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The New Jersey Divorce Process

"Are You Thinking About Getting A Divorce? If so, then you have come to the right place.

The first step (and the most important step) in the NJ Divorce process is to examine the issue of whether you really do wish to go forward with a divorce or whether there might be other more useful options to you at this point in time. I will help you decide if divorce is really the right option for you or if there might be other options that might be more suited to you, such as marriage counseling or a trial separation.

Should you decide to pursue a divorce, then I will carefully and thoroughly help you understand what is involved.

During your initial office consultation with me, all issues involving children, finances, assets, retirement accounts, violence in the marriage, and anything else that may be going on in your particular situation will be discussed.

When you meet privately with me, that consultation is completely confidential.

Sometimes people are ready to start the divorce process when they initially come to see me. Other times, they are just gaining background information and I don't hear from them again for months or even years.

Once someone tells me that they are actually ready to begin the divorce process, we usually start with another meeting. During that meeting, we will discuss whether to file for divorce immediately or whether it might be better to reach out to the spouse to begin negotiations first.

We will also discuss whether there are any immediate concerns, whether they be financial, child related, or domestic violence related. We may discuss whether there is a need for immediate court assistance with any particular issues.

If you decide to file for divorce immediately, we will prepare a divorce complaint. There are more than a half a dozen grounds for divorce New Jersey but in my experience since the law was modified in 2007 to allow for the filing of divorce based upon "irreconcilable differences", most people choose to file on those grounds. This can help to minimize the often needless pain and offense taken by the other side, yet obtain the same ultimate relief for you: a divorce.

There is a filing fee of $325 if you have children and $300 if there are no children, and certain other documents that must be prepared to accompany the complaint for divorce.

Whether we file for divorce or immediately or not, we almost always send a letter to the other spouse advising the spouse that my office has been retained to represent your interests. I usually try to send a gentle first letter, as emotions are usually raw enough at this point and the receiving spouse generally understands that this is a serious situation, without the need for me to inflame things with an offensive letter.

The goal of the initial letter is to notify the other spouse that we have been retained, to ask that spouse to have their lawyer contact us, and to make it clear that we intend to be fair with that spouse and that we hope for that spouse to be fair with us as well. This can often help to keep the costs and emotions low during what could otherwise be a very difficult time.

Whether to file for divorce immediately or not depends upon the particular facts of your case. Sometimes we need to get into court quickly and without filing for divorce, there is no easy way to do that. Other times, though, it may be better to negotiate in an effort to reach an amicable settlement first. Filing for divorce would not be advisable quite yet in those circumstances.

If we decide not to file immediately, then negotiations often begin.

Before we can begin serious negotiations, though, I really need to understand all of the dimensions of your case, most importantly, the financial dimensions (unless, of course, there are emergent child related issues, which of course would always take precedence.)

To achieve that goal, one of my paralegals and I will fill out a Case Information Statement with you. The Case information Statement (also known as a "CIS") is really the financial "backbone" of the case. It is very important to be as accurate as you can be when completing the Case Information Statement because many of the decisions that are made during the case, both by you and by the Court, will be based upon the content of the Case Information Statement. There is a form for the Case Information Statement available through the state of New Jersey that this link will take you to.

I am often asked, "how long will it take for my divorce to end? " That is not always an easy question to answer. That question is almost as impossible to answer as the question "how much does it cost to purchase a car?" Well, the answer to that question depends upon what kind of car, doesn't it?

Similarly, the answer to the question of how long it will take for you to obtain a divorce will often depend upon a number of factors.

For example, are you or your spouse the owner of a business? If so, it will have to be valued and perhaps an evaluation of exactly how much income is produced by that business may have to be undertaken.

How difficult or cooperative do we expect your spouse to be? How difficult or how cooperative will you be with the process?

Will the lawyer chosen by your spouse be reasonable or unreasonable to deal with?

Who is the Judge assigned to your case, and how does that particular Judge handle the various hearings and related Court events that typically occur in a divorce case?

These and many other questions all play a role in answering the question "how long will it take for my divorce to be completed?"

In a perfect world, a divorce would be linear, meaning that it starts at point A and progresses straight ahead to point B, where the divorce occurs.

But most divorces are not "linear" in nature, but more resemble a jagged line getting from point A to point B.

Along the jagged line are various event dates.

For example, if you need help from a Judge, we would file a motion. A "motion" is a formal set of papers that we would design and prepare to request the specific help that you require in your particular situation from a Judge.

There are conferences set up by the Court to help move the case along.

Ultimately, if we settle all outstanding issues, I will draft a "Matrimonial Settlement Agreement" which will resolve all issues of custody, parenting time, child support, alimony, property distribution, and any and all other issues. That document will ultimately be incorporated into a judgment of divorce that will be signed by the Judge at your uncontested divorce hearing.

However, if we are unable to settle the issues in your case, then ultimately there might have to be a trial by a Judge. In this situation, the Judge will determine all issues in dispute between you and your spouse.

As an alternative to a trial, people are turning more and more to the concepts of "divorce arbitration" or "divorce mediation." In arbitration, you and your spouse, through counsel, hire another lawyer to serve as the "arbitrator", essentially a private judge. This can be a very effective way to have a third-party determine the issues in dispute between you and your spouse. Going to Court for trial is costly and takes a tremendous amount of time. Arbitration can be less costly because at trial, a tremendous amount of time is spent waiting around for your case to get reached, whereas at an arbitration, it is just your case before the arbitrator, and this is often a much more efficient proceeding, even though you are paying a third professional (i.e., the arbitrator).

I would be happy to discuss the particular facts of your case with you. Please feel free to call me at 732-845-9010, or to email me."

--Steve Kaplan

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Law Offices of Steven J. Kaplan
Monmouth County Divorce Attorney
Located at: 5 Professional Circle,
Suite 204,

Colts Neck, NJ 07722
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Phone: (732) 845-9010
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.