Obtaining a divorce in New Jersey can be a drawn-out and complicated procedure, particularly when a trial is required because the parties are unable to reach an out-of-court settlement. Although every situation is different, the general actions you must take in order to obtain a divorce in New Jersey are listed below.
How To File For Divorce In NJ
The legal process can seem intimidating if you’re planning to divorce in New Jersey. But depending on your circumstances and the decisions you make, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a struggle.
When you file for divorce in New Jersey, you have a few options to consider:
- You can go the conventional path and get legal counsel right away to represent you.
- Instead, choose an online divorce service that will give you the documents that are already completed (based on your answers to a questionnaire) and effectively serve as your divorce advisor. However, keep in mind that these agencies often exclusively deal with uncontested divorces. That implies that you and your husband must already have achieved an understanding regarding all the terms of your divorce, either independently or with the help of mediation.
- You can choose to handle the divorce alone if you prefer to do things on your own. If you choose to go down this path, it is crucial that you comprehend New Jersey’s requirements, including the forms you will need, the location of the filing, and the next stages.
Qualifying for a New Jersey Divorce
Either you or your spouse must have lived in New Jersey for the previous 12 months in order to initiate a divorce action there. When your spouse’s infidelity is the basis for your divorce, this waiting time is the only exception.
Additionally, you must have “grounds” for divorce, which refers to a valid justification for ending the marriage in court. Both “fault” and “no-fault” reasons for divorce are acceptable in New Jersey. When you accuse your partner of misconduct, such as infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, or desertion, fault grounds are applicable.
Neither spouse is blaming the other for the breakdown of the marriage on no-fault grounds. In New Jersey, the two no-fault grounds are applicable when the spouses:
- Have lived apart and separately in separate residences for at least the past 18 months,
- Have “irreconcilable differences,” which essentially means they can’t get along, which has led the marriage to fail for a period of six months, with no reasonable likelihood of that changing.
Preparing the New Jersey Divorce Forms
A self-help section is available on the New Jersey Courts website. Unfortunately, it only provides a small portion of the paperwork you’ll need to begin the divorce. Legal Services of New Jersey provides a divorce package with documents and instructions for a modest charge. Alternatively, you can access the forms online through a divorce service.
Fill out the paperwork as the “plaintiff” if you are the one starting the divorce. The “defendant” is your spouse. In order to begin the divorce process (also known as “dissolution” in New Jersey), you must finish the following paperwork:
- complaint for divorce
- confidential litigant information sheet
- certification of self-represented litigant and dispute resolution alternatives
- certification regarding redaction of personal identifiers
- certification of verification and non-collusion, and
- certification of insurance coverage.
Depending on your grounds for divorce, there are many complaint forms:
- For no-fault divorce based on an 18-month separation, use court form 1A.
- For no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences, use court form 1D.
- For fault divorce based on desertion, use court form 1B.
- For fault divorce based on extreme cruelty, use court form 1C.
The divorce complaint also details every subject you could want the court to rule on, such as alimony (spousal support), child custody, child support, and how to divide your assets and debts.
If you include a request for alimony in the complaint, it’s important to understand that the court normally doesn’t consider a spouse’s fault when determining the amount of alimony or whether to award alimony at all. New Jersey Revised Statute 2A-34:23 (2021). Though they do occur, exceptions are uncommon. In general, filing for divorce on a no-fault basis is preferable since it tends to reduce conflict and courtroom drama.
Getting a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey
A no-fault divorce is permissible in New Jersey, every other state, as well as the District of Columbia. In New Jersey, there are two no-fault causes of action, with “irreconcilable differences” being the one that is most usually invoked. All that must be proven in this case is that the relationship has been broken for at least six months.
Physical separation is the second no-fault reason for divorce in New Jersey. Contrast this with desertion, which is seen as one of the causes of fault. In this situation, a divorce attorney would advise you that physical separation necessitates at least 18 months of different living arrangements for the marriage.
People are not required to give the court an explanation for their divorce or any other aspect of their marriage’s dissolution. A complaint for divorce can be filed once a couple has lived apart for the amount of time necessary under the specific no-fault ground. The person who filed the complaint would have most likely spoken with a family law attorney by that time.
A no-fault divorce is preferred by many couples. They can take their time during the separation to negotiate a settlement with the aid of their individual divorce lawyers. They won’t have to discuss their marital issues in front of the judge during the subsequent brief hearing in court. In many instances, even if a party that has received sufficient and timely notice of the hearing does not show up, the court will nonetheless issue the decree. Today, divorces can be completed without appearing in court via mail.
Fault Divorce Grounds in New Jersey
When one party applies for divorce and lists one or more defects as the grounds for the petition, the legal heavy lifting becomes more complicated. They filed a document with the court saying that the other party’s conduct was to blame for the marriage’s dissolution in an effort to try to gain the upper hand when it came to specific areas of the judge’s eventual verdict. The majority of the time, but not always, culpability has no bearing on the divorce process’s aspects of child custody or property division. However, the other spouse can try to refute the claim since they don’t want to admit that they contributed to the divorce.
Without a doubt, choosing a no-fault divorce is the simplest course to follow, barring the necessary amount of time. People choose to submit a complaint for a divorce that is based on fault for a variety of reasons, though.
If they decide to do this, they could use a number of different actions or occurrences to get their marriage dissolved. You are responsible for establishing each need if you plan to get a divorce on the basis of one of these grounds. This is not always simple to do, and since divorce processes are public, people could feel awkward about disclosing details about their marriage that might be embarrassing.
This divorce grounds for fault could sound worse than it is. It would, of course, include things like persistent verbal and physical abuse, both of which are extremely harmful. An extended period of time spent without receiving constant emotional support could likewise be considered extreme cruelty. This could include conduct that jeopardizes the welfare and safety of one spouse or activities that simply make it impossible for a married couple to coexist. Depending on the supporting documentation you can provide for your claim, this reason for divorce can be described in more detail.
This is a typical reason for divorce to be blamed. The partner who was being cheated on could want it noted that the other partner engaged in such behavior. However, it is difficult to prove adultery because the proof must be direct rather than indirect. With that in mind, one might wonder why someone would hire a family law attorney and incur the time and cost necessary to establish adultery. Generally speaking, this will not affect the party who committed its eligibility for alimony or its portion of the equitable distribution of marital property. However, the other person might be entitled to compensation if that party used marital funds for the affair.
According to the relevant New Jersey statute, “desertion” as a ground for divorce refers to the deliberate and ongoing abandoning of a marriage for a minimum of 12 months. It is possible to prove that the couple has completely stopped living together as a married pair for that amount of time, among other things.
Only a portion of the list is shown above. There may be further grounds for divorce based on blame, such as:
- The voluntary use of alcohol or drugs habitually.
- A sentence of 18 or more consecutive months behind bars, assuming the pair didn’t start living together again following their release.
- Transgressing sexually without the filing party’s permission.
- being hospitalized in a mental health center for at least 24 months straight following the wedding
Divorce From Bed or Board
Couples may be able to obtain this more limited sort of divorce temporarily while they are deciding on their own future. It is a more official kind of separation rather than a full divorce. If the pair doesn’t reconcile, this can eventually turn into a formal divorce. They will theoretically remain married until a definitive divorce decision has been issued by the court, and both spouses must agree to this. The transition from this legal situation to a final divorce is fairly simple. A family attorney will first assist you in negotiating a marital settlement agreement that addresses property and custody concerns.
No-fault grounds have been established in New Jersey, which makes dissolving a marriage a little bit kinder and softer. In light of this, many couples discover that waiting the required amount of time before filing for divorce makes the process less unpleasant. This would lessen the resentment and enable both parties to concentrate on important legal matters like child custody and property split. You should speak with an expert divorce lawyer before deciding whether to pursue fault-based or no-fault grounds for divorce.
Where to File Your Divorce Papers
The Family Division court clerk’s office in the New Jersey county where you lived when your basis for divorce (also known as a “cause of action”) originated is where you’ll submit the divorce complaint and any supporting paperwork. For instance, if you were a resident of Morris County, New Jersey, at the end of the required six-month term and you were filing for divorce on the grounds of irreconcilable differences, you would do so there. If the cause of action occurred while you were out of the state of New Jersey, you would file in the county in New Jersey where your spouse was a resident at the time. Unless both of you were residents at the time,
The court mandates that you file your documents in original form along with two duplicates, but it’s a good idea to create a few extra copies just in case. To receive a copy marked “filed,” you must send the clerk’s office a self-addressed, stamped envelope. (For information on filing documents electronically, visit the court’s website.)
Be prepared to pay a filing fee when you’re ready to file your lawsuit. The New Jersey Courts website has details on the court filing fees (which are subject to change). The price was $300 as of the end of 2021, plus a $25 Parent Workshop fee if there are kids involved. Ask the court clerk about filing for a fee waiver if you are unable to pay the charge.
Serving the Divorce Papers
Once you have a copy of the complaint that has been stamped “filed” by the court clerk, you should fill out the summons and the accompanying proof of service and get ready to serve your spouse.
A sheriff or process server will often hand-deliver a copy of the summons, complaint, and other divorce paperwork to your spouse at their place of employment or residence.
There will be a cost for the sheriff’s services. (For information on fees, contact the sheriff’s office.) Send the sheriff two copies of the divorce papers and save one for your records. Provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the sheriff’s office as well so they may send you confirmation that the defendant received the documents. For the fees, include a cheque or money order.
Your spouse could also consent to accept service in person or through a representative. Obtain a written Acknowledgement of Service from your spouse if they agree to accept service. Mail the evidence to the court and save a copy for your records once you have confirmation that your spouse has received the divorce papers.
If the aforementioned methods of service are inadequate or if your spouse is out of the country, serving in the military, or is incarcerated, ask the court clerk about alternative methods of service.
Next Steps in a New Jersey Divorce
Answering the Divorce Complaint
After obtaining the divorce papers, your spouse has 35 days to file one of the following:
- An “Answer” addressing or disputing the claims you made in the complaint
- An “Answer and Counterclaim” in response to the complaint, stating any further grounds for divorce or accusations your spouse wants to make against you
- When your spouse makes an “Appearance,” it means they want to be heard regarding issues like child custody, parenting time (visitation), child support, alimony, property split, or other issues. Your spouse isn’t opposing the information you provided in the complaint.
When you and your spouse have settled all of your marital disputes and signed a marital settlement agreement, that is when an appearance is most commonly employed (also known as a “divorce settlement agreement” or “separation agreement”).
Both spouses will have to disclose thorough information about their income, expenses, assets, and liabilities early on in the divorce proceeding. You must each fill out the relevant Family Part Case Information Statement. Within 20 days after the defendant’s spouse files an answer or appearance, this must be submitted to the court.
You must include a lot of information about your income and assets in this document. To ensure that you fill out the form as completely as possible, it is a good idea to gather as much of this information as you can in advance. Being truthful is essential because failing to declare all accounts, debts, or assets could result in fines and/or jail time in a divorce proceeding for the offending spouse.
It is possible to initiate a divorce in New Jersey on your own, but it may not always be the wisest course of action. It’s most useful when your case is uncontested or when you have very few assets and no minor or dependent children.
However, if at all possible, you should hire a lawyer if you have complicated or large assets (such as a family business or retirement accounts to split) or difficult custody arrangements.
Laws governing divorce can be very complex. A skilled divorce attorney will be familiar with the nuances of the law and the court system.
The couple must have lived apart for at least 18 months before filing for divorce on the basis of separation. Extreme Cruelty: Additional evidence must be provided to support a claim of extreme cruelty. To determine if the statute applies to your situation, you should read NJSA 2A:34-2 or speak with an attorney.
If you have children, you must pay $325 to file an official Complaint for Divorce with the court in New Jersey (if you do not). If you require a Process Server to serve your husband, be prepared to pay more. Additionally, your lawyer might bill you for shipping and copy costs.
It generally takes 10 to 12 months (on average) to finalize a divorce from the date a spouse files the complaint. Divorce is an emotional process just as much as a legal process, and a case resolves when all parties are able to get their emotions in order so they can come to the table and be reasonable.
Forewarned is forearmed. Therefore you will be much better equipped to handle the NJ divorce procedure than your husband would be. According to the grounds for divorce, filing first has the obvious advantage of allowing you to select the location of the divorce.
Both fault-based and no-fault divorce grounds are legal in New Jersey. But declaring your “irreconcilable differences” with your spouse and that your marriage has been shattered for six months with no realistic chance of reconciliation is the simplest (and most typical) way to apply for an uncontested divorce in New Jersey.
There is currently a process in place in New Jersey’s court system for getting an uncontested or default divorce ruling without having to attend a court hearing. Details on the procedure and necessary documentation can be found in the court’s directive about “divorce on the papers.”
When it comes to dividing up marital property, New Jersey is an “equitable distribution” state. This implies that property division in a divorce will be equitable. It won’t necessarily be split exactly 50/50, though.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, the divorce procedure is the same as it would be if you weren’t. The issues in your divorce can undoubtedly be impacted by domestic violence; for example, if a restraining order is in place, your divorce may become contentious, and you and your husband may not be able to attend some mediation sessions together. However, the procedure you would follow to get a divorce would be the same.