The Divorce Process, Step by Step

Divorce Law
atlantic county

What goes into a divorceDivorce is a very personal experience and the details of divorce can vary greatly from situation to situation.  Getting to this point in a marriage is often painful and difficult, and can be emotionally and financially exhausting.  A short marriage with no kids and fewer assets and properties should be a simpler process than a divorce that includes a long marriage, any minor children, and more property or debt to divide.

A divorce that’s agreed upon by both parties is often simpler, as are those in which the individuals can agree on more aspects of their negotiation.  There are many ways to handle a divorce, but it’s always recommended to have communication with a legal professional in this process.

Steps of Divorce

Once a married couple has exhausted all other options to maintain their marriage, there are multiple steps to the divorce process.  These necessary steps will depend on the situation of the married parties.  Some common steps include:


Technically not a necessary part of the divorce process, getting a separation is often associated with getting a divorce.  A divorce in New Jersey does NOT require separation although it’s quite common.

Petition for Divorce

The first technical step in a divorce is filing a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage.  This petition is a public document, so does not contain a lot of personal information, however, it does state some basic facts about both the Petitioner (the person who filed the petition) and the Respondent (the person who receives the Petition), as well as any children.  This Petition also states the “grounds” for divorce.  These grounds for divorce are often “irreconcilable differences” or “incompatibility”, but there are many others that can vary by state.

Divorce Orders

Once the Petition has been filed with the Court, this Petition and a Summons to Appear need to be “served” to the Respondent.  Typically this is served by a member of the Sherriff’s office.  Once served, the Respondent has 30 days to file a written Response to the Petition, typically after hiring or consulting with an attorney.  If the Respondent does not respond within 30 days, the divorce case can fall into a default judgment.  It’s also at this time that attorneys can establish any temporary orders that can include child support, spousal support, and any maintenance and marital expenses.

Discovery, Negotiation, and Settlement

The “discovery” stage is when information is gathered about both parties by their attorneys.  This is often financial information.  This part of the process can then include negotiation between each party and their attorneys for child custody, assets, debts, etc.  This is often much quicker for married couples without many joint assets or any children.  The attorneys are required to appear in Court and advise a judge on the status of the case.  These negotiations will often end in a Marital Settlement Agreement if both parties have reached agreements.  This Agreement is then signed, both parties appear before the Judge once, and the process is complete.


If a Settlement can’t be reached, a case will go to trial.  Both parties’ attorneys spend months preparing a case.  This can be very time-consuming and expensive, but if a case isn’t settled, it must go through this process.  No juries are used for divorce cases and the final judgment is made solely by the Judge.


Divorce laws are complicated and very specific.  Consulting with or hiring an attorney best ensures a speedier, more favorable resolution to your divorce. If you have any questions call 856-227-7888 for a FREE CONSULT to discuss your legal options.

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