If all you know about divorce is what you’ve heard from friends and family who have gone through the process themselves, you may be looking for some clarification of the details. There are a lot of misconceptions about divorce in New Jersey. Here are three (3) things you should know about how to get a divorce in New Jersey.
There is no such thing as legal separation in New Jersey
Some states have what’s known as legal separation, but New Jersey is not one of those states. That’s not to say that you can’t live separately from your spouse without going through a divorce. But there is not a legal document that supports this in New Jersey. The closest thing to legal separation under New Jersey law is a divorce from bed and board. Under this scenario, the parties go through the same process as a normal divorce. They negotiate a settlement agreement that provides for the custody and care of the children, child support, alimony and equitable distribution. However, at the end of the divorce, a final judgment of divorce from bed and board is entered, rather than the standard divorce decree. While all of the financial decisions have been made and the assets and liabilities have been divided, the legal marital relationship continues. Some employers allow their employees to continue to provide health insurance for the spouse because the marital relationship remains. However, this is not always the case, so you should speak to your benefits provider in the event you are considering this option.
You can get divorced even if the other person ignores the complaint
If your spouse does not want to participate in divorce proceedings and refuses to acknowledge the complaint for divorce, you can still get divorced. You will file your complaint as normal and serve your spouse with the complaint. Once they are served, they have 35 days in which to file an answer or appearance in the matter. If they do not answer within this time frame, you would ask the court to enter a default against them, which means that the court acknowledges that the time to answer has run out and that you will be proceeding without the other party. You and your attorney will prepare a proposal for the distribution of your assets and liabilities, as well as all other issues in your case. At the default hearing, you will testify about what you are proposing and explain to the judge why he or she should enter the divorce on these terms. In the event that your spouse appears at the default hearing, he or she will be permitted to cross-examine you, but they will not be permitted to offer testimony. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will enter the divorce.
Once your matter is resolved, you will be scheduled for an uncontested hearing.
Throughout the divorce process, you and your attorney will be engaging in extensive settlement negotiations with your spouse in order to reach a resolution to your matter. The terms of your agreement will be memorialized in a Marital Settlement Agreement that you and your spouse will both sign. Once your agreement is signed, you will be scheduled for an uncontested hearing. At that court appearance, you, your spouse and your respective attorneys will go before the judge and answer questions about the agreement, such as whether you entered into it voluntarily and whether you intend to be bound by the terms of the agreement. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will sign a final judgment of divorce and provide the parties with gold seal copies of same.
If you are considering a divorce and have additional questions about the process and your rights, contact the attorneys at DeTorres & DeGeorge today to schedule a consultation.