A brief guide to divorce in New Jersey
Couples wishing to separate in New Jersey should be aware of the following things:
New Jersey state divorce laws
Except in cases of adultery, one or both parties must have been a resident in the state for one year before filing for divorce in New Jersey.
Grounds for divorce
Couples filing for a no-fault divorce are not required to demonstrate wrongdoing to file for a divorce. Couples filing for a divorce in which the other party is at fault can cite grounds of:
• Abandonment of a year or longer
• Extreme mental or cruelty. The person filing for divorce must wait three months after any such act before filing for at-fault divorce.
• A period of separation lasting at least 18 months
• Continual drunkenness lasting at least a year or drug addiction
• Being institutionalized for mental illness for at least two years
• A partner’s imprisonment for 18 or more consecutive months
• Sexual misconduct
Couples uncertain about filing for divorce in New Jersey do not have the option of a formal “legal separation” which allows couples to separate under binding legal agreements setting guidelines for child support, alimony or other issues. The New Jersey equivalent is a marital settlement agreement which is not binding in court.
Types of divorce
Couples who can agree on all the terms of their separation can file a joint petition for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey. If one party does not consent to a divorce or an agreement cannot be reached on division of assets or other matters, couples appear in court for contested divorce proceedings.
No fault divorce
No allegations of wrongdoing have to be made to obtain a no fault divorce. Couples must state they have irreconcilable differences which have lasted for at least six months and that there is no hope of reconciliation.
Steps in the divorce process
Except in the case of couples who file a joint petition for divorce in New Jersey, when one party files a complaint the other person has 35 days to respond. A telephone conference with a judge will be held to establish a timeline for resolving the case. If both parties are unable to reach an agreement before appearing in court, a judge will issue a ruling regarding division of property, alimony and other issues of contention.
Parties who petition to receive temporary or permanent alimony will have factors including their health and working capacity taken into account.
Based on financial records including tax returns and pay stubs, a judge will issue a decision as to child support arrangements. The ability of the non-custodial parent to pay will be taken into account along with other factors such as the length of the marriage and the standard of living the minor child is accustomed to.
Fathers’ and mothers’ rights
No preference is made based on gender in cases of divorce in New Jersey. While the wishes of the child and the parents’ ability to look after the child will be taken into account, in most cases “residential custody” (which parent the child lives with) will go to the mother.