It can be intimidating to go through the legal process if you intend to divorce in New Jersey. However, depending on your situation and your decisions, it may not always be a struggle.
When you file for divorce in New Jersey, you have a few options to consider:
- The conventional approach is to hire legal counsel early on to represent you.
- You can decide to employ an online divorce service, which will give you the completed documents (depending on your responses to a questionnaire) and essentially guide you through the divorce procedure. Nevertheless, you should be aware that these firms typically exclusively deal with uncontested divorces. In other words, either by mutual consent or with the aid of mediation, you and your spouse must have already reached an agreement on every matter pertaining to your divorce.
- You can choose to handle the divorce on your own if you prefer to do things alone. If you choose to go down this route, 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.
Preparing the New Jersey Divorce Forms
There is a self-help section on the New Jersey Courts website. Sadly, it only provides some of the paperwork you’ll need to begin the divorce procedure. A divorce in New Jersey package with forms and instructions is available through Legal Services of New Jersey for a nominal cost. Alternatively, you can obtain the documents through an online divorce agency.
If you are the one starting the divorce, you must fill out the paperwork under the title “plaintiff.” “Defendant” is your partner. You must complete the following forms in order to begin the divorce process (also called “dissolution” in New Jersey):
- 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.
According to your grounds for divorce, there are many complaint forms available:
- For a 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 a fault divorce based on desertion, use court form 1B.
- For a fault divorce based on extreme cruelty, use court form 1C.
The divorce complaint also includes a list of all the issues you would want the court to decide, including alimony (spousal support), child custody, child support, and how to divide your assets and debts.
It’s useful to be aware that the court ordinarily does not take a spouse’s culpability into account when determining the amount of alimony or whether to award alimony at all if you include a request for alimony in the complaint.
Though uncommon, there are some outliers. Therefore, since no-fault grounds for divorce typically result in less animosity and less apprehensive court proceedings, they are usually preferable.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey
Like all states, New Jersey mandates that you have a “ground” for divorce or a justification that is recognized by the law as the basis for dissolving the marriage. Both “fault” and “no-fault” divorce grounds are recognized by New Jersey law.
When you accuse your spouse of misconduct, such as infidelity, desertion, or mental or physical mistreatment, the grounds of fault apply. When neither spouse assigns blame to the other for the dissolution of the marriage, no-fault grounds apply.
Getting a No-Fault Divorce in New Jersey
The District of Columbia, every other state, including New Jersey, and no-fault divorce are all permitted. In New Jersey, there are two types of no-fault claims, with “irreconcilable differences” being the most popular. The relationship must have been broken off for at least six months in order to qualify for this.
In New Jersey, physical separation serves as the additional no-fault ground for divorce. Contrary to desertion, which is viewed as one of the grounds for blame, this should not be confused with that. The couple must have physically separated from one another by residing in different homes for at least 18 months in order to file for divorce, your divorce attorney will tell you in this situation.
People are not required to give the court an explanation of the grounds behind their divorce or the nature of their marital dissolution. A divorce case can be filed once a couple has lived apart for the number of months necessary under the specific no-fault ground. By that time, the person who filed the lawsuit would have most certainly sought advice from a family law practitioner.
No-fault divorce is the choice of many couples. During their separation, they can take their time and, with the assistance of their respective divorce lawyers, negotiate a settlement agreement. After that, they won’t have to discuss their marital issues in front of the judge during a quick court session.
The judge will frequently issue the ruling even if a party that has received proper and timely notice of the hearing does not show up. In the modern era, divorces can be completed without a court appearance via mail.
Fault Divorce Grounds in New Jersey
When one side petitions for divorce and lists one or more defects as the reason for the petition, the heavier lifting in the legal world begins. They may file a document with the court claiming that the other person’s conduct was to blame for the marriage’s dissolution in an effort to gain the upper hand when it comes to specific areas of the judge’s eventual verdict.
The child custody or property distribution aspects of the divorce process are typically unaffected by fault. However, this is not always the case. But because they might not want to admit that they contributed to the split, the other spouse might make an effort to refute the accusation.
Except for the necessary amount of time, it should be obvious that choosing a no-fault divorce is the simplest course to follow. However, each individual chooses to submit a complaint for a divorce that is based on fault for a variety of reasons. If they decide to do this, they could use a number of different actions or occurrences to get their marriage dissolved.
It is your responsibility to establish each need if you want to proceed with a divorce on the basis of one of these grounds. This is not always simple to do, and because divorce processes are public, people could feel awkward about disclosing details about their marriage that might be embarrassing.
Maybe it sounds worse than it is, but this is a cause for a fault divorce. Naturally, it would also encompass behaviors that are just as harmful as they sound, such as persistent physical and verbal assault. Inconsistent emotional support for a protracted length of time can likewise be considered extreme cruelty. This could include activities that simply make it hard for a married couple to coexist, to behavior that puts the welfare and safety of one spouse in peril.
A fault divorce frequently has this as its foundation. It’s possible that the partner who was being unfaithful wants it noted that the other partner engaged in that behavior. The proof must be direct rather than merely circumstantial, which makes it difficult to prove adultery. Given this information, it is reasonable to wonder why someone would hire a family law attorney and incur the time and cost necessary to do so in order to establish adultery.
The eligibility of the party who committed it to obtain alimony or their share of the equitable distribution of marital property will, in general, be unaffected by this. The other person may be entitled to compensation, nevertheless, if that party used marital funds for the affair.
The term “desertion” as a ground for divorce, as defined by the relevant New Jersey statute, refers to the deliberate and ongoing abandoning of a marriage for a minimum of 12 months. One or more methods, such as evidence showing the couple has completely ceased living together as a married couple for that period of time, can be used to prove this.
The list you just read is only a partial one. Other grounds for divorcing on the basis of fault can be:
- Abuse of alcohol or drugs on a regular basis and voluntarily.
- If the pair didn’t start living together again following their release from prison, they would be sentenced to 18 or more months in jail.
- Without the filing party’s permission, engaging in sexually inappropriate behavior.
- Being committed to an institution for mental health treatment for at least 24 months straight after the wedding.
Residency Requirement for a New Jersey Divorce
In order to obtain a divorce in New Jersey, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least a year prior to filing your divorce papers. Only when you’re requesting a fault divorce based on your spouse’s adultery is there an exception to this one-year residency requirement.
Where to File Your Divorce Papers
You need to submit the divorce complaint and any supporting documents with the Family Division court clerk’s office in the New Jersey county where you were resident when your grounds for divorce (sometimes referred to as a “cause of action”) first emerged.
If, for instance, you were divorcing your spouse on the grounds of irreconcilable differences and you resided in Morris County, New Jersey, at the end of the required six-month waiting period, you would submit your paperwork 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. You would file in the New Jersey county where you are currently residing if neither of you was a resident when the cause of action arose.
It’s a good idea to create a few extra copies just in case, even if the court only requests that you provide the original and two copies of your paperwork. If you would like to file your documents electronically, check the court’s website for information. You should give the clerk’s office a copy marked “filed” and a self-addressed stamped envelope so they can send you one.
You’ll need to pay a filing fee when you’re ready to submit your case, so be prepared. On the website for the New Jersey Courts, you can find details on the court filing costs (which are subject to change). By the end of 2021, the cost was $300 plus a $25 parent workshop fee if there were kids involved. Ask the court clerk if you can submit an application 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 complete the summons and the proof of service that is attached before preparing to serve your spouse.
A sheriff or process server will frequently personally deliver the summons, complaint, and other divorce documents to your spouse at their place of business or residence in order to serve them.
For his services, the sheriff will demand payment. (To learn about costs, contact the sheriff’s office.) Two copies of the divorce documents should be sent to the sheriff, with one copy remaining for your records.
In order for the sheriff’s office to send you documentation that the defendant got the documents, you should also send them a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Put a cheque or money order in there for the fees.
A different option is for your spouse to consent to accept service in person or through a representative. Get an Acknowledgement of Service signed by your spouse if they agree to accept service. Keep a duplicate for your records and transmit the documentation to the court as soon as you get confirmation that your spouse has received the divorce papers.
Next Steps in a New Jersey Divorce
Answering the Divorce Complaint
Following receipt of the divorce papers by your spouse, your spouse has 35 days to file one of the following:
- An “Answer,” in which you address or refute the allegations made in the complaint.
- An “Answer and Counterclaim” is a document in which you respond to the complaint and detail any new grounds for divorce or counterclaims your spouse wants to make against you.
- An “Appearance,” signifying that your spouse wishes to be heard on matters relating to custody, parenting time (visits), child support, alimony, property division, or other concerns. 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 must disclose specific information regarding their sources of income, living costs, assets, and liabilities early on in the divorce process. The appropriate Family Part Case Information Statement must be filled out by each of you. After the defendant’s spouse submits an answer or appearance, this must be submitted to the court within 20 days.
You must include a lot of information on your income and assets in this document. Since it’s crucial that you be as detailed as possible while filling out the form, it’s a good idea to acquire as much of this information beforehand as you can. 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 non-disclosing spouse.
Should You Represent Yourself in a New Jersey Divorce?
In your divorce, you most definitely have the right to act as your own attorney. The question of whether you ought to do that, though, is another. It is most practicable to represent yourself (sometimes referred to as “appearing pro se”) when your case is uncontested, you don’t have any minor or dependent children, and you have limited assets.
However, it’s definitely best to hire a lawyer if you have contentious custody disagreements or complex financial issues. The laws surrounding divorce can be very complex. An experienced divorce lawyer will be familiar with both the legal system’s workings and the court system’s procedural ins and outs.
All property, regardless of how or when it was acquired, is considered marital property under divorce in New Jersey laws. The following elements must be taken into account by the judge when dividing property:
- How long marriage or civil union has been in effect,
- The age, physical condition, and mental state of each party
- Each party’s earnings or assets contributed to the marriage or civil union,
- The level of life decided upon at marriage or civil union, any written agreement signed by the parties,
- The moment the property divide goes into force, each party’s financial situation.
- Each party’s income and earning potential, as well as their length of unemployment, parental duties, and the time and money required to complete the necessary training to become self-sufficient,
- the contribution of each party to the other’s education, training, or ability to earn
- The contribution of each individual to the purchase, use, preservation, depreciation, or appreciation of the marital or civil union property, the tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each partner, the present value of the property, and any other facts pertinent thereto.
- The necessity for a parent with primary physical custody of a kid to possess, live in, or share a home in a civil union, as well as to utilize or own household goods,
- a list of each party’s obligations and debts,
- the demand for a trust fund to cover a party’s or child’s medical or educational expenses,
- The degree to which a party put off pursuing their career ambitions,
- The court’s consideration of any other factors.
If you have children, you must pay $325 and another $300 to the court to officially file your divorce complaint in New Jersey. If a Process Server is required to serve your husband, further fees should be anticipated. Additionally, copy and shipping costs may be added to your attorney’s fees.
When one spouse files the complaint, the divorce usually takes 10 to 12 months (on average) to be finalized. Divorce is as much of an emotional procedure as it is a legal one, and cases only come to an agreement when all parties are able to control their emotions long enough to be sensible at the negotiating table.
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.
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.
As long as at least one spouse resides in New Jersey, either partner in a marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership may apply for divorce there.
Either spouse must declare that they have had irreconcilable differences for at least six months in order to obtain a no-fault divorce. While some fault-based divorces have a lengthier waiting period, some do not, such as those involving adultery or abuse.