Does New Jersey recognize legal separations?
No. New Jersey does not recognize parties as being “separated.” Until a Complaint for Divorce is filed you will be considered, and treated like, a couple. This does not mean, however, that the court will not enforce a Separation Agreement. If you and your spouse elect to separate, it is recommended that you enter into a written Agreement. In the event one of you were to apply for a divorce later on, the Agreement could be enforced by the court at that time, substantially reducing the cost and time involved in obtaining a divorce.
Do divorces always go to trial?
No. Almost all divorces settle prior to their trial. Although the statistics vary from county to county, it is estimated that 97% of all divorces do not require a trial. To further this effort, the courts have established methods to encourage parties to reach settlements, including a policy of encouraging parties to participate in alternate dispute resolution techniques such as mediation and Arbitration.
How is alimony decided?
There is no quick answer to this question. There are four different types of alimony, and twelve different factors the court must consider in determining which kind applies in a particular situation, how long the alimony should last, and the amount of alimony that should be paid. These factors include a persons need for support, the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the standard of living during the marriage, and the ability of the parties to earn an income in light of their history and responsibilities to care for any children.
How is custody decided?
If alimony is difficult to predict, custody is nearly impossible. The standard always used by the court is to do what is in the “best interest of the child.” Many times parents are unable to agree upon what this actually is. However, it is the hope of all involved that once the initial anger each parent has towards the other subsides the will able to work this out. To this end, the court will do everything possible to assist you in resolving this on your own. All parents will attend a parenting education workshop. They will then participate in a mediation program which is provided by the court free of charge. If, after participating in mediation, you are still unable to resolve this issue, the court will normally appoint a mental health expert to prepare a custody and parenting time evaluation and make a recommendation, usually at the parties' expense.
How is child support determined?
Thankfully, in most situations child support can be calculated with a fair degree of accuracy. The State of New Jersey has directed that certain Child Support Guidelines be applied in determining child support. Only in certain special circumstances will the parties be able to disregard the Guidelines. Once the parties' incomes are known, and the parenting schedule has been established, a Guidelines worksheet can be completed to determine the appropriate level of support.
Are all assets split 50/50?
No. The term used to describe property distribution in the State of New Jersey is “equitable distribution.” This means that assets need only be distributed in a way that is considered to be fair and reasonable. More times than not, if a couple has been married for a long period of time, the marital assets will be divided equally between them. However, this is not required. In addition, not all assets are subject to being divided between the parties. Assets which were owned prior to the marriage, and gifts and inheritances, if they are maintained in individual name, are not subject to distribution.
Does New Jersey have a “no fault” divorce?
Yes. Effective January, 2007, the Legislature added "irreconciliable differences" as a ground for divorce in New Jersey. To meet the requirements a party need only allege that they have deloped irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of at least six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. Other grounds which are recognised are adultery, desertion for a period of 12 months, constructive desertion in which a party has refused to be intimate with the other for 12 months, habitual drug use, institutionalization for 24 months, imprisonment for 18 months, deviant sexual conduct, continuous physical seperation for 18 months and extreme cruelty. Extreme cruelty is defined as any physical or mental act which either endangers the health or safety of the other spouse or makes in unreasonable to expect a person to continue to remain in the marriage.
How long does it take to get divorced?
The goal is for a couple to be divorced within one year of the filing of the Complaint for Divorce. The reality is that many divorces take longer than a year to complete. In the end, the parties will directly affect how long it takes to get divorced. The more amicable and reasonable a couple is, the faster they will get divorced. Couples that can set aside their emotions and negotiate a settlement can be divorced in a very brief period of time. A couple that is unable to reach an agreement, for whatever reason, must wait to have their dispute resolved by a Judge at a trial.
How much does it cost to get divorced?
Again, this is directly affected by the parties. Parties that are able to work together, that cooperate and allow for a free flow of information to be exchanged can be divorced for a smaller fee. However, if the situation is filled with conflict, if the parties are unable to reach agreements, if one of the parties refuses to be reasonable or fails to provide information, the process can become quite costly. The only possible relief at that point is to seek to have the party that is obstructing the process contribute towards the counsel fees and costs of the other.
Can I bring a friend with me to the consultation?
While there is nothing preventing you from bringing a friend or family member for “support” we generally do not encourage it. Any information exchanged during a consultation between an attorney and their potential client is considered to be privileged and confidential. However, there is no relationship between the attorney and the third person in the room. As a result, anyone could compel your friend to appear and repeat what they heard during the consultation.