If you are planning to file for divorce in New Jersey, regardless of whether you hire a lawyer or handle the matter yourself, it helps to have a basic understanding of how the divorce process works. This article provides general information about how to file for divorce in New Jersey.
Grounds for Divorce
New Jersey permits “no-fault” divorces on the grounds of 18 months of separation or irreconcilable differences. New Jersey law also permits “fault” divorces on a number of different grounds.
In order to file for divorce in New Jersey, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least 12 consecutive months, with an exception for those filing for divorce on the grounds of adultery.
Filing the Complaint
The spouse who initially files for divorce is referred to as the “plaintiff”, and the spouse who is served with divorce papers is referred to as the “defendant” in a divorce proceeding.
While most people file for divorce with the Family Law Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in the county where they reside, you may file for divorce in the county where the cause for the divorce occurred, even if you no longer live there.
The legal document that is submitted to the court which starts the divorce process is called the “Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution”. In addition to the Complaint, you must also submit to the court the following.
- Filing Fee – As of January 2018, the filing fee for filing for divorce is $300.00.
- Letter to the Court – The letter must state that you are filing for divorce and you have enclosed the filing fee or you want a waiver from paying the fee.
- Certification of Insurance – This is a list any life, auto, health and homeowners insurance policies.
- Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution – This notice states that you are aware that you can go to mediation.
- Family Part Case Information Statement – This statement details your income assets and debts.
- Confidential Litigant Information Sheet – This is only for the court to use for the sole purposes of establishing, modifying, and enforcing support orders.
The court will require one original and two copies of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution and all other required documents, check for the filing fee. Be sure to include along a self-addressed stamped envelope so you or your lawyer can be sent a copy of the paperwork stamped “filed” along with a docket number.
Serving the Divorce Complaint
Once the court mails back a filed copy of the Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution, one copy of the filed Complaint along with a Summons and attached Proof of Service needs to be served upon your spouse.
New Jersey law requires the defendant in a divorce proceeding must be served with a copy of the divorce paperwork by one of the following methods.
- County Sheriff in the county where the defendant lives or works
This method requires a fee and two copies of the Summons, Proof of Service and Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution to be sent to the Sheriff.
- Private Process Server
Companies that specialize in serving legal paperwork to defendants also require a fee and two copies of the Summons, Proof of Service and Complaint for Divorce/Dissolution.
- Certified Mail (Restricted Delivery/Return Receipt Requested)
This method requires a cooperative defendant spouse to sign a notarized Acknowledgement of Service form and mail it back in a self-addressed stamped envelope for you or your lawyer to submit to the court as proof of service.
- Defendant Spouse’s Divorce Lawyer
This method requires a cooperative defendant spouse that has already retained a lawyer to sign an Acknowledgement of Service form and mail it back in a self-addressed stamped envelope for you or your lawyer to submit to the court as proof of service.
Your spouse has 35 days after receipt of the divorce paperwork to respond. If your spouse chooses to not file an Answer, Appearance or Counterclaim within the required time frame, provided that the court has not granted an extension, you may petition the court for a default divorce judgement in your favor.
If you and your spouse do not have any disagreements over child custody and support, division of marital property or alimony, and your spouse either agrees to the divorce, or fails to respond or make an appearance in the divorce proceeding, the divorce is considered “uncontested”.
Uncontested divorces are quicker, easier and cheaper than contested divorces. There are a variety of online companies that specialize in helping people file uncontested divorces.
Find Legal Help
If you need more information about filing for divorce, the New Jersey Courts website provides self-help resources and forms for the public.
Additionally, Legal Services of New Jersey offers very comprehensive online resources that can help people who are filing for divorce themselves, including a Divorce in New Jersey Self-Help Guide with Forms for $25.
The information on this website is intended as general legal information only and should not form the basis of legal advice of any kind. Individuals seeking specific legal advice should consult a lawyer.