WHAT ARE THE STEPS FOR A DIVORCE IN NEW JERSEY?
Obtaining a New Jersey divorce can be a long and involved process, especially when a trial is necessary because the parties cannot come to an out of court agreement. The three main components of a divorce are alimony, child support, and equitable distribution. Below are the general steps that you will be required to take in order to be granted a divorce in New Jersey.
Step 1: File a Divorce Complaint
To begin the divorce process, one spouse must file a divorce complaint with the court. That spouse will be the plaintiff. The divorce complaint must include the names and addresses of the parties, the place and date of the marriage, and various other details. It must also include the grounds for divorce, which can be based on fault (common divorce ground) or no fault (adultery, abandonment, neglect).
Step 2: Appearance/Answer and Counterclaim
The spouse who receives the divorce complaint must respond to it if that spouse wants to be heard as to any issues. That spouse will be the defendant. The response may include the filing of a general appearance or an answer to the complaint and any counterclaims that the defendant wishes to bring against the plaintiff. If the spouse chooses not to respond, a separate procedure will apply.
Step 3: Settlement Agreement/Early Settlement Panel
Either before or after the filing of the complaint, the parties, with the assistance of their attorneys, may try to reach a settlement agreement. If no settlement is reached and the complaint and a responsive pleading have been filed, the parties will be required to participate in the Early Settlement Panel. This panel will discuss the legal issues involved in the divorce and will recommend how to resolve those issues. If the parties accept the recommendations and agree to be bound by them, the court will grant you a divorce. If the parties do not accept the recommendations or come to an agreement, they will proceed to Step 5.
Step 4: Economic Mediation
If the parties do not accept the recommendations of the Early Settlement Panel or come to an agreement on the day of the Early Settlement Panel, then they will be required to participate in Economic Mediation to again attempt to come to an agreement. If the parties cannot come to an agreement in the Economic Mediation, they will proceed to Step 5.
Step 6: Intensive Settlement Conference.
If the Economic Mediation does not result in an agreement, then the parties will be required to attend an Intensive Settlement Conference in the courthouse and try once again to settle before taking the case to trial.
Step 7: Trial
If the parties cannot come to an agreement after all of the above steps, and if they do not enter into an agreement to arbitrate the issues, then they will proceed to this last step. The parties will go to trial and the court will decide the issues. After the trial is over, the court will issue you a Final Judgment of Divorce, and the parties will finally have obtained a New Jersey divorce.
As illustrated by the above, the New Jersey divorce process can be a long and confusing one. Having the assistance of a New Jersey divorce attorney to guide you through it is very helpful.