Divorce in New Jersey
When a marriage or domestic partnership comes to an end, the ensuing divorce proceedings can be extremely complex. Each family is different, and every state has its own set of regulations surrounding divorce. When contemplating a separation or divorce in New Jersey, it is important to enlist the assistance of an experienced divorce lawyer to protect your interests and reach an amicable solution.
Grounds for Divorce
A couple may file for divorce in New Jersey if one of the spouses has lived in the state for at least one year. When filing a petition for divorce, the couple must establish the reason for the divorce. In New Jersey, either fault or no-fault grounds can be accepted. In no-fault cases, a divorce may be granted if the couple has irreconcilable differences or has lived separate and apart for more than 18 months. Fault grounds may include adultery, extreme cruelty, deviant sexual behavior, substance abuse, desertion or institutionalization for a period exceeding one year, or imprisonment for 18 months or longer. When applicable, fault grounds can make a difference in awarding alimony but rarely when dividing assets.
In some cases, there may be religious, financial, or health-related reasons why a couple would need to remain married but live separately. New Jersey does not recognize legal separation, but does have divorce from bed and board. Divorce from bed and board is somewhere between legal separation and absolute divorce. Today, most couples who chose divorce from bed and board do so to preserve the right to be covered by a spouse’s health insurance. There are a few other benefits derived from divorce from bed and board such as pension rights and social security rights. Aside from these limited benefits, the couple is economically divorced. Lastly, divorce from bed and board can only be agreed to by the couple, otherwise a judge will not grant it.
If a couple chooses to merely separate, they can enter into a separation agreement. Separation agreements are legally binding and can cover issues such as child custody, temporary spousal support or child support and bill payment. This kind of agreement can protect one spouse from responsibility for any debts incurred by the other spouse after the separation, but since New Jersey does not have legal separation, a spouse cannot dissolve marital assets without the other’s spouse’s consent.
Division of Assets
Marital property to be divided in a divorce includes any income or other property obtained by either spouse over the course of the marriage. There are a few exceptions, but that general rule is a good place to start. New Jersey is an equitable division state, which means that marital assets will be divided in a way that is fair, but not necessarily equal. A judge considers numerous factors in determining what is an equitable division of assets, including the length of the marriage, the standard of living during the marriage, the income or property contributed by each spouse, and the current financial state of each spouse at the time of the divorce. Assets acquired by one spouse through gift or inheritance are not subject to division, as long as the asset remains separate and apart, but other property held in one spouse’s name may not necessarily be retained by that spouse.
Spousal or Child Support
In many cases, one spouse may be ordered to provide temporary or permanent spousal support to the other. A judge will determine alimony requirements based on the standard of living during the marriage; each spouse’s earning capacity, education, and employability; non-monetary contributions to the marriage, such as caring for children; and how long it would take either spouse to become self-sufficient. Alimony orders can be changed if there is a shift in either spouse’s economic circumstances.
In determining child support, a judge considers many of the same factors as alimony, in addition to evaluating the child’s financial needs and the age and health of both the child and parents. A child support order may outline which parent is responsible for the child’s health insurance, medical expenses, and education costs. These orders can also be modified if there is a change in one parent’s financial state.
Unless proven otherwise, New Jersey courts assume that it is in the best interests of the child to have both parents present in their life. Parents are encouraged to come to a parenting time agreement on their own, but the court may step in if they are unable to reach a solution. A custody order is laid out based on each parent’s ability to communicate, cooperate, and provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs. The judge will also evaluate the child’s relationship with parents and siblings and the ability of each parent to provide a stable home.
New Jersey Family Law and Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Offer Competent, Compassionate Representation for Couples Going Through Divorce in New Jersey
If you live in New Jersey and are considering a divorce, call New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Our knowledgeable, professional legal team can help you navigate the complexities of New Jersey divorce law and find the best possible outcome for you and your family. With offices conveniently located in Somerville, we serve clients throughout New Jersey. Call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online for a confidential consultation.