January is a time when people look to start anew. One of the truly painful parts of starting something new is the need to end something first. A harsh reality is that a lot of couples start looking into divorce after the holidays are over. Officially, the numbers tell you that March is when the most divorces are filed in New Jersey; although that probably means they reached out to their lawyer around January.
Maybe you’re in this situation right now. You put off this decision through Christmas, not wanting to spoil the holiday for the kids and the extended family. Maybe, deep down, you were hoping that the holiday season might rekindle the spark. But you may find that a lot of those sparks will be quickly doused in the champagne glasses that brring in 2022. So, let’s get to work on how we can get you through this difficult period as efficiently as possible, and as financially whole as we can get you.
Filing for Divorce
First off, you need to have lived in New Jersey for at least 12 months before you can file for divorce here. Then the divorce process has a lot of paperwork. If you’re the person initiating the process, it starts by filing what’s called the official Complaint. This will be followed by a document of Non-Collusion & Verification. This assures the state that you and another party aren’t attempting anything fraudulent by means of this divorce.
Your Certificate of No Pending Proceedings assures the state that there are no outstanding legal actions between you and your spouse. A Certificate of Insurance Coverage ensures you won’t lose your insurance while all of this is ongoing. These are just of few of the documents that you’ll sign to officially begin the divorce process. The fee will be $300.
Once your Complaint is officially filed, it will be given a docket number. Now, your spouse must be served with the papers. You are responsible for delivering the papers to your spouse within 30 days and providing proof of that service to the court--i.e., your soon-to-be-ex must sign.
If that’s a little too confrontational for you, there are two options for alternative service of process. The Sheriff’s Office can do delivery for a fee. There are also private companies that will undertake service of process delivery.
What if you’re the person on the receiving end of the divorce papers (officially called The Summons)? You will have to file an official Answer within a period of 35 days and at a cost of $175. If you choose not to respond, the court may simply grant the divorce.
An Answer falls into three general categories:
- A response, where you contest whatever issues the plaintiff has stated in the complaint. New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, but there do have to be “irreconcilable differences” that you have lived with for at least six months. Your spouse’s filing will, by definition, have those irreconcilable differences listed. This is your chance to make a reply and dispute their version of your marriage if you wish.
- You can answer with a Counterclaim--in this case, perhaps there’s some ground for divorce--some irreconcilable difference that wasn’t stated in the original Complaint and that you want to be certain is on the record.
- The final type of response is an Appearance. It’s for when you aren’t going to contest anything your spouse said about your marriage, but you do intend to speak up on issues pertaining to the children and the division of assets.
In the event there will be a discussion of child custody, a $25 fee will be assessed for both parents (presuming both want custody) to attend a parenting workshop.
Will I Get Half of Everything?
Maybe. But it’s not guaranteed. New Jersey is not a 50/50 state when it comes to dividing marital assets. It’s an equitable distribution state. That means the court will divide assets based on what it deems to be fair. That could be a straight 50 percent split. More than likely, the court will look at a range of factors in determining what will make the most equitable solution. That means you need to be well-represented to ensure your interests are heard.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
It’s usually better if the couple can work together on asset division and child custody. But these are contentious issues, and they must be managed by people who--by the very fact they are here--haven’t been able to resolve conflicts. You might be wondering how you can get through this without it getting nasty.
Meditation can be an option in these situations. The lawyers for you and your spouse can work to pull together everyone from financial planners for the money to social workers for the kids and discuss what options will work best for everyone.
Arbitration is another form of alternative dispute resolution. It’s more confrontational than mediation--you and your spouse both agree in writing that you’ll go along with what the arbitrator decides. But you still have flexibility--you have equal say with your spouse on who the arbitrator will be and what issues they will decide. It’s a good option for a couple that may have been able to mediate their way through 9 of 10 issues, but just needs help in pushing them through the finish line.
You and your spouse both have strong incentive to come to an agreement. If you don’t, you’re both at the mercy of whatever the judge decides. It might be better to maintain some level of control. If there are kids involved, it can also be easier on them if the parents reach a mutual understanding.
How Long Will This Take?
We know you want to get this behind you. If your spouse is not contesting the divorce and you’re able to reach an amicable agreement on an equitable division of assets, this could be over in a matter of a few months. But be aware that if there are any disputes at all, this could end up dragging out and taking up to a year or longer.
There are no guarantees on timeframe, but it’s safe to say that the sooner you get started, the sooner you can begin again. DeTommaso Law Group has the experience necessary to see you through this difficult time and we have the gumption to fight for your rights in court. Call us today at (908) 274-3028 or contact us online and let us go to work for you.