Deciding that divorce is necessary is seldom an easy decision. You may be concerned about how such a decision will affect your finances, your property, your retirement or your children. Cohn Lifland’s dedicated and experienced family law group can help you navigate the legal process of divorce. Here is some information to help you gain a basic understanding of how the divorce process works in New Jersey:
Choosing a Path
In New Jersey, you can elect to commence your divorce through various procedures, such as initially filing a Complaint for Divorce based upon no-fault or fault grounds, or a Divorce from Bed and Board, or participating in Alternative Dispute Resolution, such as mediation and/or arbitration. At Cohn Lifland, we have qualified mediators, attorneys trained in the area of collaborative law, and family law attorneys with decades of experience who can navigate through all divorce proceedings, and provide advice regarding which option best suits your particular circumstances.
Filing for Divorce in New Jersey
Generally, in order to file for divorce in New Jersey, one or both parties must have resided and continue to reside in New Jersey for at least one full year prior to the filing. The divorce would be filed in the county where the cause of action for divorce arose, which is generally the county where the parties resided together during the marriage.
The cause of action is the reason why you are filing for divorce. In New Jersey, you can elect to file on “no fault” grounds or on “fault-based” grounds.
No-fault grounds are as follows:
- Irreconcilable Differences: Differences have arisen between the parties that have lasted at least six months prior to filing for divorce and have caused the marriage to break down and there is no prospect of reconciliation.
- Separation: The parties have lived separate and apart in different residences for at least eighteen months prior to filing for divorce.
Irreconcilable differences is the most common ground for divorce in New Jersey.
Fault-based grounds are as follows:
- Adultery: The person with whom your spouse committed adultery must be named as a co-respondent and must be served and permitted to appear in Court.
- Desertion: Your spouse has willfully deserted you for a period of twelve of more months prior to the filing of the divorce.
- Extreme Cruelty: Your spouse has committed acts of physical or mental cruelty against you endangering your health and safety such that it would be improper or unreasonable for you to continue to live together. You must wait three months after the last act of cruelty to file under this ground.
- Substance Abuse: Your spouse has voluntarily induced addiction or habit of using a narcotic drug or is habitually drunk for at least twelve months prior to filing for divorce.
- Institutionalization: Your spouse has been institutionalized for mental illness for at least 24 months after you were married.
- Imprisonment: Your spouse has been imprisoned for at least 18 months after you were married. If you file for divorce after your spouse has been released, you must prove you have not resumed living together to file under this ground.
- Deviant Sexual Conduct: Your spouse performs deviant sexual conduct without your permission.
Issues in a Divorce
Each divorce case is different and has its own set of unique circumstances. Generally, the following issues are the types that must be dealt with in a divorce proceeding:
- Division of Assets and Debts;
- Spousal Support or Alimony;
- Custody and Parenting Time; and
- Child support
The knowledgeable and dedicated team at the Cohn Lifland family law group is experienced in handling any issue that can arise in your divorce. Contact us to discuss the details of your case.
The Divorce Process
Once you determine that you meet the residency requirement and you decide on which ground you will file for divorce, the next step is actually filing the Complaint for Divorce. Your spouse will have to be served with the filed Complaint and would then have a period of 35 days to answer the Complaint and file a Counterclaim if he or she so chooses.
After the initial pleadings are completed, the Court will generally hold a Case Management Conference. At this conference, you will likely meet the Judge handling your case, and that Judge will set out a roadmap of how your case will proceed.
Your case will then proceed into the exchanging of information, such as financials, to help resolve the issues in your case. This is called the exchange of “discovery.” Other steps in the process may include:
- Custody and Parenting Time Mediation: An independent third party will sit down with you and your spouse to resolve issues related to custody and to help you set up a parenting time plan.
- Four-Way Conferences: You, your spouse and your attorneys can get together to discuss your case and work towards resolution of the issues.
- Early Settlement Panel: Family law attorneys who have volunteered their time will sit down with the parties and counsel to give their independent recommendations regarding the issues in your case.
- Economic Mediation: An experienced family law attorney who is trained in mediation will meet with the parties and counsel to work towards resolution of the economic issues in your case such as division of assets and debts, child support and alimony.
- Intensive Settlement Conference: The parties and counsel will meet at the courthouse and the Judge hearing your case will make recommendations to assist in settling any unresolved issues in your matter.
All of these resources can be utilized to help you amicably resolve your case in the most fair and equitable manner possible. The Cohn Lifland family law group can walk you through all of these steps and more to achieve the best result for you.
How Long Will it Take to Get Divorced?
It is very difficult to determine how long each divorce will take. Generally, most matters are completed within a year. However, this time frame can be substantially shorter if the parties are able to reach a resolution. This time frame can also be longer if the parties are not willing to work together or if the issues are complex. Keep in mind that 98-99% of divorce proceedings in New Jersey are concluded by negotiating a resolution of the outstanding issues by entering into a written agreement without the necessity of participating in a trial.
Contact Cohn Lifland
Here at Cohn Lifland, we know that each case is unique and requires its own personalized approach. We will provide the attention to your case that it deserves. We will work towards the best resolution for you. Contact us to discuss your specific case.