When People think about divorce and think what will life be like after divorce? what will you do, how will the kids be? how do I tell the kids? What do I tell the kids? etc. When people come into my law office in Jersey City looking for a divorce attorney in Hudson, Essex or other counties in New Jersey and/or seek a virtual consultation to discuss a potential divorce or being served divorce papers, they wonder, what are the initial steps in a New Jersey divorce? While I try to bring some levity into the conversation I say, "I wish I knew!" All joking aside as a New Jersey Divorce Attorney, I go over the initial and early steps in a divorce case filed in family court or one that will be filed after an agreement is made. So I will go over some of the most common questions and initial stages of a divorce in New Jersey. Before I do go into those steps and questions, it is important to know that every divorce or child custody case I accept is handled differently in order to have the divorce done for the client based on the client's goals. If speed is the goal, then we handle the case in one matter if the case is complex, then we work on a different path. So now back to the questions and steps in New Jersey divorces, here we go:
Initial Steps in NJ Divorce Matters
- A divorce can be started by having negotiations that result in a marital/property settlement agreement or your lawyer can draft your divorce papers, file them, obtain a docket number and serve your spouse.
- Is there a benefit in negotiating first or filing first? When you file, you must meet certain protocols and deadlines that can be tough to meet and stressful to deal with.
- If you negotiate without filing, one side can drag on negotiations without a deadline causing further delays and frustration.
- While filing will force deadlines and protocols, deadlines and demands do make settlements happen faster at times because the Judge will demand certain aspects of the case and rules to be complied with. These requirements can be very time consuming and stressful at times to meet.
- So there is no easy answer as to file or not file first. I advise clients on a case by case basis as to filing or negotiating first. Some factors include: Does your spouse have an attorney? Have you spoken to your spouse about this? Have you verbally agreed to any terms? Is there another person involved with you or your spouse? Any new children on the way? I ask these questions from my experience in what can cause problems for our case in terms of settling it.
- When you do file, within a certain timeframe, you will be forced to exchange information (unless that is waived) and trying to settle the case (early settlement panel, etc).
- In many cases if you are trying to move on quickly or quicker, filing can be the way to go and then negotiate.
If you settle your case, we would need to make an agreement in writing. The settlement can cover what you want as the Judge does not get involved with agreements but only to make sure each party understands the terms and that nobody was forced to agree to it. The Judge does not judge the agreement and its overall fairness. So you can have three homes and if one party waives all three, that is permitted. What you can't do is say that one party will have custody of a child forever no matter what. Another term that you can add to the agreement is that no child support will be paid ever but that will not be enforceable as custody and support issues can change. The key is not fairness but enforceability.
In your divorce, you can elect to waive discovery or financial disclosures if you like. You can elect how you want certain things to be paid (alimony and or child support), you can elect when you want a property sold, how it will be divided and costs associated with same. Now if you do not agree, you will have to disclose income, assets, debts, etc by court order. Failure to do so can have your defense or case dismissed, you can be held in contempt, fined, jailed, etc.
So while this is a brief article, I hope it helps you understand that a divorce case is YOUR case. If handle the way you want, you can avoid much stress, annoyance and uncertainty. If it cannot be settled, you have to adhere to certain rules of court. Now if you have a divorce or family law case in New Jersey and seek a case strategy session and or begin, contact my team on (201) 228-9815.