When Only One Spouse Wants to Divorce: Obtaining A Default Judgment

In a best case scenario, the decision to divorce is made only after much careful and thoughtful consideration and an understanding on the part of both spouses that ending their marriage is ultimately the right thing to do, even if it’s a very difficult thing to do.

In many divorce cases, however, separation can be the result of one spouse abruptly leaving out of the blue and abandoning the other, or the decision to divorce is a choice made by only one spouse, with the other spouse resistant to the idea.

Do you find yourself in one of these last two examples, either as the spouse caught off guard by divorce, or as the spouse who has left? Here’s what you need to know about what happens in New Jersey when divorce is only pursued by one spouse.

The bottom line question here is, of course: Can you still get divorced when the decision to end your marriage is not a mutual one? In New Jersey, the answer is yes. Under current NJ family law, the courts will permit you to move forward and obtain a divorce even if your spouse attempts to prevent it by failing or refusing to participate in the divorce process. In these types of cases, a divorce can be granted by means of a default judgment

The basic process for obtaining a default judgement divorce involves:

Filing and serving a Complaint for divorce: Only one spouse needs to file divorce papers with the courts. If you are the filing spouse, you will need to complete required forms (NJ divorce documents is explained here) as best you can, including the last known address of your spouse. 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 doesn’t respond to the divorce papers, 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 divorce 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 Divorce Decree: The Case Information Sheet and accompanying documents are also submitted in court for the judge for incorporate into your final judgment of divorce. 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 divorce decree.

For more information about initiating the first steps of divorce in New Jersey, please see our information on Filing for Divorce in New Jersey which also includes a printable, Beginning the Divorce Process diagram.