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Overview of New Jersey Divorce Procedures

If you are contemplating a New Jersey divorce, you likely have a number of questions. Among them are those concerning the ins and outs of New Jersey divorce procedures. An overview of that process is presented here for your consideration.

Preparation and Filing of a Complaint

The first step in New Jersey divorce procedures is completing and filing what legally is known as a complaint. A complaint is a formal document that petitions or requests that the court grant the dissolution of a marriage. A complaint states the grounds upon which a divorce is sought and can include:

  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Adultery
  • Separation
  • Desertion

Along with the complaint, a Litigant Information Sheet is filed with the court. The Litigant Information Sheet provides the court with specific information:

  • Gender of person filing complaint
  • Place of birth
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Driver’s license number
Service of Complaint on Other Party

Once a complaint is filed, that document along with other divorce paperwork is served on the other party, your spouse. It is also possible for your spouse to waive service of the paperwork and enter a voluntary appearance in the court case.

Case Management

In considering divorce procedures in New Jersey, an early milestone in a marriage dissolution proceeding is case management. The court schedules a case management conference. This is a meeting that allows the parties in a case and the court to meet and assess the various matters that may be at issue in a divorce case. The court assigns various deadlines for the proceedings.


Following the case management conference, the discovery phase of the case commences. Discovery is the opportunity for each side in a New Jersey divorce case to obtain relevant documents from the opposing side in the proceedings. Oftentimes the documents sought through the discovery process involve financial matters. Discovery comes in a number of different forms, including:

  • Production of documents
  • Answers to written questions (interrogatories)
  • Questioning under oath (depositions)

If a party fails to comply with lawful discovery requests the court is able to impose sanctions on that individual.

Early Settlement Panel

In New Jersey there is the Early Settlement Panel (ESP) Program. It is a mandatory program where a case will be presented to experienced divorce lawyers who donate their time. They will review the settlement statements submitted by your attorney, listen to each side, then give a non-binding suggestion on how to settle the case.

Settlement Negotiations

In many divorce cases, the parties are able to engage in settlement negotiations. There can be highly hostile marriage dissolution cases in which settlement negotiations prove impossible. Through this phase of New Jersey divorce procedures, the parties work to reach agreement on issues in the case. If the parties are successful in their negotiations, they enter into a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement is then presented to the court for approval. If approved (and it is likely that will happen), a settlement agreement becomes part of the divorce decree in the case.


In New Jersey the parties must participate in the mandatory mediation program if the case fails to settle at the ESP. The parties will pick a mediator from the court's approved list who will donate two hours of their time for free. Mediation is a process in which an experienced mediator works with the parties in an effort to resolve issues in a case. A mediator doesn’t make decisions for parties in a divorce case or impose a decision on them. Rather, a mediator facilitates further negotiations between the parties in order to reach a settlement of the case.

Settlement Conference

Failing a settlement of the case between the parties, failing at mediation, the parties are likely to be called to court for an Intensive Settlement Conference (ISC). In considering New Jersey divorce procedures, an ISC can be considered a last-ditch effort to resolve a case and avoid a trial.


If some or all of the issues in a particular divorce case are not resolved, a trial is conducted. A divorce trial is similar to any other trial in the New Jersey judicial system. Each party has the opportunity to present evidence to the court in support of the positions they take in the case. They have the ability to challenge evidence presented by the other party in a proceeding. Following a trial, the presiding judge makes decisions as to the various issues. A divorce decree or divorce order ultimately is issued by the court.

By having a basic understanding of the procedures associated with a New Jersey divorce you are better prepared to undertake the marriage dissolution process. The reality is that when a person has at least a general appreciation of the divorce process, that individual is less anxious about what will happen in the case. As a result, such an individual is in a better position to make informed, reasoned decisions in a calmer manner. If you are considering filing for a divorce in New Jersey, call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a consultation.

Client Reviews
Peter has integrity, and values his relationships with his clients beyond his financial relationship with them. For me to say this about any lawyer is really saying something. He is compassionate, straightforward and knowledgeable. I would easily recommend him to anybody. Lewie W.
Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
Peter is an exceptionally great attorney. He handled my child custody case and was able to ease any of my concerns with honest answers. He always took the time to explain the pros/cons and was always available to answer any questions that I had… I would highly recommend this attorney to anyone who is looking for one. Jessica Cruz
Peter Van Aulen is a very compassionate, honest and straightforward person. He was there for me at my lowest point with a genuine concern not only for my situation, but for me and my child's well being above all… He is fair and he is strong and when push comes to shove he is there for you. Cathy Dodge
Our cousin used Peter's law office to help with a sticky custody situation. He was extremely responsive, very nice and most importantly did an awesome job with the court! He is awesome. Lawrence Polsky

*Results may vary depending on your particular facts and legal circumstances