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How to File For Divorce in New Jersey

Known as a dissolution in New Jersey, divorce happens when the relationship between two individuals deteriorates, and the parties no longer wish to be married under state laws. The divorce rate stands at 5.7 per 1000 residents in the state, according to the United States Census Bureau. The family divisions of Superior courts and Chancery courts of the New Jersey Judiciary have jurisdiction over divorce proceedings and adjudication under the state’s family laws. Generally, a divorce in New Jersey takes three to six months, but the process may take several months for complicated cases.

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in New Jersey?

No. New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, i.e., intending divorcees need not provide any other information than irreconcilable differences. Nevertheless, a person may file for divorce based on nine other grounds enumerated in Section 2A:34–2 of the New Jersey Statutes Unannotated. Some of these include adultery, willful desertion, deviant sexual conduct, and extreme cruelty.

Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

Many legal processes are straightforward: requiring a simple form and adjudication. However, divorce is not as straightforward. There is always a chance that the proceedings will get complicated or involve complications that only a specialized attorney would notice. Further, it is not advisable to get legal advice from people without a legal background—even if those people have gone through a divorce—as divorce cases are not the same. Besides, this is a general guide for New Jersey as a state based on extensive legal research. Also, note that there are procedural differences in counties within New Jersey that are not obvious to self-represented litigants. Another reason to consider hiring an attorney is if the other party hires one. Divorce proceedings can be adversarial and unpredictable. If the defendant has an attorney, there is a likely chance that he/she intends to have the higher ground. While this is not a universal fact, the legal system for divorce is designed to produce a winner and a loser.  

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in New Jersey?

Before filing for divorce in New Jersey, the law requires that one or both spouses meet the state’s residency requirement for divorce. An intending divorcee or the defendant must have lived in New Jersey for no less than six months before filing a divorce proceeding with a court. Once the plaintiff or defendant meets the residency requirement, the standard divorce procedure in New Jersey is accomplished in these seven steps viz:

  • File the divorce complaint and other forms: This first step is not complicated, but it may be arduous for the intending divorcees who do not do research or make inquiries at the clerk’s office. Generally, the plaintiff must fill out a set of court forms regarding divorce. Some of these include the complaint for divorce, divorce summons, certification verification, and non-collusion, as well as certification of no-pending proceedings. A plaintiff should enquire about the forms relevant to his/her case at the office of the clerk—as some forms are not necessary for uncontested divorce filings. A checklist of all forms is provided in a later section of this article.
  • Pay the court fees: The statutory cost of a divorce filing in New Jersey is $300 (52:27D–43.24a). The court may charge fees for other required services, e.g., a $25 fee for a parenting workshop for plaintiffs seeking child custody. Fees are payable with cash, check, or money order addressed to the State of New Jersey.
  • Make Copies of all documents: A general rule of thumb is to make at least three (3) photocopies of all forms and documents filed in a divorce case. The judiciary strongly advises plaintiffs to redact all sensitive information and personal identifiers such as social security numbers, passport numbers, license numbers, and taxpayer identification number.
  • Submit the documents: Besides submitting the forms in person at the clerk’s office, New Jersey allows plaintiffs to upload forms via the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. Of course, the individual must pay filing fees when submitting the documents. If the plaintiff cannot afford filing fees, he/she may upload a fee waiver request form. The judiciary also allows plaintiffs to mail in the completed forms to the clerk’s office. Acceptable mail-ins must contain the original filings, two copies, and payment enclosed in a self-addressed stamped envelope.
  • Complete the Service of Process (SOP): Here, the plaintiff must serve a copy of all documents filed with the clerk of courts on the defendant within thirty (30) days. Usually, the Sheriff’s office completes the SOP for a fee; the office will also provide the plaintiff and the court with proof of service. Alternatively, the defendant may serve the papers in-person or hire a process service. The defendant must complete and submit an acknowledgment of service form as well as the receipt from the contracted server.
  • Mediation: In contested cases, the court typically requires both parties to attend mediation sessions to resolve disputes regarding child custody and support, alimony, or property division.
  • Schedule a Hearing Date: All the above done, the plaintiff must proceed to schedule a date and time of hearing on the court calendar at the office of the clerk. The defendant will receive a court summons to this effect. A court hearing is not necessary for spouses who agree on all divorce matters.

How to File for Divorce in New Jersey Without a Lawyer?

The process discussed above also applies to self-represented plaintiffs; contacting the clerk of courts for additional official resources and guidelines is advised. While New Jersey does not provide a divorce kit for self-represented plaintiffs, the self-help section is a useful resource (see additional information).. Meanwhile, the Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) also provides free systematic instructions for plaintiffs going pro se. Below is a checklist of forms that plaintiffs must submit in a divorce—self-represented or otherwise.

  • Complaint for Divorce
  • Summons
  • Confidential Litigant Information Sheet
  • Certification of Self-Represented Litigant
  • Certification Regarding Redaction of Personal Identifiers
  • Certification Verification and Non-collusion
  • Certification of No Pending Proceedings
  • Certification of Insurance Coverage
  • Family Part Case Information Statement

How Does New Jersey Divorce Mediation Work?

In mediation, a neutral party helps parties arrive at a mutual agreement on disputed matters before a court hearing. One can liken mediation to counseling, except that the mediator’s role is not to fix the marriage: the sole aim is to help couples find a middle ground for disputes. An advantage to using mediation is that it helps intending divorcees avoid a drawn-out divorce and cut legal fees. Nevertheless, the recommendations of a mediator are suggestions at best. It is not legally binding on the intending divorcees before the judge issues a final verdict.  

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in New Jersey?

It depends on how complicated the divorce is and the time taken for spouses to reach an agreement. Mediation may be over in a few sessions spanning days or take several weeks depending on how soon the couple can reach a middle ground on all or some disputes. When mediation fails, the case will eventually go to court, but the judge will have sole discretion in deciding the disputes.

Are Divorce Records Public in New Jersey?

Yes, divorce records are public documents under the New Jersey Open Public Records Act (OPRA). However, the court may remove a divorce record from the public domain if such a record contains confidential or sensitive information. Likewise, litigants may request the sealing of divorce records if the parties can demonstrate adverse consequences of the existence of the divorce record. Upon sealing, only authorized court personnel and individuals armed with a court order can access sealed records.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get New Jersey Divorce Records?

Divorce records are accessible to anyone who can provide the record custodian with the necessary information to accomplish a search and cover the cost of searching and reproducing the divorce record. To get a divorce record, submit a request at the court where the divorce was filed. The requester must provide the name of the parties involved, the docket number, and the name of the attorney. The dates of filing or finalization, as well as case number, are also useful information to help administrative staff find and retrieve records faster.

A few years after adjudication, New Jersey Superior Courts archive divorce records at the record center in Trenton. To get archived divorce records, the requester must provide the year of filing and the county of filing or the docket number.

For records still at the local court, in-person and mail requests are acceptable as far as the requester possesses the necessary details and pays the associated fees. Bear in mind the means of getting divorce records varies with jurisdiction, and a requester must contact the court for its record request policy. Most courts provide this information on their official website (find a court of interest).

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