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Divorce Lawyers in New Jersey


Divorce can be a very complicated process, and navigating the legal aspects can seem overwhelming. Plus, it can take a heavy emotional toll as someone seeks to enter a new phase of their life.

There are many facets to divorce law in every state, including New Jersey. To help ensure a good outcome, it is essential to hire an experienced attorney who knows the ins and outs of divorce law. Going without an attorney can be a crucial error that may have severe repercussions for the divorcing couple and their children. 

In this article, we explain the basics of divorce law in New Jersey and how an experienced family law attorney from Rosenblum can help with a divorce case.

Types of Divorce in New Jersey

When a couple wants to get divorced, they must state the grounds. In New Jersey, a divorce can be either “fault” or “no fault”. 

No-Fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce is a divorce based on “irreconcilable differences”. This means that the couple has differences that cannot be reconciled and have made the marriage impossible to continue. 

In sum, a no-fault divorce means that the couple wants to get divorced not because of the fault of one person. Rather, both people agree that they have fundamental differences that cannot be reconciled, and thus that the marriage can no longer  continue. 

Fault-Based Divorce 

Whereas no-fault divorce means that both parties want the dissolution without assigning blame, a fault-based divorce is one in which one party blames the other for the divorce. NJ Rev Stat § 2A:34-2 lists the grounds for a fault-based divorce claim. Some of them include: 

  1. Adultery 
  2. Willful and continued desertion, where the couple has ceased living together for 12 or more months
  3. Extreme cruelty, where one spouse has been physically or emotionally abusive to the other, endangered their safety, and/or made it unreasonable to expect the other spouse to continue to cohabitate with them
  4. One party voluntarily becomes addicted to a narcotic or alcohol for 12 or more consecutive months after the marriage. 

Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce 

While fault/no fault refers to the grounds for divorce, contested/uncontested refers to whether both parties agree to all of the issues pertaining to the divorce. 

Contested Divorce 

In a contested divorce, one or both spouses “contest” what the other demands from the dissolution. Stated otherwise, they disagree on some or all of the following issues: 

  • The allegations in the grounds for divorce
  • Custody of children, visitation rights, child support
  • Alimony payments 
  • Splitting it is called equitable distribution of assets, such as property, personal possessions, and bank accounts.  

Uncontested Divorce 

In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all of the major issues. Consequently, uncontested divorces tend to be finalized quicker and will generally involve much lower  legal fees.  

The Divorce Process in New Jersey

The divorce process in New Jersey involves a number of documents that have to be filed initially. These include:

  • Complaint for divorce
  • Summons
  • Confidential Litigant information sheet
  • Certification of Self-Represented Litigant and Dispute Resolution Alternatives
  • Certification Regarding Redaction of Personal Identifiers
  • Certification Verification and Non-collusion
  • Certification of Insurance Coverage

Initial Steps 

The following steps are required to file a divorce case: 

  1. File all of the documents above with the court. 
  2. Complete the Divorce Summons, which must include the current address of the other spouse (the defendant).
  3. Attach the filing fee ($300) or request a fee waiver.
  4. Upload the documents either electronically or by mail to the Family Division of the Superior Court.
  5. Serve the Summons, Complaint, and other required documents on the defendant.

Serving Divorce Papers 

The procedure for notifying one’s spouse of the divorce is as follows: 

  1. Service can be obtained using a process server.  
  2. In some cases, service can be obtained through an “acknowledgment of service”, which is signed and notarized by the other party or their attorney.

The number of documents involved can be confusing and even overwhelming. An experienced attorney will know how to fill out the documents and where and when to file them. 

Temporary Orders

While divorce proceedings can take months (or years in extreme cases) to be finalized, some situations may require immediate action. In these cases, the courts have the power to grant temporary orders. The most common temporary orders are:

  • Temporary custody: The court grants one spouse custody of the child or children if the other spouse has been abusing or neglecting them.
  • Temporary support: The court orders one spouse to financially support the other because they are unable to pay for their and/or their child’s needs while the case is ongoing.
  • Temporary property order: the court grants one spouse sole occupancy of the family home for safety reasons, such as to protect from domestic violence.

Temporary orders may not be easy to get and require evidence. If immediate relief is necessary, then a party’s attorney will gather the evidence on their behalf and show the court that the temporary order must be issued to protect their client’s interests and or those of their client’s children. 

Key Issues in New Jersey Divorce Cases

The major contentious issues in divorce cases tend to revolve around child custody, child support, and division of property and debt. 

Child Custody and Parenting Time

Custody refers to a parent’s legal obligation to care for and have control over a child under the age of 18. There are two types of custody: legal and physical. 

  • Physical custody is the parent’s physical care and supervision of the child. 
  • Legal custody refers to the parent’s right to make long-term decisions about raising a child. This may include their education, medical care, and religious upbringing. 

An attorney can help negotiate a favorable custody plan by explaining their client’s position to the court, such as why awarding their client physical and legal custody would be in the children’s best interest.

Child Support and Alimony

New Jersey follows specific guidelines towards determining child support.  Alimony is based upon factors found in New Jersey’s alimony statute (NJSA 34 N.J.S.2A:34-23)  Calculating Child Support

New Jersey uses the income shares model for calculating child support. Under the income shares model, the incomes of both parents are added, and the anticipated monthly cost of raising the child is calculated. 

Calculating Spousal Support 

Spousal support, or alimony, is calculated based on a variety of factors. In New Jersey, these rules are set out in Court Rules Appendix IX-A under Rule 5:6A-Child Support Guidelines. 

As a starting point, the court considers the ex-spouse’s income, ability to pay, and financial needs. Other factors considered in New Jersey include, but are not limited to:

  • Marital standard of living
  • Child custody
  • The age and health of the parties
  • The length of the marriage
  • The time and expenses necessary to obtain training for employment 
  • The financial and non financial contributions of the parties to the marriage

A lot of work goes into calculating spousal support. Having a legal representative during these financial negotiations, whether in court or out of court, is important in making sure that one’s needs and desires are communicated clearly and effectively. 

Division of Property and Debt

Equitable distribution is the principle by which property is divided in New Jersey in a divorce proceeding. Some of the factors used to calculate equitable distribution include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of the parties
  • The income or property brought to the marriage by each party
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • Any written agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement, made before or during the marriage concerning property distribution
  • The debts and liabilities of each party. 

There are a number of strategies that an attorney may be able to use to protect their client’s assets in the divorce. 

Mediation and Settlement in New Jersey Divorce

Mediation and arbitration provide two alternatives to litigation when conducting divorce proceedings. 

During a mediation, a neutral party called a mediator helps the divorcing couple negotiate the terms of their divorce. The mediator is usually an experienced divorce attorney or a retired judge. Both parties are allowed to bring their attorneys with them if they wish. 

Some of the benefits of mediation include:

  • It can be less expensive and time consuming than going to court.
  • The parties, rather than the mediator or the judge, make all the key decisions.
  • The parties are never forced to settle and enjoy more flexibility on timing, as opposed to operating on court deadlines.

Arbitration is another more cost-effective, less formal, and more efficient alternative to a  trial. It differs from mediation in the following ways:

  • Parties do not make their own decisions; rather, the arbitrator decides the outcome of the case.
  • Arbitration proceedings run like a trial, with evidence, witnesses, and cross examination.
  • Arbitration decisions are binding and generally cannot be appealed.

Attorneys play an essential role in helping to ensure that their clients receive a fair arbitration process. They will work to develop legal strategies and provide advice on key issues. 

It is especially advisable to hire an experienced attorney if the other spouse has retained one. Divorce proceedings, even out of court, can be difficult to manage, and a good attorney can make a big difference in the outcome. 

Going to Trial

If the parties can’t reach an agreement on one or more issues in a divorce, going to court is the only option. 

The attorneys will work with the parties to prepare for trial. This will include gathering evidence, finding witnesses and experts, and anything else that might be necessary to make the strongest possible legal argument. 

Depending on the issue, possible sources of evidence may include:

  • Bank statements, income statements, wills, and other financial documents
  • Text messages, emails, letters 
  • Photos, eyewitness testimony 

Once a court date has been set and the evidence-gathering phase (discovery) has passed, the trial will be heard by a judge with no jury. As in any trial, both sides will have the opportunity to present their case.

Post-Divorce Modifications and Enforcement

If one party is unsatisfied with the judge’s ruling, they can appeal the case. In the appeal, their attorney will submit a written argument to the higher courts arguing that the judge made one or more errors that harmed their client. Appeals are rarely successful, because judges are given a lot of flexibility in making decisions in divorce cases. 

Another option is to request a modification. A court will consider modifying a divorce decision if circumstances have changed for an ex-spouse that necessitate changing the divorce terms. 

The most common modification is to child support and alimony payments. Typical reasons for modifying these include, but are not limited to: 

  • Worsening financial circumstances that make it difficult to keep up with payments
  • Rising costs of caring for the child, such that current child support payments may not be enough
  • Increases in the cost of living that have not been factored into the original court order

Modifications can also be made to

  • Change visitation arrangements
  • Change custody arrangements
  • Relocate the child to another state 
  • Reimburse for medical expenses 

An attorney will work with their client to determine how a modification can be made and gather evidence to demonstrate the need to change the court order. The law understands that circumstances change all the time, and therefore divorce arrangements are open to modification. 

Enforcing Divorce Decrees 

If the other party is not following through with their court order for payments and other divorce arrangements, there is an option to file a Motion to Enforce Litigants’ Rights. This involves filling out specific paperwork describing how and when the other party has not complied with the order. 

The court typically will first issue a warning to the non-complying party. Should they continue disobeying their order, the court may enforce the order in a number of ways. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Freezing bank accounts
  • Fines
  • Suspending driver’s license
  • Garnishing wages
  • Putting a lien on the home 

Conclusion 

The divorce process can seem quite daunting and can compound the stress that you might already be facing at home. However, a good attorney can help. They will work with you every step of the way, from filing the initial paperwork to gathering evidence and representing you zealously throughout the process, whether your divorce is settled in court or out. 

At Rosenblum Law, we’ve been handling divorce cases for decades. Our attorneys are experienced negotiators and will be by your side helping to get the best possible outcome for you in your divorce. Our firm is here to help you make sense of your options and ensure a favorable outcome. Contact us today for an initial consultation.

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