New Jersey Divorce Laws

by ECL Writer
New Jersey Divorce Laws

Navigating the intricate legal landscape of divorce is a challenging journey, and in the state of New Jersey, it becomes a nuanced experience shaped by specific laws and regulations. As couples confront the emotional and logistical complexities of separation, understanding the legal framework is crucial.

This article delves into the intricacies of New Jersey’s divorce laws, providing a comprehensive overview of key aspects such as grounds for divorce, property division, alimony, and child custody.

Whether you’re contemplating the end of a marriage or seeking clarity on your rights, a solid understanding of New Jersey’s divorce laws is essential. Join as we unravel the legal tapestry that defines the dissolution of marriages in the Garden State, offering insights to help individuals make informed decisions during this challenging time.

New Jersey Laws on Qualifying for Divorce

A New Jersey divorce requires the following two preliminary conditions: You must meet the state’s residency requirements and have a valid reason for dissolving your marriage.

Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey

In New Jersey, divorcing couples can opt for either fault or no-fault grounds. No-fault divorce is generally recommended due to its efficiency and avoidance of contentious legal battles. Two no-fault options exist: first, living separately in different residences for at least 18 consecutive months, and second, citing “irreconcilable differences” that caused a six-month breakdown in the marriage with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2A-34:2, 2022).

Choosing a no-fault divorce minimizes the likelihood of disputes over misconduct allegations, thereby saving time, and money, and reducing emotional stress. By focusing on the practical grounds of separation or irreconcilable differences, couples can navigate the divorce process more amicably, facilitating a smoother transition into post-marital life.

Residency Requirement for a New Jersey Divorce

Either you or your spouse must have lived in New Jersey for at least a year prior to filing for divorce in order to obtain a divorce there. (N.J. Rev. Stat. § 2A-34:10 (2022)) The only exception to this one-year residency requirement is if you’re seeking a fault divorce based on your spouse’s adultery.

How to File for Divorce in New Jersey

The process of initiating a divorce in New Jersey involves submitting a divorce “complaint” to the court. This will contain details about your residence in New Jersey, the reasons for your divorce, and the various matters (such as child custody, spousal maintenance, and the distribution of your assets and debts) that you would like your divorce decree to address. You are the “plaintiff” and your spouse is the “defendant” when you fill out the complaint form.

Depending on your divorce grounds, there are various complaint forms. As an illustration:

  • court form 1A for no-fault divorce based on an 18-month separation
  • Court form 1B for fault divorce based on desertion
  • Court form 1C for fault divorce based on severe cruelty, and
  • Court form 1D for an irreconcilable differences-based no-fault divorce.

Along with the complaint, you’ll also need to complete and file some other documents, including:

  • a summons
  • a certification of verification and non-collusion
  • a certification of self-represented litigant and dispute resolution alternatives
  • a certification regarding the redaction of personal identifiers
  • a confidential litigant information sheet, and
  • a certification of insurance coverage.

To initiate the divorce process in New Jersey, you can obtain the necessary forms from the New Jersey Court’s online self-help centre or purchase a divorce kit from Legal Services of New Jersey for a small fee. If it’s an uncontested divorce, you also have the option of using an online divorce service that provides forms and completes them based on your questionnaire responses.

Once you’ve filled out the forms, submit the original and two copies to the Family Division court clerk’s office in the New Jersey county where either you or your spouse resided when the cause of action occurred. If neither of you lived in New Jersey at that time, file the papers in the county where you currently reside. Remember to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for a “filed” copy. It’s advisable to make extra copies for your records. (Reference: N. J. Rules of Ct., rule 5:7-1, 2022.)

The Cost of Filing for Divorce in New Jersey

It costs money to file for divorce in court. As of 2022, the cost was $300. The court’s current filing fees page contains information on how to apply for a waiver if you are unable to pay the fee, but it is always subject to change, so be sure to check it out.

Overview of the Divorce Process in New Jersey

The process of obtaining a final divorce in New Jersey is largely dependent on whether your case is “contested” or “uncontested” after you’ve filed your initial divorce papers.

Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey

To obtain an uncontested divorce in New Jersey, couples must agree on key issues, including the division of marital property and debts, alimony (if applicable), and arrangements for child custody, visitation, and child support if there are minor children involved. Many couples try to resolve disputes through mediation before filing for divorce. If successful, the mediator prepares a marital settlement agreement, forming the basis for the divorce.

After filing the necessary paperwork, additional steps include:

  1. Wait for the Waiting Period: New Jersey has a mandatory waiting period before a divorce can be finalized. This waiting period typically lasts 35 days from the date of filing.
  2. Court Appearance (if necessary): In some cases, a court appearance may be required, especially if there are minor children involved. The judge may review the settlement agreement and ask questions to ensure it is fair and in the best interest of any children.
  3. Finalizing the Divorce: Once the waiting period is over and any required court appearances are completed, the judge can issue the final judgment of divorce. If a marital settlement agreement exists, it can be included in the judgment.
  4. Child Support Enforcement: If child support is part of the agreement, the court may monitor and enforce these arrangements. Child custody and visitation plans are typically outlined in the judgment.
  5. Officially Dissolving the Marriage: Once the judge signs the final judgment of divorce, the marriage is officially dissolved, and both parties are legally single.

It’s essential to follow all the required steps and ensure that the divorce agreement is thorough and comprehensive to avoid complications later on. Consulting with an attorney can provide guidance and help ensure that all legal requirements are met.

Addressing the grievance. You must serve your spouse with the filed complaint, a summons, and proof of service as soon as the court clerk gives you a copy of the document. The simplest method to accomplish this is to have your spouse sign an Acknowledgment of Service and mail or deliver the paperwork. If not, you’ll usually need to make arrangements for a process server or sheriff to personally deliver them to your spouse at home or at work. (To find out how much they charge for this service, ask the sheriff or process server.) Ask the court clerk about other ways to serve your spouse if you haven’t been successful in doing so, such as placing a notice in a newspaper.

Addressing the grievance. Once your spouse receives the divorce papers, they typically have 35 days to respond. The only paperwork your spouse needs to file in an uncontested divorce is an “Appearance.” This form must be filed for a fee, which is currently $175.

Completing the divorce. If you have filed for an uncontested divorce and turned in your signed, notarized settlement agreement, you can request that the court issue your final divorce decree without holding a hearing. Both you and your partner must sign and return a document titled “Request for Entry of an Uncontested Divorce Without a Court Appearance.”

Your file will be sent to a judge for review if all of your paperwork is in order. If there are no issues or queries, the judge will sign your final divorce decree; if not, you might need to attend a hearing. If you want a default divorce and your spouse did not reply to your divorce complaint, you can follow a similar process. (Refer to New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts Directive #18-20 for specifics on the required paperwork and procedures).

Contested Divorce in New Jersey

In New Jersey, when spouses have disputes over issues in their divorce case, the case proceeds as a contested divorce. Here are the key steps and considerations:

  • Filing a Family Case Information Statement (FCIS): When a spouse files an Answer or Appearance, both parties must complete and file a Family Case Information Statement within 20 days. This form requires detailed information about income and assets. Full disclosure and honesty are crucial, as there are serious consequences for hiding assets during a divorce.
  • Mediation: New Jersey courts encourage couples to resolve their disputes and participate in mediation for certain issues. Mediation involves a neutral third party helping the couple reach agreements on issues such as child custody, support, and division of assets. It can be either mandatory or voluntary.
  • Legal Representation: Many couples seek the assistance of their respective lawyers during the divorce process. Lawyers can provide guidance, negotiate on behalf of their clients, and help facilitate agreements.
  • Agreement or Trial: Most couples can reach agreements on issues with the help of lawyers, mediators, or both. However, if no agreement is reached, the case may proceed to trial, where a judge will make decisions on unresolved issues. Some disputes are more challenging to resolve than others.
  • Guidance of New Jersey Law: In the absence of an agreement, New Jersey law provides guidelines for judges to make decisions on various divorce-related issues. These issues may include child custody, child support, spousal support, and the division of marital assets.

It’s important for individuals going through a contested divorce to adhere to court rules, provide accurate information, and consider alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation before proceeding to trial.

In New Jersey, divorce typically involves addressing several key issues, including child support, child custody, property and debt division, and alimony. Child support calculations are guided by established formulas based on the spouses’ income and parenting time. Child custody matters can be emotionally charged and are determined based on the best interests of the children, considering factors such as any history of abuse.

Property and debt division follows the principle of “equitable distribution,” where the judge aims for a fair resolution rather than a strict 50-50 split. Alimony may be awarded based on factors such as one spouse’s need, the other’s ability to pay, the length of the marriage, and the standard of living. Notably, marital fault is generally not considered in alimony determinations.

Contested divorces can be expensive, particularly if they go to trial, leading to high legal fees. The cost tends to increase with prolonged disputes, making settlements a more cost-effective option. Divorcing couples need to navigate these issues carefully to reach fair and amicable resolutions.

How Long Does a Divorce Take in New Jersey?

The type of divorce you’re going through will determine how long it takes to finish your case. Given that all of the parties have settled their differences, an uncontested divorce will go more quickly than a contested one. Thus, nothing remains to quarrel about.

  • In New Jersey, uncontested divorces may be completed in less than two months. That will rely on the speed at which your spouse answered the divorce complaint and the volume of cases the court in the county where you filed the complaint is handling.
  • Divorces that are contested normally take much longer—often close to a year or longer. The number and nature of your disagreements with your spouse, the length of time it takes you to reach a settlement, and whether a trial is required will all determine how long it will take.

In a divorce in New Jersey, should you represent yourself?

While you have the right to represent yourself in a divorce, it’s advisable to do so only in straightforward cases with few complications, like uncontested situations or those without children and minimal assets. For complex matters such as custody disputes or intricate financial situations, hiring a qualified divorce attorney is recommended.

Divorce laws are intricate, and an experienced lawyer understands both the legal nuances and the court system. The long-term consequences of your divorce can be significant, and correcting mistakes later might be challenging. It’s crucial to get it right initially, emphasizing the importance of professional legal guidance.

Leave a Comment

This blog is ONLY for informational or educational purposes and DOES NOT substitute professional legal advise. We take no responsibility or credit for what you do with this info.