Step One—A Divorce Complaint
The first step in a New Jersey divorce involves filling out the form which is known as a complaint for divorce. This complaint formally petitions the court to grant one party a request for a divorce. The form will include the grounds for divorce, which can be desertion, separation, adultery, extreme cruelty, or irreconcilable differences. You will also include what is known as an affidavit of insurance coverage which identifies for the court your existing insurance policies. You must include life insurance, health insurance, auto insurance and homeowner's or renter's insurance. Finally, you will complete a Litigant Information Sheet that gives the court your gender, place of birth, birthday, social security number and driver's license number. Once you have filed all of these papers, step one is complete.
Step Two—Case Management
After your above paperwork has been filed with the New Jersey family courts, your papers will be given a docket number and your spouse will be “served” his or her divorce papers. Then, the court may set a date to have a case management conference. That conference will allow all parties involved to meet, allow the court to assess the issues of your divorce, and assign deadlines for any exchange of documents between the divorcing parties.
Step Three—The Discovery Process
The discovery process is the stage when each spouse and his or her lawyers exchange any needed information. Financial assets, such as bank statements, business records, credit card statement and a list of all assets would need to be prepared and produced. Each spouse will also be asked to complete a series of questions on income, budgets and any assets or liabilities he or she has. If the divorce is extremely difficult or hostile, a deposition may be taken. In this instance, the parties are questioned under oath and this can later be used in the courtroom.
Step Four—A Chance For Early Settlement
While Step Three is going on, your lawyer and your spouse's lawyer will try to have settlement talks in order to have the divorce process settled before going before a court. If this cannot be done, then you will have to appear before what is known as an early settlement panel. You and your attorney will have to be present and the panel will offer suggestions on how to resolve the issues that the attorneys could not resolve. If you and your spouse agree to the panel's recommendations, then your divorce may be granted by a judge that day.
If after step four your issues are not resolved, then you will have to obtain a mediator. This person will meet with both spouses and their attorneys to try and help reach an agreeable settlement.
Step Six—An Intensive Settlement Conference
In the instance that the mediator cannot help you reach an agreement, you and your spouse and all the attorneys will go back to court for a settlement conference. This is the last attempt to try and keep your divorce from going to trial by trying to get you to agree with your ex-spouse on a settlement.
Step Seven—A Divorce Trial
A divorce trial in New Jersey Family Court is the final stage in the process. If it gets this far, a family court judge will listen to testimony from you and your spouse, listen to testimony from experts if needed and witnesses if needed in order to reach a decision. Once the family court judge reaches a decision, your divorce will be finalized.
Call Today To Learn About The New Jersey Divorce Process
Before any of this process begins, you should speak with an experienced attorney who is familiar with New Jersey divorce law. Contact Villani & DeLuca, P.C. today about the divorce process. Serving Ocean and Monmouth County, our attorneys have the experience you need to navigate this situation and help to ensure the best possible outcome for you.
Other Resources For Divorce