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How to Prepare for Divorce in New Jersey

An attorney preparing the client for the divorce process

Divorce is usually a stressful situation, and the process can be quite daunting, exhausting, and time-consuming. Along with all of the emotional strain of breaking up a marriage, the financial pressures are significant, and the time required to deal with the court process is considerable. 

During the litigation process, you will have to gather documents, file important paperwork with the court under strict deadlines, schedule mediation meetings, attend court hearings, and more. An experienced divorce attorney at Rosenblum Law can represent your interests and provide considerable assistance for each step.

In addition, the more you are prepared before filing for divorce, the less stressful and more streamlined the process will be. Proper preparation can also increase the chances of a favorable outcome. In this article, we discuss how to prepare for divorce in New Jersey.

Understanding Divorce Laws in New Jersey

Part of adequate preparation is understanding New Jersey’s divorce laws. This will allow one to devise and execute a strong legal strategy. Here are some of the requirements for divorce in New Jersey.

Residency and Jurisdiction

In order to file for a divorce in New Jersey, at least one spouse needs to be currently living in the state. The divorce should be filed in the court of the New Jersey county where the couple separated. If the plaintiff (the spouse filing the divorce) does not live in New Jersey, he or she should file in the county where the other spouse (the defendant) resides. 

Grounds for Divorce  

A divorce can be no-fault or fault-based, as determined by the grounds specified by the spouse filing the divorce.

No-fault Divorce

A no-fault divorce will state the grounds for the divorce as being “irreconcilable differences”. In order to prove  irreconcilable differences: 

  • At least one spouse must have been living in New Jersey within the last 12 months. 
  • The irreconcilable differences between the spouses must have been experienced for at least six months. 
  • One must be certain that reconciliation is not possible.

Fault-based Divorce 

Other grounds for divorce are considered fault-based. These grounds include separation if the couple has been living apart for at least 18 months, extreme cruelty, adultery, institutionalization, and extended incarceration. It is important to note that filing for a fault-based divorce as opposed to a no-fault divorce will not necessarily provide someone with a better outcome or with better prospects of receiving alimony. Alimony is the financial support that the court orders a person to pay to their former spouse. Unless a spouse can be held responsible for the negative economic situation of their former partner, the court generally will not take fault into consideration when deciding on the financial issues between the parties.

Another key difference between fault-based and no-fault divorces is that in a fault-based divorce, there is typically no requirement before filing the divorce to live apart for a period of time. Additionally, a spouse can object to a fault-based divorce, which is not possible in a no-fault divorce. 

Generally, a no-fault divorce is preferred in New Jersey because an individual only has to establish that they are separated from their spouse or have irreconcilable differences. Therefore, there are less challenges in securing a no-fault divorce because one party does not have to prove that their ex-spouse has done another wrong. However, if an individual believes that a fault-based divorce is more appropriate, they should speak with an attorney to develop the best legal strategy to proceed.

Options for Separation as an Alternative to Divorce

The decision to get a divorce is not easy. Individuals may opt for other separation options before or instead of a divorce. In New Jersey, there is technically no “legal separation” as there is in other states. However, there are options to sign a separation agreement, which when prepared correctly and notarized can act as a “legal separation” that each spouse is legally binded to. This agreement divides marital property such as custody of the children, child support, property, and alimony, but the couple is not officially divorced. There is no requirement that a couple must live apart to sign a separation agreement.

Couples who choose a separation agreement usually do so for economic reasons, to receive continued medical coverage from their spouse’s employer, for religious or other personal reasons, etc. If one or both parties decide they want to proceed with a divorce, the separation agreement will usually be incorporated into the divorce judgment. It is important to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney before signing a separation agreement. 

Another option is a trial separation, or an informal agreement where spouses live separately. Couples may opt for this option if they feel they need space to assess their relationship. This agreement is entirely voluntary between spouses, and there are no legal obligations under New Jersey state law for trial separations. The couple will have to determine how to handle child custody, financial issues, and other issues without legal assistance. Therefore, if a spouse violates one of the agreements decided upon, it may not be possible to pursue legal action against the other partner. However, courts will address certain instances, such as child support and custody. 

How to Prepare for Divorce in New Jersey

If an individual wishes to pursue a divorce, there are several steps and things to consider in order to adequately prepare. 

Gather Financial Documents

Since many of the issues to be decided in a divorce depend in part on the financial situation of each spouse, the divorce process requires that the parties gather important financial documents. Some of these documents include bank statements, titles to assets, mortgage statements, bills, and income streams. These documents will be utilized in reporting to the court each party’s income, assets, and debts.

Organize Important Legal Documents

One will need to organize essential documents pertaining to the legal status of the marriage, as well as any agreements signed by the parties regarding property division, or the process of dividing assets and liabilities between two spouses, and other key issues. Such documents include the marriage certificate, prenuptial agreements, and others. 

Determine Which Assets Are Marital and Which Are Separate

An important part of property division during divorce is determining which assets are considered “marital” property and which are “separate.” Property that a couple acquired during marriage is considered marital property, while property acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage is considered separate. 

Review Personal and Family Finances

Each spouse will need to examine personal and family finances based on the financial documents gathered. The court will use this information to determine child support and alimony. 

Prioritize Goals

The parties will need to determine desired outcomes – for example, which assets one of them may want to fight to keep and how much time each wishes to spend with the children. With these objectives in mind, each spouse can work with their attorney to formulate the best legal strategy to attain their goals.

Assess Areas of Potential Disagreement

Examining areas of potential conflict will help in preparing for negotiations. Contentious areas may include who will receive which property, child custody arrangements, spousal support, etc. 

Establish a Support Network

It is a good idea to reach out to family and friends for emotional support or even financial assistance during a divorce. Finding a good therapist or joining a support group can also help in regulating one’s emotions during this commonly difficult period.

Legal Considerations and Potential Challenges

Business interests and other complex assets can also complicate a divorce. For example, if a couple are co-owners of a business, it can be difficult to determine how to divide their business interests. 

Also, even businesses owned by only one spouse that were started prior to the marriage can be legally considered marital property in certain circumstances. Other complex assets that could make property division challenging include real estate investments, collectibles, fine art, investment accounts, retirement accounts, and more. 

Child Support and Child Custody Before and After a Divorce

When a divorce has been filed, the court will consider the best interests of the child when determining custody arrangements. The court will consider many factors before making a decision, for example:

  • The preference of the child when of sufficient age
  • The stability of the home environment
  • Histories of domestic abuse
  • The parent’s employment obligations

The interests of both parents will be considered equally, and the court may decide to order joint custody, which can include a shared responsibility of the decision’s affecting the child and substantial in-person time with both parents. The court may also order sole custody, sole custody with designated parenting time for the other parent, or other arrangements that the court deems appropriate.  

Child support in a divorce case is also calculated by the court. The court will use the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines to calculate the amount of child support owed by each or one parent. The court may deviate from these guidelines if a party presents strong evidence for special circumstances that should be considered in the child support calculation. 

It is also possible to obtain custody without filing for a divorce. Parents who are still married may request custody of a child or of children through what is called a non-dissolution case. It is important to hire an attorney to file for custody while still married. However, under New Jersey law, both parents are responsible for financially supporting their children unless they are divorced and were not ordered by a court to pay child support.

How Can Victims of Domestic Violence Stay Safe Before Filing for Divorce

Domestic violence leaves victims in dangerous and emotionally daunting situations. In order to find safety and seperate from their partner, victims should take the proper precautions before filing for divorce. Victims should consider filing for a restraining order to protect themselves and any children. There are two types of restraining orders victims can file for:

  • A temporary restraining (TRO) stays in effect until the court hearing where a judge can talk with both parties. 
  • A final restraining order (FRO) stays in effect permanently unless changed by the court. Child custody can also be requested as a part of a restraining order.

To file a restraining order, a victim can visit the Family Division Office of the Superior Court in their county, in the county where the domestic violence occurred, or in the country where their partner lives. If the court is closed or a victim cannot get to it, they can all visit their local police department. Victims can also file a criminal report against their partner at the police station. Once a victim is safe and legally protected against a confrontation with their partner, they can contact an attorney to begin filing for divorce.

Domestic violence victims in immediate danger should call 911 immediately. The New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline is also available 24 hours a day and seven days a week: 1 (800) 572-SAFE (7233). The hotline provides confidential support, crisis intervention such as escape strategies, and referrals. The United States National Domestic Violence Hotline can also be reached at 800-799-7233, or by texting BEGIN to 88788. 

How an Attorney Can Assist Someone in Preparing for Divorce in New Jersey

Given the considerable amount of work needed to properly prepare for a divorce in New Jersey, it is easy to become overwhelmed. However, hiring a knowledgeable attorney who is well-versed in divorce law can be a huge help for someone with a marriage that is coming to an end. 

The attorney will use the initial consultation with the divorcing spouse to determine what is happening with the couple, what the divorce grounds are, and any complications that may arise. This will enable the attorney to assess the case and present options for how best to strategically move forward. The attorney will also provide an overview of the divorce process and how long the entire divorce could take. 

Once the attorney is hired, he or she can help the client with formulating a legal strategy and advise on their legal rights and obligations. The attorney will provide guidance regarding child custody, property division, alimony, and any other legal or financial issues related to the divorce. Reaching final agreements with a former spouse can be practically and emotionally difficult; an attorney will be able to handle negotiations with the opposing party in order to reach agreements on the remaining divorce issues. 


What are the residency requirements for filing for divorce in New Jersey?

At least one of the spouses needs to be living in New Jersey in order to file for divorce in the state.

How long does the divorce process typically take in New Jersey?

This depends on the specific circumstances. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years to dissolve a marriage.

What are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?

The grounds for divorce are the reasons that a plaintiff states on the divorce complaint for seeking a divorce. A divorce can be “no fault”, in which case it is based on “irreconcilable differences”. A divorce can also be based on the fault of one spouse. Fault-based divorces typically allege things like extreme cruelty, adultery, institutionalization, or extended incarceration.

Do I need to prove fault to get a divorce in New Jersey?

No, you do not need to prove any spouse is at fault to complete a divorce in New Jersey. The grounds for divorce can indicate that no one is at fault.

What if my spouse doesn’t want a divorce?

If a spouse is unwilling to agree to a divorce, you can still successfully file for a divorce on no-fault grounds. If an individual refuses to cooperate in the divorce case, a default judgment may occur. In a default hearing, the court will make a decision based on the information by the spouse who filed for the divorce, without input from the other spouse.

How is property divided in a New Jersey divorce?

New Jersey is considered an “equitable distribution” state, which means that marital property is divided in a manner that the court deems equitable. However, this does not necessarily mean property is divided evenly, as one spouse may have a stronger claim. Some of the factors the court will use to determine equitable distribution are each spouse’s income, each spouse’s contribution to their marital property, age, and the duration of the marriage.

How are debt and health insurance divided in a New Jersey divorce?

Debt also follows the equitable distribution process in New Jersey. Debt considered to be marital property is divided fairly based on the decision of the court. This division does not necessarily mean there will be an equal distribution of the debt between both parties.

Health insurance is a common concern during a divorce when one party is on the insurance plan of their spouse. Generally, a spouse on an employer-sponsored plan will lose that health insurance coverage. However, if you are concerned about your health insurance, you should speak with an attorney about negotiating for higher alimony to cover a new health insurance plan, or about applying for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). COBRA enables an individual to continue to receive health insurance coverage from their former spouse’s employer-sponsored plan for up to 36 months. The health coverage of dependent children is not affected. 

When does my filing status change in my taxes when filing for divorce?

Filing status is determined by your marital status as of December 31 for that tax year. If your divorce is finalized by December 31, you will be considered unmarried for the entire year and must file as single, or as head of the household if you qualify. If the divorce has not been finalized as of December 31, you are still considered married and must file your taxes as married filing jointly or married filing separately. 

Can I change back to my maiden name during the divorce process?

You can file a motion with the New Jersey Family Court to revert back to your maiden name during a pending divorce case. You may also file the motion after the divorce judgment.

Also, the divorce judgment can specify that your name will be changed back to your maiden name. This means you do not have to file any additional motions to enact the name change.

How can I protect my financial interests during divorce proceedings?

Take a comprehensive accounting of all of your separate and marital assets. Start individual separate bank accounts and credit cards, and separate from any joint accounts Make sure to regularly monitor your credit report and statements for any suspicious or irregular activity. Also, hire a competent attorney who will be dedicated to advocating for your legal rights regarding your finances.

What will happen after my divorce case is filed?

After a case is filed, a neutral person will meet with both parties to reach an agreement. This process is called mediation, and it is important for each party to be represented by their own attorney during mediation. The settlement is then reported to the judge, who will decide whether the case is a “no fault” divorce or a fault-based divorce. 

Are victims of domestic violence required to attend mediation when filing for divorce? 

If a restraining order has been filed, the court will not require mediation. However, if the victim wishes to schedule a mediation to discuss financial matters, this is still an option even with a restraining order in place.

Call a Rosenblum Attorney Today

Considering all of the moving parts involved in a divorce, you may be intimidated by what needs to be done to prepare for a divorce  in New Jersey. However, with the help of an experienced Rosenblum Law divorce attorney, the process can be significantly easier and less time-consuming for you during this emotionally trying period. You deserve a dedicated attorney with the ability, experience, and time to work in your best interest amidst the complexities of a divorce case.

One of our attorneys will provide advice on the best legal strategy to pursue in order to achieve your objectives and will guide you through the entire process. Contact a Rosenblum Law divorce attorney today, and get started on your divorce with the confidence  that your interests will be protected and your needs will be fought for.

An attorney preparing the client for the divorce process
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