New Jersey Family Law Attorney
According to Census data, New Jersey has one of the lowest divorce rates in the United States. Nonetheless, divorce is still an extremely common matter. With approximately 9% of the state’s population of 8,865,000 currently divorced, that means that divorce affects roughly 797,850 residents of New Jersey today — over three quarters of a million individuals. In addition to those who are already divorced, thousands of people in New Jersey are separated, or are considering filing for divorce in the future.
Do I Need a Divorce Attorney?
While divorce may be widespread in New Jersey, finalizing the termination of your marriage is unfortunately neither a rapid nor an easy undertaking. State and federal law requires that divorcing couples submit a substantial amount of paperwork, attend multiple hearings, and take time and effort to negotiate difficult and complex matters like child custody, child support, alimony payments, and the division of property. Depending on the nature of the individual case, the legal procedure for obtaining a divorce can take months, or even years.
When you are coping with the pain of a divorce, it can be all but impossible to effectively focus on the legal procedures that the termination of a marriage involves. To make matters even more challenging for divorcees, divorce and family law is often further complicated by disagreements arising between the parties regarding the children or marital estate.
The New Jersey Courts advise against representing yourself in a divorce case, known as a pro se filing. To quote a statement from the Courts:
You are strongly advised to have an attorney represent you. This is particularly true if you must make decisions as to property, custody, visitation and support. […] Court staff will file your prepared documents but they are not allowed to prepare them for you or instruct you in how they should be prepared.
At Maselli Warren, our New Jersey family law lawyers understand the sensitive and often painful nature of divorce. We have over 25 years of experience assisting clients across New Jersey initiate the divorce process, obtain child custody, negotiate plans for child and spousal support, and evaluate the division of assets and property. We serve communities in Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth, Hunterdon, Ocean, Mercer, and Somerset Counties, and we pledge to provide compassionate, respectful, efficient, and affordable representation for all of our New Jersey divorce clients.
What Are the Requirements for Divorce in New Jersey?
In order to obtain a divorce in New Jersey, there are two basic requirements:
- Establishing Residency
- Establishing Grounds
In most cases, if a couple wishes to divorce, at least one of the spouses must have been a New Jersey resident for a minimum of 12 months prior to filing a complaint for divorce. However, if the cause for the divorce is adultery, the residency requirement is waived, and a divorce can be sought immediately.
Adultery, or marital infidelity, is one of nine grounds for divorce recognized by the state of New Jersey. In addition to adultery, New Jersey recognizes the following causes as grounds for a fault-based divorce:
- Desertion. One spouse physically deserts the other for a period of at least 12 months.
- Deviant Sexual Conduct. There is no law defining what constitutes deviant sexual conduct. Instead, any sexual conduct occurring without the consent of the other spouse is considered deviant.
- Drug Addiction. One spouse is addicted to drugs for a period of at least 12 months.
- Extreme Cruelty. Physical or mental abuse which threatens safety. A spouse must wait three months following the most recent incident to file for divorce.
- Imprisonment. One spouse is imprisoned for a period of at least 18 months.
- Institutionalization. One spouse is institutionalized for a period of at least 24 months.
- Habitual Drunkenness. One spouse is addicted to alcohol for a period of at least 12 months.
- Separation. The spouses have been physically separated for a period of at least 18 months. The separation must be into separate houses — living in separate bedrooms within the same house does not “count” as satisfying this regulation.
Alternately, you may file for a no-fault divorce. In a no-fault divorce, the cause cited is simply “irreconcilable differences.” These irreconcilable differences must have been ongoing for a period of at least six months prior to filing a complaint.
What is the New Jersey Divorce Process?
The first step in the New Jersey divorce process is filing a complaint for divorce. The complaint is a relatively brief and simple form. It contains information such as the county and case number pertaining to the divorce, and asks the filer to supply information regarding marriage dates, dates pertaining to the irreconcilable differences or other grounds for divorce, and contact information.
Once the complain has been filed, the recipient spouse will file a response. If the spouse does not formally respond to the complaint, a non-contested divorce will be granted. This is called a Default Judgment. If the spouse does respond, you will be assigned a court date. Contested divorces typically take longer than uncontested divorces to be heard before a judge, because they require additional paperwork.
Next, you will be given a date for a case management conference. The purpose of the case management conference is simply to establish a timeline for the next and most arduous phase of divorce, known as discovery. The case management conference is often conducted via telephone.
After the case management conference, the discovery phase begins. Discovery addresses the “nuts and bolts” of the divorce. Oftentimes, the spouses involved will be required to itemize their income, assets, and liabilities, and to produce information such as bank statements and other financial records. During discovery, each spouse’s attorney will attempt to arrive at a settlement. If a settlement cannot be reached, the courts may involve a mediator, who will work with each party to help arrive at a mutually agreeable conclusion regarding finances and child custody matters. If mediation fails, the spouses will be required to go to trial, at which point the divorce will be finalized.
If you are thinking about filing for divorce, you don’t have to face the complicated legal procedures on your own. With a highly experienced New Jersey family law attorney from Maselli Warren representing your interests, you can feel confident that you are in capable hands. To schedule a confidential consultation with a New Jersey family law lawyer, call our law offices at (800) 891-2657, or contact us online.