How Much Does a Divorce Cost in New Jersey?

There are unseen costs in divorce: the emotional toll, time lost with children, and the energy and time it takes to dissolve a marriage. But most people facing divorce want to know the financial costs before filing their paperwork and are curious about what a divorce in NJ will cost.

Filing Pro Se

Of course, you can reduce how much a divorce in NJ costs if you decide to file everything yourself, or pro se, and forego hiring an attorney. However, if you get it wrong going without representation, it might cost you more in the long run. There will still be court costs associated with filing any paperwork. To file a Complaint of Divorce in NJ costs $300.00. This will need to be paid by the Petitioner, or the person who initially files the complaint. If you have children, you should expect to pay a $25.00 parent education fee. You will incur these fees whether you represent yourself or hire an attorney.

Hiring an Attorney

If you decide to hire an attorney, this will increase your costs – although you should probably think of it as an investment in your future. It is difficult to say with certainty how much your attorney will charge you. Most attorneys in NJ will charge between $250-500/hour. They usually ask for a retainer up front, which can be anywhere between $2,500.00 and $15,000.00.

Some statistics show that on average, one can expect to pay $12,000.00 in  attorney's fees for a divorce. However, I have finished some divorces without any real battles for well under that number. If you hire an attorney, you can also expect various expenses to be included in your bill, such as additional court filings, the cost of preparing copies, serving documents, or hiring expert witnesses.

Contested Divorces

Contested divorces contemplate a case where the parties disagree over multiple items – the division of property, the value of their estate, and child custody, for example. Anytime the parties reach an impasse and cannot agree or settle their issues, this only increases the costs of divorce in NJ. Every time you have to file a motion, this will cost you money. If you hire an attorney, any time the parties must appear in court, they are charging you for their time (and sometimes even travel!). If you've ever been in a courtroom, you know that there is very often a lot of waiting around. This can increase the costs of your divorce exponentially.

If you cannot agree on the value of some property, such as a home, then it might require you to hire an expert appraiser. This will increase the costs of litigation. Perhaps you believe there are issues with the alienation of a child by one parent. You might consider hiring a third-party attorney to represent the interests of the child, or even hiring a psychological expert to determine if there is evidence of this behavior. Every person that you must hire as an expert witness to prove your assertions for your divorce in NJ costs more than if you and your spouse could resolve the issue without.

Additionally, courts in NJ require parties to attempt mediation a few times before resorting to a trial. Usually, the parties will get two hours free of charge to try to resolve their differences. However, if the parties still cannot reach an agreement at this point, mediators will begin charging by the hour for their time. The system is geared to encourage parties to negotiate a reasonable resolution and discourages lengthy litigation.

Fault Divorces

Should you try to assert that your spouse caused the divorce because of adultery, abuse or some other cause, this could also increase your costs. That’s because you must provide evidence to the court that these grounds exist. So, for example, if you assert that your spouse committed adultery, resulting in the breakdown of the marriage, you’re going to have to prove that. This might require hiring a private investigator, or a forensic technologist to review computer or cell phone records. Thus, the appeal of no-fault divorces in NJ.

Ordering payment of attorney’s fees

Sometimes, the court will order one spouse to pay the other spouse's attorney's fees. In most cases, this is because the requesting spouse is unable to pay for the fees themselves (such as if they are out of work), and the other spouse can foot the bill. However, there are some instances where a party could be ordered to pay for any costs associated with a motion that was filed due to their unreasonable behavior. A good example of this is the filing of motions requesting discovery. Parties must usually provide their financial records or proof of assets in a divorce. If they continuously refuse to do so, and their spouse has to seek court intervention, a judge might order the refusing party to pay the costs associated with the other party having to file a motion and get it heard in court.

After the divorce

Some individuals are surprised that costs continue to accrue even after the divorce decree is signed. Some assets will require a transfer of title – usually real estate, or motor vehicles. To get this professionally drafted, you will need to pay someone. The county clerk’s office will also charge a fairly low fee to properly record the title in the county’s records. Sometimes, retirement must be divided using what’s called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). QDRO’s can be complex and varied, and you should always get a professional to draft these documents. Failure to do so can be devastating to your future. An incorrectly divided retirement can mean the recipient spouse ends up with nothing in their twilight years.

If you have questions about what a typical divorce in NJ costs, contact the law offices of Peter Van Aulen today for a free, initial consultation at (201) 845-7400.

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