New Jersey Divorce FAQs

By Rosanne DeTorres
August 02, 2013
NJ FAQ/Divorce Process

If I file the initial complaint or summons do I have an advantage?

It does not make any difference who files first in terms of what each party will obtain in the divorce by way of support or assets. It does make a difference in some cases because the one who files may have a tendency to have a greater desire for the divorce. The individual who has a greater desire is often times more willing to let things slide by, so he or she will end up giving up more in order to have the process happen quicker. If a spouse leaves town in order to flee, the summons there are measures that can be taken to get the divorce proceedings begun.

Are there advantages to a no-fault divorce in New Jersey?

The one benefit to this type of divorce is the victory does not go to the spouse with the greatest number of complaints. Each spouse is seen as contributing the same amount to the death of the marriage, so generally speaking a more equitable agreement is possible.

Can you get a divorce if you do not know where your spouse is?

Yes but we must make a reasonable and diligent effort to locate the missing spouse and be willing to testify in court under oath that a good effort has been made, before the court will permit us to take action against an absent spouse.

How are debts obtained during a marriage divided in divorce in the State of New Jersey?

Debts are not uncommon at a time of divorce. Often times this is what may instigate the problems that lead a couple down the road to separation. Debts are usually divided in a manner that approximates the parties' respective earnings ability and ability to pay. However, we also see debts divided equally on the basis that both parties equally contributed to the creation of the debt. It is best if debts can be satisfied from assets of the marriage if possible so both parties leave the marriage debt-free.

What is an uncontested vs. contested case?

An uncontested case is a divorce proceeding in which there are no disputes as to any legal issues. Both parties tend to agree on all matters and are typically just ready for the whole process to be over with. The minute the complaint or summons is filed the case becomes contested, and is contested until all disputes are resolved in a writing or by court order, such as support, custody, parenting time, and division of assets. Many divorces start out with the intent of being uncontested, but greed and resentment often propel a case into being a contested case.

If spouses agree on everything do they need an attorney?

If you are going to have an uncontested divorce and you both agree on everything it is still recommended that you hire an attorney to review the papers and make sure you understand your legal rights and the legal ramifications of your agreement with your spouse. You may be surprised what happens if you do not. A lot of people end up signing what they thought was discussed between them but the written agreement fails to include material points of discussion. The State of New Jersey will not allow one attorney to represent both parties as this would be a conflict of interest prohibited by the Rules of Professional Conduct

Can I get more money if the divorce was not my fault?

Most likely not, because Courts in New Jersey do not weigh marital fault when making asset distribution decisions or awarding alimony.

What does a mediator do?

A mediator may be used if the spouses do not wish to fight in the courtroom. A mediator is usually a lawyer trained in the mediation process. A mediator is a neutral third-party that helps to facilitate a dialogue between spouses as to all issues of the marriage. The mediation process, if successful, usually results in a written outline of an agreement that is then presented to the parties' attorneys to form the basis of a formal written settlement agreement.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a less formal litigation proceeding, than a regular court hearing before a Judge. Parties must consent to have their cases decided through an arbitration process. An arbitrator (normally another experienced attorney) will hear both sides of the story and take testimony. Each spouse will have the opportunity to disclose all information necessary to prove his or her claims. Each side must be represented by legal counsel, and the decision reached by the arbitrator is final and cannot be appealed. The decision is then attached to the divorce complaint to become part of the final divorce decree.

How long does it take to get a divorce in New Jersey?

It all depends on how difficult the case is. If it is uncontested and agreements are made very quickly then a divorce may only take a few months. If the case is contested it could take over a year depending on the county in which you live.

What are pleadings?

The initial formal written complaint or summons that is filed with the court and delivered to the spouse is the first pleading, and the response of your spouse is the second. The response will either admit or deny the allegations made in the complaint. Basically they are the papers filed to formally put a case before the court.

How are temporary orders obtained?

It starts with a proceeding in which one side will request some kind of relief, such as custody and support, before the final judgment on the divorce has been made. These requests are called motions. Since the divorce process can be quite lengthy at times, many disputes must be resolved on a temporary basis. Without temporary orders it is very difficult to have somewhat of a normal life during the process. These orders are obtained through Motions for Pendente Lite Relief. Often we try to reach an agreement as to temporary issues such as support through negotiation and consent to avoid a costly and lengthy motion practice.

What if a spouse does not follow temporary orders?

A petition for contempt will need to be filed and if the delinquent spouse cannot show good reason for disregarding the order, then a fine or imprisonment may take place.


Rosanne DeTorres, co-founder of DeTorres & DeGeorge, LLC, is NJ Supreme Court certified as a Matrimonial Law Attorney. Choosing a Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney assures you the most effective representation. Ms. DeTorres concentrates her family law practice on divorce, custody, child support and alimony.

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August 02, 2013
Categories:  FAQs

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