According to the U.S. Census Bureau, New Jersey has one of the lowest rates of divorce in the country. People in New Jersey tend to marry later and have higher education rates—both factors that lead to more successful marriages. About 9-10% of adults in New Jersey are divorced, making divorce reasonably common even in the Garden State. Even knowing that divorce is common, divorce is never an easy choice. The break-up of a couple and a family is intensely personal, and some people don't handle this stress well. What do you do if your spouse is determined to make this divorce as difficult as possible?
Divorce Legal Requirements
You don't necessarily need the cooperation of your spouse to obtain a divorce in New Jersey. To get a divorce in New Jersey, you must have lived in the state for at least one year. You can obtain either a fault-based or a no-fault divorce.
- No-fault Divorce: To obtain a no-fault divorce, you and your spouse must have lived “separate and apart” for at least 18 consecutive months, indicating there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
- Fault-based Divorce: You can more quickly obtain a fault-based divorce for desertion for at least 12 months, adultery, extreme mental or physical cruelty for at least three months, habitual drunkenness or drug habituation, imprisonment or institutionalization, deviant sexual behavior, or irreconcilable differences.
The parties can demonstrate irreconcilable differences after only six months, making this a faster option for an uncontested divorce.
My Spouse Isn't Cooperating
When you and your spouse have a significant dispute over some matter in the divorce, whether it's the divorce itself, custody and visitation arrangements, or finances, it is considered a contested divorce. But some disputes may arise throughout the process over discovery issues, disclosure of financial documents, and more that can make the process longer and more expensive.
You can serve your spouse with the Summons and Complaint personally via the Sheriff. If unsuccessful, your attorney or an uninvolved person over 18 can serve your spouse. If you are not successful in serving your spouse with divorce papers, you can ask the court's permission for service by publication. You will need to show that you've made a good faith effort to serve your spouse by more traditional means.
Mediation may be a solution to help you and your spouse work out disputes in front of a neutral arbiter. It can be faster and less expensive if you agree on disputed matters before seeing a judge. Making motions before a judge and a trial can be costly, and they will draw out the length of your divorce.
- Discovery Master
A discovery or special master may be another option to resolve disputes that arise throughout divorce litigation, especially if your divorce is contentious. While you must pay for a discovery master's time, it can be faster and less expensive than settling everything through motions practice through the family court. While the parties must stipulate that they will hire a discovery master, your attorney may be able to include language indicating that if either party appeals the discovery master's decisions, the losing party to the appeal must bear the costs.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorney
If you are facing a challenging divorce, give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686 or contact us online. New Jersey attorney Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience negotiating and navigating complicated family law issues for his clients. He can help guide you in this stressful time.