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So, you’ve made the decision to get a divorce. What next?

No matter the couple, and your specific circumstances, one thing is almost always guaranteed this can be an emotional process. You might be feeling in a rush to just get it over with, but take a deep breath. Your marriage didn’t end overnight, and it takes time to work out dividing any assets and debts you have accumulated over the course of your marriage. If you have children, it is especially important to ensure you are doing what is best for them, and not making decisions out of anger, hurt feelings, or just wanting to get the divorce over with.

What’s the first step? The initial pleading is the Divorce Complaint. There was a time, not too long ago, in New Jersey, where you had to allege one of the following Causes of Action, i.e. adultery, desertion lasting one year, extreme cruelty, 18-month separation, addiction for one year or more, institutionalization for 2 years, imprisonment for 18 months, and deviant sexual conduct.

Fortunately, in 2007 New Jersey enacted a No-Fault Divorce Statute. Irreconcilable Differences encourage more amicability and less hostility between parties. Unlike the causes of action mentioned above, irreconcilable differences only require you to allege that there are differences between you and your spouse, which have existed for 6 months or more, which cannot be reconciled, and that a dissolution of the marriage is warranted. This cause of action prevents parties from feeling as though having to attack the other spouse is the only way to file for divorce.

If you are married outside of the State of New Jersey and are a recent resident, an important requirement to note, is that you have to be a resident of New Jersey for at least 12 months prior to the filing of the divorce complaint. If your marital property was accumulated in another state, and your spouse still lives in that state, it may not be proper to file your divorce complaint here. This is something you will want to discuss with a qualified matrimonial attorney, before proceeding.

Once the Complaint is filed, it will be served to the other party, who will have to respond within a certain timeframe.

Come back next month, to read Part 2, and find out what comes next in the NJ Divorce process.

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