A Guide to Filing for Divorce in New Jersey
Going through a divorce can be emotionally and financially challenging, especially if you’re not sure how the process works. Although each divorce comes with its own set of circumstances, there are many things that all New Jersey divorces have in common.
Having a better understanding of what those things are can give you greater confidence going forward and help you make better decisions to ease your concerns.
Here are some important things to know about filing for a divorce in New Jersey:
- Gather Your Important Information
- Decide on the type of divorce process
- Fill Out the Necessary Forms
- File Your Documents
- Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
- FAQs About Filing For Divorce in New Jersey
Gather important information
You can set the tone for how your divorce will proceed from the outset if you approach the task of gathering information the right way. Doing so can save you time, money and stress in the long haul.
You’ll also give yourself the best possible chance at the most favorable outcome if your documents and information are in order. Starting early and being organized are keys to successfully completing this task.
Decide what type of divorce process you want
Once you or your spouse has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.
Here are the most common types of divorce:
- Collaborative divorce
So which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weigh the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.
We put together a great guide on The Types of Divorce that dives deep into each of these options (and more). Be sure to check it out if you’re trying to decide which path is best for you.
Fill Out the Necessary Court Forms to Start the Divorce Process
You will need to complete several forms and submit them to start the divorce process. If you’re using an attorney, they will make sure you are using the right forms and that they are filled out correctly.
At a minimum, you will need to prepare a complaint, a summons and attached proof of service, a certification of insurance (listing all your current insurance coverages) and a certification of notification of complementary dispute resolution alternatives (acknowledging that you can attend mediation or arbitration).
You’ll also need to file a Family Case Information Statement detailing debts, custody, support and division of asset information and a Confidential Litigant Information Sheet.
Be sure to check with the Clerk of Courts where you live to make sure that you have all the forms you need prior to submitting them because rules and procedures can vary depending on the county where you live.
File Your Documents
New Jersey law requires that you file your paperwork in the county where you gave the reason for the divorce.
For example, if you claim adultery or cruelty, you must file paperwork in the county where those acts took place, even if you do not live there anymore.
If you claim separation, there the divorce must be filed where the plaintiff last lived at the end of the 18-month separation period. If you lived outside of New Jersey when your marriage began to fall apart, then you can file in the county where you now live.
To find the court for your county in New Jersey, go here.
When you file, you will also need to pay a filing fee that will vary from county to county and run between $100 to $350.
If children are involved, you will need to pay an additional $25 Parent Education fee to the court as well. A defendant who files a response will also need to pay a fee of $100 to $200.
There will also be an additional fee that will need to be paid to have the paperwork served on your spouse. This will also vary and will depend on the location of your spouse.
If you can’t afford these fees, you can request a waiver but you will need to show proof that you can’t afford to pay them. You will need to file a Certification/Petition/Application in Support of a Fee Waiver and attached financial records to this document. You will need to submit an Order Waiving Filing Fees as well.
Serving Your Spouse With Divorce Papers
After you receive a copy of the complaint that has been filed with the court, you must fill out a summons and proof of service form.
New Jersey law requires that a defendant be served with paperwork either by having a sheriff complete the services in the county where the defendant lives or works, or that the paperwork is delivered through the mail, using certified mail, restricted delivery with return receipt requested. The defendant will need to sign for the complaint, providing proof that service has been completed.
If a spouse now lives out of state, contact the sheriff’s department where the defendant lives and they will work with you to complete proof of service.
When you receive proof of service, mail proof to the courts and keep a copy for your records. Until proof of service has been completed by any of these means, a divorce complaint cannot move forward.
After the paperwork has been served, the defendant has 35 days to either file an appearance to object to some of what the plaintiff is asking for, file an answer to either agree or disagree with statements in the complaint, or file a counterclaim to state new reasons for the divorce.
Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in New Jersey
How much does it cost to file for a divorce in New Jersey?
When you file for divorce in New Jersey, you will also need to pay a filing fee that will vary from county to county and run between $100 to $350. If children are involved, you will need to pay an additional $25 Parent Education fee to the court as well.
A defendant who files a response will also need to pay a fee of $100 to $200. There will be an additional fee that will need to be paid to have the paperwork served on your spouse. This will also vary and will depend on the location of your spouse and the method that you choose for service.
Can divorce fees be waived in New Jersey?
If you can’t afford to pay filing fees, you can request a waiver but you’ll need to show proof that you can’t afford to pay them. To request a waiver, file a Certification/Petition/Application in Support of a Fee Waiver and attach financial records to this document. You will also need to submit an Order Waiving Filing Fees as well.
Can I file for a divorce online in New Jersey?
Yes! As a matter of fact, filing for divorce online in New Jersey can be a great way to save time and money.
Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It doesn’t work if you have a contested divorce (you can’t reach agreements with your spouse and need a judge to make decisions).
If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s simply too much on the line to cut corners.
But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself.
I won’t sugarcoat it. The legal system is confusing. There’s a ton of paperwork and mistakes can be costly.
Fortunately, there are tools that can help. That’s where 3StepDivorce comes in. 3StepDivorce makes it easy to complete all your New Jersey divorce papers and gives you clear step-by-step filing instructions. All you need to do is answer a series of questions, which shouldn’t take more than an hour.
Not all online divorce companies are created equal. In fact, most fail to deliver on their promises. Here’s how 3StepDivorce stands out:
- A+ rating with the BBB
- 100% court approval guarantee or your money back
- Established in 1997 with over 750,000 customers
- Private and secure
- $299 flat-fee with no hidden charges
- Flexible monthly payment options (get started for as little as $84)
- Unlimited live support by phone and email
- Print your completed forms immediately or have them mailed to you at no additional cost
- Excellent customer reviews (4.6 stars on Trustpilot)
One of the things that really stands out to me is that only 4% of all reviews are 1- or 2-stars. In other words, virtually everyone has a good experience with 3StepDivorce. While their site feels a bit dated, it doesn’t hurt the user experience.
Read our full 3StepDivorce review, or check out 3 Step Divorce to get started for as little as $84 >>
For a complete comparison, read our review of the best online divorce services.
How long does it take to get a divorce in New Jersey?
Courts have mandated in New Jersey that no divorce should take longer than 12 months from the date the Complaint for Divorce is first filed at a clerk’s office. There are some exceptions if a divorce is complex but this is usually not the case.
In an uncontested divorce, the entire process may be completed in as little as 45 days from start to finish. This assumes that you have met the waiting period requirements based on the acceptable grounds for divorce that you state in the complaint. For example, if you are claiming separation, you must have been separated for at least 18 months prior to filing.
When citing irreconcilable differences, both parties must state that the marriage has been in a state of disrepair for at least six months and that there is no hope for a fix. When citing irreconcilable differences, the length of time after a complaint is filed is about two months, assuming there are no outstanding issues.
What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in New Jersey?
To file for a divorce in New Jersey, at least one of the spouses must have lived in the state for a minimum of 12 months prior to filing initial paperwork.
Can I file for divorce in New Jersey without using a lawyer?
You can file for divorce in New Jersey without using a lawyer as long as you meet certain requirements, including an agreement to file an uncontested divorce. In this case, the process of filing an uncontested, no-fault divorce is fairly simple.
An uncontested divorce in New Jersey is also sometimes referred to as a Simple Agreed Divorce or an Amicable Divorce. Filing an uncontested divorce is less stressful, saves time and saves money because there is no trial in front of a judge.
When spouses can agree on all terms, all that is required is for a judge to review the terms and sign an order called a Final Judgment of Divorce that officially dissolves the marriage.
Another way to go through a divorce is by using the services of a mediator, as long as both you and your spouse agree on this option.
Over the course of one or more sessions, a mediator will review financial documents, forms and worksheets as part of a discovery process and then guide you and your spouse through a series of discussions about the outstanding issues, attempting to peacefully resolve things such as child support and custody, alimony and a division of assets.
Once these issues are resolved, a mediator will draft a Memorandum of Understanding and you will file this document with the court as part of your divorce process.
Can I get a divorce in New Jersey if I am pregnant?
If a spouse is pregnant this does not present any kind of barrier for either party to file for a divorce in New Jersey.
If the child is a product of the marriage, it will not be treated any differently than any children who were born before a separation or divorce took place. There will still be custody and support issues to resolve and the father could also be ordered to pay some or all of the pre-natal and birthing expenses.
If the child is a result of the wife’s infidelity, it is presumed by law that the husband is still the father of that child. If there is reason to believe that this is not the case, then the biological father must take steps to make sure he does not end up as the legal father permanently. This can be accomplished through genetic testing as well as other legal actions.
How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in New Jersey?
If you or your spouse are a member of the military and want to get a divorce in New Jersey, the state will allow the member of the military or their spouse to file for divorce in the state, even if they are not residents. The service member or their spouse can also choose to file in the state where the spouse resides or in the state where the service member claims legal residency.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty.
A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested. They may also choose to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments.
Normal equitable property division laws apply for a military divorce in New Jersey, but the federal government also protects military personnel through the Uniformed Services Former Spouses Protection Act that governs how military benefits are calculated when a divorce takes place. Federal laws will not allow a military member’s retirement to be distributed to a spouse unless the couple has been married for 10 years or more while the service member was on active duty.
Child support and spousal support are determined by New Jersey state guidelines, but federal law dictates that child and spousal support awards may not exceed 60% of a servicemembers pay and allowances.
Former military spouses may be eligible to continue their medical coverage if the marriage lasted for 20 years, and the military spouse served for at least 20 years (the marriage and military service must overlap by at least 20 years), the former spouse does not have medical coverage under an employer-sponsored health plan, and the former spouse has not remarried.
Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite resources:
- How to File for Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce
- What Are The Types of Divorce
- How Should I Prepare for Divorce