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The New Jersey Divorce Process

What is the New Jersey divorce process? How do I start my divorce? Get the answers to these and other frequently asked questions about getting divorced in New Jersey:

How can I save my marriage if my spouse wants a divorce?

It can be traumatic to go through the process of divorce, especially if one party is not ready to give up on the marriage. You can certainly suggest marriage counseling to your partner. However, if he or she is unwilling to attend counseling and stills files for divorce, you cannot stop the legal process. In New Jersey, you do not need your spouse’s consent to obtain a divorce. The most you can do is participate in the divorce process to ensure your rights are being protected. At the least, seek a consultation with a family law attorney so that you know what your rights are. Should the two of you can reconcile, the spouse who filed for the divorce can then file a motion to dismiss.

How do I end my marriage peacefully?

The divorce process can be a terrible time in a person’s life and striving to make this a peaceful period is advisable. Try to focus on not arguing about small issues (i.e., who keeps the microwave?) and instead concentrate on what is best for you and your spouse (and your children, if you have them) to move forward. Concentrating on the negative aspects of your relationship usually only serves to slow the divorce process down, and make you miserable. The more you and your spouse can agree upon, the less painful and speedier the process will be.

How do I actually get a divorce in New Jersey?

In order to start the divorce process, your or your spouse must file the Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint is then served upon the other spouse by sheriff, process server, through their attorney or by your spouse acknowledging they were served by another method such as certified mail. It is important to note that sending the divorce paperwork by standard mail is not acceptable service, unless you spouse agrees to it and signs a notarized document that this is acceptable to them.

Once the documents are served, your spouse has 35 days to respond. If they do not respond, your matter will continue without his or her participation and you will be granted a divorce on a default basis. If your spouse does respond, your matter is now contested and you will begin the process of gathering information from your spouse, attempting to settle through the court and, possibly building your case for trial. If you and your spouse cannot settle your matter, the court will have a trial and the judge will make all decisions for you.

How do I file for a pro-se or “do it yourself” divorce in New Jersey?

You can obtain the forms to file for divorce (and all other necessary forms for the process) from the New Jersey courts website at www.njcourtsonline.net. Remember, the divorce process can be complicated, so strongly consider a consultation with an experienced family law attorney before mistakes are made. Errors in your divorce can cost you time and money.

Do I need an attorney for my divorce?

The short answer is, anyone can go ahead and get a divorce on their own. That means that if they’re representing themselves, they’re called a pro se litigant. And it’s completely understandable, they figure, “You know, let me just take care of this. I know what I want, I know what I expect out of the process and I’m going to get it done timely, I’ll be attentive to my matter.” And they are permitted to go to the court, get certain paperwork and the court staff will, in fact, give them packages called the Pro Se packet, but the staff is not permitted to give legal advice. Having a do-it-yourself divorce type situation can oftentimes lead to a tremendous number of mistakes, so my suggestion is, candidly speaking, just go, get advice, have an initial consultation with a lawyer, a free initial consultation, and then figure out what the right process is for you and how you’re best able to handle it going forward.

How long does it take to get a divorce in New Jersey?

The traditional answer is, from the date of the filing of a complaint for divorce, to the time that you get your final judgment of divorce; it really should not exceed one year’s time. Many people panic when they hear that particular time frame, because they think that it’s just simply too long. But the short answer is, if you and your spouse have definable issues and you’re able to come to the resolution table and make compromises, you really can get the divorce over with in just a short few months. But the reality is that if you do have complex issues that need to be addressed, it does extend the time period. So for instance, if you have business valuations that need to be addressed, or custody that is in dispute for your children as far as parenting time and visitation and such, experts need to be employed, then certainly that expands the overall lifetime of a particular case, and it could, in fact, exceed a year.

How do I start the process for a divorce?

Simply put, you begin the process of divorce by filing the Complaint for Divorce and accompanying documents with the court. From this initial filing, the rest of the process flows.

How long does the divorce process take?

This depends on the complexity of your case and whether or not your spouse can agree upon terms for your settlement agreement. If you have no issues at all (i.e. no children, no property, no debts) then the process can be completed in as little as 3-6 months. If you have complex issues and cannot work out an agreement with your spouse, your divorce may take up to 14 months and beyond to be completed.

Now that we’ve decided to divorce, can I make my spouse move out of the house?

One of the most common questions I get at the initial consultation from new clients is, “Can I make my spouse leave the house? If I file a complaint for divorce, how do I get my spouse out?” Well, the short answer is, you really can’t, not right away, not in the State of New Jersey. What you need to understand is both of you have a right to stay in the house. It’s the marital home. You have a right of possession and you have a right to continue to occupy that particular residence during the pendency of your divorce process, unless one of you by consent is willing to leave.

But understand that if your spouse is willing to leave and wants to take the children, but you’re not willing to let that spouse take the children, your spouse can’t take the children. Your children will remain in the home, unless it’s by agreement. Now, please understand that your spouse will leave the house if, in fact, there is some type of temporary restraining order under the Domestic Violence Act. That is under a very specific situation if, in fact, there is an abuse situation going on and you have a restraining order in effect.

What is the discovery process in a divorce?

If you and your spouse cannot agree on terms of your divorce, your matter is contested and you will go through a discovery process. That process is the gathering of information from your spouse that you may use as evidence in your divorce matter. This information includes things such as pay stubs, bank account information, property records and/or pension records. The information is gathered through interrogatories (a list of questions that you send to be answered by your spouse), a notice to produce (a document listing the items you want your spouse to provide to you, such as bank information) and possibly depositions. Depositions are when you or your spouse are asked questions in the presence of a court reporter. The person answering the questions is sworn to tell the truth and a written transcript is created which can be used later at trial.

How soon after my divorce can I remarry?

Once your judgment of divorce is final and signed by the judge, you are free to marry.

How do I file for a same-sex divorce?

The process for filing for divorce for same-sex couples is exactly the same as that for opposite-sex couples.

How do I file to end a domestic partnership or civil union?

The process for ending a domestic partnership or civil union is largely the same as if you were to file for a typical divorce. You or your partner would file a Complaint for Dissolution of a Domestic Partnership or Civil Union, rather than a traditional complaint for divorce.

Can we file for a “joint divorce” or a “divorce by mutual consent” in New Jersey?

No. Either you or your spouse must file the complaint for divorce to start the process. However, you can both agree to terms for your divorce and enter into a martial settlement agreement that will become part of your divorce. You would then both be granted a dual final judgment of divorce.

What is the divorce process in a domestic violence situation?

The process for divorce is no different if you are in a domestic violence situation than if you are not. Domestic violence can certainly affect the issues in your divorce: your divorce may become contested and you and your spouse may not be permitted to attend certain mediation sessions together if there is a restraining order in place, for example. However, the process by which you would obtain the divorce is the same.

How long do I have to be separated from my spouse before filing for a divorce in New Jersey?

You do not need to physically separated from your spouse in order to file for or even obtain a divorce in New Jersey. Further, New Jersey does not recognize legal separations.

How do I obtain a Jewish divorce?

No court system will get involved in any religious aspects of a divorce. You do not need to obtain a religious divorce in order to be divorced in the civil court system. To obtain a Jewish divorce Get, consult your religious advisor for details relating to religious divorce for members of the Jewish faith.

Is New Jersey the correct state to file for my divorce?

In order to file for divorce in the state of New Jersey, you must be a resident of the state for more than one year before starting the process.

How do I file for divorce if my spouse lives out of state?

You may still file for divorce in New Jersey if your spouse has moved to another state, as long as you have lived her for at least one year. However, you still must follow correct procedure and be sure that your spouse is served in the new state according to New Jersey laws regarding service of process. Your spouse may sign and have notarized an Acknowledgement of Service document which lets the court know that he or she is fine with not being served formally. Otherwise, simply mailing or handing the papers to your spouse is not sufficient, just as if he or she still lived in New Jersey.

Can I file for divorce with no money?

You will most likely still need to pay the filing fee for processing your divorce, though waivers are available if you can demonstrate financial need. Your local legal services office, located in the county where you reside may be able to help you at low or no cost. Do not trust services that claim to be able to assist you with a divorce for a one-time low fee. These services, also known as “notarios” are not attorneys and often cause more harm than good.

What happens if my spouse and I reconcile?

If you and your spouse have decided to reconcile and a divorce has already been filed, contact your attorney so that he or she may file a motion with the court to dismiss the case filing. To help strengthen your union, it is also recommended to seek marriage counseling.

How do I tell my spouse that I want a divorce?

Telling your spouse, “I want a divorce,” may be one of the most difficult things you ever do. When letting your spouse know your intentions, try to do so honestly, openly and calmly, while avoiding having any such conversation in the presence of your children. If you are a victim of domestic violence, it may be in the best interest of your safety to have this information relayed through a third party, such as your attorney.

How do I apply for a “divorce absolute?”

New Jersey does not recognize this type of procedure. Instead, you can file for divorce and your spouse can waive his or her right to answer within 35 days, through a written, notarized waiver and consent to a default (meaning they do not wish to contest or participate in the divorce) judgment of divorce. This is available only to couples who have no issues at all and are merely seeking to be divorced.

How do I file for divorce based upon adultery?

Adultery is one of several grounds for divorce. In New Jersey, you need to tell the court the reason why you want to divorce your spouse, called a ground. If you wish to file for divorce based upon the grounds of adultery, then your complaint for divorce must list specific times when your spouse committed adultery and must also name the person with whom he or she is having the affair(this person is known as the “correspondent.”) The correspondent will also have to be served with formal papers so that he or she can respond to the accusations that they are cheating with your spouse. It is important to consider that New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that the reasons why you want to be divorced do not often affect the division of property, support, etc. It is a good idea to weigh the financial and emotional expense of pursing a divorce based upon adultery.

Can I divorce my spouse in New Jersey without his or her knowledge?

You must make every effort to provide your spouse with notice that you have filed for divorce by properly serving your spouse with the complaint for divorce. The court looks for proof that your spouse has been served so that the judge knows that you have properly notified them. If you do not know your spouse’s whereabouts, you must make a good faith effort to locate them through postal records, motor vehicle records or other investigation. If this fails, the court may allow you to notify them by publishing notice of the divorce in the local newspaper in the town of their last known address.

How do I file for divorce if my husband is incarcerated?

You can still file for divorce if you spouse is incarcerated. In order to properly serve your spouse in prison, you can mail the summons and complaint to the Ombudsman who is in charge of accepting service for inmates at that facility.

How do I file for divorce based upon abandonment?

Abandonment is another ground for divorce. In order to file for divorce based on abandonment, your spouse must have left the home and the marriage no less than one year prior to your filing the complaint for divorce. In order to prove your spouse abandoned you, your spouse must have left not only the home but also abandoned the relationship financially. It is important to note that if your spouse abandons the marriage, returns and then leaves again, the one year period starts all over again.

How do I know what to ask for in a divorce?

It is important to take the time to think about what is most important to you as an end result of your divorce. Is it custody of your children? Alimony? Health insurance? Consider consulting with a family law attorney so that you are aware of your rights and what you may or may not be entitled to receive in the divorce.

How do I know when to ask for a divorce?

This is a very personal issue and deciding the appropriate time to begin this process really depends upon the couple and their situation. Remember to avoid fighting, especially around children. If you are a victim of domestic violence, your (and your children’s) safety is most important. Seek assistance from your local police or courthouse.

How can I obtain a divorce if I am pregnant?

Pregnancy will not affect how you file for divorce or the procedure that you will follow in order to obtain the divorce. If your baby has not been born before your divorce is final, you may have to go back to court to settle the issues of custody, parenting time and child support if you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on these issues. If your spouse is your child’s biological parent, divorce will not impact this status.

How can social media affect my divorce?

Separation and divorce are emotional times. Avoid posting negative messages, thoughts or pictures on any social media including Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. These messages can come back later to haunt you during the divorce process, especially if you have to go through a divorce trial. Anything you post can be saved and used against you in court.

What is the divorce rate in the US?

As of April 2013, the national divorce rate is nearly 50%. But, if you live in New Jersey, you are living in the state with the highest rank for healthy marriages: less than 9% of New Jersey adults are divorced.


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