The Self-Help Guide to Divorce in NJ

Divorce is not an easy step to take, nor is the process fast and painless. Unfortunately, if you are here then there is a good possibility that your life is not matching up to your expectations, or you’re on the receiving end of your spouse’s unhappiness.

In either event, divorce proceedings can be complex and stressful. It may feel like a door is closing or a massive chapter is ending, and to some extent that is true. But there is good news: if a chapter is ending than a new one is ready to begin. How you begin that chapter, and with what resources, is largely in the hands of your legal representation.

That’s us.

Here at Fabrikant Law, we strongly believe that our role is to ensure your new future has the best possible start, with the most resources available. 

We also believe in our clients educating themselves on the topic of New Jersey divorce and have provided a substantial number of resources below.

Divorce in New Jersey Resources

Grounds for Divorce in NJ

Although clients oftentimes give a number of reasons for why they are getting divorced, adultery being one of the most common; irreconcilable differences is the reason provided to New Jersey Courts in more than half of all NJ divorces.

Here’s why:

Divorce can be a complex, and emotionally draining process, where one or both spouses may want to ‘right the wrongs’ of the past. Unfortunately, that has the potential to drag out divorce proceedings, increase costs, and inevitably prevent the ultimate outcome: parting ways.

So, in order to avoid conflict and dredging up of the past, ‘irreconcilable differences’ can be the provided reason, because a divorce based on irreconcilable differences is a no-fault divorce. It is the go-to minimal conflict solution.

That said, there are stipulations that must apply to both spouses for ‘irreconcilable differences’:

  • Twelve months of continuous residence in New Jersey, prior to filing divorce papers;
  • Swearing, under oath, to at least six months of irreconcilable differences;
  • Certainty that marriage should end based on said differences; 
  • Acknowledgment that there is no chance for reconciliation.

Read more: Grounds for divorce in New Jersey

How does a divorce in New Jersey work?

A Divorce in NJ Will Typically Follow 7 Steps

First: File a divorce complaint

To begin your divorce process, either you or your spouse must file a divorce complaint with the court.  This person will be named the Plaintiff.  To answer the question you’re thinking, no it does not matter who filed first and it does not matter who is Plaintiff and who is Defendant. The divorce complaint will need to include both the names and addresses of both spouses, the date and the location of your marriage, other various details, as well as the relief you are requesting from the Court.

Second: Appearance/Answer & Counterclaim

The person who is served with the filed divorce complaint must respond to it within 35 days, especially if that spouse wants any of his or her issues to be heard. The spouse receiving the divorce complaint will be named the defendant. The response may either include the filing of a general appearance or an answer and counterclaim, which is a response to the complaint, along with a request for relief against the plaintiff. If the defendant does not comply and chooses not to respond to the complaint, a separate procedure, a request for default, will be the next step.

Third: Filing a Case Information Statement

Once the defendant responds to the divorce complaint, the next step is for each spouse to file a Case Information Statement (also referred to as a CIS). The CIS is the most important document (in addition to the Settlement Agreement) and will include most of the financial information about each party that will be relevant to all the financial issues in the case. This includes financial support as well as equitable distribution.

Fourth: Settlement Agreement or Early Settlement Panel

Both parties, with the assistance of their attorneys, should try to reach a settlement agreement after the filing of the divorce complaint. However, if a settlement cannot be reached, the parties will need to participate in what is called an Early Settlement Panel (also referred to as ESP). At ESP, the attorneys will present the financial issues in your case to a two-person panel of family law attorneys volunteering their time.  The panelists will make a recommendation for how to come to a resolution for said issues. If both parties accept the recommendations, they can be divorced that day.  If both parties do not accept the recommendations or form an agreement, the two parties will need to move on to the next step.

Fifth: Economic Mediation

If neither you nor your spouse accept the recommendations of the Early Settlement Panel, you will need to participate in what is called Economic Mediation to try to come to an agreement once more.  Here another family lawyer attempts to help both parties reach a resolution.  If you still cannot come to an agreement, the parties must move onto the sixth step.

Sixth: An Intensive Settlement Conference

If Economic Mediation did not work, the two spouses must attend an Intensive Settlement Conference (also referred to as ISC) that takes place in a courthouse to try one last time to settle.  It should be noted that not all counties offer ISC.  If this does not happen, you will finally need to take your case to trial.

Seventh: Taking It to Trial

 If none of the above steps worked and the two parties have not come to an agreement, the last step is to finally take the case to trial. Here, the judge will hear all testimony, review evidence and decide the issues.  The court will issue a Final Judgement of Divorce which grants the divorce, as well as sets forth custody, parenting time, all financial obligations and divides the assets and debts. 

How does an Uncontested NJ Divorce differ from a Contested Divorce?

An uncontested New Jersey divorce is where both of the parties agree to terms settling the issues in their case and have signed a settlement agreement. This includes all issues ranging from custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution (division of property, assets, debts).

On the other hand, a contested divorce is one where the parties cannot settle (agree) and usually end up having to go to trial to be divorced. A contested divorce becomes uncontested as soon as the parties reach a settlement.

How To File For Divorce in NJ?

This is a process that begins with filing a document called a “Complaint For Divorce” with the Family Court clerk located in your county. You’ll need to specify the grounds for divorce. The basis for a divorce most often used is “irreconcilable differences.” The Complaint for Divorce must be personally served on your spouse, unless they agree to sign an Acknowledgement of Service.

Where Do I Find a Lawyer For My NJ Divorce?

Experienced family law representation can easily mean the difference between an unpleasant outcome and exiting your current situation with as many resources as possible.

We always recommend searching out an attorney with experience in NJ divorce, so you can receive the most accurate and thorough guidance. 

Of course, if you are looking for an experienced divorce attorney in the Bergen County or Middlesex County area, look no further than right here at Fabrikant Law.

Read more: How to find a New Jersey divorce lawyer.

The Cost of Divorce in New Jersey: With or Without an Attorney

The one immutable fact here is that there will be a cost to your divorce. While we’ve pointed out that no two divorces are alike, there are still a few factors that will impact that cost. 

  • Conflict. What is a divorce after all, if not a conflict? Its resolution is what makes the difference. Will there be a degree of discord that will hamper proceedings? Or will there be cooperation? So many key choices and decisions stand to be affected.
  • Complexity. There can be a lot of moving parts to the divorce “machine”. What sort of details or intricacies will each of your respective lives bring to the equation? The complexities of your case must be sorted out by a capable divorce attorney before you can have an idea of what this will cost you.
  • Location. What state or county do you live in? In this case, we are only talking about New Jersey. This state, it’s laws and rules, will have its own contributing factors just as any state in the union would.
  • Who and how?  Who will be handling your case? In other words, the attorney you hire will obviously have input when it comes to what your divorce will cost you.  Furthermore, the divorce method or option you choose will make a big difference.

Read More: The Cost Of Divorce: With Or Without An Attorney

What About Alimony in NJ?

Alimony is one of the biggest contention points of a NJ divorce, and can often cause the divorce proceedings to lengthen due to conflict. 

NJ Alimony Resources

Can I Bring Someone With Me to Meetings with the Attorney?

You are allowed to bring a third party with you (whether it be a friend, family member, or a neighbor) to your meetings with your attorney, but it can break any attorney-client privilege that you have. This is because the discussions with your lawyer no longer remain confidential if a third party is there. Normally people bring someone to the initial consultation, before the attorney is retained, to ask questions or give moral support. There is no attorney-client privilege yet because the attorney has not been retained.

How Long Will my New Jersey Divorce Take?

You’ve probably heard it before- divorce seems to take forever. So why does divorce take so long? I’m sure you want to get the process over with as quickly as possible, but just like everything else in life, this too takes time to complete. The average length of time for divorce is one (1) year, though divorces can take much less time and of course, much more time. There are however, several common reasons that may be why your divorce is taking longer than you’d like for it to.

Read More: Why Does Divorce Take So Long?

Should I go to mediation and should I bring a lawyer to mediation?

It is always recommended to be represented by your own attorney even when attending mediation because the mediator is a neutral third party and does not represent you or your spouse. Mediation may save money and time overall if an agreement can be reached between the two parties.

Most divorces in New Jersey are no fault divorces. In these cases, the Court will end a marriage when the parties have either suffered from irreconcilable differences for at least six months, or have been living separate and apart for at least 18 months. There are many advantages to a no-fault divorce. One such advantage is that you do not need to prove that your spouse caused the marriage to end due to adultery, desertion or extreme cruelty, which is necessary in fault divorces.

A no-fault divorce may sound like a divorce where there are no disagreements, however, that is not the case. Unless the parties resolve issues such as custody, support, property distribution and the like, and enter into a settlement agreement, those issues eventually will be litigated.

No matter the situation, we zealously represent our clients and fight hard to protect their legal rights and interests as well as the legal rights and interests of their children.

Divorce can be a highly emotional time. Plans and a relationship that were central to your life at one point simply no longer exist. We understand the roller coaster of emotions that a divorce can cause and we support our clients every way we can.

Ann Fabrikant helps spouses with preparing for a divorce, going through the divorce process, post-divorce legal disputes and appeals of legal decisions. If you are considering getting a divorce and need advice or the process has already started and you need legal help, contact our office today.

We Are Here to Listen, Advise, and Tenaciously Defend

Take Advantage of our Extensive NJ Divorce Experience Today

We Are Here to Listen, Advise,
and Tenaciously Defend

Take Advantage of our Extensive
NJ Divorce Experience Today