Are you heading for a divorce road block? As a recent case in the United Kingdom demonstrated, it’s still possible in this day and age for a divorce to be called off because one spouse doesn’t want one.
The UK matter involved a couple married since 1978. The wife filed legal papers a few years ago on the grounds the marriage had irretrievably broken down. According to her court statement, her husband’s behavior made it unreasonable for her to continue living with him.
The husband denied his wife’s allegations and has refused to take part in the divorce. His attorney have characterized his client as being ”unfairly criticized for attempting to save his marriage.”
A higher court in the UK recently sided with the husband and the divorce has been put on hold. It’s a ruling that has many in the UK calling for a modernization of divorce laws in the country.
New Jersey divorce when one spouse disagrees
If this same divorce had been filed for in New Jersey, the outcome would have been very different.
Under current NJ family law, the courts will permit you to move forward and obtain a divorce even if your spouse does not want one and/or attempts to prevent the divorce by failing or refusing to participate in the process. The bottom line: In New Jersey, if one spouse decides to divorce and file, the other spouse has no say in the matter.
New Jersey’s family laws are progressive. No one wants marriages to end, but like terminating any legal relationship, the state understands that the decision to end a marriage can sometimes be a unilateral decision — and for good reason. For example, victims of domestic abuse are often subject to intimidation tactics from the abuser to remain in the marriage. The law if there to protect the survivor spouse’s decision to end their relationship.
What is a “default judgment of divorce” in New Jersey?
Once legal papers are filed, the divorce is given an official court docket number and it starts to make its way through the courts. Generally, the only way for a New Jersey divorce to “go away” is for the original petitioner to file a motion withdrawing papers.
When one spouse resists or refuses to accept legal papers and/or does not respond to them, a divorce can and will still be granted. The courts do so by means of a default judgment in which a judge will look over all paperwork submitted by only the filing spouse and make all decisions about all aspects of the matter — including child custody, child support, alimony and asset division — based on this information.
The basic process for obtaining a default judgement in New Jersey involves:
Filing and serving a Complaint for divorce: Only one spouse needs to file papers with the courts to start the legal process. If you are the filing spouse, you will need to complete required forms (NJ documents is explained here). A process server will attempt to serve the papers on your spouse. If successfully served, your spouse then has 35 days to respond.
Serving a Notice of Equitable Distribution & Case Information Statement: If your spouse does not respond to the legal papers because they object to the divorce or for other reasons, you next serve your spouse with a Notice of Equitable Distribution and Case Information Statement, which contains all of the issues you want to resolve in your matter such as child custody, visitation, alimony, child support, division of all assets, insurance coverage and payment responsibilities. The Case Information Statement provides details specific to your case such as income, assets, liabilities and a monthly budget.
Obtaining a Decree: The Case Information Sheet and accompanying documents are also submitted in court for the judge for incorporate into your final judgment. A date will be set for this court hearing and your spouse will be served notice of it.
Your spouse has the right to participate in the final hearing and oppose your requests, but even if he or she does make an appearance on your court date, if your requests are viewed as fair and reasonable, the judge will most likely accept them and grant you a decree.
It’s clearly in the best interests of both spouse to respond
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