Divorce in New Jersey can be a emotional, complicated, stressful, and expensive. An experienced divorce attorney can help guide you through the process and ease some of these concerns.
Overview of the Process
Complaint - Divorce is initiated by the filing of a divorce complaint. This document lays out the grounds for divorce as well as the relief sought. Grounds for Divorce Include:
- Extreme Cruelty
- Substance Abuse
- Deviant Sexual Contact
- And Irreconcilable Differences or Separation – the no-fault divorce cause of actions, and most commonly used grounds for divorce.
For a no-fault divorce, the parties must have experienced either 6 months of irreconcilable differences with no prospect reasonable prospect of reconciliation, or 18 consecutive months of separation.
To apply for divorce, one of the parties has to be a bono fide resident of New Jersey for at least one year. The only exception to this requirement is adultery.
Answer and Counterclaim - After Divorce has been filed and the opposing party has been served with the complaint, they have 35 days to file and Answer. They also have the option of filing a Counterclaim for divorce, seeking separate relief from the Court themselves.
Default - If the opposing party does not file an Answer within 35 days, the party who filed the Complaint can now Request a Default for entry of divorce without the opposing party.
Discovery - If an Answer is filed, the parties will enter the discovery stage allowing for information to be requested and depositions to be taken, if necessary.
Settlement - Most divorces end with settlement. Settlements for divorces are done with Property Settlement Agreements or Matrimonial Settlement Agreements. These documents govern the terms of the divorce following the dissolution of the marriage. Settlement can take place at any time including before or after the divorce complaint is filed and up to the completion of trial.
There are many mechanisms the judiciary has put in place to help divorce settlements including Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel (MESP), parenting time mediation, and settlement conferences.
Trial - If the parties cannot agree and discovery is complete, the Court will set a trial date to resolve all issues and once the Judge makes a decision on all outstanding issues, the parties will be divorced.
Common Issues in Divorce
Some common areas of contention in divorce include:
- Custody and parenting time
- Child Support
- Equitable Distribution (Division of real and/or personal property) including:
- Bank Accounts
- Retirement Accounts
- Credit Cards
- Business assets
- Marital Homes
- Loans, and more.
Self-Representation or Pro Se Divorce
You are able to file divorce yourself. You can get the forms online, pay the fee and initiate the process yourself. However, if any of the issues outlined above are in contention or apply to your circumstances, you could be putting your rights at risk. You may lose money you’re entitled to, pay more than you should, or have significantly less parenting time than you should. While it may seem like a cost-effective approach, it could have dire consequences for you in the future. At the very least, you should speak to a divorce attorney today before making the decision to tackle this process yourself.
At Hark & Hark we are reducing fees and offering manageable payment plans. We represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey, including Newark, Jersey City, Paterson, Elizabeth, Edison, Woodbridge, Lakewood, Toms River, Hamilton, Trenton, Clifton, Camden, Brick, Cherry Hill, Passaic, Middletown, Union City, Old Bridge, Gloucester Township, East Orange, Bayonne, Franklin Township, North Bergen, Vineland, and Union.