How to File for Divorce in New Jersey
By Beverly Bird
In 2007, the New Jersey legislature took steps to simplify the divorce process, but the state still has a slate of mandatory requirements for filing. If you have children, you’ll have to take at least one additional step. Otherwise, the process is relatively straightforward and Family Court personnel can usually supply you with the documents you need.
Establish residency. If you’re filing for divorce on any ground other than adultery, you must live in New Jersey for twelve consecutive months before you file. If your divorce ground is adultery, you must only be a resident at the time you file.
Decide what ground you’re going to file on. As of 2007, New Jersey allows you to file for divorce due to irreconcilable differences. If you use this ground, you only need to state in your complaint that your marriage has been “broken” for six months or more. This is usually the easiest way to proceed unless something occurred between you, such as abuse, that might affect the court's custody decision. In that case, you can file on grounds of extreme cruelty, which is a catch-all category that allows you to list in your complaint actions that your spouse took to hurt you or your children.
Obtain a form for a complaint for divorce from the Family Court clerk in your county. Complete the form, specifying the ground you’ve chosen to file on and the names, addresses and other identifying information of you, your spouse and your children. At the end of the complaint form, list what you want from the divorce, such as custody, spousal support, child support and property division. It’s generally a good idea to list anything you think you might want. You can always change your mind later and decline something, but you’d have to submit an amended complaint for divorce to add things later.
Ask the court clerk for forms for a “Confidential Litigant Information Sheet” and a “Certificate of Insurance Coverage.” You must file these along with your complaint. The former is a one-page form that asks for some basic background information regarding your marriage. The latter requires policy numbers and details for all insurance policies you and your family have in place.
Take your original completed documents and one extra copy to the civil courthouse in the county where you lived when you were married. File them with the Dissolution Intake unit of Family Court and pay the filing fee. The clerk will keep your original documents and stamp your copies as filed, then return them to you so you can have them served on your spouse.
New Jersey also offers several other grounds for divorce if adultery, irreconcilable differences or extreme cruelty don’t apply to your situation. You can file for a no-fault divorce, if you’ve lived separate and apart for 18 months or more, or on grounds of desertion, deviant sexual conduct, imprisonment, addiction or mental illness on the part of your spouse, if it requires institutionalization.
If you have children, you must pay a small additional filing fee when you file your complaint. New Jersey law requires that you attend a parenting workshop designed to help you reach a custody agreement with your spouse. The extra fee covers your registration for this class.
Beverly Bird has been writing professionally since 1983. She is the author of several novels including the bestselling "Comes the Rain" and "With Every Breath." Bird also has extensive experience as a paralegal, primarily in the areas of divorce and family law, bankruptcy and estate law. She covers many legal topics in her articles.