In New Jersey, divorces are filed as either "fault" or "no-fault", based on the circumstances within the marriage. Fault divorces must be based on one of the following grounds: adultery, extreme cruelty, or desertion. If none of these circumstances apply, spouses can file a no-fault divorce, as long as they have been living apart for at least 18 months. In either case, a divorce is classified as "contested" or "uncontested", depending on whether a couple can agree on the divorce terms. These terms pertain to child custody, domestic support, property division, and any other issues relevant to the marriage. When a couple is able to negotiate a divorce agreement without interference from the courts, it is referred to as an uncontested divorce.
The most common type of type of uncontested divorce is known as "divorce by default". This method simply requires one spouse to file the complaint, to which the other spouse will not file a response. You will, however, need to serve your spouse with the papers either in person, by mail, or through a process server. Your spouse will need to sign the acknowledgement of service, but no other action is required as long as you are both in agreement. In this case, the court defaults to the request of the complainant, and grants the divorce according to the terms that are stated in the complaint. It seems like an easy process, but the paperwork you'll need to submit with your complaint can be quite complicated. Most superior courts, for example, require you to file a Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) or Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). These agreements, which address each spouse's rights and responsibilities after the divorce, should be drafted with help from an attorney. Although an attorney is not required, assets like investment accounts, pension funds and rare collector's items are incredibly complex to divide without professional help. An attorney will also make suggestions on provisions that can save you time and money in the future. This is especially relevant when it comes to issues like child support and higher education expenses. Being as specific as possible on these issues in your MSA will save you from having to go back to court at a later date. It also guarantees that your children will have the support they need throughout the various stages of their lives.
As you can see, even uncontested divorces require a significant amount of paperwork and legal knowledge. If you are starting the divorce process, please find out about your rights and options from the family law attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. Our lawyers include matrimonial law attorney, Vincent C. DeLuca, who has over 20 years of trial experience in the New Jersey family courts. As a certified divorce mediator and collaborative divorce attorney, Mr. DeLuca can help you work out your divorce without involvement from the courts. Our attorneys look forward to advising you of all our available divorce services during a free initial consultation.