When a marriage fails, it is common for spouses to want to separate, and undergo divorce proceedings. Divorce can be a stressful, complex, and unforgiving process, and can be even more so for spouses whose emotions may be in a fervor. Legal complications and hurt feelings can create a difficult situation for all parties involved. On top of this, a divorce can be lengthy. New Jersey has specific guidelines that direct how spouses should file for divorce.
Filing For Divorce In New Jersey
One specific element to filing for divorce in New Jersey is that the state will use the terms "divorce" and "dissolution" to signify the same thing: the legal process to end a marriage. In order for the process to begin, however, a person must file for divorce. Typically, the person that initiates the filing is known as the "plaintiff" and the other spouse is known as the "defendant." Although these are technically adversarial terms in the courtroom, if the decision to divorce is mutual, these terms serve as formalities. One important thing to remember is that in order to file for divorce in New Jersey, one spouse must have been a New Jersey resident for at least a year consecutively. On top of this, spouses must file for divorce in the county where the actions or reasons behind the divorce actually occurred. Even if both spouses separate and move to different counties, when they file for divorce, it must be in the county where the marriage became irreparable. When filing for divorce in New Jersey, it may be pursed on either a "fault" basis or a "no-fault" basis, however, each method has its own prerequisites in order to initiate the filing. Once it is determined whether a "no-fault" or "fault" filing is appropriate, the plaintiff must then serve the filing to the defendant. For a mutually agreed upon divorce, this is as simple as the other spouse agreeing to sign the service acknowledgement and the accompanying divorce papers. If the other spouse refuses the service can be completed by a neutral third party service agent, or a representative of the local sheriff's office.
No-fault divorce is the most common type of divorce nowadays, and it is oftentimes much simpler for the spouses to follow through with. Even if they may not agree to who did what wrong, so long as both spouses agree that they should divorce, they will likely be able to prove to the court that their marriage has collapsed. In order to file for a no-fault divorce, spouses must meet certain requirements. The first being that at least one spouse has lived in New Jersey for at least one full consecutive year. The spouses must also be able to demonstrate that there are irreconcilable differences for at least 6 months, without hope or reasonable chance for reconciliation. Also, that these irreconcilable differences caused the marriage to fail, and it appears that the marriage should end. No fault divorce can also be based upon a long-term separation. This separation must last for over 18 months and also have no reasonable chance for reconciliation in order for the divorce to be filed.
Sometimes, divorce cannot be obtained through the no-fault process. If one spouse refuses to cooperate with another, or is not available for the signing of divorce papers, the other spouse may pursue fault divorce proceedings. Fault divorce operates on the idea that one of the spouses has committed some form of wrong-doing that jeopardized the marriage. Fault divorce must be filed upon certain grounds, and these include: adultery and infidelity, abandonment of a spouse for at least 12 months, physical or emotional abuse, and substance abuse for a period of over 12 months. One key element of fault divorce is that judges WILL consider the evidence of fault and wrong-doing when making determinations of alimony. These judgements have no place in a "no-fault" divorce scenario, so it may be preferable for a spouse who has done anything that can be perceived as grounds for a fault divorce to participate with the other spouse in filing for a no-fault divorce if possible. Fault divorce can make the matters of alimony and child support associated with divorce much more preferable for the plaintiff.
Matters Outside Of The Divorce
Many are well aware that the actual divorce papers simply signify the end of the marriage. What most of a divorce actually is involves matters that are separate from simply ending the marriage. Motions for alimony, child support, property division, and custody typically take up much more time and effort in negotiating and resolving than the actual divorce. Typically, all of these are filed together, so even though the divorce papers may be signed, the court may want to wait until the remaining matters have been settled before finalizing the divorce decree.
Divorce can be stressful and difficult for all parties involved. The end of a marriage is emotional enough on its own, but when the law becomes entangled with these situations, tensions will be at an all time high. For this reason, it is almost always best to retain the services of a divorce attorney. A skilled and experienced divorce attorney can protect your interests throughout the court proceedings and ensure that you get the best possible outcome. While divorce papers can be filed without the aid of an attorney, it can be much more advantageous to view potential outcomes from the view of an attorney.
Contact a New Jersey Family Law Attorney Today
If you or a loved one is undergoing divorce, or involved in other matters of family law, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.