The Divorce Process
Divorce can be overwhelming. For most, it is unfamiliar territory. Hopefully, the following will help you understand the process and make it less daunting.
How do I begin?
Divorce proceedings are started by the filing of a complaint in the Superior Court of N.J. / Family Part. You must rely on one of New Jersey’s nine grounds for divorce in order to get divorced. The most frequently used grounds for divorce are irreconcilable differences, 18 months separation and extreme cruelty.
Although fault is said to have some bearing on alimony, it is an extreme case where fault will have any impact on an alimony award. The division of marital assets and liabilities is called equitable distribution. Fault has no bearing on the manner in which marital assets and liabilities are divided.
After your complaint is filed, it must be served on your spouse. When service occurs, your spouse will have 35 days to respond to your complaint.
How long does it take to get divorced?
Your outstanding issues, their complexities and the ability or inability of you and your spouse to work together to resolve disputed issues will dictate the length of time it takes to get divorced. The average divorce takes between 9 and 12 months. Some divorces take less time and some, unfortunately, can take much longer.
Some divorcing couples resolve all of their differences before either files for divorce. Usually this happens when you and your spouse know the full extent of each other’s income and the assets and liabilities that are part of the marital estate are easy to identify. If your case is settled before the divorce complaint is filed, the divorce can occur within a month or two of filing.
If you have not been able to resolve your differences before filing for divorce, your divorce is considered a contested matter and the judge assigned to your case will monitor its progress. Our law firm is here to guide you through all aspects of your divorce.
If you have children, the family court requires you and your spouse to attend a parenting workshop. If you and your spouse disagree regarding custody and parenting time, you will have to participate in custody/parenting mediation. A neutral third party called a mediator will help you try to resolve your custody/parenting issues.
Throughout your divorce, Mrs. Agostini will take whatever steps are necessary to provide you with effective representation. She will gather information about assets, liabilities and income. She will also advise you whether the services of a forensic expert are necessary. An accountant or appraiser may have to be hired to determine the worth of a business or the value of the marital home for equitable distribution purposes. An income analysis may be needed in order to ensure that the proper amount of alimony or child support is paid. If your custody and parenting issues remain unresolved, a custody/parenting evaluation may have to be done by a mental health professional such as a psychologist to determine what is in your child’s best interests. When all necessary reports have been obtained and your financial picture is complete, you will be given several opportunities to settle your case before a trial date is assigned.
The judge will require you and your spouse to appear before an early settlement panel comprised of practicing family law attorneys who will make recommendations on how to settle your case. If your case remains unresolved, the court will require you to participate in economic mediation with a court-approved mediator. The economic mediator will help you try to resolve your financial issues. Mrs. Agostini will advocate your interests before the early settlement panel and during economic mediation to negotiate the best possible outcome.
What if my spouse and I reach a settlement?
If you and your spouse settle your case, Mrs. Agostini will prepare a carefully drafted document that will memorialize the terms of your settlement. Your divorce will proceed as an uncontested matter and your property settlement agreement will become part of your divorce judgment. The terms of your settlement will be binding on you and your spouse.
What if my spouse and I are unable to reach a settlement?
If you are unable to resolve your differences, the judge will give your matter a trial date, hear testimony and decide the outstanding issues. During trial, Mrs. Agostini will advance your position on all disputed issues to obtain the best realistic determination. A judge’s decision will become part of your divorce judgment and you and your spouse will be bound by the court’s decision.
Why should I consider settlement?
Divorce trials are expensive and protracted, and neither you nor your spouse will have input in the outcome. Unfavorable decisions can be appealed to a higher court, but most appeals are unsuccessful, can take a long time and are costly.
A settlement gives you and your spouse control over what you are obligated to do and permits us to resolve the particular issues in your case with creative, “outside the box” solutions. It can also give you the opportunity to address events that have yet to occur and that a judge cannot or will not address at trial.
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