Divorce in New Jersey - The Complete Guide
Getting a divorce can be stressful and time-consuming, but the good news is you will make it through to the other side and find peace again. So, if you’re navigating a divorce in New Jersey, use this guide to understand the basics in order to end your marriage in the Garden State.
Divorce terms in New Jersey
The spouse who requests a divorce is known as the plaintiff while the other spouse is known as the defendant. Even if the two of you are amicably divorcing with a mediator, the terms are the same.
How to start the divorce process in New Jersey:
To start the divorce process, the plaintiff files a “Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution” and one of you must be a New Jersey resident for, at the very least, 12 consecutive months.
Where to File for Divorce In New Jersey:
For the party filing for divorce, you also must file in the county where the technical reason you use for your divorce occurred, even if you are now living outside of the county. We’ll cover grounds for divorce next.
If the two of you have lived apart for 18 months or longer, the plaintiff must file in the county where he or she last lived before or during the 18-month marker. One exception to all of this is if your grounds for divorce is adultery. In that case, just one of you has to be a New Jersey resident for any length of time. Now that you know some basics before filing for divorce, let’s discuss what the state of New Jersey considers as legal grounds for divorce.
Legal Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey
When we say “grounds,” we mean reasons recognized in the eye of the legal system for granting a divorce. New Jersey has a few grounds for divorce: no-fault grounds for divorce and fault-based grounds.
No-fault grounds can be granted in two situations: if the marriage has broken down for at least six months or longer, and there is no possibility for the two of you to reconcile, or you have both lived apart for a year and a half and have no plans to reunite and reconcile.
Fault-based grounds are different. Here are a few reasons for granting a fault-based divorce:
- Desertion for at least 12 months by one’s own will
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Institutionalization of one partner for mental health issues for 2 years before filing for divorce
- Extreme abuse and cruelty (this abuse had to have happened at least 3 months before the divorce is filed)
- And other reasons
Keep in mind that if you are using one of these reasons as grounds for divorce, the process is going to be more complicated as you’ll need to prove the matter.
What happens now that the divorce is filed?
Now that the plaintiff has filed the “Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution,” the defendant has 35 days after receiving this to either file for an appearance, file an answer or a counterclaim.
Filing for an appearance means: the defendant isn’t objecting to the divorce itself, but does not agree to what the plaintiff is asking for, whether it’s the entire request or one matter. Filing an answer just means that the defendant agrees or disagrees to whatever is stated in the complaint.
A counterclaim is something different. In this case, the defendant can give new information/reasons for the divorce.
Property Division, Alimony & Child Custody in New Jersey
If you’re getting a divorce in New Jersey, you will most likely be facing property division issues and potentially, matters of alimony and child custody. Here are some facts regarding all three of these big stressful issues:
How A Judge Divides Up Marital Property:
Laws in New Jersey basically state that all property is marital property. When dividing up property, here are the things a judge will consider when deciding, essentially, who gets what.
- How long the two of you were married or in a civil union
- How old you both are and the state of your physical and mental health
- If you have an agreement written by you both ahead of time, the judge will honor that
- Your individual financial circumstances once all property has been divided. Also each person’s potential to earn and perhaps, child care responsibilities and any schooling needed to become self-supporting
- If one of you or both of you contributed to each other’s education or earning abilities
- Your total debts and liabilities for each of you
- The value of your properties
- Any tax consequences that will happen once the property is divided up
- And other reasons, for example, if one of you has actual physical custody of your children - will you need to stay in the marital home?
As you can see there are many factors that play into how a judge will divide up your assets during the divorce proceedings in New Jersey.
How Alimony Is Awarded in New Jersey
If the two of you already have an agreement made, congratulations! The judge will typically abide by it, unless perhaps it is viewed as unfair to one of you or if one of you was coerced into agreeing to the matter. Otherwise, there are numerous factors that play into how long someone receives alimony and how much the person will actually receive like:
- The ability for someone to pay alimony vs. the other person’s need for alimony
- How long you were married or in a civil union
- The standard of living in your marriage and the need to keep a similar standard of living after divorce
- How much you both earn and how capable you are of earning, from your ability to be employed to your education level
- The physical and mental health of you both
- What type of parental responsibilities the parties have if there are children acquired from the marriage
- How the property was divided
- If either one of you has to get any job training or education due to the divorce-- the need to be self-supporting
- Your individual contributions to the marriage, which also includes any child care or absence from the workforce to care for children
- Other factors
In general, alimony is not a clear-cut matter or case, and each divorce is unique.
Basic FAQ’s on Child Custody in New Jersey
Child custody is not a simple matter, so we will just stick to some basic facts here to prep you for your divorce in the Garden State.
- Before the divorce is final, both parties must attend the state’s mandatory “Parent Education Program.”
- If the two of you can make an agreement on custody whether on your own, with lawyers or through mediation, the judge will approve unless the agreement is not in the child’s best interest.
- Child support in the state of New Jersey is determined by a set of guidelines dictated by the state.
A List of Resources to Get Through Your Divorce in New Jersey
Now that you know some basic facts on divorcing in NJ, have you considered some of the resources and support you’ll need to navigate the divorce process?
Keep this little checklist by your side as you navigate the process:
|Divorced Professionals||National Association of Divorced Professionals (NAPD)||TheNADP.com|
|Divorce Coach||Certified Divorced Coaches (CDC)||CertifiedDivorceCoach.com|
|Financial Planners||Association of Divorce Financial Planners(ADFP)||DivorceAndFinance.org|
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Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice on any subject matter. Consult with an attorney for more information regarding your individual situation.