Under New Jersey law, divorce can only be accomplished by going through a formal legal process, whereas separation does not require legal action. There are two types of divorce in New Jersey, no-fault and fault. With fault divorce, one of the spouses must have either:
- Cheated on the other spouse
- Been incarcerated for a period of at least 18 months
- Deserted the other spouse for a period of at least one year
- Engaged in a serious drug or alcohol addiction for at least one year
- Been institutionalized for mental health problems for at least 2 years
- Conducted deviant sexual behavior without the other spouse’s consent
- Engaged in extreme mental and/or physical cruelty toward the other spouse, making it unsafe for them to continue to cohabitate with the abuser
In contrast, no-fault divorce only requires spouses to be legally separated. For a couple to be legally separated, they must voluntarily live 18 months apart in separate residences without any intention of reconciling with one another.
What Paperwork Do I Need to File for Divorce?
To get a divorce in New Jersey, you have to choose to either go through the court with a formal lawsuit or engage in a collaborative law process. In order to obtain a divorce through the collaborative law process, you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse will both need to agree to get a divorce through this method, as well as draft and sign a collaboration law agreement, to commence the process. At the end of the process, you will both need to sign a settlement agreement containing all of the terms of the divorce. This will then need to be filed with the court to become official.
If you choose to go through the court, you will need file certain paperwork with the Family Division of your local Superior Court, for which there are no official forms. Unlike with the collaborative law process, you do not need to get your spouse to consent to a divorce through the court. You can begin a divorce through the court by filing a Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution for your particular circumstances, such as separation or extreme cruelty, and attaching appropriate certification proving the grounds for divorce. Along with the complaint, you will also need to complete and submit a:
- Filing Letter to the Court, which will inform the court of your intent to file for divorce
- Certification of Verification and Non-Collusion, which allows you to affirm to the court that you are telling the truth with your assertions in the complaint and that this is the only attempt at divorce in which you and your spouse are involved
- Certification of Insurance, which informs the court of what sort of insurance you and your spouse have
- Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives
- Family Part Case Information Statement (CIS) in the event that you are seeking child support, alimony, or a more equitable distribution of assets than you are currently enjoying
Community Property vs. Separate Property
New Jersey is an equitable property state, so the court is not required to divide all of the property owned by either spouse equally between the two spouses. Rather, the court is obligated to divide any community property, or property owned by the couple together, in a manner that is fair to both parties based on factors such as each spouse’s standard of living and their age. Any property that is considered separate property is not subject to equitable distribution. Separate property is property that either spouse:
- Owned prior to getting married
- Receives as a gift or inheritance during the marriage
What Should I Do If There Are Children Involved?
One of the most difficult areas in a divorce involving children is establishing custody and financial support for the child, which is known as child support. Prior to doing either of those things, New Jersey requires both parents to attend a Parents’ Education Program that is provided by the court. Once you and your spouse have completed the program, the court will then allow you an opportunity to figure out who will have custody and who will be required to pay child support If you and your spouse cannot agree, the you will be required to file a Custody and Parenting Time/Visitation Plan, which will give you a chance to let the judge know what your wishes are in terms of support and custody.
It is important to settle this matter during the divorce process because hiring a divorce lawyer to figure out child custody and child support after the divorce is finalized can get expensive. Depending on how complicated the matter is, the cost can range from $3,000 to $40,000.
Do I Need to Pay Alimony?
Either spouse may collect alimony, and allocation of alimony is entirely dependent on the circumstances. New Jersey courts recognize four types of alimony: open durational, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement. If the marriage lasted for at least 20 years, if you were financially dependent on your spouse, or if you cannot work because you are disabled or you lack the necessary skills, then you may be granted open durational alimony, which does not have a set termination date. In the event that you do not qualify for open durational alimony, you may still be granted limited duration alimony that will only last for a specific period of time, typically not longer than the marriage. If you only need financial support while you are pursuing more education or training in an effort to become self-supporting, then you may be granted rehabilitative alimony. Even if you were the breadwinner in the marriage, you may be entitled to reimbursement alimony if your spouse was going through training or school to increase their earning potential while you were financially taking care of them, and you had yet to benefit from their increased earning potential. Remarriage, cohabitation with a new significant other, or any other major change in your circumstances will likely end alimony.
Where Can I Find the Right Divorce Lawyer?
The decision to get divorced is never an easy decision to make. However, once you have decided to get divorced, then it is your best interest to talk to a New Jersey divorce lawyer to help you with the process. They can represent you in court and make sure that you receive what you deserve through the divorce.