When day-to-day existence is intolerable due to fractures in your marriage, there is sometimes no other remedy than to file for divorce. For some, marriage counseling or living apart will work to slowly repair the damage in your marital bonds, but, sadly, for some it is a lost cause. Your best bet when considering filing for divorce is to consult with a reputable top family lawyer in New Jersey. This specialty of the law will garner you the expert advice that you need to get through the entire divorce process. Filing for divorce and the actual decree of divorce will not happen overnight, thus, you will need guidance and the expertise of a counselor to get through this process.
What are some items I should know before filing for divorce here in New Jersey?
Residency prior to filing: The court will not accept your case unless you meet their residency requirements, i.e. you must have been a resident of the state of New Jersey for one year prior to filing of the action. The only exception to the rule is if there is adultery and then the residency requirement is waived.
Grounds for filing: The party filing the Complaint for Divorce is referred to as the Plaintiff or Petitioner. In order to make a case against the Defendant or Respondent, he or she must state the grounds upon which the divorce is being requested. There are a number of grounds for requesting the court grant a divorce, among them: adultery; extreme mental or physical cruelty; separation (the parties have lived apart for at least eighteen months); abandonment (the parties have lived apart for at least twelve months with willful and continued desertion a factor in the estrangement); institutionalization for mental illness (for at least twenty-four consecutive months between the date of marriage and prior to filing the Complaint for Divorce); addiction to controlled dangerous substances or habitual drunkenness (between the date of marriage and prior to filing the Complaint for Divorce); imprisonment (for eighteen or more consecutive months between the date of marriage and prior to filing the Complaint for Divorce, unless the parties have cohabitated upon release from prison) and deviant sexual behavior. When any one (or even more) of these grounds for divorce have been met, the Complaint may be filed.
Exchange of documents: A flurry of financial documents are usually exchanged after the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. That Complaint will be served upon the Defendant and a response to same will be required within thirty days. Both parties in the marriage should not employ the same attorney to ensure they receive benefits or rights that they are entitled to – separate attorneys will guarantee that all documents exchanged and hearings attended during the pendency of the matter are done in their respective client’s best interests.
While attorneys exchange documents and financial information, they will try to hammer out an agreement regarding settlement as to property and debt issues that satisfies both parties. Often there is squabbling between the parties about financial entitlement, then the parties, accompanied by their counsel, may make several trips before the judge. If the attorneys cannot reach an agreement, then all documents and financial information to date will be analyzed by the judge who is presiding over the matter, then the divorce decree will be issued based on the judge’s recommendations.
Distribution of Property: In deciding on the equitable distribution of property, many factors come into play and are taken into consideration before the judge before rendering the decision. Some of these factors would include: the duration of the marriage; the parties’ age, physical and emotional health; the financial status during the marriage such as the income brought into the marriage, as well as the standard of living established during the marriage; the economic circumstances of the parties at the time the property division occurs, including any and all debts and liabilities; any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that might have existed; whether or not one of the parties sacrificed their career and earning potential in favor of the other and the monetary value of that sacrifice; and the present monetary value of the property or assets in question.
Spousal support: Where applicable, the obligation of one spouse to support the other financially, (whether permanently or temporarily), is decided on a case-by-case basis, agreed to either by the parties and their counsel, or as directed by the judge. For the most part, spousal support consists of the same basic factors as were used in determining division of property, i.e. the need and ability of the parties to pay; age, physical and emotional wellbeing of the parties; the standard of living established during the marriage and the likelihood of maintaining that status quo; earning capabilities of the parties while factoring in their educational levels, vocational skills and the employability at present of the parties; and finally, parental responsibilities for the children and the equitable distribution of property
Child custody: If the parties, through their counsel, cannot come to an agreement as to issues involving their children, in an effort to avoid traumatizing the minors involved in the divorce process, the judge will establish a custody order.
Child support: The state laws of New Jersey, just like other states across the union, will apply guidelines based on each parent’s income. The amounts are geared toward the custodial versus non-custodial parent and income will be verified by the judge by examining financial paperwork such as W-2 forms. Some factors taken into consideration are the needs of the child, the standard of living and economic circumstances as to each parent and the financial obligations of the parent based on the amount of time the child spends with each parent.