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Family Law: Divorce

New Jersey Divorce Attorneys with Skill and Tact

Divorce can be a very lengthy and emotional process for many people.  Often people are confused about what they are entitled to and what their obligations may be within the divorce context.  In New Jersey, all assets and debts that were acquired during a marriage are subject to equitable distribution between the parties.  Equitable distribution means that the assets and debts will be divided between the parties in an equitable fashion based on a variety of statutory factors. Additionally, there may be support due and owing from one party to the other, whether it is child support, spousal support (also known as alimony), or both.

What Can You Expect When You File for Divorce in New Jersey?

The divorce process in New Jersey can be very confusing. It is important for a litigant to retain an attorney to help him/her navigate through the court system and to ensure his/her rights are protected.

In order to file for a divorce in New Jersey, residency requirements must be met for the court to accept the case. If the court discovers it does not have jurisdictional rights to hear the case it will not be accepted or it will eventually be dismissed.

There are two types of grounds for divorce: fault and no-fault. New Jersey law sets forth two “no fault” grounds for divorce and seven "fault" grounds for divorce. The Complaint for Divorce must declare the appropriate New Jersey grounds upon which the divorce is being sought. The no fault divorce grounds are as follows:

  1. Irreconcilable differences occurs when there has been a breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months which makes it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
  2. Living separate and apart for 18 months where there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

The fault grounds include:

  1. Extreme cruelty which includes any physical or mental cruelty which makes it improper or unreasonable to expect that individual to cohabitate with their spouse.
  2. Adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, irrespective of the specific sexual acts performed; the rejection of the spouse coupled with out-of-marriage intimacy constitutes adultery.
  3. Desertion is the willful and continuous desertion by one party for a period of twelve or more months.
  4. Addiction involves a dependence on a narcotic or other controlled, dangerous substance, or a habitual drunkenness for a period of twelve or more consecutive months immediately preceding the filing of the complaint.
  5. Institutionalization occurs when one spouse has been institutionalized for mental illness for a period of twelve or more consecutive months subsequent to the marriage and preceding the filing of the complaint.
  6. Imprisonment as a ground for divorce occurs when a spouse has been imprisoned for eighteen or more months after the marriage.
  7. Deviant Sexual Conduct occurs if the defendant engages in deviant sexual conduct without the consent of the plaintiff spouse.

What is the Difference Between a Contested Divorce and an Uncontested Divorce?

There are a number of different ways to distinguish between different types of divorces. For example, in addition to the distinction between fault and no-fault divorces discussed above, the divorce process can also be described as either “contested” or “uncontested.” As you begin the process with your New Jersey divorce attorney, it will be important to thoroughly consider all of your options and choose the path forward that makes the most sense for you.

In a contested divorce, the spouses are in disagreement with regard to one or more of the primary aspects of their divorce. For example, the spouses may both want to keep certain assets, or they may have differing opinions about what custody arrangement reflects the best interests of their child(ren). Regardless of the specific issue (or issues), the distinguishing factor for a contested divorce is that the spouses must find a way to reach an amicable resolution in order to avoid going to court.

An uncontested divorce, in contrast, involves no significant disagreements. The spouses are on the same page with regard to how to divide their assets, who should be providing financial support (and in what amount), and how they will divide time with their children. As you might expect, divorces are rarely uncontested from the outset, and both spouses must be careful to avoid overlooking issues or giving up their rights in an effort to streamline the process and pursue an uncontested divorce.

Do You Need to Hire a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer ?

Understandably, many spouses who are contemplating a divorce have concerns about the costs involved. Oftentimes, this manifests in the form of a question: Do you need to hire a lawyer to help with your divorce?

Strictly speaking, the answer to this question is, “No.” In New Jersey, there is no legal requirement to hire an attorney to represent you in your divorce. However, as a practical matter, there are numerous reasons why hiring a New Jersey divorce lawyer is strongly in your best interests, and hiring a lawyer to help you avoid mistakes can save you a significant amount of money in the long term.  

At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., our New Jersey divorce lawyers are experienced in helping client’s obtain successful results in their divorce cases.  As a client, we can assist you throughout your divorce process to achieve the best results possible for you and your child(ren). We help guide clients from the date of the filing of the divorce complaint to the completion of the case. We take great care to ensure the client is satisfied with the end result.

How Do You File for Divorce in New Jersey?

Getting divorced is a process, and spouses who are considering it must ensure they have a clear understanding of what to expect as they move forward. The steps to begin the process are as follows:

  • Consult with a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer – When you are thinking about ending your marriage, a New Jersey divorce lawyer can explain everything you need to know and give you the tools needed to prepare. Your lawyer can also identify any potential issues and help you begin taking the necessary steps to overcome them.
  • Complete and File the Necessary Documents– You and your New Jersey divorce attorney will prepare all of the required documents for divorce in New Jersey. After your attorney files the divorce documents on your behalf, he or she will make sure your spouse is appropriately served. Once your spouse is served, he or she must respond in court within 35 days.
  • Start Working Toward a Resolution – While you must file for divorce in court, much of the divorce process can (and usually will) take place outside of the courtroom. Once you formally start the process, you and your spouse can use negotiation, mediation or some combination of the above to work toward a mutually-agreeable resolution.  

Most divorcing couples are able to fully resolve their differences outside of the courtroom. But, in some cases, spouses will find it necessary to go to court to protect their best interests. At Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., we work with our clients to resolve issues informally whenever possible. Still, we do not hesitate to protect our clients’ interests in court when necessary.   

FAQs: Our New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Answer Common Questions

Do You Have to Be Separated to File for Divorce in New Jersey?

No, you do not have to be separated to file for divorce in New Jersey. While living separate and apart for 18 months is one way to establish grounds for a no-fault divorce, other options are available. For example, if you have not been separated for 18 months, our New Jersey divorce attorney can determine if you should file based on “irreconcilable differences” or file for a fault-based divorce.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Divorce in New Jersey?

Getting divorced in New Jersey can take anywhere from several weeks to a year or longer. However, most divorces take less than a year, and the New Jersey courts typically try to resolve divorce cases in under 12 months unless they involve particularly complex issues.

A typical divorce may take somewhere in the range of four to six months. But, depending on the size of a couple’s estate, whether they have minor children, whether both spouses are willing to come to the table in good faith, and various other factors, the process could be longer or shorter. Therefore, it is important not to focus on any particular timeframe but on doing what you can to make the process as efficient as possible when preparing for a divorce.

Do Divorcing Spouses in New Jersey Divide Their Property 50/50?

No, not necessarily. New Jersey follows the rule of “equitable distribution” for dividing divorcing spouses’ marital assets. “Equitable” does not necessarily mean “equal,” and while a 50/50 split is often the case, it is not uncommon for a divorce to result in an unequal distribution.

Even when the circumstances of a couple’s divorce call for an equal distribution of marital assets, this does not necessarily mean that the spouses will divide all of their assets down the middle. For example, divorcing spouses may agree that each spouse may keep his or her own retirement account, and they may agree that one spouse may keep the family home while the other will keep different assets of substantially equal value.

Does One Spouse Always Get Alimony in a New Jersey Divorce?

While many divorces result in an alimony award, alimony is not necessarily a part of the divorce process in New Jersey. The law establishes several factors that divorcing spouses (and judges) must consider when deciding whether alimony is appropriate. The first factor is “[t]he actual need and ability of the parties to pay.”

If you need to seek alimony in your divorce, or if you believe that your spouse will be seeking alimony, this is something you should discuss with your New Jersey divorce lawyer. Your lawyer will be able to examine your finances and other pertinent considerations to determine what amount of alimony (if any) is warranted.

How Can I Get My Spouse to Agree to an Amicable Divorce?

If you don’t think your spouse will agree to an amicable or “friendly” divorce, you have some options. Once you start the process and your spouse hires a divorce lawyer, your spouse may see that negotiating in good faith is the best approach. If you are both willing to be reasonable but cannot come to terms, you may be able to use mediation to reach an agreement without going to court.

Even when spouses don’t initially agree on the terms of their divorce, they will often share an interest in avoiding the costs and time burden of litigation. This shared interest can spur good-faith negotiations and facilitate an amicable resolution even in a highly-contentious scenario.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File for an Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey?

Even if you and your spouse believe that you are in complete agreement on the terms of your divorce, it is still in your best interests to consult with a lawyer. The divorce process is complex, and it is easy to overlook relevant financial considerations and other issues. An experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer can help make sure you and your spouse are truly on the same page on all issues. This way, you won’t have to worry about running into unexpected (and costly) complications after your divorce.

Schedule a Confidential Initial Divorce Consultation at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A.

Our firm has 15 office locations throughout New Jersey, and we can arrange for you to meet with one of our attorneys at a time and place that are convenient for you. If you are considering a divorce, use the links below to learn more about our offices in your area, then call 877-435-6371 or contact us online to arrange a confidential initial consultation at one of our local offices:

 

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