If you ask a divorcing couple to state the end date of their marriage, there's a good chance that you will receive two different answers. This is frankly a complicated question, since the end of a marriage can be signified by a wide variety of circumstances. Some people may view the end of a marriage as the moment when they fell out of love with their partner. Others, who are more technical, may consider the date on which they moved out of the marital home as the end of the marriage. Because of these differences in opinion, the New Jersey family courts default to using the filing date of the divorce complaint as the date on which the marriage ended.
While this is not a big deal in most cases, there are situations in which couples live separately for a long period of time before filing for divorce. There are also spouses who no longer have marital relations, but choose to live together as a matter of convenience or necessity. Spouses in these situations can agree a cut-off date, which will be earlier than the date on which they filed the complaint. Deciding on the correct end date is critical depending on the types of assets within your marriage. For example, a spouse who is entitled to a portion of her husband's retirement accounts would probably prefer the later date, since the account would be of greater value. On the other hand, a wife who has to buy out her husband's equity in the marital home would probably choose the earlier date, since his portion of the equity would have been much lower at that time.
As stated above, if a couple does not agree to a cut-off date, the court will consider the filing date as the official end date. It's important to note that if your filing is dismissed for any reason (e.g., missing information, failure to serve in a timely manner), you will not be able to use that end date on a future complaint. The court will always default to using the date of the current complaint, which is why it's important to seek help from an experienced divorce attorney. An attorney can also explain to you the pros and cons of using a particular end date, in addition to advising you on property division, alimony, child support or any other issues that are relevant to your marriage.
Having a full understanding of your rights and legal options can help you negotiate the fairest divorce settlement possible, thereby saving you the cost and hassle of going back to court at a later date. In particular, attempting to prove an alternate marriage end date is incredibly difficult since it requires a significant amount of financial evidence, for which you will most likely need to hire a forensic accountant. For more information on the divorce filing process in New Jersey, please speak with the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.