Even if you are friendly with your spouse, chances are that you would like to be divorced as soon as possible. After all, divorces become more expensive the longer they take, especially if you need to go to trial. Fortunately, most couples are able to work out their differences without interference from the courts. If you and your spouse do not have any children or complex assets, you may want to settle your divorce with a mediator or collaborative divorce attorney. How long the process takes depends on how well you and your spouse work together, and how quickly you can come to an agreement. The shortest route, however, is to submit an MSA (marital settlement agreement) or PSA (property settlement agreement) along with the divorce complaint, citing "irreconcilable differences". As long as your spouse signs off on the complaint, you could be divorced in as little as 2 months.
This timeline, however, does not factor in how long you must wait before you can file for divorce. For example, New Jersey law requires that spouses live apart for at least 18 months before filing on grounds of irreconcilable differences. Extreme cruelty cases can only be filed 3 months after the last incident of cruelty, while desertion cases require spouses to wait 12 months from the date of desertion. The only grounds under which a spouse can file immediately is adultery, although these cases tend to take long because so many of them end up in litigation.
Speaking of litigation, the New Jersey courts strive to finalize all divorces within 12 months from the date of the complaint. There are, of course, legitimate reasons for why a divorce takes longer, especially if there are complex financial or criminal issues involved. You may also need to reschedule court dates and ask for continuances in order to gather more evidence, but these are only granted at the court's discretion. However, you should only make these requests if they are absolutely necessary. Repeat requests for delays or new court dates may be viewed with suspicion, especially if they are based on frivolous grounds. In addition to hurting your chances for a fair settlement, you may be ordered to pay your spouse's legal fees for the extra time spent in court.
As you can see, there's no clear answer on how long a divorce will take since you can't predict just how things will proceed between you and your spouse. The one thing you have control over is making the process as civil and efficient as possible, by working with an experienced family law attorney.
Regardless of your situation, it's in your best interest to consult an attorney with extensive trial experience in the New Jersey family courts. If you are in the process of filing for divorce, please speak with the attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our lawyers look forward to advising you on the most expedient way to settle your divorce during a free initial consultation.