Residency Jurisdiction And Venue Requirements For A Divorce Proceeding

When seeking a divorce in the State of New Jersey, you need to satisfy the residency requirement first and foremost. Specifically, either you or your spouse will need to be a resident of the State of New Jersey for at least one (1) year prior to the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. This requirement is important in order to ensure that a party does not forum shop in an attempt to find a State that has laws more favorable to his or her position. The only exception to the one (1) year residency requirement lies with the cause of action of “adultery”. If you file your Complaint for Divorce under the grounds of “adultery”, the one (1) year residency requirement is not applicable and under said cause of action, you can file your Complaint immediately even if you have lived in New Jersey for a short period of time. Interestingly, once you have filed your Complaint for Divorce, you are not prohibited from moving out of the State unless you have children as then you would either need to obtain consent from your spouse to relocate or permission from the Court.

Once you have met the residency requirement, you will need to determine which county has venue over your matter so that you can properly file your Complaint for Divorce in the appropriate locale. In the State of New Jersey, the Superior Courts have jurisdiction to hear all divorce matters. There is a Superior Court located in each of New Jersey’s twenty-one (21) counties. Under the New Jersey Court Rules, as to which county is the appropriate county to file your pleadings will be based upon the following:

a. the county in which you were domiciled when the cause of action arose, or

b. if you were not domiciled in this State when the cause of action arose, then in the county in which your spouse was domiciled when the cause of action arose; or

c. if neither you or your spouse were domiciled in this State when the cause of action arose, then in the county in which you were domiciled when the action is commenced, or

d. if you were not domiciled in this State, then in the county where your spouse is domiciled when service of process is made.

R. 5:7-1.

If you are seeking to file a Complaint for Divorce, I would advise you to meet with an experienced attorney. In some instances, venue can be situated in two (2) counties and thus, you might want to ensure that you file your Complaint first and before your spouse so that you have control over which county is picked.