The expression, "The first step is always the hardest," applies to many challenges we face throughout our lives, including the end of a marriage. Regardless of who wants to end the marriage, or the reasons for why it needs to end, taking the first step towards divorce is never easy. In addition to the emotional anguish, you may be scared by the prospect of a long and costly divorce battle.
The first thing you should consider is whether or not you can continue to co-exist with your spouse in the same household. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, for example, your first step should be to obtain a restraining order against your spouse. This step is extremely important because divorces based on extreme cruelty cannot be filed in New Jersey until 3 months after the last incident of cruelty. A restraining order, which prohibits your abuser from approaching or contacting you, is essential for protecting yourself during this time. However, if you are not in a situation that endangers the lives of you or your children, it's a good idea to work through your feelings before taking legal action. Remember — being the first to file does not give you any more control over the outcome of your divorce. You should, however, start researching how the divorce process works in New Jersey. A good place to start is the New Jersey Courts website at http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/ which has information on how and where to file for divorce. The site also gives a basic overview of divorce-related terminology, and a "Self-Help Center" with downloadable forms and instructions.
Although this information is helpful, it's likely to leave you it more questions than answers. Because the courts cannot offer legal advice, the site only offers generalizations that won't address your specific situation. Furthermore, the New Jersey Courts system does not offer self-help kits for divorce litigants who are representing themselves. Divorce forms and instructions are available on the Legal Services of New Jersey website at njcourts.gov, but the amount of paperwork and complex legal jargon is overwhelming for the average person. Hence, it is highly recommended that you consult an experienced divorce attorney to assist you with the filing process.
In addition to filing paperwork, your attorney can give you legal advice based on the unique circumstances within your marriage. Your attorney can also help you choose the most appropriate method of divorce, which include non-litigation alternatives such as mediation and collaborative divorce. It's important to note that qualified, experienced attorneys encourage non-litigation methods whenever possible, thereby saving you time and money. They will also encourage you to be open-minded about alternative arrangements on issues such as custody and alimony, while making sure that you receive the fairest settlement possible.
If you are contemplating divorce, please consider speaking with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our attorneys look forward to advising you on your rights and options during a free initial consultation.