One of the first and most frequently-asked questions our Hackensack divorce lawyers are asked by prospective clients is, “How long is my divorce going to take?”
All divorces are going to look a little different. While we never give a set-in-stone answer, we can usually provide an accurate estimate, based on our review of the individual facts of the case. What we can say generally is that spouses who are civil, maintain communication and mostly agree on how assets should be divided will complete the process much faster than those who don’t. This is what we call an uncontested divorce, and it’s usually over as soon as the Courts process the request (so long as the terms are fair, reasonable and meet statutory guidelines). You might expect a fully uncontested divorce to wrap within six to eight weeks, though it can vary.
Contested divorces will take a bit longer, but they’re often settled faster than you might assume. Soon-to-be-exes may initially approach the process with a lot of bitterness and opposition, but are ultimately compelled to reach reasonable compromises so that the case doesn’t drag on unnecessarily.
Even if there are matters that require Court intervention, most of the time, divorce cases are settled within a year or so. It’s really only those cases with extremely complex financial matters or extremely bitter disputes that go on much longer than that.
Does New Jersey Offer a “Quickie” Divorce?
It depends on your definition of quick. We understand the desire to pack it all up and move on as soon as possible. But you aren’t going to get a rubber stamp on anything in a few days or even a couple weeks. This is true even when both spouses are fully cooperative and agree on every detail (which is pretty rare).
There is no set timeline, but consider that you need about a week to file your divorce petition properly. Then your spouse needs to be properly served. You then have to wait for their response and then wait on the Court to issue a formal dissolution.
If you are young, don’t have a lot of shared assets and don’t have any kids, you probably have the best shot at a “quick” divorce. It’s still probably going to take a couple months at least.
On the other hand, if you’ve been married many years, share a home, retirement accounts, businesses, kids, etc., it’s going to take longer to work out all the details and reach a fair resolution.
What we tell people is that to speed up the process (and reduce our legal expenses), the best thing you can do is be prepared and also be willing to negotiate on most things. What you don’t want to happen is to have your divorce finalized, only to end up back in Court because the plan didn’t consider all of the contingencies. It’s best to take a little time and have all aspects carefully considered before your divorce is finalized.
Do We Have to Take it to Court?
Your divorce agreement must ultimately be approved by a judge. That said, you and your ex can be in the driver’s seat of the process with very little input from the Court. Mediation is one way to do this.
You and your spouse reach agreements on everything from property division to parenting time to debt liabilities. You put that agreement in writing, sign it, notarize it and then it’s filed with the Court. If the judge finds both of you freely entered into a fair and reasonable agreement that meets any relevant statutory requirements, it will get approved.
Each of you having your own attorney to at least review the terms of your dissolution is smart, not only because it protects your legal rights, but it gives the judge confidence that you both fully understand the terms and voluntarily agree to them.
Another good thing is you no longer need a legal cause to divorce in New Jersey, as outlined in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2. Up until 2007, divorcing couples had to cite a specific reason they were splitting. Now, we have the all-encompassing irreconcilable differences, eliminating what could be a significant source of tension in divorce cases.
There is No Waiting Period
In some states, there are mandatory waiting periods during which couples must file for legal separation before they can file for divorce. Sometimes, these are waived for uncontested divorces where both parties agree they want to separate.
In New Jersey, there is no mandatory waiting period for divorcing couples, whether the matter is uncontested or not. Although you are free (and sometimes wise) to draft a separation agreement about how to handle certain matters while the divorce is pending, it’s not required. Once a New Jersey divorce complaint is filed, the process begins right away.
Note that there is a residency requirement, which can cause a delay in some divorce cases. The law requires at least one of the spouses has lived in New Jersey for at least 12 months before they can be divorce in this state. If this is a problem or you’re in a situation involving domestic violence, our East Brunswick family law attorneys can help you line things up to take action as expeditiously and safely as possible.
Many Issues in Contested Divorces are Resolved Before Trial
The majority of divorces have at least one or two matters that are contested, which is when both sides disagree. This could involve division of assets, child custody, who gets to keep the family pet, etc. These can seem like insurmountable challenges when the two parties are at odds. However, with the help of cool-headed negotiations between experienced family law attorneys, much of this can be resolved fairly and well in advance of a trial, to the satisfaction of both parties.
Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today at (732) 810-0034 for a free and confidential consultation.