After making the decision to divorce, the inevitable question is: “what’s next?” The first and most important decision that you can make is to consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney, who can serve as your guide and your most valuable asset throughout the divorce process. An experienced divorce lawyer can answer your questions, discuss your options, and advocate for your best interests. Proceeding without this legal counsel may make you more vulnerable to receiving less favorable determinations in a host of matters, including alimony, child custody, and division of assets.
Having consulted with an attorney, your next step is more practical, as it involves your actual filing for divorce. The series of documents involved in this step include the initial Complaint for Divorce, as well as several other documents such as the Certification of Insurance. Filing for divorce will set you off on the path toward resolution, so understanding the steps and forms involved is essential. This article serves as a useful manual, elaborating on the considerations and components of the initial divorce filing, and placing the power in your hands as you move forward.
If you have decided to file for divorce, you are required to file the first essential court document in the divorce process, known as the Divorce Complaint. In this document, you will provide the court with information regarding your grounds for divorce, as well as the specific terms that you intend to pursue during the divorce process. First and foremost, it is important to understand the distinction between “fault” and “no-fault” divorces in New Jersey. Under New Jersey law, there are two valid grounds for a no-fault divorce: separation and irreconcilable differences. Separation can be cited if you and your spouse have been living apart for at least 18 months. Irreconcilable differences can be cited if you and your spouse have experienced significant marital breakdown for at least 6 months. While separation requires you and your spouse to be living separately, irreconcilable differences requires unsustainable relations, but not necessarily living apart.
If you intend to pursue a “fault” divorce, there are a number of reasons that may justify this attribution. In New Jersey, one spouse may file a fault divorce if the other’s behavior involved any of the following:
- Abandonment or desertion
- Deviant sexual conduct
- Extreme mental cruelty
- Imprisonment for a minimum of 18 months
- Institutionalization for mental illness for a minimum of 24 months
- Physical abuse
- Substance Abuse
Your divorce complaint must also include the specific matters to be addressed during the divorce process, including spousal support, child custody, child support, and division of assets. The terms that you intend to pursue with regard to each of these issues must be included in the document and must be provided to your spouse, who will then respond. The other necessary components of your initial divorce filing include:
- Confidential Litigant Information Sheet: provides the court with your personal information (i.e. gender, date of birth, social security number, driver’s license number)
- Certification of Insurance: provides the court with information related to your insurance coverage (i.e. medical, life, homeowner’s, etc.)
- Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Form: confirms your understanding of the various forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution that are available to you outside of the traditional litigation process (i.e. mediation and arbitration)
- Family Part Case Information Statement: provides the court with information related to your financial situation, including income, assets, and liabilities
After completing the aforementioned, the court will file your divorce complaint and assign it a docket number. You are then required to serve your spouse with a copy of the stamped, filed divorce complaint within 10 days. He or she is then given a 35-day window within which to respond.
Although this process may seem daunting at the outset, the advice and assistance of a seasoned divorce attorney can go a long way toward instilling you with confidence. If you have questions or are considering filing for divorce in New Jersey, contact our offices anytime at 973-828-0829 for a free initial consultation.