A divorce proceeds according to state law in New Jersey. Starting the process requires first meeting a residency requirement and then attempting to resolve all economic and child-related issues between the spouses. If these matters cannot be resolved by mutual agreement, a judge will rule on the divorce issues based on a set of legal factors and guidelines that the New Jersey legislature has put in place.
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To obtain a divorce in New Jersey on grounds other than adultery, either spouse must have resided in the state for a minimum of one year before filing. New Jersey recognizes both fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. Fault grounds include adultery, extreme cruelty and desertion. The state also allows the no-fault ground that the marriage has broken down, provided that irreconcilable differences have persisted in the marriage for at least six months.
Judges in New Jersey will make custody decisions based on what is in the best interests of the child. The law provides for several factors to be considered, including the needs of the child, stability of both home environments and relationship between the parents and child. The state requires that parties to a divorce with minor children first attend a parent education program; the court may also require them to participate in custody mediation if it determines child custody or parenting time issues are genuine and substantial in the case. If, after attempts for agreement have failed, the parties will be required to go to trial where a judge will render a decision on the contested issues.
For child support, New Jersey uses the Income Shares Model. This model first combines the income of both parents, which corresponds to a total support obligation based on the number of children. The non-custodial parent is then responsible for the percentage of the support obligation that is in proportion to his income percentage of the combined income. For example, if the person ordered to pay support contributes $75,000 to a combined income of $100,000, he or she would be responsible for 75 percent of the total obligation.
Marital property is divided according to what is "fair" between the parties in New Jersey. This procedure is referred to as equitable distribution, and if spouses cannot agree, a judge will consider several factors, including the length of the marriage, standard of living during the marriage, and age and health of both spouses. Judges may also determine whether to award alimony, also known as spousal support, to one party. The award can be permanent or limited in duration and is determined based on the specific needs of the receiving spouse. For example, support might be limited to allow a spouse to pursue an education or reimburse a spouse who contributed to furthering the earning capacity of the other spouse. If parties cannot agree on these issues, the court may order that they attend a Matrimonial Early Settlement Program, which consists of a panel of volunteer attorneys who will review the case and make recommendations for settlement. If the parties still disagree, the court may order further mediation or the case may proceed to trial.