Navigating a divorce can be a stressful and frustrating experience that can feel even more so if you are not familiar with how the New Jersey Family Division operates. Divorce can be a long and intense process depending on the issues involved and how contentious the parties are. Knowing what to expect about the divorce process and how the Family Court operates can be helpful information for those going through a divorce.
Family law is any legal issue that arises in families or personal relationships between individuals. In New Jersey, the practice of family law is handled by the New Jersey Superior Court’s Family Division, and there is one located in every county of the state. The most common issues heard by the Family Division include:
- Divorce and post-divorce issues
- Child and spousal support
- Domestic violence and restraining orders
- Equitable division of property related to a divorce
- Child custody and parenting time
- Adoption and legal guardianships
- Paternity issues
- Filing a Complaint With The Family Division
If you seek a divorce, you will have to file a Complaint for Divorce with the Family Division located were the cause of action occurred or married parties reside. For example, if you and your spouse live in Morris County, then your Complaint for Divorce would be filed with the Morris County Superior Court’s Family Division. After filing a Complaint for Divorce, your spouse will file an Answer in response to your Complaint and possibly a counterclaim requesting a divorce as well. The party who files the Complaint for Divorce is known as the Plaintiff, and the party who files an Answer is known as the Defendant for the purpose of the proceedings.
Family Division Complaint For Divorce Steps To Follow
Next, the parties will meet with the judge assigned to their case to determine a case management order outlining the schedule for your divorce, when different documents are due, and when significant events will occur. Most of the critical deadlines will revolve around discovery, which is the process of the parties trying to “discover” facts relevant to what they are seeking in the divorce, whether it be information on pensions or the appraisals of joint property.
After discovery is complete, you and your spouse will partake in an Early Settlement Panel where two experienced family law attorneys will review your case and hear arguments from each party on how the case should be resolved. These panelists will give you feedback on how to resolve your matter and how they think a judge would rule if your case were to go to trial. If you and your spouse agree to the panelists’ recommendations and you can draft a settlement agreement, then your divorce can possibly be resolved at this point. If not, you will then be scheduled for economic mediation, where you will meet with a Court-appointed mediator who will attempt to help you resolve the outstanding issues of your case.
Throughout the divorce process, the parties can agree to meet and participate in a settlement conference. At a settlement conference, the parties can discuss the issues in their divorce and try to negotiate to agree on things such as how to divide property or structure parenting time. If the parties can come to an agreement, they can draft a property settlement agreement or marital settlement agreement, which sets forth the terms of the divorce as agreed upon. This agreement will be filed with the Court and incorporated into the parties’ Judgment for Divorce.
If the parties cannot agree through a settlement conference or in any of the steps mentioned above, their divorce will be scheduled for trial with the Court. A trial is where the parties will submit evidence and testimony to the judge in an attempt to prove their case. Evidence will be relevant to establishing the grounds for divorce and your legal claims. Trials can be long and expensive because the length of the trial will depend on the number of assets the parties have, the legal claims involved, or the experts and evidence needed to prove your claims.
Professional Guidance and Assistance
Throughout the entire divorce process, having the assistance of a family law attorney to guide you can be extremely helpful. If you are going through a divorce and need help navigating this process, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced family law attorneys of Dalena & Bosch to schedule a consultation and discuss your needs and goals.
This article was sponsored by Dalena & Bosh