Divorce can be difficult, even for the most amicable couples. The divorce process can be lengthy and complex, and having experienced legal representation on your side is essential. Our knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorneys at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC can be the advocates you need. Our attorneys are adept at negotiating agreements and skilled litigators who are not afraid to fight for your rights in court.
What Are the Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey?
New Jersey has legal requirements for a divorce. Either spouse must be a state resident for at least one year before filing for divorce. If the cause of the divorce is adultery, you can be a resident for any amount of time.
You must also specify the grounds for divorce. New Jersey’s grounds for divorce include the following:
- Irreconcilable differences for at least six months
- Abandonment for one year or more
- Extreme cruelty, including physical or mental abuse
- Separation for 18 months or more
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol for one year or more
- Commitment to a mental health facility for two years or more
- Imprisonment for 18 months or longer
- Deviant sexual conduct
Irreconcilable differences is New Jersey’s no-fault divorce. You do not need to blame either spouse for the marriage’s demise in a no-fault divorce.
The remaining grounds do place blame on a spouse. You can speak with one of our divorce attorneys to understand which grounds for divorce are appropriate for your situation.
What Happens in a New Jersey Divorce?
A divorce addresses several matters aside from the end of the marital relationship and its cause. Depending on your circumstances, a divorce will also address issues such as:
- The division of marital property and debts
- Child custody and support if you share children
- Spousal maintenance or alimony
- Retirement plan or pension distributions
It is important to understand that New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means the judge can divide the property in any manner they deem appropriate and fair based on several factors.
The above issues are often what separate contested and uncontested divorces. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree to all the major issues listed above. In other words, the couple has worked everything out and does not need a judge to decide for them.
In a contested divorce, however, the spouses cannot or will not agree on one or more issues. Therefore, they need judicial intervention to resolve their disputes.
What Is the Divorce Process in New Jersey?
Divorces can be complex and lengthy. Each divorce is unique, and cases that involve high assets or other legal complications can take longer to resolve.
Once you have determined you meet the eligibility requirements for divorce in New Jersey, your case will typically follow these steps:
- Complaint: Every divorce begins with one spouse filing a divorce complaint (plaintiff) with the court listing names, addresses, marriage date, grounds for divorce, and preferences on serving the other spouse.
- Counterclaim: The spouse receiving the complaint (defendant) must respond to the court within 35 days of being served, either in person or per court instructions, to answer the complaint or file any counterclaims against the plaintiff. Failure to respond permits the court to proceed with the divorce without the defendant.
- Discovery: Both spouses must file a Case Information Sheet (CIS) with the court detailing financial information, income, debts, assets, marital and personal property, and other relevant information.
- Agreement: Couples who have reached a mutual settlement agreement before or after filing the complaint may file it with the court. A judge will go through the agreement in a short hearing to confirm both are still in agreement. If so, the final divorce decree can be issued. If the parties cannot agree on a settlement agreement, they may be required to participate in an Early Settlement Panel (ESP), an alternative to trial in which assigned professional settlement coordinators will mediate discussions to reach a settlement recommendation.
- Economic mediation: If the parties reject the ESP recommendation or fail to reach an agreement, they may be required to participate in economic mediation, a more intensive effort to reach an agreement.
- Settlement conference: If the parties still fail to reach an agreement during economic mediation, they may be required to participate in an Intensive Settlement Conference with the court as a last-ditch effort to reach a settlement and avoid a trial.
- Trial: If the parties have exhausted all steps and have still not reached an agreement, the case will go to trial, where a judge will determine the outcome and impose a settlement agreement in a final judgment.
What Factors Influence Property Division?
Distribution of property is determined by the court and based on several factors, including but not limited to the following:
- Length of marriage
- Age and health of each spouse
- Income of each spouse
- Each spouse’s ability to earn income
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Any other relevant factors
Each spouse is entitled to a portion of the marital property. Marital property is any assets obtained during the marriage, even if only one spouse’s name appears on the property. Marital assets include but are not limited to:
- Marital home and other real estate, such as vacation homes or rentals
- Bank accounts
- Retirement or pensions
- Stocks or other investments
Any outstanding debt accrued during the marriage may also be considered and divided between the spouses.
Assets or gifts one spouse obtained prior to or during the marriage are typically considered personal property and not marital, such as an inheritance, as long as they are kept separate. If personal assets are applied to marital property, such as using a portion of the inheritance to purchase co-owned real estate, these assets may be considered marital property and subject to division. Once the court understands what property is shared, it will determine how it is divided.
Disputes over marital assets and how they should be valued and divided are common during divorce proceedings. There is no established formula for determining how marital property is divided, and hiring an experienced attorney who understands how the courts weigh each factor can significantly alter the outcome.
How Long Does a Divorce Take?
The length of divorce depends on the circumstances involved. Divorces with few assets and no children are typically finalized quicker. Divorces involving a significant amount of assets, child custody issues, or spouses who cannot agree on important issues often take significantly longer, sometimes years.
In New Jersey, two different timeframes are involved – the aforementioned time it takes to reach eligibility and the time to progress through the different phases of divorce.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Divorce?
You are not required to hire an attorney to divorce; however, it is usually in your best interest to do so. An experienced divorce attorney knows state laws, requirements, and the necessary filings. Your attorney can also anticipate potential legal concerns. Your attorney can negotiate on your behalf, represent you in court, maintain your best interests, and ensure your rights are always protected.
New Jersey Divorce Attorneys at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC Represent Clients Seeking a Divorce
Divorce can be a stressful time. Having a strong support system and an experienced legal team on your side can help alleviate some of the stress while also assuring your rights and best interests are protected. If you are considering a New Jersey divorce, our seasoned New Jersey divorce attorneys at Wiley Lavender Maknoor, PC can advocate for you every step of the way. Call us today at 732-494-6099 or contact us online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Located in Metuchen, New Jersey, we serve clients in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Somerset County.