The process for getting a divorce is the same as dissolving a civil union or a domestic partnership. Either partner in a marriage, civil union or domestic partnership can file for divorce in New Jersey as long as at least one member of the couple lives in the state.
If you formed a domestic partnership or a civil union in New Jersey but now live elsewhere, you might not be able to dissolve the relationship legally in your new state. In that case, you can file in the New Jersey county where the civil union or partnership took place. The decision to file for divorce is a difficult one, and having to work through the legal process on your own makes it even more difficult. For this reason, the court recommends that people considering filing for divorce, or those who are responding to a divorce complaint, seek legal counsel if they are able to do so.
Legal Services of New Jersey maintains a directory of regional legal services offices. The New Jersey Bar Association also maintains a list of county lawyer referral services that might be helpful. Things to think about before representing yourself in court. You have choices about how your case is resolved. Only a judge can grant a divorce or a dissolution of a relationship. You might want to decide for yourselves how to divide your property and your debt. You also might have to figure out child support, custody and parenting time. A judge can decide those issues at trial, but there are other ways to address them.
Those alternatives might be more efficient, cheaper, more private and less painful than working them out in court. This collaborative process ends when one party files the divorce or dissolution case in court.
Once a case is filed, the parties must find new lawyers and law firms to represent them in court. If you are filing for divorce, you are the Plaintiff. Your spouse is the Defendant. Note: You must be 18 to file a court case. If you are under 18, your parent or guardian must file the case for you.
You should file your divorce forms in the New Jersey county where you lived when you separated. If you do not live in New Jersey, you should file your forms in the New Jersey county where your spouse lives.
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See Court Rule R. There is no need to accuse the other spouse of doing anything wrong when filing based on irreconcilable differences. Contact the family division for more information. If you have been served with a Summons and Divorce Complaint, you are the defendant. The person who filed the divorce is the plaintiff. If you do not respond to the court at all, the court may grant the divorce and order in favor of the Plaintiff.
You can deliver the papers yourself or send them using certified mail to the address the plaintiff put on the forms they filed with the court. You will need the complete the Acknowledgement of Service form and include the certified mail card and submit them to the court. There will be some additional mileage fees if you use a service to serve the papers on the defendant.
Do you qualify to have your fee waived? After both Plaintiff and Defendant have filed their papers with the court, court staff will schedule any necessary conferences or other court events such as:. The goal of these court events is to give the couple opportunities to settle as many issues between themselves as possible, rather than having the judge decide each issue. Couples are encouraged to try to develop a t property settlement agreement if at all possible.
A contested divorce could take many months to get to the final court hearing. If the spouses have complex financial issues or bitter disputes on custody and visitation issues, a case can take even longer to resolve. For contested divorces, it is recommended that each spouse get their own attorney in order to better understand their rights and responsibilities.
Uncontested divorces are those in which both spouses agree that they want to dissolve their marriage. In most instances, the court process for uncontested divorces can be completed in a much shorter time than for contested divorces.
If you need to change or enforce the court order in your divorce, you must file a motion with the same court that issued the court order. A motion is a written request asking the court to change something in the order or make the other party comply with the terms of the order. Important Note: There are very specific time frames for selecting a motion date, for filing and for getting the motion papers to your ex-spouse—contact the family division in the county where you are filing to make sure you understand and meet these deadlines. If you have received papers stating that your ex-spouse has filed a motion with the court, you can respond by preparing and filing a Certification within the appropriate timeframe.
You can use the Certification form in this packet and attach any documents that you believe will support what you state in the form.
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You can also use this packet to file a cross-motionmeaning you are asking the court to take action on your behalf, in addition to opposing whatever the other party has asked for. You must file your Certification and Cross-Motion if you are filing one with the court and send or deliver a full copy to your ex-spouse no later than 15 days prior to the motion date.
If you filed a Cross-Motion as well as a response to the original motion, your ex-spouse can respond in writing to the information in your Cross-Motion no later than 8 days prior to the motion date. A motion date is not a trial. There might not be an actual court hearing on the motion date. Both the person filing the motion and the person responding to it can request "oral argument" in their motion papers. This means that they are asking for an actual court hearing with the judge, so they can be heard in person.
However, it is up to the judge to decide if this will be necessary. Even if oral argument is granted and there is an actual hearing, a decision on the motion may not occur on that same day.
When the motion is decided, each person will receive a copy of the ed order that states the decision on each request made in the motion. After a case is completed and a judgment of divorce issued, the case is closed. Records for closed divorce cases are kept in the county courthouse for a short time and then stored by the Superior Court Clerk's Office in Trenton. Either party can appeal a decision in a contested divorce case. You cannot file an appeal if your case was uncontested.
You do not have to have a lawyer to appeal your case. Be aware, however, that the appeals process can be confusing. It is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. Use the How to File an Appeal self-help kit.
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If you received a fee waiver in your divorce case, you can attach a copy of the order and a ed letter that says your finances have not changed since the case was filed. If you did not receive a fee waiver in your divorce case, you can submit a request for a fee waiver with your appeal. You will need to prepare a brief, which is a document that explains why your appeal should be granted.
If you were the plaintiff or defendant you are still the plaintiff or defendant for all subsequent filings. This is called discovery. It applies to divorcing couples who have lived in New Jersey for at least 12 months before the divorce is filed. The basis of the divorce is that the couple is certain there is no way for them to reconcile. All documents filed with the court are available for public inspection. Therefore no personal identifiers should be included on documents filed with the court. Who can file?
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Do I need a lawyer to file a divorce case? Where to find divorce forms and instructions You will need to include the following forms when you file for divorce or dissolution of a civil union or domestic partnership: 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 Where to find divorce forms and instructions: Legal Services of New Jersey LSNJ LSNJ has a free divorce guide that explains how to file for divorce or dissolve a civil union based on irreconcilable differences, separation, desertion, or extreme cruelty.
Superior Court Ombudsmen You can get all of the required forms and instructions in your county courthouse. Contact your local court ombudsman for more information. The ombudsman is a neutral staff person who answers questions, provides procedural assistance, addresses concerns from the public, and helps to guide court users through system.
The ombudsman cannot give legal advice, however, as all court staff must be neutral and impartial. Learn more about the ombudsman program. Before a case is filed If both parties have lawyers, they can choose to work together outside of court to settle their financial or parenting issues before filing for divorce.
This will help speed the divorce process. Any of the experts listed below might be consulted: Certified financial planners Certified public ants d clinical social workers Psychologists d professional counselors d marriage and family therapists Psychiatrists This collaborative process ends when one party files the divorce or dissolution case in court. After a case is filed Mediation. During mediation, a neutral person meets with both parties and helps them reach an agreement.