The divorce process can have significant, long-term effects on you, your finances, your extended family, your job and, if you have children, perhaps even your ability to choose where you live or travel without restrictions.
Unless the dissolution of your marriage will be uncontested and you’re relatively confident that you and your spouse will be able to agree to the division of marital property and custody/visitation for any children of the marriage, now is probably the time to look for a divorce attorney.
Whether you need a lawyer or not, there are some important things you should know before filing for divorce in Passaic County.
Grounds for Divorce
New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state. This means that courts are not concerned with who might be to blame for the divorce. If the legal requirements are met, a divorce will be granted and there will be no penalty or punishment assessed against the person perceived to be at fault (such as a spouse who commits adultery, for example).
If both parties agree to a no-fault (uncontested) divorce, the entire process can become incredibly simple.
However, even if the divorce is entirely uncontested, there must be a showing of one of the following reasons for filing for divorce in Passaic County:
- Adultery (otherwise known as infidelity).
- Extreme Cruelty. Any conduct or behavior by one’s spouse that endangers the life/health of the other or makes it unbearable for a spouse to remain in the marital home (can be either physical or emotional cruelty).
- Deviant sexual conduct without consent. What constitutes “deviant” sexual conduct has not been clearly defined in the State of New Jersey so a discussion with a lawyer would be warranted if you believe your marriage involves such circumstances.
- Abandonment or desertion. This occurs if one spouse willfully and continuously absents him or herself from the marriage for a minimum of 12 months. If the spouse returns home after 6 continuous months and then leaves again, the clock starts over, so to speak. The 12 months are not cumulative. They must be continuous.
- Separation. If you and your spouse live separate and apart for at least 18 continuous months and neither of you have any reasonable hope of reconciliation, separation can be the grounds for filing for divorce in Passaic County.
- Addiction/habitual drunkenness. If, for at least 12 continuous months prior to filing for divorce, either party has a narcotic/controlled substance dependency, is addicted to some other dangerous substance or has been habitually drunk, grounds for divorce exist.
- Institutionalization for mental illness. Confinement must be for at least 24 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce in Passaic County.
- Imprisonment. If your spouse is sentenced to jail for a period of at least 18 consecutive months prior to filing for divorce and you can demonstrate that you did not live with them after he/she was released from prison, you can file for divorce on the grounds of imprisonment.
- Irreconcilable differences. A term commonly used but rarely defined, it constitutes grounds for divorce if there has been a breakdown in the marriage because you and your spouse are simply unable to get along at even the most fundamental level for a period of at least 6 consecutive months and there is no reason to believe a reconciliation is possible.
Is there a residency requirement for divorce in Passaic County, NJ?
So long as you or your spouse have been resident in the State of New Jersey for no less than one year prior to commencing the action and reside in the county, the residency requirement for filing for divorce in Passaic County is considered met.
The lone exception to the one-year requirement is if a spouse seeks divorce on the grounds of adultery. In that case, any amount of time a spouse is resident in the state (and county) is enough.
How long can a divorce take?
New Jersey courts require that divorce proceedings take no longer than 12 months from the date of filing. While a court may make an exception for a particularly complex case, the general rule is that you can expect to be divorced within a year.
If both parties agree to a no-fault divorce and there is no dispute between the parties regarding property, maintenance, alimony, custody or child support, it may take as little as 2 months for a your divorce to become final.
Determining if Mediation Might be Right for You
Governed by the court system, mediation is actually the process preferred by the courts. If you anticipate that your divorce will be uncontested and that there are little, if any, grounds for dispute between the two of you regarding distribution of real estate and personal property, post-marital finances and parenting rights (custody and visitation), then mediation may be the avenue to pursue after filing for divorce in Passaic County.
There are benefits to taking part in a mediation, as the process is usually very straightforward and orderly. One of the most important ones being that the parties have greater control over the process. In essence, ground rules are essentially established among you, your spouse and the mediator rather than dictated by the court.
Mediation is intended to foster negotiation and conversation rather than confrontation, thereby increasing the opportunity for a speedy resolution relatively free from conflict once filing for divorce in Passaic County has been completed.
The process will, unless it goes sideways, be less expensive, as mediation requires minimal involvement by lawyers, which obviously results in lower legal fees. Mediation enables the parties to resolve multiple issues beyond simply getting divorced.
Mediation also provides an environment in which the parties can work to reach agreement on such matters as:
- Custody/visitation of any children of the marriage and related issues such as parenting plans, vacation and holiday scheduling and grandparent access to the children, etc.
- Child support including the agreement on responsibility for extraordinary expenses such as medical costs or education costs.
- LGBTQ relationship matters.
- Division of marital property and equitable distribution of such assets as artwork, jewelry, cars, boat, vacation property, etc.
There are, of course, other factors to consider before filing for divorce in Passaic County. It would be wise to review your particular circumstances with an experienced divorce attorney to ensure that any steps you take are in your best interests.