Frequently Asked Questions About NJ Divorce
If you are considering getting a divorce in New Jersey, you probably have many questions. Friends and family offer their advice and opinions to be helpful, but sometimes they make the situation more anxiety-provoking and confusing than before you had spoken with them. Every case is different, but when looking for information about divorce, there are some prevalent questions to which you should have answers to provide you with a more comprehensive understanding of matrimonial dissolutions in NJ.
The family law professionals at The Montanari Law Group have put together a list of the most common concerns our clients have asked us about getting a divorce in New Jersey. Contact us for further information and assistance in a free consultation at 973-233-4396.
What Reasons can You give for a Divorce under NJ Law?
To file for divorce, you must choose a reason for the desired end of a marriage. These are called grounds for divorce, and there are several of them from which to choose. Irreconcilable differences are the most common reason for divorce, and one of the reasons for this is that there is no need to submit proof. It states that you and your spouse cannot stay in a relationship and are separated for at least six months. There is no need to identify specific issues as it is a blanket statement of disagreement between the parties.
Other reasons for divorce are a spouse’s incarceration for more than 18 consecutive months or institutionalization in a mental care facility for more than 24 straight months, adultery, extreme cruelty, addiction to alcohol or drugs, desertion, extreme cruelty, and separation. Often, desertion and separation are confused when filing for divorce. Separation is when you and your spouse have lived apart for at least 18 months. Desertion is a withholding of physical intimacy for more than 12 months. It would be best if you talked to a divorce lawyer to discover which grounds for divorce match your situation.
Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer to Get A Divorce?
The simple answer is no; you do not. However, getting a divorce requires several forms to be filled out correctly, and you are expected to follow the Rules of the Court at all times. Consider this scenario: your car has broken down and you decide to fix it yourself and save a little money, so you watch a dozen videos and buy a few manuals to learn how to diagnose the problem and cure it. By the end of two weeks, you have spent more money on special tools, and you still can’t get your car to start. When you finally call a mechanic, they say there is much more damage because you were doing something you were utterly unprepared to do. That is similar to when you try to handle your divorce alone; it isn’t generally a good idea.
What is the Difference Between a Fault and a No-Fault Divorce?
A no-fault divorce does not assign the responsibility for the split to either party. The only requirements for a no-fault divorce due to separation are residency in the state of New Jersey for 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce, separate living arrangements for at least 18 consecutive months, and absolute certainty that reconciliation is not possible. If the divorce complaint names irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce, both parties must have lived in New Jersey for 12 consecutive months and have had these differences for at least six months. There is no evidence of a possible reconciliation.
In a fault divorce, the party filing for divorce claims their spouse is culpable; divorce is the only logical course of action. Psychological, physical, or emotional abuse, adultery, incarceration for more than 18 months, institutionalization for more than 24 months, physical desertion, deviant sexual behavior, and addiction to alcohol or drugs are all grounds for divorce where the fault is cast on one party. It is essential to recognize that in a fault divorce, the spouse who submits the complaint must prove the other party is at fault. In the case of adultery, you will need to prove that you were cheated on, and hunches or rumors are not proof. Strange expenditures on a bank statement, screenshots of text messages, and emails help prove your spouse has been unfaithful. As an aside, proving adultery in your divorce will not change the financial settlement, spousal support, or child support amounts, so you may want to re-evaluate your grounds for divorce in terms of time spent in litigation, legal costs, and whether you are willing to air the family’s dirty laundry on public record.
What Is The Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, the couple agrees to the terms established by their lawyers, and there is no need to litigate in court. A contested divorce occurs when a couple cannot agree on the terms presented and need the court to decide for them.
As the process goes on, people can become more reasonable and willing to compromise somewhat. The four primary areas of contention are marital assets, child custody, child support, and spousal support.
How Much Does A Divorce Cost?
There are an innumerable number of factors that determine the cost of a divorce. A ballpark figure for most lawyers is anywhere from $300 to $800 per hour, although others may charge more. An uncomplicated and easy divorce, no-fault, uncontested, no children, with few debts and assets (known in some circles as a “quickie” divorce) with all filings, documents, submissions, and petitions can cost approximately $4,000 – $5,000. Clearly, this is not an exact calculation, but it gives a picture of what the cost could be.
The most expensive would be an at-fault, contested divorce where the parties argue over every detail, including their multiple assets, debts, properties, alimony, and if there are minor children, a custody agreement including child support. Also, experts and investigators may be required to give testimony. Medical experts charge about $500 per hour, while other specialists charge $325. It is easy to see how the bills will quickly add up to the thousands and even tens of thousands. If you and your ex want to argue over everything, including who gets Grandma’s punch bowl, you will undoubtedly pay for it.
It is impossible to determine the cost of your divorce when filing because people change, and you or your ex may decide that much of what you are arguing over can be settled outside of the courtroom.
How Do I Serve My Spouse With Divorce Papers?
The court prefers that your spouse be served divorce papers by a “disinterested person” rather than your friends or family. There are private process servers who will do it for a fee, and your local sheriff will do it as well. It is crucial that the documents be served within 120 days of filing for divorce because you must refile if they aren’t. If you cannot find your spouse, your lawyer can petition the court for more time. Anyone who serves the papers must complete an affidavit stating that the documents have been handed over.
Does Equitable Mean a 50-50 Split of Our Marital Property?
Equitable distribution means a fair division of property, not equal. The court must first determine which assets are separate and marital, their worth, and how they will be divided. Some of the factors the judge will consider when making these determinations are the financial needs of each spouse, the value of their separate assets, the health and age of each spouse, and any prenuptial agreements.
How Are the Marital Debts Dealt With?
The debts are split similarly to the assets. The court decides which are marital debts and which are separate ones. When it comes to mortgages, the spouse that stays in the home usually agrees to pay the mortgage. It will be necessary for them to refinance it under their name alone. If that isn’t possible, the house will be sold, the mortgage paid, and the assets divided. Read more about debt division in the divorce process by clicking the link.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce in New Jersey?
From your first consultation until the ink is dry on the last page of paperwork is usually a year, barring any conflicts. Ultimately, it is up to you and your spouse in the sense that the more complicated you make it, the longer it will be.
How Long Must I Live in NJ to File for Divorce?
Either spouse must have resided in New Jersey for at least a year before filing for divorce unless you are filing on the grounds of adultery, for which there is no time limit.
How Can a NJ Divorce Lawyer Help Me?
A divorce attorney can support and guide you through this painful, stressful process. There are many steps to get from filing for your divorce to having that final divorce decree: division of assets, alimony, division of debts, resolving child custody, and child support. You need to decide the grounds upon which you are requesting the divorce. Maybe litigation isn’t for you. A lawyer can help you with negotiation in addition to Alternative Dispute Resolution such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce.
The Montanari Law Group, LLC has the talent and the resources to provide the representation you need to finalize your divorce across the State of New Jersey. When divorce is on the road ahead, we will make the journey with you every step of the way.