In New Jersey, the courts do not need to find fault with either spouse in order to grant a divorce. A spouse can simply file a no-fault divorce, in which he or she attests that the marriage can no longer continue due to irreconcilable differences. These divorces can be uncontested or negotiated based on the issues within the marriage, but they are often quickly resolved with assistance from a divorce lawyer. However, a spouse can choose to file a contested (fault-based) divorce if there is evidence to show that the other spouse's misconduct led to the demise of the marriage. Legal grounds for a fault divorce in New Jersey include, but are not limited to, adultery, physical or mental abuse, long-term substance abuse, and willful abandonment (desertion) for a period of 12 or more months. It's important to note that the courts do not factor in marital fault in the distribution of marital property or alimony, except in the case of exceptional circumstances.
The process of filing for a contested divorce in Ocean County begins with the filing of the divorce complaint by one of the spouses. A copy of the complaint, along with a summons will be served to the other spouse, who has 35 days to file an acknowledgement or counterclaim. The courts then proceed with the initial discovery stage, during which the spouses will exchange detailed financial information through a CIS (Case Information Statement). The CIS requires that you disclose information and documentation pertaining to your income, assets, liabilities and expenses. Assistance from an experienced divorce attorney is highly recommended to ensure that your CIS is filled out correctly and filed in a timely manner. A lawyer can also help you obtain information from your spouse through depositions, which will require your spouse to answer certain questions under oath, prior to the trial date. Once the court gathers the needed information, your case will be referred to a group of matrimonial attorneys known as the ESP (Early Settlement Panel). The ESP will conduct a non-binding mediation, during which you and your spouse will have a chance to argue your case through your attorneys. Afterwards, the panel will make a settlement recommendation, which will settle the case prior to trial if both you and your spouse agree to the terms. If one or both of you does not agree, you will be issued a trial date and a pre-trial order.
If you have further questions about filing a contested divorce in Ocean County, New Jersey, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca. Your case will be reviewed by founding partner Vincent C. DeLuca, Esq., who has over 20 years of divorce trial experience in the New Jersey family courts system. In addition to being a state certified Economic Mediator, Mr. DeLuca is one of less than 0.002% of all attorneys in the state to be designated as a Certified Matrimonial Attorney by the Supreme Court of New Jersey. He will fight to protect your rights during every stage of your divorce, including post-divorce modifications for alimony and child support. Please call (732) 965-3525 to discuss all your available legal options during a free consultation!