Divorce in New Jersey, Part 1
In cases of adultery, residency requirements very liberal
Attorney useful even in uncontested proceedings
Experts and legal authorities advise both parties in a contemplated divorce to retain legal counsel, for at least an initial consultation to make clear their legal rights and risks. Even in an uncontested divorce in which both parties agree, experts say that--at least--the one who files the papers should have an attorney in order to ensure the filing is legal and the eventual decree enforceable. (Some terminology: in some states, the spouse who files the civil lawsuit seeking to end the marriage is called the Petitioner, because what is filed is a legal document called a petition; the petition is filed against, and served upon, the Respondent. In other states, the Plaintiff files a complaint against the Defendant.)
Another thing to consider is professional counseling; many who go through divorce (or dissolution of marriage) report pain and grief equivalent to that of a death in the family. Even when both parties recognize the relationship has run its course, the emotional upheaval can be traumatic. A compatible, experienced attorney can help with appropriate referrals.
Urgently addressing domestic violence
Furthermore, authorities and family law experts say that if the relationship includes domestic violence, it must be addressed immediately. An appropriate attorney can be invaluable, helping not only with restraining/protective orders but also in referrals to counseling and securing emergency shelter (or an escape plan).
Domestic violence resources
Residents of the Garden State also have a number of agencies and facilities that can help with domestic violence, including these online resources:
- Domestic Violence Programs, by county;
- New Jersey Courts;
- New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women;
- A.A.R.D.V.A.R.C's page, New Jersey: Domestic Violence Resources;
- State bar foundation's .pdf document, "Domestic Violence: The Law and You";
- In the news--
- "New Jersey bill seeks to expand domestic-violence restraining orders to protect animals," (important because some victims hesitate to leave without shelter for a pet, for fear that the abuser may injure the pet);
- "Agencies, Survivors Mark October As Domestic Violence Awareness Month."
Residency requirements and grounds for divorce
Except for one fault-based scenario (adultery), New Jersey requires at least one spouse to have been a resident of the state for at least one year. That being the case, all grounds for divorce are available. An exception to that residency requirement is when the grounds for divorce are adultery; in that case, the only requirement is that one spouse is currently a resident (and, presumably, intends to remain a resident).
All states have finally incorporated some form of no-fault divorce, although some are more liberal than others. New Jersey used to have only one form, based on separation, in which the couple has lived apart (not even sharing a house, with no sex, but in separate residences) for 18 months and no expectation of reconciliation. Subsequently, a new law passed requiring only irreconcilable differences that have caused a breakdown in the relationship, persisting at least six months and no hope for reconciliation. Separate residency is not required. If the marriage has few assets, no children and both parties agree, an uncontested divorce citing irreconcilable differences may well be the simplest way to end a marriage.
Next time, Part 2: More grounds, the courts, and more.
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