New Jersey state has its own unique set of divorce laws, which can be complex and nuanced. Understanding these laws is crucial for anyone going through a divorce in NJ.
If you are getting into a divorce in New Jersey, it is beneficial to be knowledgeable about the divorce laws. Whether you decide to hire an NJ family attorney or handle the divorce yourself, you will need to make important decisions and should be aware of what to anticipate.
The courts in NJ will consider various factors in the divorce settlement, including property division, spousal support, and child custody and support. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally.
In this article, we will take a comprehensive dive into everything you need to know about New Jersey divorce laws and guidelines, so you make your best decision while you move along.
Types of Divorce in NJ
In New Jersey, there are two types of divorce options available:
- No-Fault Divorce: In a no-fault divorce, neither spouse has to prove that the other spouse is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage. Instead, the parties can simply state that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
- Fault Divorce: In a fault divorce, one spouse must prove that the other spouse is responsible for the failure of the marriage. Grounds for a fault divorce in New Jersey include:
- Willful desertion for a period of 12 or more months
- Extreme cruelty, such as physical or emotional abuse
- Drug addiction or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more months
- Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months
- Imprisonment for 18 or more consecutive months
Uncontested Divorce in NJ
To file for an uncontested divorce in New Jersey, both spouses must agree on all aspects of the divorce, such as the division of assets, spousal support, child custody, and child support.
The spouses must submit a signed separation agreement, which the NJ court will review. If approved, the spouses will attend a final hearing, where a judge will ensure that both parties understand and agree to the terms. If satisfied, the family court judge will issue a final divorce decree.
Divorce rate in New Jersey
The divorce rate in New Jersey has been declining in recent years. According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2019 the divorce rate in New Jersey was 6.5 per 1,000 married women, which is lower than the national average of 7.6 per 1,000 married women.
Additionally, the median duration of marriages that ended in divorce in New Jersey was 11.7 years, which is higher than the national median of 8.2 years. These statistics suggest that while divorce is still prevalent in New Jersey, the state has a slightly lower divorce rate and longer-lasting marriages compared to the national average.
How to File for Divorce in NJ
Divorce Process in New Jersey
Here are the general steps to file for divorce in New Jersey:
- Meet the Residency Requirement: At least one spouse must have lived in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce.
- Choose a Divorce Ground: As mentioned earlier, New Jersey offers both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce. Choose the appropriate ground based on your situation.
- Gather Information: Collect all necessary information and documentation related to your marriage, including financial records, property ownership documents, and any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.
- File the Complaint: The spouse filing for divorce (the plaintiff) must file a complaint with the Superior Court in the county where they reside. The complaint must include information such as the grounds for divorce, information about any children or property involved, and the relief being sought.
- Serve the Complaint: The plaintiff must serve a copy of the complaint to the other spouse (the defendant) through personal service, certified mail, or another authorized method.
- File an Answer: The defendant has 35 days to respond to the complaint by filing an answer with the court. The answer should address the allegations in the complaint and may include a counterclaim.
- Exchange Information: Both spouses are required to exchange relevant information and documentation related to the divorce, such as financial records and custody arrangements.
- Attend Settlement Conferences: If both spouses are willing, they may attend settlement conferences to try to reach an agreement on the terms of the divorce.
- Attend Trial (If Necessary): If the spouses cannot reach an agreement, the case will proceed to trial, where a judge will make a final decision on the terms of the divorce.
- Obtain a Judgment
Online Divorce in New Jersey
In New Jersey, online divorce is available for uncontested divorces only, where both parties agree on all aspects of the divorce, such as property division, alimony, child support, and custody.
The process is almost similar to the one stated above. You can read our comprehensive guide about online divorce here.
Cost of Divorce in New Jersey
The cost of divorce in NJ can vary widely depending on a variety of factors, such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, the complexity of the issues involved, and whether you choose to hire an attorney or use an online divorce service. In this overview, we will discuss the different costs associated with divorce in New Jersey and provide some tips on how to manage those costs.
Divorce Papers and Forms NJ
New Jersey requires various forms and papers to be filed in order to initiate and complete a divorce. These papers and forms can vary depending on the circumstances of the divorce, such as whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, whether children are involved, and the assets and debts of the couple.
Some of the most common forms required in a New Jersey State divorce include a Summons with Notice or Summons and Complaint, a Verified Complaint, Affidavit of Service, and a Judgment of Divorce.
Grounds for Divorce in NJ
In New Jersey, couples can file for divorce based on a number of different grounds. These grounds are the legal reasons for the divorce, and they can vary depending on the specific circumstances of the marriage.
Here is a list of the grounds for divorce in New Jersey:
- Irreconcilable differences: This is the most common ground for divorce in New Jersey. It means that the marriage has broken down irretrievably and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
- Adultery: If one spouse engages in sexual relations with someone outside the marriage, the other spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
- Desertion: If one spouse abandons the other for at least 12 months without justification, the abandoned spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of desertion.
- Extreme cruelty: If one spouse engages in physical or emotional abuse, the other spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of extreme cruelty.
- Separation: If the spouses have been living separately for at least 18 months, they can file for divorce on the grounds of separation.
- Imprisonment: If one spouse is sentenced to prison for at least 18 months after the marriage, the other spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of imprisonment.
- Institutionalization: If one spouse is institutionalized for mental illness for at least 24 consecutive months, the other spouse can file for divorce on the grounds of institutionalization.
Requirement and Waiting Period
In New Jersey, there is a 35-day waiting period from the time divorce papers are served to the other spouse. This waiting period allows the other spouse time to respond and for parties to resolve any outstanding issues. If the other spouse does not respond within the waiting period, the filing spouse may be able to obtain a default judgment.
If the other spouse responds, the parties may need to attend a court hearing to resolve issues. The time it takes to finalize a divorce in NJ depends on the complexity of issues and whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.
Aside the 35 days mandatory waiting period, here is a list of other requirements for divorce in New Jersey:
- Residency: At least one spouse must have lived in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce.
- Grounds: The filing spouse must have legal grounds for divorce, which may include irreconcilable differences, adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, separation, imprisonment, or institutionalization.
- Property division: Parties must agree on or have a court decide on the division of property, assets, and debts acquired during the marriage.
- Alimony: Parties must agree on or have a court decide on the payment of alimony, which is financial support paid by one spouse to the other after divorce.
- Child custody and support: Parties must agree on or have a court decide on issues related to child custody and support if there are children involved.
How an NJ Judge Will Divide Marital Property
New Jersey judges use the principle of equitable distribution to divide marital property during a divorce. This means that property is divided fairly, but not necessarily equally, based on a variety of factors including the length of the marriage, the income and earning potential of each spouse, the contributions of each spouse to the marriage, and any other relevant factors.
In NJ, the goal is to ensure that each spouse receives a fair share of the marital property, which includes assets such as real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, retirement accounts, and other property acquired during the marriage.
Basics of New Jersey Divorce
While we have discussed major points about NJ divorce, there are still some other basics that you need to know when it comes to divorce in New Jersey. Here are some of them:
Child Custody in New Jersey
In New Jersey, child custody is determined based on the best interests of the child. There are two types of custody in NJ: legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as their education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. Physical custody refers to where the child lives and who they spend time with on a daily basis.
The court may award joint legal custody, where both parents have the right to make decisions regarding the child’s upbringing, or sole legal custody, where only one parent has the right to make these decisions. Similarly, the court may award joint physical custody, where the child spends substantial time with both parents, or sole physical custody, where the child primarily resides with one parent and has visitation with the other.
The court will consider a variety of factors when making custody decisions, such as the child’s relationship with each parent, each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical and emotional needs, and any history of domestic violence or substance abuse. The court may also consider the child’s preferences if they are old enough to express them.
Divorce in NJ Without Spouse Signature
In NJ, if one spouse wants a divorce and the other spouse does not want to sign the divorce papers, the process can still move forward. The spouse seeking the divorce can file a Summons with Notice or a Summons and Verified Complaint with the court, which the other spouse will be served with.
If the other spouse fails to respond to the court within a certain period of time, the NJ court may enter a default judgment in favor of the spouse seeking the divorce. However, if the other spouse contests the divorce, the court may require a trial to determine the grounds for divorce and any related issues such as property division and child custody.
NJ Child Support Guidelines
Child support guidelines in New Jersey are based on several factors, including the income of both parents, the number of children involved, and the amount of time each parent spends with the child. The court determines the basic child support obligation as a percentage of the non-custodial parent’s income.
In addition, the court may consider additional factors such as the child’s medical expenses, education costs, and extracurricular activities, as well as the income and expenses of both parents. The goal of these guidelines is to ensure that the child’s needs are met after a divorce while considering the financial circumstances of both parents.
Divorce Records in NJ
Divorce records in New Jersey are maintained by the Superior Court in the county where the divorce was granted. These records are considered public records and can be obtained by anyone who requests them.
Divorce records typically include information such as the names of the parties involved, the date of the divorce, and any agreements or court orders related to property division, alimony, child custody, and child support.
However, certain information, such as financial records or records related to abuse or domestic violence, may be sealed by the court to protect the privacy and safety of the parties involved. Requests for divorce records can be made in person or by mail to the appropriate Superior Court. Some records may also be available online for a fee through third-party providers.
How to Hire a Divorce Attorney in NJ
Hiring a divorce lawyer in New Jersey can be a crucial decision for individuals going through a divorce. A divorce lawyer can provide legal advice and representation throughout the divorce process, ensuring that the individual’s rights and interests are protected.
When hiring a divorce lawyer in NJ, you need to consider their experience, qualifications, and reputation. It is recommended to choose a lawyer who specializes in family law and has experience handling divorce cases similar to your own.
The cost of hiring a divorce lawyer in New Jersey can vary depending on the lawyer’s experience and the complexity of the case. Some lawyers charge a flat fee for their services, while others charge an hourly rate. It is important to discuss the lawyer’s fees and payment options upfront to avoid any surprises later on.
Divorce in NJ; Who Gets What?
In New Jersey, the property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally between spouses during a divorce based on the principle of equitable distribution. Marital property acquired during the marriage is subject to division, while some assets such as those acquired before the marriage or through inheritance or gifts may be exempt. The court will make a determination if the parties cannot agree on the division of property.
What is a Wife Entitled to in a Divorce in NJ?
In a divorce in New Jersey, a wife is entitled to a fair distribution of marital property acquired during the marriage and may also receive spousal support if she demonstrates financial need and if the court determines the other spouse has the ability to pay.
Divorce in NJ with Child; How does it Work?
In a New Jersey divorce with a child, the court considers the best interests of the child when making decisions about custody and support. Joint or sole custody may be awarded, and child support is determined based on a formula that considers each parent’s income and the child’s needs. A divorce lawyer can provide guidance and help ensure a fair outcome for the child.
How Long does it take to get a Divorce in NJ?
The time it takes to get a divorce in New Jersey varies depending on whether it is contested or uncontested. An uncontested divorce can be finalized in several months, while a contested divorce can take years. There is a mandatory waiting period of at least six months. It’s important to work with a divorce lawyer to ensure your rights are protected throughout the process.
New Jersey divorce laws and guidelines are intricate and have a wide range of matters to be addressed. It is vital to have a good understanding of these laws in order to make informed decisions and ensure a fair outcome. By understanding these NJ divorce laws, individuals can better prepare themselves for the process and take the necessary steps to protect their rights and interests.
New Jersey Resource
- New Jersey Child Adoption Guidelines
- New Jersey Child Custody and Visitation Guidelines
- New Jersey Child Support Guidelines
- New Jersey Divorce Guidelines
- New Jersey Marital Property Guidelines
- New Jersey Spousal Support Guidelines
- How to Check New Jersey Child Support Payment History
- New Jersey Child Support Calculator
- New Jersey Grants and Assistance for Single Mothers