In Hackensack, NJ, and the rest of the state, you are allowed to represent yourself when filing for divorce. However, it’s important to know the state’s regulations and rules and follow them exactly if you don’t want to have any issues.
There are different paths you can take when you file for divorce in the state. You can go the traditional route and work with a lawyer, such as a divorce attorney Carrie Schultz, to represent you from the beginning. You can also work with an online divorce service. This service will give you the completed forms based on your completed questionnaire and walk you through the process. These services will typically only handle uncontested divorces. This means that you must already agree on issues in your divorce with your spouse, either on your own or with mediation. You can also take the DIY route and handle the divorce on your own. If you do choose this path, you need to understand the requirements so you fill out the right forms, file them correctly, and take the steps you need to.
Qualifying for a Divorce in New Jersey
Before you are able to file, you or your spouse needs to be a resident of the state for 12 consecutive months. There is an exception to this if the reason you are wanting a divorce is due to adultery. You will also need to have grounds for divorce, which is a legally acceptable reason for ending the marriage. In the state, there are both “no-fault” and “fault” divorces. Fault grounds are accepted when accusing your spouse of wrongdoing, such as physical or mental cruelty, desertion, or adultery. With no-fault divorces, neither spouse is blaming the other. These divorces apply when the spouses have been living apart in different homes for the last 18 months consecutively and have irreconcilable differences.
Preparing the Divorce Forms
While there is a self-help center, it will only give you some of the forms you need in order to begin the divorce process. You can get the forms you need through Legal Services of New Jersey for a small fee or use an online divorce service if you aren’t working with an attorney. If you are the one beginning the divorce then you fill out forms as the plaintiff and your spouse is the defendant. There are a number of different documents you will need to fill out, including certification of insurance coverage, certification of verification and non-collusion, confidential litigant information sheet, a complaint about divorce, summons, and certification regarding redaction of personal identifiers. There will also be different forms for the complaint, depending on the grounds for the divorce. The complaint will have various topics you may need the court to address, such as dividing your debts and property, child support, child custody, and alimony. If you are requesting alimony then you should know the court won’t usually consider a spouse’s fault when deciding whether to award alimony or the amount. There are exceptions, but you are typically better off filing under a no-fault ground since this prevents legal battles.
Where to File the Papers
You will file your divorce complaint, as well as the other documents, with the Family Division court clerk’s office in the county where you lived when the ground for divorce happened. You are required to file the original, as well as two copies of the documents, but you should also have additional copies just in case. You will need to provide the clerk’s office with self-addressed stamped envelopes so they are able to give you a copy marked “filed.” You may also be able to file your documents electronically. You will have to pay a filing fee.
Serving Divorce Papers
Once you are given the copy of the filed documents then you will need to fill out the summons and prepare to serve your spouse. Typically, this is done by having a process server or sheriff hand-deliver them to your spouse at work or home. There is a fee for the service. Your spouse may also agree to accept service through an attorney or personally. If this is the case, be sure to get an Acknowledgement of Service.
After being served, your spouse will have 35 days to file an answer, an answer, and counterclaim, or an appearance. An appearance will typically be used if you and your spouse have solved your marital issues and have entered a marital settlement agreement, also known as a separation agreement. An answer responds to or contests what you have stated in your complaint. An answer and counterclaim respond to the claim and state a separate ground for divorce or any claims your spouse wants to make against you.
Early on in the case, both spouses will need to give detailed information about expenses, assets, liabilities, and income. Both of you will need to complete the right Family Part Case Information State. This document will need to be filed with the court within 20 days of an appearance or answer. In this document, you will be required to give a lot of detail about your assets and income. It helps to gather as much of the information in advance since it’s an important part of the process and you need to be as thorough as you can. You also need to be completely honest. If a spouse fails to disclose any debts or assets, there can be penalties in the case, such as a fine or even possible jail time.
Even though you are able to go through this process on your own, it may not always be the best idea. It’s typically only advisable to go through it alone if you don’t have any children, very few assets, or an uncontested case. If you have significant assets or custody issues, you are better off hiring a lawyer since divorce laws can be complex. You will have to live with the results of the case for the rest of your life so if you make a mistake, you might not be able to correct it.