Is it possible to get a “quickie divorce” in New Jersey? The general benchmark for how long it takes to divorce in New Jersey stands at approximately 12 months (from filing to final decree), with some complex divorces cases taking upwards of 18 months or longer. However, every divorce is different. How can you and your spouse save time reaching a final settlement? Here are our three favorite tips for speeding up the divorce process.
Secret One: Understand the Difference Between Contested & Uncontested Divorce
If you really want to save time on your divorce, do some careful thinking about whether your divorce truly involves issues that need to be settled by a judge (aka, a contested divorce), or whether you and your spouse can settle your own matters out of court through mediation or arbitration, two commonly used forms of alternative dispute resolution. When you and your spouse don’t have contentious issues to settle, and agree to work together amicably, this is known as an uncontested divorce. Waiting for far-off court dates in New Jersey’s overcrowded court system can be frustrating, and the amount of time and effort it takes to prepare for court can be overwhelming. If you can at all picture sitting down at the negotiating table with your spouse and hammering out your own differences, you will likely find the uncontested divorce process takes much less time than traditional divorce court litigation.
Secret Two: Make Determining Income A Priority
The basis for calculations ranging from child support to alimony depend on documented income levels. A huge drag on time for many couples is the gathering all the documents necessary to determine earned and unearned income. In the interest of saving time, it’s a good idea to make income determines a priority right off the bat in your divorce. This can be done by exchanging and reviewing basic financial documents such as tax returns, W2 forms, pay stubs and 1099s, as well as statements regarding stock options, deferred compensation and commissions. When income is determined at the outset of a divorce, it is less likely that there will be a dispute regarding support calculations and payment responsibilities for the family. Once support is calculated through the assistance of a New Jersey (NJ) divorce attorney and agreed upon, the both of you can turn your attention to dividing your assets and liabilities. (For a list of documents to gather, see our blog, Documents Needed for Divorce.)
Secret Three: Don’t Delay In Assessing Value of Assets & Liabilities
In order to settle issues involving the distribution of assets and debts in New Jersey, it is first necessary to define the assets and debts that exist. To stop the task of determining marital assets and debts from becoming too time consuming, consider breaking it down into five basic steps:
1. Start with a list of your real estate property and document the value as if the property were being sold on the market today. Then, deduct any outstanding loans to determine the approximate equity in the home.
2. Itemize current balances for checking and savings accounts, money market accounts, CDs, stocks, bonds, IRAs, 401Ks, 403Bs, SEP accounts, deferred compensation plans and any other accounts you and your spouse maintain. Make a note of any loans taken against these accounts, large withdrawals, liquidations or transfers that have taken place. Find the most recent pension statement to clarify the total benefit amount and the projected monthly payments anticipated at the time of distribution.
3. Use the internet to research the Blue Book value of all vehicles in their present condition. Most people tend to use Edmunds or Kelly Blue Book to help with this valuation process. Subtract any loans on the vehicles to calculate their approximate equity.
4. Make a thorough list of furniture, furnishings and household items as well as collectibles such as coin, stamp, train and artwork collections.
5. Identify all outstanding debts and obligations including student loans, credit card balances that have not been paid off, hospital bills and all secured personal loans, including those with family or friends.
Not quite sure if these tips will work in your divorce? Wondering how else you can save time on your divorce? We encourage you to explore our other resources, including our New Jersey Divorce Road Map, to get a sense of where you are in the divorce process. To get right to the heart of your matter, we also encourage you to contact us to schedule an initial consultation. We have many more time-saving tips up our sleeve!