In the age of binge watching and Ubers, we have all acquired certain expectations about how long we will wait for the things we really want and how quickly we expect those things to arrive.
Unfortunately, while many other institutions have evolved to accommodate our patience and attention spans, the court system in New Jersey has not. Despite what some may believe or hope, it is not possible to get divorced overnight. Making the decision itself to enter into what can be a financially and emotionally exhausting process often takes considerable time, and once that decision is made you would imagine that the process is quick…right?
Not in every case, unfortunately. Even if you are ready, willing, and able to file for divorce, you must ensure that you are actually qualified to file for divorce in New Jersey. That not only requires that you meet a residency requirement – generally one year preceding your cause of action accruing – but also that you meet whatever the requirements are of the cause of action under which you are proceeding in your divorce.
As of 2007 – yes, you’re reading that correctly – New Jersey finally became a “no fault divorce” state, meaning that you don’t have to prove someone cheated on you, abandoned you, or was guilty of extreme cruelty towards you in order to get divorced; now, you just simply have to show that there are irreconcilable differences in your marriage, that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation, and that these circumstances have existed for a period of at least six months prior to filing for divorce.
This is a common cause of action, but others include adultery, desertion, extreme cruelty, and separation, and each carries with it its own requirements to ensure that you are before the Court on the right cause of action and the Court has the jurisdiction to grant you a divorce based on that ground.
Once you (and potentially your attorney) decide how you will file for divorce, keep in mind that the Court process can be drawn out over many months – whether you want it to or not – and even if you and your spouse eventually settle your case, you still have to go through the Court process to a certain extent in order to have the Court finalize your negotiated agreement.
It is important to discuss with an attorney the many options that exist in terms of different grounds for divorce and the restrictions each one has on your case, including timing. It is also important to consider, plan, and discuss with an attorney your expectations as to how long the process will take so your attorney can plan accordingly and adjust your expectations, if necessary. Without legal counsel, you could get yourself into trouble by filing a Complaint for Divorce that you cannot support or waiting so long to file that a divorce will not be granted in the time frame you need it to be.
Source: N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2