FAQs: Divorce in NJ Part I

Clients often come into their lawyer's office with a long list of questions if they are considering divorce. There are so many moving parts with a divorce in NJ, even for the simplest matters, that it is understandable for people to feel overwhelmed with the process. These articles should give you some clarity and peace of mind about what to expect when you get a divorce in NJ.

What are the First Steps I Should Take if I'm Getting a Divorce in NJ?

Perhaps it sounds biased, but you should always speak with a qualified family law attorney in your jurisdiction. Getting information online is helpful and can get you started, but every divorce case is different. You need specific advice that is relevant to your circumstance. That said, you should start saving financial documents (tax returns, pay stubs, mortgage statements, bank statements, etc.) because these will be important to your case. Do not make any big purchases or sales until you have gotten advice from a qualified family lawyer. To get an idea of what questions you should ask in your consultation.

What if I Decide not to Hire an Attorney - How do I Start the Process?

If you want to represent yourself in a divorce in NJ, you will need to familiarize yourself with the papers, terminology, and process that goes into this kind of lawsuit. If you start the lawsuit, then you will be called the plaintiff, and your spouse will be referred to as the respondent. You must file a complaint for divorce with your local county clerk's office. Specific information, including the reasons why you want to divorce, must be included. You'll also need to provide a Confidential Litigation Information Sheet, and a Certificate of Insurance Coverage. Early on in the case, you will need to make sure you fill out and file the Case Information Statement. Although they cannot give you legal advice, the clerk's office is always a good resource for you to consult if you have any questions about the logistics of filing these documents.

What are the Grounds for a Divorce in NJ?

First, you must understand the difference between a 'fault' and 'no-fault' divorce here in New Jersey. A fault divorce requires you to assert certain reasons why the marriage failed. You will have to provide proof of this occurring to the judge. A no-fault divorce is an easy way to say that the parties simply grew apart - that no one is necessarily to blame for the breakdown of the relationship. If you decide to claim a fault-based ground in your divorce, you need to prove one of the following:

  • that your spouse had an extramarital relationship
  • that you were intentionally abandoned by your spouse for at least 1 year
  • that your spouse was cruel or abusive to you to the point that you could no longer live together, and the last instance of abuse happened within three months before you filed
  • that you and your spouse have lived in different homes for at least a year and a half and know you will not get back together,
  • consistent abuse of narcotics or alcohol if they've shown addiction for 12 months or more;
  • mental illness to the point they had to be institutionalized continuously for at least 2 years;
  • imprisonment of your spouse with a sentence exceeding 18 months; or
  • your spouse enjoyed deviant sexual behavior voluntarily without your consent.
What are the Expected Timelines for a Divorce in NJ?

First, you need to ensure that you have been in the state of New Jersey long enough to file the lawsuit. Before you can file in New Jersey, at least one of the spouses has to have lived in the state as a bona fide resident for at least 12 months, unless you plead adultery. Find out if you meet the residency requirements for a divorce in NJ. If you have met this residency requirement, then you can start the process of divorce. However, if you and the other party cannot come to an agreement on major issues, then chances are your divorce will be drawn out for a significant period. You will probably need to exchange discovery, hire attorneys and expert witnesses, and attempt mediation before it's all said and done.

What is Discovery?

Discovery is the method where the parties exchange documents and info about the issues in the case. It is the best opportunity for you to obtain full disclosure of financial circumstances, the other spouse's lifestyle, issues with custody and determine what evidence they have to support their own claims or defend against yours. There are four main kinds of discovery. Depositions are oral testimonies taken outside a courtroom. The party is under oath and is subjected to questions from the opposing party. Interrogatories are written questions. Again, the other party must answer under oath, but they have the opportunity to more thoughtfully respond. A notice to produce is concerned with documents. Parties can ask for tax returns, business records, mortgage statements, photos, recordings - basically anything that would be considered relevant or could result in the discovery of evidence. Finally, a request for admissions is a request for one party to admit or deny a list of relevant facts. It's a good idea to hire a lawyer for this process - they can offer objections and determine what might be privileged to better protect your interests. There are also significant procedural rules and timelines with discovery that you should be aware of. If you want more information on discovery in NJ,

Also, see Frequently Asked Questions About a Divorce in NJ - Part 2, Frequently Asked Questions About a Divorce in NJ - Part 3, Frequently Asked Questions About a Divorce in NJ - Part 4, and Frequently Asked Questions About a Divorce in NJ - Part 5. Peter Van Aulen is a qualified family law attorney who is prepared to answer all of your questions about getting a divorce in NJ. Get in touch with him today for a free, initial consultation at 201-845-7000.

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