While New Jersey has the lowest divorce rate in the country, it does not mean that divorces are easy in the state. Some spouses deliberately make it hard for the other spouse by saying no to everything divorce-related. However, New Jersey has laws to prevent one spouse from taking away the other’s right to get a divorce.
There is nothing that can force you to remain married to someone if you do not want to stay in the union. While the best-case scenario is that the two spouses will mutually negotiate a divorce agreement, you have options if the other spouse simply refuses to talk about a divorce. The law does not bind you to the marriage forever if that is not your wish.
For various reasons, some people just will not agree to a divorce. They might think that saying no gives them some element of power. New Jersey laws do not buy into that narrative. There is always a way out if you want it, although a mutual agreement is generally the best way.
In some cases, you may have had divorce negotiations with the other spouse, only for them to be recalcitrant. They may simply refuse to agree to anything, no matter how much you try to compromise. There is a limit on how you need to or should even try to come to an agreement. While you have certainly acted admirably in order to resolve your divorce case, you are running into a brick wall with your spouse.
Other spouses may view the decision to agree to a divorce as giving up control over the relationship. This is often a hallmark in abusive relationships that center on a power dynamic between the spouses. One party may threaten the other and tell them that they will never let the other leave.
New Jersey law does not keep you in a marriage when you do not want to stay, regardless of what your spouse thinks. In New Jersey, the law allows for a “no-fault” divorce. “Fault” essentially refers to a need to prove that your spouse did something wrong leading up to the divorce. This would include adultery or extreme cruelty.
You are able to file for a no-fault divorce in New Jersey and most people do and file based on irreconcilable differences which means you have had these differences for more than 6 months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
The one thing that you should not do is sacrifice or surrender any of your legal rights in exchange for getting the other spouse to agree to a divorce. You do not have to do that when the law entitles you to a divorce. There is a possibility that the other spouse could be playing games to get a better deal. In any event, you do not have to yield anything to them. Working with a family law attorney, you can get out of the marriage without having to make unreasonable concessions just to persuade the spouse to agree to a divorce.
The other spouse may try to threaten you about withholding their signature on the divorce paper trying to use it as leverage against you. You can have the confidence standing up for yourself knowing that the law protects you from this form of abuse. If the other spouse is being completely uncooperative, the law puts matters in the court’s hands. This means that your spouse does not have any veto power or the ability to keep you locked into a marriage to extract better terms.
At a certain point, if you are getting nowhere in your discussions with your spouse, you and your divorce lawyer will be faced with a decision. While a divorce hearing is an option, you should know that it will come at a cost. A family lawyer costs money, and a hearing takes time. However, you may need to put your case into the hands of a judge because your spouse has left you with no other choice. Your spouse may decide to participate in the process at that point, or they could continue to refuse to engage. However, if they respond to the court papers, you could be in for a protracted process.
If your spouse is summoned to appear in court, it is in their best interests to show up and have their voice heard. Otherwise, they could be subject to a default judgement, and the results may not be pleasant for them as the court order could rule on things such as property division and custody without them having their say. The judge would only be looking at paperwork and testimony that only you put in front of them, so the record may end up being pretty one-sided. In the end, the court can grant a divorce and decide all major issues even if your spouse never shows up or files one response to court papers.
There is nothing that says that the other spouse has to voluntarily agree to a divorce or negotiate terms with you. It is better for everyone, but some jilted spouses think that they are giving their ex-spouse satisfaction by negotiating with them. Nonetheless, you are better off if you are able to reach an agreement with your spouse and not have to go into court. You can discuss options for how best to accomplish this with your divorce attorney. Working together with your family law attorney, you may be able to find ways to increase the legal pressure on your spouse to make them want to talk. Otherwise, you would need to proceed through the courts. Nonetheless, your first choice would be to stay out of court, although that is not entirely under your control.
The best thing is to consult with a divorce lawyer when you first begin to consider ending your marriage. Contact a divorce attorney at the New Jersey firm of Lawrence Law at (908) 645-1000 to schedule your initial consultation. Our Red Bank and Watchung family lawyers are ready to assist you.
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