Did you know that New Jersey (NJ) has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country? Even so, if you’re going through a divorce in NJ, you’re not alone. Statistics show that NJ’s divorce rate is 12.9 for every 1,000 people, as opposed to 15.9 nationwide. If you’re one of those facing a divorce in NJ, this blog will provide a solid start to building your knowledge base in the area, discussing five of the top FAQ about divorce in NJ.
Five FAQ about Divorce in NJ
As a law office dedicated to family law, including divorce, we often receive questions from new clients about NJ divorce law. In this article, we’ll discuss five:
- What are the grounds for divorce in NJ?
- Am I eligible to get an annulment under NJ law?
- What is the cost of divorce in NJ?
- When does child support end after an NJ divorce?
- How is a collaborative divorce in NJ different from a traditional divorce?
1. What Are the Grounds for Divorce in NJ?
NJ law recognizes that couples may decide to divorce for many reasons; these are known as the legal “grounds” for divorce. Most of the grounds for divorce in NJ are “fault-based,” meaning that the reason for the divorce is assigned to one spouse. Before a court will grant a divorce based on one of the fault-based grounds, the party alleging fault must prove that it exists.
Here are the fault-based grounds for divorce in NJ:
- Desertion (for at least 12 months) and constructive desertion
- Deviant sexual behavior
- Extreme cruelty (physical, mental, or both)
- Habitual use of alcohol or narcotics (for at least 12 months)
- Imprisonment (for at least 18 months)
- Institutionalization for mental issues (for at least 24 months)
- Separation (for at least 18 months, with “no reasonable prospect of reconciliation”)
Because the NJ Legislature recognized that some marriages fall apart without fault, it also incorporated a no-fault ground into NJ divorce law. This is known as “irreconcilable differences.” To receive a divorce under this ground, the party requesting the divorce must show that the couple has been experiencing irreconcilable differences for at least six months, that the differences caused the breakdown of the marriage, and that there is “no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.”
2. Am I Eligible to Get an Annulment under NJ Law?
A divorce in NJ ends with an order issued by a court decreeing that a couple’s marriage is over. It only takes effect going forward. An annulment (or “judgment of nullity”), on the other hand, is an order that declares that a marriage was void from the very beginning. It is as if the marriage never existed. To get an annulment under NJ law, one of the following criteria must be met:
- At least one of the parties is already in an existing marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership
- The individuals are too closely related (closer than first cousins)
- One of the partners was impotent and the other partner did not know of the impotence at the time of the marriage
- At least one of the parties did not have the ability to consent to the marriage (usually due to conditions such as being mentally incompetent, drunk, or drugged)
- At least one of the parties was under age 18 at the time of marriage
In addition, for the last three criteria, the person seeking the annulment must not have later ratified (or effectively agreed to) the marriage. For example, a person who seeks an annulment because she was under age 18 when married cannot have had sexual relations with her husband after she turned 18.
If you’re thinking about an annulment, don’t confuse a legal annulment with a religious one. These are two separate issues. Although what happens with one may affect the other, they are not the same thing.
3. What Is the Cost of Divorce in NJ?
The cost of divorce in NJ depends on the amount of time the attorneys must spend on the case. This is largely influenced by two factors: (1) the number and complexity of the issues, and (2) how both of the parties to the marriage behave.
For example, a NJ divorce that involves little property and no children will likely cost less than one that involves a large marital estate and children. In addition, if the parties cannot agree on issues such as alimony, child support, and property distribution, the divorce will likely cost more than one in which the spouses agree on everything.
Still, don’t conclude that it is in your best interest to just “go along” on issues important to you. The true cost of divorce in NJ isn’t just how much it costs to get the divorce but also how much it will cost in the long run if you cave on critical matters. You can easily lose more money in the long run than you save in the short run by agreeing to everything. You can read more about the cost of divorce in NJ here.
4. When Does Child Support End after a NJ Divorce?
NJ child support ends when one of three conditions is met:
- The child dies
- The child marries
- The child enters the military
In addition, in most instances, NJ child support ends when a child turns 19. This is when the child is generally considered “emancipated” under NJ law. However, a parent may apply to have the support obligation continued past age 19, and up to age 23, for any of these reasons:
- The child is enrolled in high school or a similar program
- The child is a full-time college student for at least five months of the year
- The child is disabled and requires continued child support
NJ law also allows a court to order child support up to age 23 when “exceptional circumstances” exist. You can read more about when child support ends after a NJ divorce here.
5. Tell Me about Collaborative Divorce in NJ.
Collaborative divorce is a relatively new option under NJ divorce law. The focus is on everyone involved, including the lawyers, moving toward an agreeable solution on all issues, including alimony, child support, custody, parenting plans, and visitation. When it works, collaborative divorce sometimes saves money by allowing the parties to share experts, such as psychologists and economists.
Couples who decide to participate in collaborative divorce sign a “participation agreement,” which says that they will cooperate fully in the process. If the process fails, both parties must hire new lawyers and approach their divorce in the traditional way. Obviously, when this happens, any initial cost savings disappears.
If you have your own questions about NJ divorce law, contact me, Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, by filling out my Contact Form or calling (732) 810-0034. Located in East Brunswick, I have yeas of experience as an NJ divorce attorney, and I'll help you learn about the laws that apply toyour divorce in NJ.