Filing Divorce in New Jersey
To file for divorce in New Jersey, you first have to meet the residency requirements. For all grounds for divorce, except for adultery, you or your spouse has to have lived in New Jersey for at least the last 12 consecutive months. It does not matter if you have lived in New Jersey your whole life. If you and the other party have resided outside of New Jersey at any point in the last 12 months, you will not be able to file for divorce until one or both of you has been here for the last 12 months.
If you do meet the residency requirements, you have to decide the appropriate venue for the divorce. Venue refers to where the case should be filed. In New Jersey, venue for the divorce is where the plaintiff lives, where the defendant lives or where the grounds for divorce (also known as the cause of action) first arose. For example, if you are filing for separation, you can file in the county where the separation first began, assuming you do not live there now. I always advise clients to file where they live or in whatever county previous cases between plaintiff and defendant (like custody or child support) have been filed.
Once you decide the venue, you have to decide what on what grounds you should file. New Jersey has 9 different grounds for divorce. They are:
3. extreme cruelty, separation,
4. voluntary substance abuse,
5. institutionalization in mental health facility,
6. incarceration of the defendant,
7. deviant sexual conduct and
8. irreconcilable differences.
The most common ground for filing divorce are irreconcilable differences, extreme cruelty, separation and desertion. Separation and irreconcilable differences are “no-fault” divorce grounds. All others are fault based. It is important to note that in NJ, with some limited exceptions, the ground for divorce does not affect the court’s decisions as to alimony, equitable distribution or child support. It may have some bearing on custody and visitation, especially in cases of extreme cruelty, voluntary substance abuse and deviant sexual conduct.
Once you decide why you want to file for divorce, you have to consider what you want the court to grant you in the divorce. You can request a name change, custody, child support, visitation, child support, alimony and/or equitable distribution of debts and assets in the divorce. If there is a substantial amount of debt or assets or contested custody/visitation, it would be best for you to retain the services of an attorney as these issues may prove to be too complicated to handle alone.
If you wish to discuss any of the above in further detail, please contact us at 732-377-2030 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free initial consultation.