Fort Lee Divorce Process
Deciding to dissolve a marriage in New Jersey is an immensely consequential endeavor, often requiring the divorcing couple to exchange voluminous documentation. Understanding every step of the divorce process in advance can be vital to protecting yourself in the short term. It can also be vital in ensuring that the terms of your divorce agreement is legally enforceable and represents your best interests in the long term.
It is always a good idea to have guidance from a knowledgeable divorce lawyer while going through the Fort Lee divorce process. Our team at Moskowitz Law Group has extensive experience handling divorce cases across the state and we are ready to get to work for you.
Filing and Serving a Divorce Complaint
The divorce process in Fort Lee and throughout New Jersey begins with the completion and submission of the correct complaint form. This form is a sample form for no-fault divorces based on irreconcilable differences. There are several other forms that must be completed and submitted alongside this complaint, including a summons, Confidential Litigant Information Sheet, and various certifications addressing things like insurance coverage. Sample forms can be obtained from a local courthouse, or purchased in one kit along with instructions for completing them directly from Legal Services of New Jersey.
After completing all necessary forms, the person seeking divorce must file the packet and pay applicable filing fees with the Family Division court clerk’s office. The person must file the papers in the proper county. The proper county is determined by: (a) The county in which they were domiciled when the cause of action arose; (b) If they were not domiciled in this State when the cause of action arose, then in the county in which their spouse was domiciled when the cause of action arose; (c) If neither they nor their spouse were domiciled in this State when the cause of action arose, then in the county in which they were domiciled when the action is commenced: or (d) If they were not domiciled in this State, then in the county where their spouse is domiciled when service of process is made. They must also ensure that a copy of all submitted documents are served upon their spouse, which can be done using an attorney, process server, or through the sheriff’s office for a fee. For non-filing spouses who live outside of the state and/or are incarcerated or actively serving in the military, alternate options for serving divorce papers may be available that a divorce attorney can explain in more detail.
What Happens During Divorce in Fort Lee?
Once served with divorce papers, a non-filing party has a maximum of 35 days to respond to the petition. They have three options for how to do so:
- Through an “Answer” that simply responds to or contests certain claims within the complaint
- Through an “Answer and Counterclaim” which may include additional claims made against the filing party and/or other grounds for divorce alongside the Answer
- Through an “Appearance” that serves as a request for a hearing over issues like child custody or property distribution without contesting any part of the complaint
As part of the Fort Lee divorce process, both parties involved must make a full disclosure of all their personal assets, financial interests, and liabilities, to be submitted no later than 20 days after the non-filing spouse responds to the initial complaint. After this point, the length of the divorce process—as well as the specific procedures involved—may vary substantially depending on how efficiently the two parties can agree on various divorce-related matters.
If parties cannot resolve their divorce before additional procedures and court dates are scheduled, the Court will hold a case management conference to schedule deadlines for exchanging documents in a process called “discovery” and verification of account balances. The Court will also schedule deadlines for appraisals of real estate, businesses, personal property, pensions, or other assets of substantial value. The Court will also schedule deadlines for retaining any expert witnesses and producing expert reports. The Court will also schedule mandatory custody and parenting time mediation for couples with children and set deadlines for the couple to retain custody experts if they cannot resolve disputes regarding children. The Court will also schedule an early settlement panel (“ESP”). ESP is an opportunity for the couple to appear before a panel of neutral and unbiased family law attorneys that will provide recommendations as to how the parties may settle their case. If ESP does not result in a settlement, the Court requires the parties to attend post-ESP economic mediation where a neutral mediator will try to assist the couple in resolving the financial aspects of their case. If economic mediation does not work, the Court will schedule another case management conference to address any outstanding issues, such as expert witnesses and discovery. The Court will also schedule an intensive settlement conference (“ISC”). ISC is where the couple are required to spend an entire day at the courthouse or virtually attempting to resolve their case to avoid a trial. If ISC fails to result in a settlement, the Court will schedule and hold a trial so it can decide and rule on the issues in the divorce.
A Skilled Attorney Can Answer Your Questions About the Fort Lee Divorce Process
The Fort Lee divorce process is not something anyone should try to tackle alone, especially someone dealing with opposition of any kind from their spouse. A capable divorce lawyer can provide the custom-tailored support you need to achieve the positive resolution you want from this proceeding. Set up your free consultation today to get started.