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Filing for Divorce in New Jersey

- Understanding How to Begin the New Jersey Divorce Process –

To help with understanding the various steps and stages of the divorce process in New Jersey , Weinberger Law Group has created this helpful infographic (in a .pdf format) which shows Stage 1 of 7 on Filing a Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey. You can copy or print out the flowchart below by clicking on the graphic and follow along with the explanation that follows below:

Stage 1: Beginning the Divorce Process

Stage 1: Beginning the Divorce Process

STAGE 1 OF 7

Filing a Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey

The first step in a New Jersey divorce action is for one spouse to file a complaint for divorce with the court. Some couples choose to engage in mediation or settlement negotiations first, but one spouse must file a complaint before the court will order a judgment of divorce. The party who files the complaint becomes the plaintiff and the other becomes the defendant. The court will assign a docket number to the case, stamp the complaint with the docket number and the filing date, and then return it to the plaintiff.

If you are the plaintiff, your complaint will include a request for the divorce itself, as well as for any additional relief you are seeking, such as distribution of marital property, alimony, child custody, or child support. It will also include one or more "grounds" for the divorce.

Notice to Co-Respondent When Grounds Include Adultery

If one of the grounds you choose is adultery, you will have to name the other party in the alleged adultery as a co-respondent in the case, serve that party with notice of the complaint within 30 days of filing it, and file an affidavit of compliance with the court. The co-respondent has a right to file an application intervening in the action.

Serving Complaint on Defendant

Within 10 days of receiving the filed complaint back from the court, the plaintiff must serve the defendant with the complaint and a summons and then file proof of service with the court.

The defendant has 35 days to file an appearance or an answer. An answer can also include a counterclaim stating the same or different grounds for divorce and seeking affirmative relief.

If Defendant Does Not Respond

If the defendant does not respond to the complaint within 35 days, the plaintiff can file a request for default judgment. If the parties have a signed settlement agreement, the matter can proceed as an uncontested divorce and the court can enter a judgment of divorce following a default hearing.

If the parties do not have a signed settlement agreement, the plaintiff must serve the defendant with a notice of proposed final judgment 20 days before the default hearing, attaching a case information statement and terms of the proposed settlement. The court will conduct a default hearing and enter a judgment of divorce.

If Defendant Does Respond

If the defendant's response includes a counterclaim, the plaintiff has 20 days to file an answer. If the parties have minor children together, then once the last responsive pleading (either plaintiff's answer to the complaint or defendant's answer to a counterclaim) has been filed, the court will send notices directing each party to attend a parenting program workshop. Unless there is a temporary or permanent restraining order against one parent, both parents must attend. Each will attend the workshop at different times.

After the Initial Pleadings Have Been Filed

The case will then continue through some or all of the additional 7 stages of the New Jersey Divorce Process. To get more information on all stages we have information under: New Jersey Divorce Road Map