Carolann M. Aschoff, P.C.

What are the chronological steps in a New Jersey divorce?

Ending a marriage is unknown territory for many, and knowing what to expect can be helpful. In New Jersey, a divorce is a chronological process, with small variations if unusual circumstances exist. The process starts with one spouse's attorney preparing the legal document known as the complaint, stating the grounds for divorce and his or her client's preferences for how custody, finances and other issues must be settled. The lawyer will then file the petition with the court, ensuring that the other spouse is served with a copy and a summons requiring a response within a particular time.

That spouse responds, stating whether he or she agrees and providing his or her preferences for dealing with related decisions. The court will regard the failure to respond as an agreement to the terms. Both parties will provide documents about assets and finances, and property division negotiations can proceed. Agreements can be voluntary or facilitated by mediators or collaborative law professionals. Agreed upon settlements are presented to the judge for approval and signature.

If the judge does not approve, or if the couple fails to reach a settlement agreement, the case will have to go to trial. There, both attorneys will present arguments and evidence, and the judge will make decisions over child custody, visitation, spousal and child support, property division and more. The judge will grant the divorce, and if one or both spouses disagree, they may file an appeal in a higher court.

The time it will take for a New Jersey divorce to be finalized will depend largely on the couple's ability to negotiate a settlement. Although many are completed in a few months, it could take years if contentious issues are litigated. Either way, the support of an experienced divorce attorney can ease the process. A skilled attorney can provide guidance through hearings, court procedures and trials along with court orders and more.

Source: FindLaw, "A Divorce Timeline", Accessed on June 20, 2017

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