Morristown Divorce Lawyers
We Are on Your Side When You Need Guidance and Advocacy in All Areas of Family Law
While approximately 50 percent of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, New Jersey has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. Couples get divorced for a number of different reasons, such as infidelity, financial stresses, and even addiction and abuse issues. Regardless of the circumstances, one of our Morristown divorce lawyers will work tirelessly to help you navigate every step of the divorce process.
Our accomplished legal team provides the following services:
- Alimony and spousal support: We will identify all sources of income and can help you reach a fair and favorable spousal arrangement. If there is a change in circumstances, including cases that involve cohabitation, we will assist you with terminating alimony.
- Child support and custody issues: Whether you are seeking child support or are required to pay it, we will work closely with you to establish custody and support arrangements that prioritize the needs of your children.
- Divorce mediation and litigation: In New Jersey, mediation is one of the first steps in the divorce process and can help avoid a lengthy and expensive trial if successful. However, if litigation is unavoidable, our skilled legal team will guide you through that process as well.
- High-asset divorce: When a divorce settlement involves a significant amount of money, it is our job to ensure that our clients receive the settlement they deserve, which may include alimony, a percentage of the marital assets, and other sources of income.
- Military divorce: If one or both of the spouses served in the military, we will work with the Department of Defense and the branch of the military that the spouse served in to reach a fair settlement, including alimony, child support, and visitation rights.
- Post-divorce modifications: If there are changes in circumstances that will impact the divorce agreement, including relocations, real estate issues, and support modifications, we will handle those matters.
- Religious divorce: We understand how difficult it can be when a marriage ends due to religious differences. We will help you navigate the divorce process while respecting the rules and customs of your religion.
- Same-sex couples litigation: We represent clients who require legal representation for the dissolution of a same-sex marriage or domestic partnership.
- Uncontested divorces: These tend to be the least complicated divorces since both parties agree to the terms of the divorce. However, having a skilled Morristown divorce lawyer on your side will ensure that your best interests are protected if any unexpected issues arise.
What Are the Legal Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey?
In order to file for divorce, you must specify the reason for your divorce. While New Jersey allows no-fault divorces, it is not a pure no-fault state, which means that couples have the option of seeking a fault-based divorce.
If you are seeking a no-fault divorce, it means that neither you nor your spouse is to blame for the marriage coming to an end. There are two causes of action in no-fault divorces, including the following:
- Irreconcilable differences: In order for a divorce to be based on irreconcilable differences, you must be able to prove that the marriage has been broken beyond repair for at least six months and that there is no prospect of reconciliation. It allows the marriage to end without either spouse taking the blame.
- Separation: If the grounds for divorce are separation, you must prove that they have lived separately for at least 18 months and there is no chance that they will reconcile.
If you are seeking an at-fault divorce, you must provide evidence that at least one of the following grounds is the reason for the divorce:
- Extreme cruelty.
- Drug or alcohol addiction.
- Institutionalization for mental illness.
- Deviant sexual conduct.
Depending on the cause of action that you are pursuing, it is important to understand that it may be more difficult to prove the causes of action for a fault-based divorce. In addition, despite wanting to hold your ex-spouse accountable for their actions, a fault-based divorce will not necessarily result in a more favorable outcome than filing for a no-fault divorce. When determining financial issues, the court does not generally take fault into consideration.
What Are the Steps Involved in the Divorce Process?
Getting a divorce can be a time-consuming, stressful, and an overwhelming process, but the transition can be much smoother if you have a better understanding of what to expect. A dedicated Morristown divorce lawyer will walk you through every step of the process and address your questions or concerns.
Filing the Complaint
The divorce process begins when one spouse files a Complaint for Divorce against the other spouse. If you are filing the complaint, you will need to fill out the necessary documents with your lawyer and submit them to the New Jersey Superior Court. The documents should include your contact information, the grounds for the divorce request, and information about insurance coverage. This will be served to your spouse, who will have a specified amount of time to respond to the complaint.
Case Management Conference
The court will then schedule a Case Management Conference in order to get a better understanding of the issues involved in your divorce. The court will issue a Case Management Order that will include the tasks that need to be accomplished and a timeline for each task. This also gives you and your lawyer the opportunity to make a good impression on the judge and possibly resolve certain issues related to custody, spousal support, and visitation.
During this phase, both lawyers will have the opportunity to gather important information about the marriage, including the spouse’s income, financial assets, debts and liabilities, real estate, and other documentation that will be important when determining spousal support. Both spouses must complete a Case Information Statement (CIS) which provides a summary of this information.
The discovery process can take some time since each side has the opportunity to issue discovery requests, which include Interrogatories, and a Notice to Produce, which is a list of documents provided to your divorce lawyer. In some cases, couples are able to reach a settlement during this phase, and the lawyers will finalize the paperwork. However, if the couple is unable to resolve their issues, they will proceed to the next step.
Early Settlement Panel
At this point in the process, the couple must appear before an early settlement panel to discuss the issues they are unable to resolve. The panel generally consists of two or three neutral divorce lawyers or retired judges who will review both parties’ settlement proposals and make settlement recommendations.
If you are unable to resolve your differences with the early settlement panel, the next step in the divorce process is economic mediation, where a neutral lawyer works with you and your spouse to resolve significant economic issues, including the equitable distribution of marital property and support.
Mediation is confidential and allows you to take an active role in resolving your issues. Ultimately, this can save both parties a significant amount of time and money if further court appearances can be prevented.
If economic mediation is not successful, your case will be scheduled for an Intensive Settlement Conference (ISC), which is held at the courthouse with the judge that is likely to oversee your trial. The lawyers will present the unresolved issues to the judge and communicate the judge’s settlement recommendations.
Keep in mind that the judge will not hear testimony from you or your spouse at the ISC. Before a trial date is scheduled, you will be required to attend one more ISC.
When the previous efforts fail, your case will proceed to trial, where a judge will hear testimony from you and your spouse and review all of the evidence presented by both sides. The judge will make findings of fact and apply the law to those facts.
By doing so, the judge will make decisions about your unresolved issues and issue a written opinion and a Judgment of Divorce that incorporates their directives. It is in the couple’s best interest to avoid a trial since it is expensive and time-consuming.
Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for My Divorce?
In some cases, you and your spouse may be able to handle the divorce on your own. There are a number of important factors to consider before making this decision, including the grounds for the divorce, whether your spouse has already hired a lawyer, if you have children under 18 years old, and if you and your spouse agree on important issues, such as child support, custody, and alimony.
Another option for couples who want to avoid litigation is mediation, where a neutral third party, known as a divorce mediator, will work with you and your spouse to discuss and resolve common divorce-related issues. This is generally much less stressful, time-consuming, and expensive than a divorce trial.
Another option is a collaborative divorce, which is similar to mediation in that you work to resolve your issues out of court. However, unlike mediation, you and your spouse hire your own lawyers who are trained in collaborative law, and you both commit to avoiding court. This is also more expensive than mediation, so it is highly recommended that you do some research to determine which path makes the most sense.
What Are the Benefits of Hiring a Divorce Lawyer?
In addition to the emotional and financial stress associated with the divorce process, there are complex legal issues that must be resolved, particularly when couples have children and significant financial assets that must be resolved. An experienced divorce lawyer can help make this process go as smoothly as possible by providing the following services:
- Explain the grounds for divorce: A skilled divorce lawyer will discuss grounds for divorce in New Jersey, including the requirements for a no-fault divorce and whether there are benefits to dissolving the marriage based on fault. A divorce lawyer will explain all of your options and recommend the best legal course of action.
- Provide unbiased, objective advice: A divorce lawyer will act as the voice of reason throughout the process. They will walk you through child support, custody and spousal support issues, and serve as a go-between for you and your spouse. This will help avoid as much personal contact with each other as possible.
- Identify all marital assets: A divorce lawyer will identify all marital assets, as well as any debts and liabilities so that the divorce settlement accurately addresses these possessions.
- Discuss property division: The division of property can become very complex during a divorce. Each spouse may have separate property they had before getting married, or they may have accumulated assets separately per a prenuptial agreement. A divorce lawyer will explain how New Jersey is an equitable distribution state.
- Establish a debt repayment plan: While both spouses may be legally responsible for joint debt, oftentimes, one spouse is financially responsible for the debt. A divorce lawyer will protect you from debt that your spouse is responsible for paying.
- Determine spousal support: If one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, the dependent spouse may be entitled to alimony payments. In addition, if a spouse owns a business, the other spouse may be entitled to a portion of the business interest, as well as their pension of Social Security income if they were married for more than 10 years.
- Develop custody plans: A divorce lawyer will work with clients to develop custody agreements that are in the best interests of the children.
- Prepare the divorce papers: In order for a divorce to be finalized, the divorce papers must be submitted to the court for approval. A divorce lawyer will prepare the papers and address any questions or concerns that arise. They will also respond to the other spouse’s petition for divorce.
- Negotiate a fair settlement: A dedicated divorce lawyer will negotiate the best possible settlement agreement.
- Litigate your case in court: If the case goes to court, a divorce lawyer will be prepared to litigate your case and resolve a range of disputes, including spousal support and custody agreements.
Morristown Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Navigate the Divorce Process
If you have made the difficult decision to divorce, do not hesitate to contact one of our Morristown divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We will assist you with every phase of the divorce process and help you reach the settlement you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we assist clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.