How to Divorce in New Jersey as Quickly as Possible
The average contested divorce in New Jersey takes between one and two years and costs quite a bit of money, whereas the average uncontested divorce takes three months and costs far less. However, a New Jersey divorce attorney might be able to help you finalize a divorce in as little as six to eight weeks and at an even lower cost. In order to fast-track your divorce in this manner, you generally need both spouses to be willing to agree on all of the divorce terms.
Divorce in New Jersey
There are two core types of divorce recognized by New Jersey law: no-fault divorces and at-fault divorces. In both types, at least one of the spouses has to have been a resident of New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months prior to the filing. A no-fault divorce generally requires the filing spouse to state that the couple has had irreconcilable differences for a period of at least six months. Irreconcilable differences is a rather broad term that means the couple cannot get along well enough to keep the marriage going, and it doesn’t require specific evidence the way other grounds do, such as adultery. However, adultery does not have this time limit. It is important that you speak with a divorce lawyer to determine if there are any benefits you can get from a divorce without fault. That said, it typically makes no difference in an environment in which the couple is collaborating and working toward the same goals.
A mediated divorce is a type of uncontested divorce and requires the least amount of time. The reason for this is that it limits the involvement of the court. A judge will need to sign off on the divorce agreement, but this is generally a formality that involves the judge ensuring that the terms are fair and that no one’s rights have been infringed upon. Divorce mediation is also the least expensive option involving a family lawyer because that lawyer doesn’t represent either party. Instead, the spouses negotiate with each other. The lawyer draws up and submits the initial divorce application, mediates that process, finalizes the divorce agreement and submits it to the Court.
Collaborative divorce is an alternative to divorce mediation that sometimes can be as fast but will generally take a bit longer. In this scenario, both spouses have their own divorce attorney who protects their interests, provides legal counsel and negotiates on their behalf. The two attorneys may negotiate with each other directly and often with the spouses present, but in some cases, there may be an independent third party who serves as a facilitator.
In many cases, other professionals play a role, including financial experts and child psychologists. Even when a divorcing couple is working together in a productive manner with the help of their respective family lawyers, a collaborative divorce may be appropriate if there are complex aspects to the agreement, such as:
- Child custody
- Child support
- Dividing a business
- Selling the family home
It’s rare for divorcing couples to agree on everything, even those who’ve maintained a healthy relationship despite the decision to end their marriage. Experts in amicable divorces suggest that effective collaboration is often a choice. It’s important to maintain a positive disposition and to accept that you aren’t going to get everything you want; you will need to make some concessions to your partner. It can also be quite helpful to attend therapy both as a couple and as individuals.
Divorce Therapy Can Ease the Process
Mental health professionals who specialize in divorce recommend going to therapy as soon as you consider splitting up. Even if you know there is no chance that you can reconcile the marriage, divorce is incredibly stressful, and therapy can help protect your mental and physical health. Individual therapy is an opportunity to focus on you, manage your stress and prepare you for life after marriage. Couples divorce counseling helps a divorcing couple deal with the complicated emotions that they’re experiencing and provides them the tools and other resources needed to get through their mediated or collaborative divorce as easily, quickly and affordably as possible.
Reaching Agreements With Your Spouse
Practically all divorcing couples will need to deal with the division of marital property and debts. The only exceptions are marriages dissolved after a very short period during which there was little opportunity for the lives to become intertwined. Be mindful that New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital assets must be divided equitably but not necessarily equally. It also helps to know that the state recognizes separate property to which a spouse has no claim. This can include property that a spouse entered the marriage with but also certain assets acquired while married, such as an inheritance. Couples with children will need to negotiate child custody, a co-parenting plan and, potentially, child support. Depending on the financial situation, you may also need to negotiate alimony.
Your divorce lawyer will assist you with these negotiations, but it can help to begin thinking about them right away. If you’re already collaborating, then you can discuss your wants and needs with each other. It also helps to think about these things by yourself. Some experts advise making two lists of prioritized needs and wants: one list is for determining what is most important to you, and another for listing what you think is important to your spouse.
Seek Other Professional Advice Relevant to Your Situation
As soon as you agree to separate or divorce, you should seek other professional advice depending on your situation. A tax consultant is a common example, as they can begin preparing your finances for untangling while limiting the tax penalties that may be associated it with. You may also want to consult with a real estate agent if you plan on selling the family home or because one or both of you will soon need a new place to live.
Have Realistic Expectations
Family law attorneys encourage their clients to enter the process with realistic expectations. Except in the case of some annulments, it’s very unusual for marriages to be dissolved officially within days or just a couple of weeks. It may take a week just to have the initial divorce documents prepared and submitted. It will then take some time for the papers to be served. You’ll then start mediation, and if everything goes smoothly with the negotiation, you could be looking at finalizing within the month.
Fast-Track Your Divorce
If you are considering divorce and want to complete the process as quickly and affordably as possible, Lawrence Law is here to assist you. We are a New Jersey family law firm that are experts in divorce cases, including mediated divorces, collaborative divorces and contested divorces that require arbitration or a trial. Our team is happy to meet with you to evaluate your case either as an individual or a couple. To schedule a consultation with a family law attorney at either our Red Bank office in Monmouth County or our Watchung office is Somerset Country, call us at 908-645-1000 or use the contact form on our website.