The divorce process can be time consuming, draining and expensive if you let it get out of hand. And, if you and your soon-to-be ex have children, the stakes become even higher and the battles can become longer, angrier and even more costly — both financially and psychologically. On top of that, the procedures and laws that govern how and when to navigate through the family court can be confusing and frustrating. So, how can you avoid this being an even more difficult time? Avoid these common pitfalls in order to get yourself and keep yourself on track.
PITFALL #1: Ignoring the service of process laws.
New Jersey has very specific laws that instruct those who filed for divorce on how to serve the divorce papers properly upon their spouse. In order for your spouse to be served properly and for your case to move forward, they must be served in person, or they must sign a form that tells the court they waive their right to receive the papers in person. Regular, or even certified mail is not sufficient service and neither is your handing the papers to your spouse. In person service must be done by a professional process server or by the sheriff’s department in your county. They are then responsible for providing proof in the form of a sworn statement that your spouse has been served properly. If you do not know where your spouse is located, the court does allow for alternative methods to get them the documents, but you must have specific permission from the court in order to pursue these methods. Do not ignore this process as the court will look for proof that your spouse was legally served. Without that proof, your case will not proceed. If you have questions, talk to a family law attorney.
PITFALL #2: Refusing to negotiate or mediate your issues.
A great way to run up your legal bills and ramp up your emotions is to dig in your heels and refuse to talk to your spouse about what issues exist in your divorce. Too many divorcing couples take the tack that it’s “all or nothing” in a world where courts strongly favor mediation, arbitration and negotiation. The very last thing you want to face is a divorce trial which can last for months and can cost tens of thousands in legal fees. Avoid this by approaching your marriage as a business, trying to see what is fair for the family and by keeping your children’s best interests at heart. Put aside emotion and roll up your sleeves while you work at dividing assets and debts and decide custody and parenting time plans. If you need professional help, consider enlisting the services of a professional mediator who is trained to guide couples toward resolving their own matters in the present and going forward into the future.
PITFALL #3: Becoming a doormat.
Do not let your spouse bully you into a settlement that you are not happy or comfortable with. You spouse may receive your divorce papers and immediately begin demanding his or her way. Avoid giving in. This may be especially difficult if your spouse attempted to control you during your marriage. Take a deep breath and remember why you filed for divorce in the first place. If you really feel that you cannot assert your rights or express your needs to your spouse, go to mediation or hire a divorce attorney that can fight for you with your guidance. A good divorce attorney will recognize what is most important to you in the divorce and will advocate for your position while advising you on the law. Do not allow the attorney to dictate how your case will be handled; remember they work for you! Listen to their advice, follow the law, but make your own decisions about what you and your children can live with now and in the future.
If you have just filed for divorce or have been served with divorce papers and have questions about your rights and responsibilities, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, qualified to handle divorce or any other family law matter here in New Jersey.