The Divorce Roadmap
Get help from knowledgeable family law attorneys
The dissolution of a marriage involves critical decisions about your future, the welfare of your children, and the equitable division of your assets and liabilities. The attorneys at Jeffrey Thomas Massaro, Counsellor-at-Law are experienced in divorce law. We consider all aspects of your divorce case to develop the best possible solutions regarding:
- Distribution of personal property, bank accounts, stocks and other assets
- Division of marital debts
- Sale or possession of the marital home
- Spousal support, including temporary maintenance
- Child custody and visitation rights
- Child support
divorce process overview
The divorce process in New Jersey can appear to be a daunting endeavor, and while it is far from a "walk in the park," hiring competent and caring counsel will make the experience manageable and tolerable. Typically, divorce is not something that is planned, and so clients are often both unsure and nervous about the road ahead. The following is a divorce roadmap to provide an overview of the divorce process, from start to finish.
A divorce starts after one or both of the spouses come to the realization that the marriage must be dissolved. To begin, one of the spouses will file and serve a Complaint for Divorce which seeks relief from the bonds of marriage. One or more grounds for divorce must be plead to substantiate the Complaint. Historically, specific grounds such as adultery or extreme cruelty were required to obtain a divorce. However, in 2007, New Jersey joined other states in recognizing the ground of irreconcilable differences, which is another term for a "no fault" divorce. Once the Complaint is filed and served upon the other spouse, an Answer must be filed and served within the time prescribed by the rules of the court so to prevent a default judgment of divorce being entered. Other documents are required to be filed by each party along with their respective Complaint or Answer, such as an Affidavit of Insurance Coverage, a Confidential Litigant Information Sheet and a Case Information Statement.
Once a docket number has been assigned to the divorce case, the court will conduct an initial Case Management Conference. This conference is attended by the attorneys and should also be attended by the parties. This is an opportunity for the parties and the Judge to meet each other and get a feel for how the Judge expects the litigation to proceed. It is during this initial conference that the issues will be determined, the need for experts and other professionals will be requested, and deadlines for the exchange of discovery documents will be set. The result of the initial Case Management Conference will result in a scheduling Order entered by the Judge. Subsequent Case Management Conferences will be conducted as the litigation proceeds.
Divorce litigation can be lengthy and interim relief may be needed by a dependent spouse. Such can be granted following a pendente lite application filed with the court by the dependent spouse for issues such as spousal maintenance, child support and other non-financial matters. Such relief is temporary, pending final resolution of the divorce. For more information on pendente lite relief, visit this website's alimony page.
Soon after the initial Case Management Conference, the parties will begin accumulating documents that have been requested by the other spouse, known as a Request for the Production of Documents, and answering questions propounded by the other spouse, known as Interrogatories. Typical documents that are requested concern financial documents (tax returns, bank statements) and documents related to assets and other holdings (deeds, lease agreements.) Generally, Interrogatories include questions about wages and earnings, the ground or grounds for divorce as plead in the Complaint, education and training, and transactions that have occurred during the term of the marriage. Should these two discovery methods cause the need for further discovery, subpoenas may be issued to obtain additional information, and depositions may be scheduled to obtain testimony from the other spouse, all of which may be used later in the litigation.
Parenting Mediation, Early Settlement Panel and Economic Mediation
If issues of child custody are present, the Judge may order the parties
to attempt parenting time mediation. This is a free service that
provides the parties with an opportunity to discuss the parenting issues
and concerns before a qualified representative of the court. The
mediation is conducted without the presence of the parties' attorneys.
At the conclusion of the mediation, a Proposed Parenting Time Agreement
will be offered. While it is non-binding, the parties can have the
Agreement reviewed by their respective attorneys, and if mutually
acceptable, can become adopted and serve to settle the child custody
portion of the divorce litigation. For more information about child custody, click here.
With respect to settlement of the divorce at large, it is advisable that the parties and their counsel initiate settlement discussions and negotiations at the earliest stage of the divorce proceedings. Should the litigation proceed without unassisted settlement, the Judge will require the parties to attend an Early Settlement Panel. This service provides the parties and their attorneys with the opportunity to present the issues before a panel of qualified matrimonial attorneys that will recommend a resolution. Mutual acceptance and adoption of the Panel's recommendation will serve to settle the divorce and have Final Judgment issued soon thereafter.
If the issues cannot be resolved at the Early Settlement Panel, the Judge will require that the parties select an economic mediator to aid in settlement. Should the parties still be unable to reach a settlement agreement, the Judge may request an all-day settlement conference as one last effort to reach settlement prior to proceeding with a trial.
The Final Stage - Trial
Should the settlement attempts outlined above prove unproductive, the divorce will be decided by the Judge after a trial. If a divorce is dissolved by way of trial, it typically reaches this stage within one year of the Complaint being filed. Trials can last as short as one day or as long as several weeks, depending on the number of issues before the court. During the trial, each party will have the opportunity to present testimony, experts, witnesses, and evidence in support of their position and the relief sought. The decision of the trial Judge will be final, pending any resulting appeal.
Skilled family law litigators
Through tactical settlement and trial strategies, and our professional courtroom presence, our skilled litigators successfully represent clients throughout the adversarial divorce process. We are prepared to handle the complex aspects of your divorce methodically to obtain the most favorable outcome.
Contact a family law attorney today
Call Jeffrey Thomas Massaro, Counsellor-at-Law at (201) 880-8989 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney.