No two divorces are exactly alike. Some divorces go relatively easily and smoothly, while others feature lots of obstacles and complications. While we can’t predict with 100% accuracy the length of the process for you, or all the issues you might face, here is a guide to what you can expect from the process, step by step.
- Find an attorney. You may think you can take care of the necessary paperwork yourself, but it is still advisable to seek out an attorney. Divorce paperwork, like all legal paperwork, has to be executed in very particular ways, and you may encounter delays or difficulties in obtaining your divorce if you make procedural errors. Even if you do not feel you need representation in court, you should at least avail yourself of advice from someone who knows their way around the system. (Our law office offers free consultations for most new clients, by the way.) If you cannot afford an attorney, be aware that, unlike in criminal cases, the state does not have to provide you with one.
- File for divorce. You must file a complaint and petition the court in your jurisdiction for divorce. A copy of that petition must be sent to your spouse, along with a summons to appear in court. If you are seeking a ‘no-fault’ divorce (i.e., one that doesn’t involve any grounds for the termination of your marriage), you are required by the state of New Jersey to be physically separated for at least 18 months before you file. If your grounds for divorce are adultery, you can file immediately. If your grounds are that you are a victim of ‘extreme cruelty’ you must wait at least three months after the last incidence of such cruelty to file. In the case of a desertion by your spouse, you should be apart from that spouse for at least 12 months.
- Wait for the court to schedule your court date. If your divorce is uncontested this may be as soon as three months, but may take longer if you have issues to contest, or the court needs to order reports, evaluations or property appraisals.
- Meet with your attorneys to settle your issues. The more agreeable both parties are to settling disputes, working out child custody issues, and splitting up their belongings, the quicker, easier, and cheaper your divorce will be. If you have your attorneys draw up a settlement agreement before you present yourself to the court, your divorce will go much more smoothly.
- Seek a pre-judgment motion, if needed. Since it can take quite a while for your divorce to go to court, you are able to file what is called a pre-judgment motion to help provide temporary relief for issues such as financial support or child custody before the matter goes to trial.
- Have your day in court. If you have prepared properly, or ideally worked out a mutually acceptable agreement as to the distribution of your assets and property, your custodial responsibilities and spousal support, you may be able to get through this quickly and without too much difficulty. However, if you are involved in a contentious divorce, you could be up for several court hearings which may drag on for months or more.
- Obtain your divorce decree and move on. Once your divorce agreement is approved by the court, you can get on with your life.
Good luck! And be aware: sometimes there are other matters that come up later, such as post-judgment motions that may affect your settlement. We can do free consults on those too.
For a free consultation about your legal matter, call us at (856) 227-7888, or contact us at [email protected]. We have locations in Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester counties, and are happy to discuss your options.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.