Divorce in New Jersey
Divorce is not easy. It can be hard on the couple, the family, and most especially any children of the fighting couple. When a husband and wife decide they want to end their marriage, a series of emotions can surround that decision, from anger and resentment to sadness and heartbreak.
There are legal hurdles the couple must traverse to protect their children, their assets, and their long-term financial stability. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer can help a person wade through the emotional whirlwind that surrounds a divorce in New Jersey.
When can I File for a Divorce in New Jersey?
A couple can file for divorce in New Jersey if one of the two spouses have lived in the state for more than a year. They must also supply a reason for the divorce. New Jersey allows for no-fault divorces as well as fault divorces.
In a no-fault scenario, the court may grant the divorce if the couple has irreconcilable differences or if they have lived apart for more than 18 months. There are multiple circumstances that can constitute fault grounds, including adultery, extreme cruelty, deviant sexual behavior, substance abuse, desertion or institutionalization for a period exceeding a year, and imprisonment for more than 18 months.
The outcome of the divorce depends on the classifying of the divorce as either a fault divorce or a no-fault divorce. In certain circumstances, a fault divorce can impact the portion of alimony that is distributed to one party. It will not have any impact on the separation of assets.
What is the Process in Filing for a Divorce?
When a couple has determined that they want a divorce, there are several steps they must go through to dissolve the marriage. Those steps are as follows:
- Filing the divorce petition: To initiate divorce proceedings, a spouse must file a petition with the court asking it to terminate the marriage. The petition must include a statement verifying that one of the two spouses meets the residency requirements. They must also present a legal reason or grounds for the divorce. Finally, they must include any additional statutory information New Jersey requires.
- Asking for temporary orders: There are couples that cannot wait several months for a divorce to become final. One spouse could be a stay-at-home parent who requires spousal payments to get by. A parent can request temporary orders, which establishes temporary conditions involving child custody and financial payments that will remain in effect until a permanent solution is reached. A hearing is held, and a judge will grant the temporary orders within a short turnaround.
- Serving papers: Once the divorce papers have been filed, a spouse needs to serve them to their spouse along with a proof of service to the court. The proof of service tells the court that the person seeking the divorce has met all the statutory requirements for the divorce. Failing to obtain the proof of service will delay the proceedings. The proof of service is easy to obtain if both sides agree. It can take time if one spouse is deliberately dragging their feet.
- Response: The person who receives the paperwork, the defendant or respondent, has a prescribed amount of time to respond. They can dispute the charges in a fault divorce or lodge a disagreement to the conditions proposed in the settlement. Failure to respond can result in a default judgment against the respondent.
- Negotiate a settlement: In those situations in which both parties have differing opinions on important topics such as child custody and financial payments, they will work together on a settlement plan. When the two sides fail to reach an accord, a judge may order mediation between them to reach a resolution.
- Divorce trial: If all negotiations and mediations fail, the couple may ask the court to intervene, meaning a trial. A trial can be expensive and time-consuming and puts the final decision out of the couple’s hands and into the hands of the judge.
- Divorce judgment: At the conclusion of a settlement or a trial, a judge will issue the judgment of divorce or order of dissolution that ends the marriage and establishes the parameters of life for the couple after the divorce. The judge will draft the settlement in the event of a trial, and one of the lawyers will do so in the event of a settlement.
This process can be time-consuming and arduous, especially if there is disagreement between the two sides. Hiring a divorce lawyer can help a spouse negotiate with the ex-spouse and maneuver all the legal aspects of the proceeding.
What Steps can I Take Once I File for a Divorce?
A husband and wife could come to a mutual decision that they no longer wish to be married. In those circumstances, they might work together ahead of any formal divorce proceedings on a temporary plan to use until their divorce is finalized. They might enter into a separation agreement.
This agreement, approved by the two parties, will establish legally binding conditions for both sides pertaining to child custody, temporary spousal support, or child support and bill payments. It serves as a level of protection for each other in case one incurs additional debts during the divorce proceeding. The other spouse is shielded from being held liable for those debts in any final settlements.
It is important to note that one seeking a divorce in New Jersey should know that the state does not recognize legal separation. That means that a spouse cannot dissolve marital assets without the other’s consent.
The next step for a divorcing couple that takes place between legal separation and final divorce is divorce from bed and board, which New Jersey does recognize. Couples choose to utilize this classification to allow one of the two spouses to remain covered under the other’s health insurance. Other benefits include pension and Social Security rights.
Regardless of these financial bonds, the two spouses are no longer economically connected. If a couple wishes to be divorced from bed and board, they must agree to it. A judge cannot force them into that status. A good divorce lawyer can help determine the situation that makes the most sense for a spouse going through a divorce.
How are Assets Divided in New Jersey?
Assets pending in a divorce in New Jersey are divided up equitably, which does not necessarily mean equally. There are several factors that a judge will consider when determining the distribution of assets. The state defines assets to mean all joint finances and properties that the couple have amassed during their marriage, including pensions and retirement accounts.
Generally, inheritance awards are not considered as joint assets unless the person who received it used it on a joint venture such as the purchase of a home.
The more a couple can agree on the distribution of assets, the easier and less contentious the entire divorce process will be.
How is Child Custody Determined in New Jersey?
Several factors go into determining which parent receives custody of a child, although the primary factor is what is in the best interest of the child. If there is any history of domestic violence in the relationship, that will weigh heavily in a judge’s decision to decide which parent will gain custody. If a parent has a history of violence, a court might rule that the parent will require supervised visitation.
If the two petition the court for joint custody, the judge will determine how well the two communicate with each other and agree on things and cooperate for the benefit of their child.
There are other factors that come into play when child custody is considered in New Jersey divorces. Those include the following:
- Interaction of the child with its parents and siblings
- Preference of the child, if 12 or older
- Stability of the home environment
- Fitness of parents
- Parents’ employment responsibilities
Can I Seek an Annulment in New Jersey?
The state of New Jersey allows an annulment to end a marriage similar to a divorce. A divorce ends a marriage, but annulment takes it a step further and reverses the marriage, treating it as if it never happened at all.
Under an annulment, the property rules that exist in a divorce are not applied. However, courts have the flexibility to award alimony in certain cases. The decision to seek a divorce or an annulment could also have an impact on child custody and support.
There are only certain situations in which an annulment will be approved by the courts. Those conditions include the following:
- Bigamy: When a spouse is married to more than one person.
- Distress: If there is a threat or history of physical violence.
- Nonage: If one of the two in a marriage was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage and not legally of an age that they could provide their consent.
- Incapacity: If a person does not give their full consent to a marriage or if they do not fully understand the situation.
- Impotence: If one of the two are impotent at the time of the marriage but fails to tell their spouse.
- Incest: If a person is married to a blood relative.
- Fraud: Any misrepresentation by one spouse to the other prior to the marriage, including lying about their feelings on religion, desire to have children, drug addiction, immigration status, and whether they are pregnant by another man.
Mount Laurel Divorce Lawyers at the Law Office of David S. Rochman Help Clients Seeking a Divorce in New Jersey
If you and your spouse have decided that you can no longer stay married and are seeking a divorce in New Jersey, the Mount Laurel divorce lawyers at The Law Office of David S. Rochman can help. If you are having a difficult time working out a fair agreement with your ex-spouse, we can step in and ensure that your rights and assets are protected. For a free consultation, call us today at 856-751-2345 or contact us online. Located in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Burlington County and surrounding areas.