Starting The New Jersey Divorce Process Overview
Making the decision to start the NJ divorce process can be unsettling and overwhelming. Accounting for the various life changes that are in store is a time consuming and detailed process. The Attorneys at Himelman Law Firm are here to help you.
Marriages end for a variety of reasons – extramarital affairs, irreconcilable differences, spouses growing apart. Whatever the underlying reason behind your divorce, the fact remains that the divorce process is a life changing event. Financial issues, alimony and child custody are examples of the types of issues that play important roles in many New Jersey Divorce proceedings. Our lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable about NJ divorce law, and the NJ Divorce Process.
Starting the NJ Divorce Process
The typical Divorce in NJ begins with the filing of a Complaint for Divorce in the NJ Superior Court in the county where you live. The Complaint for Divorce requests the court to grant a judgment of divorce, and usually includes:
Step 1- Filing of the Divorce Complaint
The grounds for divorce in New Jersey, in other words the reason for getting divorced, such as:
- Irreconcilable differences
- Extreme cruelty
A Case Information Statement is a document which is filed with the court setting forth the financial details of your case:
The required information includes your income, your spouse’s income, a budget of your living expenses, and a list of all assets and debts. It also requires that each party provide their most recent tax returns, W-2 forms and most recent pay stubs.
An Affidavit of Insurance Coverage form that identifies your existing insurances, such as:
- Life insurance
- Medical insurance
- Automobile insurance
- Homeowner’s insurance and more
A Confidential Litigant Information Sheet that provides the court with various personal identifying characteristics about you, including:
- Names and ages of children
- Date and place of birth
- Social security number
- Driver’s license number
- Gender and more
Step 2—Assignment of the case to a judge and docketing
Once the Complaint for Divorce has been filed, your New Jersey divorce matter will be assigned a docket number, and we, as your attorney, will serve the defendant with the divorce complaint. The court will then typically set a date for a case management conference to:
- Set a meeting of all of the parties involved in your NJ divorce matter
- Determine the contested issues particular to your New Jersey divorce
- Fix dates and set up a schedule for the exchange of documents, financial information, etc.
- Determine if any experts will be used during the divorce, including therapists, financial experts, appraisals of real estate, evaluation of pensions, forensic accountants, etc.
Step 3—The Discovery Period
During the Discovery period both parties exchange necessary information. This can include the financially responsible member of the household being required to produce bank and credit card statements, a listing of assets, business records, and more. Both parties may need to complete interrogatories (usually provided in the form of written questions which each party is expected to answer truthfully under oath) and respond to any requests for the production of certain documents (also known as document demands) and a case information statement, which itemizes each party’s income, monthly budgets, assets, and liabilities. In addition to the above, a party may be questioned under oath about certain topics pertaining to your NJ divorce—this is known as a deposition. Depositions are conducted at an attorney’s office with a court reporter to transcribe the proceedings. They will then be required to respond to the complaint by filing an answer or other pleadings with the court. The transcript can be made available for later use in the court proceedings and all questions are answered under oath as though the person is in a courtroom on the witness stand.
Step 4—Early Settlement Panel
New Jersey family courts encourage the parties to engage in settlement discussions during the NJ divorce process. If your case is not settled by a certain date set by the court, you will be required to appear before the early settlement panel with your attorney. The panel is typically made up of other experienced NJ divorce attorneys who will dissect your case, identify the issues and recommend a solution on how to best reach a resolution. If both parties agree to the terms proposed by the panel, the judge can grant your New Jersey divorce the very same day.
In most cases however, the parties will require a full settlement agreement be put into writing and signed prior to the entry of a final judgement of divorce.
Step 5—Economic Mediation
When you complete the early settlement panel, if your issues are still not resolved, you may be required to attend economic mediation to help you resolve your NJ divorce matter. The mediator will meet the parties and attempt to help the partners to negotiate a final settlement.
Step 6—Intensive Settlement Conference
Essentially, this is the last step the parties will engage in in an attempt to settle the case before trial. The judge will require the parties to return to court for an all-day settlement conference. The primary goal of an intensive settlement conference is to prevent your New Jersey divorce case from going to trial. Most cases are settled prior to this phase.
If all settlement attempts have failed to this point, the last resort of the parties is to appear before a judge for a trial and allow the judge to resolve all of the issues. At the trial, the judge will hear testimony from each party, experts, and witnesses before ultimately making a final decision. After the above, your New Jersey divorce will finalized.