Divorce Law Firm in Cherry Hill, NJ
Divorce can be a complicated process. While some couples can come to an agreement outside of court, many are not able to set aside their differences and negotiate terms of the divorce. All divorces, contested and uncontested, must address relevant marital issues. These issues can include alimony, the division of assets, child support, child custody, and more. Though some issues may already be resolved, even one contested issue can lead a couple to the courtroom. When divorce is on the horizon, it is best to know the road ahead. When experience matters, contact Underwood & Micklin.
New Jersey’s residency requirement
For a court to hear a divorce case, it must establish jurisdiction. The residency requirement differs by state. In New Jersey, a court has jurisdiction over a case if:
- One or both spouses are bona fide residents
- One or both parties have lived in the state for over 1 year
Grounds for divorce
New Jersey adopted “no-fault” grounds allowing people to get divorced without the obstacle of having to prove why they need one. Simply put, this change in law allows individuals to get divorced without being denied based on the objection of fault grounds. No-fault grounds in New Jersey include:
- Irreconcilable differences for at least 6 months
- Separation for at least 18 months
Though New Jersey allows for “no-fault” divorces, our state is not a pure “no-fault” divorce state, allowing an individual to cite fault grounds to start the divorce proceedings. These include:
- Extreme cruelty
Citing fault grounds is becoming less popular as the years pass because it opens the couple to legal problems before the divorce starts. When someone cites fault grounds, those grounds can be answered and contested. In addition, with the implementation of no-fault divorces, courts are less likely to take fault ground into consideration, focusing on the facts of the case, not why the couple is splitting.
The Complaint for Divorce
Once the residency requirement is satisfied and grounds are cited, an individual can execute and file a Complaint for Divorce. Once filed, the defendant must be served within 4 months. If the plaintiff cited fault grounds, the defendant may answer the Complaint. If done correctly, the process can begin.
Case Management Conference
At the start of the process, the parties will discuss the factors of the divorce in the Case Management Conference, introducing the judge to the case. Some of the items to discuss include contested marital issues, pre-trial discovery, a tentative trial date, and the practicality of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). The court will look into the possibility of expediting the process. If ADR is possible, it can save the couple and the state a lot of time and money. The judge will use his or her discretion based on the facts of the case thus far.
Early Settlement Panel
If appropriate to the case, the Early Settlement Panel (ESP) is comprised of a group of attorneys who volunteer their time with the goal of avoiding the emotional and financial effects of litigation. The panel will make a fair and just recommendation for the couple. The parties may accept that recommendation and get divorced under those terms or reject the recommendation and litigate the matter. ESP only discusses matters regarding finances and property.
The Final Judgment of Divorce
Whether a couple litigates the matter or dissolves their marriage through ADR, the court’s word is set out in the Final Judgment of Divorce. This document will include orders for all contested and uncontested issues. Once the document is executed, the couple is divorced.
Sometimes, divorce is not the end of a client’s legal matter. In some cases, a modification may be requested when a party faces unforeseen circumstances that are continuing and overwhelming. For example, if a party was to be ill and not able to work, they may request a modification. The legal standard is quite high, but if convinced, the court may change the order. Other times, when one person is victimized by the other’s disregard for the court’s ruling, he or she may request the court intervene and enforce the order. If there is evidence of a wanton disregard for the court’s order, it could lead to a contempt of court decision.
Contact our South Jersey Divorce Attorneys
Underwood & Micklin understands the impact divorce has on the individual and the family. The road may be bumpy, but it is manageable with the right guidance and representation. Our firm has over 20 years of experience helping clients through tough times. When it matters most, having a compassionate and effective legal team is in your best interest. Contact Underwood & Micklin for a consultation to discuss your legal matter and retain the legal support you deserve.