Filing for divorce can be a stressful and emotional process. Therefore, knowing how long you can expect your divorce case to take to become final can help you prepare. Many factors can determine how long it takes to finalize your divorce in New Jersey. For example, if you and your spouse do not agree about the important terms of your divorce -- including the division of assets and whether one spouse will receive spousal support -- it can lengthen the time it takes to finalize your divorce.
To file for divorce in New Jersey, you or your spouse must live in New Jersey for at least 12 months before filing for divorce. File the divorce complaint in the county where the grounds for your divorce arose. This is typically the county where you and your spouse last lived together in New Jersey.
You must select a ground, or reason, for your divorce. In New Jersey, there are two no-fault grounds for divorce: One is a no-fault divorce based upon 18 months of separation and the other is a no-fault divorce due to irreconcilable differences. Filing for a no-fault divorce means that neither spouse must prove that the other spouse is at fault for the divorce. In addition, there are 12 fault grounds for divorce in New Jersey, including desertion and extreme acts of cruelty. To file for divorce based upon a fault ground, you must provide evidence supporting the fault reason. For example, if you are asserting divorce based on desertion, you must prove that your spouse left you for at least 12 months against your wishes.
To complete the divorce complaint, you will need to list the grounds for your divorce and what relief you are seeking on the complaint. In addition to the complaint, several forms must be filed with the court. For example, you will need to sign a Certification of Verification and Non-Collusion, which asserts that the complaint is being submitted in good faith. Also, you will need to complete a Confidential Litigant Information Sheet if you are requesting child support or alimony in your divorce.
Service of Process
After you file the complaint, you must provide your spouse with a copy of the paperwork you filed, which is referred to as service of process. In New Jersey, you must serve your spouse within four months after you file for divorce or your case may be dismissed by the court. You can ask the sheriff to serve your spouse with the complaint and summons; the sheriff will provide you with proof of service once service is complete. After receiving a copy of the complaint and summons, your spouse has 35 days to file an answer to the complaint.
If you and your spouse agree to the grounds for divorce and have resolved all material issues concerning your divorce, the divorce can be completed in about three months. However, if you and your spouse do not agree and cannot reach a marital settlement agreement, the court may recommend that you two attend mediation or arbitration to resolve the issues. If mediation and arbitration are not successful, you may face a long court battle that can greatly prolong the length of time it will take the court to grant the divorce. Bifurcation, or granting the divorce and resolving other issues later, is rare and will be approved by a judge in only the most extraordinary of circumstances. However, in New Jersey, even if both spouses agree on all issues, the spouse who files for divorce must still attend a court hearing before the divorce will become final.