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If you are looking to file for divorce and you are a resident of New Jersey there are certain guidelines that you must follow. New Jersey divorce cases are taken care of in the Family Division of the Superior Court in New Jersey. If you have any general questions about filing a divorce you can contact the Superior Court of New Jersey through their website at www.judiciary.state.nj.us. There is a self-help resource center that provides information regarding different court proceedings. Also, it would be advisable to seek the advice of an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney. Each party has to hire their own attorney since both parties are not allowed to be represented by the same attorney. New Jersey divorce attorneys specialize in handling divorce cases and they are versed in divorce procedure. You can also represent yourself in court. This works best when both parties are agreeable to specific conditions. This can be an option in cases that do not involve children or complicated property issues.
You or your spouse must be a resident of New Jersey for at least 1 year before a divorce can be filed. You must also decide what your grounds are for divorce. There are specific grounds that are outlined and are based on whether the divorce will be a “no-fault” divorce or a “fault” divorce. Grounds for a “fault” divorce are desertion, drug and/or alcohol addiction, cruelty, imprisonment, sexual deviancy, adultery, and mental institutionalization. “No-fault” divorces are filed on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Both parties must agree that the marriage is broken and all attempts to reconcile have been exhausted.
You will then file a divorce complaint. The complaint is a form that can be obtained at the court clerk's office. You need to be aware that court fees are required to file a complaint for divorce. It is approximately $200 to file a divorce complaint and $30 will be charged for each separate motion that is filed with the court. All paperwork will be field the Chancery Division. The complaint lays out the grounds for the divorce are and what types of relief you will be seeking such as child support, property and child custody. A summons will be issued to your spouse advising of the complaint. Your spouse then has 35 days to file an answer and a counterclaim in response to your complaint.
In the instance of a no-fault divorce each party will meet and come to an agreement regarding the marital property, child custody, visitation, and child and spousal support. When all paperwork has been finalized and filed the court will set a hearing date and advise when a final judgment of divorce will be entered.
In the case of fault divorces a summons will still be served upon the spouse and they have 35 days to answer. When your spouse files an Answer and a Counterclaim you will then have 20 days to answer the counterclaim. Each party will be required to file a Case Information Statement (CIS) that outlines all marital assets and liabilities, any real property that may be owned, income statements, tax statements and other paperwork as requested by the court. If children are involved, the complainant can file a motion to settle issues of child custody and child support on a temporary basis. Your case will then be set for a Case Management Conference 30 days after the last pleading has been filed in the case. This conference will be conducted over the phone or in person with all parties and their attorneys being present. Each county in New Jersey has different procedures for the Case Management Conference. Your attorney will know exactly what the procedures are for your county. Issues regarding discovery will be discussed at the conference. Discovery is used to get all marital property in order, and sets up a clear picture of exactly what will be included in the divorce for distribution between the parties. Discovery includes depositions, copies of paperwork, requests, and interrogatories.
If the case keeps stalling, a mediator may be brought in to help settle the case. The mediator is an impartial party and will hear all concerns and settlement proposals. The mediator will then discuss settlement proposals with the parties separately. This way a fair decision can be made. If the mediation is a success there may be no need for the court to set the case for trial. A very low percentage of divorce cases are set for trial.
If for any reason the defendant fails to file an answer to complaints or counterclaims, the complainant can request that the court enter into a divorce via default. At this point the defendant is no longer able to contest the divorce and will no longer be able to respond in any way. The case will then be set for hearing and the complainant will file an application for equitable distribution. The defendant will be notified of the pending action and will have 20 days before the date of the scheduled hearing.
If child support is ordered the amount will be set specifically according to New Jersey's child support guidelines. The court will take into account the personal income of the parent, their standard of living, transportation and housing just to name a few. The numbers will be plugged into a program that will calculate amounts based on the information that is provided.
If all parties are agreeable with proposed property division, visitation and custody, alimony payments and other issues then the process will be much smoother for everyone involved. When a case becomes complicated the legal bills can begin adding up. Attorneys generally charge per hour for their services and the price can range from $100 per hour to $300 dollars per hour. Your attorney will make every effort to help you settle your case in a timely manner. He will also will work to make sure that you are being treated fairly and your rights as a parent aren't being violated. There can be many twists and turns during divorce proceedings. Make sure that you protect yourslef by hiring a qualified New Jersey divorce attorney.