The Legal Stages of Divorce: What Steps Are Involved?
Filing for a divorce can be a complicated and emotionally difficult time for all people involved. This is particularly the case when children are involved or when the grounds for divorce are complicated. This is why it's important to speak with an attorney at our Freehold family and divorce law firm. We can offer sound advice and counsel as you negotiate this difficult road.
Right now we'd like to consider some of the basics when it comes to filing for divorce in the state of New Jersey. This is by no means comprehensive, but it ought to offer you a good idea of what the process entails.
Filing for Fault or No-Fault Divorce
One of the first steps of filing for a divorce is to first determine if you are seeking a fault or no-fault divorce.
A fault divorce means that the actions or behavior of a spouse are the reason that a divorce is being sought. There are different grounds for divorce, including extreme cruelty and desertion. The grounds for the divorce will determine the proper forms that you need to fill out.
By contrast, a no-fault divorce means that neither spouse's actions were necessarily the reason for the marriage to end. Irreconcilable differences (the inability to get along and reconcile) is one example of a no-fault divorce. Again, the nature of the no-fault divorce will determine the proper forms to fill out.
Other Forms to Fill Out
In addition to the above, it is not uncommon to fill out additional forms for the state of New Jersey. This might include:
- Filing Letter to the Court—Complaint Form
- Certification of Insurance
- Family Part Case Information Statement
- Confidential Litigant Information Sheet
It's a good idea to make multiple copies (at least three) of any forms and paperwork that you fill out. The court in New Jersey requires that those filing for divorce provide an original form as well as two copies.
Filing Your Completed Forms
The divorce papers should be filed in the county of New Jersey in which the divorce happened. This doesn't necessarily mean the New Jersey county in which you live. Be sure to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for the paperwork filed so the court can send you a copy that is officially marked. Court fees do apply, though you may be able to have these fees waived in certain circumstances.
Serving Your Spouse Divorce Papers
After the paperwork is filed, your spouse will be served the divorce papers. He or she will have to be served the divorce petition by the county sheriff, by certified US mail, or through the spouse's divorce attorney. Upon receipt of the paperwork, your spouse will have 35 days to respond.
Appearance, Answer. and Counterclaim
Upon receiving the divorce papers, your spouse may take the following actions:
File an Answer – This means that the defendant either agrees or disagrees with the statement made in the served complaint.
File an Appearance – This means that the defendant served does not object to the divorce but may object to specific terms of the divorce (i.e., child custody, payment of child support)
File a Counterclaim – This means that the defendant can state a new reason as grounds for divorce.
Mediation and Settlement
As the divorce progresses, the next phase involves negotiating the terms of divorce. If this can be settled outside of court, this tends to be ideal for all parties involves. That is not always the case, however, which is why it's important to have a divorce attorney on your side throughout this process.
Your divorce lawyer can offer guidance every step of the way, and can help you make your case before your spouse's attorney or before a judge. This assistance can prove invaluable, offering peace of mind to help you move forward with your life.
Speak with an Experienced Divorce Attorney
For more information about your legal options during a divorce proceeding and how you should approach this process, be sure to contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney. Our team will help you make smart choices about all of your legal options.