Divorcing is not an easy decision, and the legal process can feel overwhelming and daunting. But with planning, effort, and patience, you can make the process as smooth as possible. In New Jersey, you have a few options regarding the type of divorce you are most comfortable with, such as:
- Traditional: Each spouse hires a divorce attorney to represent them and negotiate on their behalf. Traditional divorce helps to eliminate some of the emotional stress and responsibility for both spouses.
- Online service: You can choose an online divorce service. You will be asked to answer questionnaires regarding your circumstances and provide you with completed proper forms for filing. While this is a convenient option, online divorce services typically handle only uncontested divorces, meaning you and your spouse must have already agreed on all terms and conditions of the divorce either on your own or through a mediation service.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Divorce in New Jersey?
New Jersey does not require divorcing couples to hire attorneys, though it is wise to consult one. Even amicable divorces can become unexpectedly contentious during the process. You can represent yourself, but without legal knowledge and experience, it can be a risky endeavor. The meetings, court dates, and paperwork often overwhelm those representing themselves.
Divorce attorneys are knowledgeable regarding state laws, requirements, and necessary filings pertaining to divorce. An attorney can anticipate potential legal concerns, will represent you in court, negotiate on your behalf, maintain your best interests, and ensure your rights are always protected.
What Are the Qualifications for Divorce in New Jersey?
Before filing for divorce in New Jersey, couples must first qualify. Under state divorce law, you must meet residency requirements and state your grounds for divorce; legally acceptable reasons for requesting a divorce. The majority of divorces are filed based upon irreconcilable differences, which requires:
- One or both spouses must have lived in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce.
- Either spouse has experienced irreconcilable differences, causing marital breakdown for at least six months.
- Certainty that either party will not reconcile.
When filing under irreconcilable differences, there is no need for either spouse to accuse the other of any wrongdoing. In fact, such accusations generally have no bearing on the outcome of the divorce or decisions on child custody and financial support.
Who Can File for a Divorce in New Jersey?
Either spouse can file for divorce, provided at least one spouse currently lives in New Jersey. Couples in a civil union or domestic partnership originating in New Jersey, but now reside elsewhere, may not be able to file in their current state. In such circumstances, filing would be appropriate in New Jersey.
What Do I Need to File for Divorce in New Jersey?
When filing for divorce in New Jersey, you will need to complete and file the following forms:
- 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
- Certification of Insurance Coverage
Our attorneys can assist you in completing the required forms.
When preparing the forms, whichever spouse files the divorce complaint is considered the “plaintiff” and the receiving spouse the “defendant.”
Where Do I File Divorce Papers?
A qualified attorney will examine the facts and circumstances surrounding your case and determine the proper venue, generally the county in which the grounds for divorce originated.
Once the New Jersey courts receive and process your paperwork, the clerk’s office will provide you with a certified copy marked “filed” and contain the docket number. Filing fees for the complaint for divorce are generally around $300.
How Do I Serve Divorce Papers to My Spouse?
Once you receive your filed copy of the complaint and a docket number, you have a few options for serving your spouse, as follows:
- Acknowledgment: If you and your spouse mutually agree to divorce, the easiest way to serve is if your spouse signs an Acknowledgement of Waiver of Service, stating acknowledgment and acceptance of the complaint summons.
- Sheriff’s office: One of the more common methods is service by your county’s sheriff’s office. There is a service fee and cost of mileage.
- Process server: You can hire a private process serving company to handle serving your spouse, though this is a more expensive option than the others.
What Are the Next Steps After Filing for Divorce?
Once you file, your spouse must respond within 35 days of receipt and enter one of the following:
- Answer: Your spouse provides an answer or contests your statements in the complaint.
- Answer and counterclaim: Your spouse responds to your complaint, but also counters the complaint by stating separate grounds for divorce or claims against you.
- Appearance: Your spouse does not contest your grounds, but requests a hearing regarding child custody, support, alimony, distribution of assets, or other concerns. The appearance response is commonly used when all marital issues have been resolved and you have both entered into a settlement agreement.
Once you have received an official response from your spouse, the divorce process can begin, which includes:
- Financial disclosures: Each spouse must provide detailed information regarding income, expenses, assets, and liabilities on the Family Part Case Information Statement form within 20 days after your spouse’s answer is filed. It is critical that you disclose all information accurately. Failure to disclose accounts, debts, or assets subjects you to sanctions and punishment.
- Mediation: If you choose, you and your spouse can work with a court-approved mediator – a neutral third-party, to settle issues and reach agreements.
- Early Settlement Program (ESP): Participation in ESP is mandatory, except the court will not order mediation in cases involving domestic violence with an active restraining order. The goal of ESP is to resolve financial disputes.
- Arbitration: You and your spouse can request an arbitrator to decide your case rather than a judge. You must agree in advance as to what issues the arbitrator will decide and that you will accept the decisions. A judge is still required to make the final decision on the divorce decree.
Once all steps are completed and a settlement agreement has been reached, you will appear before the court where a judge will make the final decision on the agreement and file a decree, dissolving the marriage.
New Jersey Divorce Attorneys at Tune Law Group, LLC Represent Clients Seeking Divorce
While handling your own divorce is possible, it might not be in your best interests to do so. The experienced New Jersey Divorce attorneys at Tune Law Group, LLC can help protect your rights. Call us today to schedule an initial consultation at 908-434-1061 or contact us online. Located in Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Hunterdon County, Monmouth County, Whitehouse, and Tewskbury.