the divorce, then one of the parties must be a resident (without any time limitation). Any county in New Jersey may be your filing location for the Chancery Division of the Superior Court.

Procedures

An uncontested divorce is the easiest to go through because it allows you and your spouse to agree on how your property will be divided and, if you have children, how their needs will be met. The first thing you do is draft a divorce complaint and any necessary supporting documentation. A marital settlement agreement detailing the division of assets and your agreement regarding any children will be one of these documents for an uncontested divorce. Copies of these documents are sent to your spouse and are filed with the court. You will appear in court, where the judge will enter your Judgment of Divorce, check that all of your documentation is in order, and maybe ask you a few questions.

Grounds For Divorce

Legally acknowledged causes for divorce are known as grounds for divorce. This serves as the rationale for ending the marriage. Like other states, New Jersey offers various traditional fault-based grounds for divorce in addition to what are known as no-fault grounds.

To obtain a no-fault divorce in New Jersey, you must indicate in your divorce complaint that either “the parties have been living separate and apart for 18 months, and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation” or “there are irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is not a reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”

Adultery, wilful desertion for 12 months, extreme cruelty (which requires filing for divorce within 3 months of the last alleged act), drug or alcohol addiction, institutionalization for mental illness for 24 months following the marriage and before filing, imprisonment for 18 months (as long as there is no cohabitation following release), and voluntary, deviant sexual behaviour carried out without the other party’s consent are the fault-based grounds for divorce. However, because they complicate the procedure by demanding proof, there is typically no purpose to employ any of these.

Property Division

Under New Jersey divorce law, all property is considered marital property, irrespective of its origin or acquisition timeline. When dividing this property, the judge takes into account various factors including:

  • The duration of the marriage or civil union.
  • The age, physical, and emotional health of each party.
  • The income or property brought into the marriage or civil union by each party.
  • The standard of living established during the marriage or civil union.
  • Any written agreements made by the parties.
  • Each party’s economic circumstances at the time of property division.
  • Each party’s income, earning capacity, including factors such as career interruptions for child-rearing, and efforts to attain self-sufficiency through training.
  • Contributions made by each party to the other’s education, training, or earning potential.
  • Contributions made by each party to the acquisition, preservation, or appreciation of marital or civil union property, including homemaking activities.
  • Consideration of tax implications for each party regarding the proposed property distribution.
  • The present value of the property in question.
  • The necessity for a parent with physical custody of a child to maintain ownership or occupancy of the marital residence or shared residence, along with household effects ownership or use.
  • Debts and liabilities owed by the parties.
  • The need for a trust fund to cover medical or educational expenses for a party or child.
  • The extent to which a party postponed career advancement for the benefit of the marriage or family.
  • Any other pertinent factors deemed relevant by the court.

Alimony In New Jersey

In the absence of a mutual agreement between the involved parties, the judge will determine whether to grant alimony and, if so, the appropriate amount and duration, taking into account the following considerations:

  • The actual financial needs and capabilities of each party.
  • The duration of the marriage or civil union.
  • The age, physical, and emotional well-being of each party.
  • The standard of living established during the marriage or civil union, and the likelihood of each party maintaining a reasonably comparable standard of living.
  • The earning capacity, educational background, vocational skills, and employability of each party.
  • The duration of time one party has been absent from the job market while seeking maintenance.
  • The parental responsibilities of each party.
  • The time and expenses required for education or training for the party seeking maintenance to secure suitable employment, considering the availability of such training and employment opportunities, as well as the potential for future acquisition of assets and income.
  • The contributions made by each party to the marriage or civil union, including childcare and education, and any interruptions to personal careers or education.
  • The fair distribution of property and any current income payouts.
  • The income potential through investment of assets held by each party.
  • The tax implications and consequences of any alimony award for both parties.
  • The nature, amount, and duration of any temporary support provided, if applicable.
  • Any other relevant factors deemed important by the court.

Child Custody In New Jersey

A mandatory Parent Education Program is in place, with custody agreements being accepted by the judge unless they are deemed not in the child’s best interest. In cases where a custody agreement cannot be reached, the judge will decide after considering several factors:

  • The ability of each party to agree, communicate, and cooperate regarding the child.
  • The willingness of each party to accept custody and any past instances of unwillingness to allow parenting time are not based on proven abuse.
  • The interaction and relationship of the child with their parents and siblings.
  • History of domestic violence and the safety of the child and either party from physical abuse by the other.
  • The child’s preference, if of sufficient age and capacity to reason.
  • The needs of the child.
  • Stability of the home environment being offered.
  • Quality and continuity of the child’s education.
  • Fitness of the parties.
  • Geographical proximity of the parties’ homes.
  • Extent and quality of time spent with the child prior to or after separation.
  • Employment responsibilities of the parties.
  • Age and number of the children.
  • Any other factor deemed relevant by the judge.

How Much Does It Cost To File For Divorce In New Jersey?

In New Jersey, the divorce filing cost includes a $300 filing fee. If custody or parenting time is sought, an additional $25 Parenting Workshop Fee may apply. The average cost of a divorce in New Jersey can range from $12,500 to $20,000, covering legal fees, court costs, and other expenses. 

Factors influencing the cost include the complexity of the case, unresolved issues, and additional services required like appraisals or expert witnesses. Attorney fees typically range from $150 to $350 per hour in New Jersey. Additional costs may arise for services like serving divorce papers, hiring experts such as forensic accountants or appraisers, and complying with procedural requirements.

How Long Does It Take To File For Divorce In NJ?

In New Jersey, the time it takes to file for divorce typically ranges between three and twelve months, depending on various factors such as the complexity of the issues involved, cooperation between parties, and whether it is contested or uncontested. There is no mandatory waiting period for divorce in NJ, and the court can grant a divorce as soon as all necessary paperwork is completed and issues are resolved. 

An uncontested divorce where both parties agree on all issues can expedite the process, usually taking around six to eight weeks if both spouses are cooperative. However, contested divorces may take longer, potentially up to a year or more5. It is essential to note that New Jersey does not have a mandatory waiting period for divorce, unlike some neighbouring states.

Who Pays For Divorce In NJ?

In New Jersey, in a divorce case, each party generally pays for their attorney. However, under specific circumstances, the court may order one spouse to pay for the other spouse’s attorney fees to ensure a fair legal process. Factors considered include the financial circumstances of each spouse, good faith or bad faith actions during the case, and the need to level the playing field financially. The court may also allow the use of marital funds to cover litigation expenses and order the sale of assets if necessary. The spouse typically pays alimony or spousal support with a higher income to support the other spouse post-divorce.

Hiring A New Jersey Lawyer In Divorce Process

In New Jersey, it is generally recommended to hire a divorce attorney rather than attempting to navigate the divorce process on your own. Representation by a qualified attorney offers several advantages, such as ensuring that crucial legal aspects are addressed properly, avoiding common pitfalls, and protecting your rights and those of your family. Self-representation can lead to financial and emotional complications later due to missed opportunities or mistakes made during the process. When choosing a New Jersey divorce attorney, consider the following tips:

  • Ensure the attorney specializes in divorce and family law.
  • Feel comfortable with and confident in your chosen attorney.
  • Check reviews and testimonials from previous clients.
  • Look for an attorney who communicates clearly and explains legal concepts in simple terms.
  • Verify that the attorney presents a clear plan and fee structure.
  • Assess efficiency within the attorney’s practice.
  • Determine how frequently you will receive updates and communication.
  • Confirm the attorney’s availability in emergencies.
  • Be aware of the estimated timeline for resolving your case.

The initial consultation with a prospective attorney should be free of charge and allow you to assess compatibility and suitability for handling your case.

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