New Jersey Divorce Law
When you look past the emotions involved in divorce, it’s simply a legal contract that dictates the terms of property ownership and personal and familial responsibilities after a marriage ends. If you approach divorce as a business transaction, the goal is to come out of the relationship with both parties getting what they need to continue life as separate individuals.
LawInfo’s New Jersey Divorce Law articles can help relieve some of the stress of the process. You’ll learn about the state’s divorce prerequisites, how property is divided and many other divorce topics. Whether you need assistance in Paterson, Jersey City or Newark, LawInfo can help connect you with a New Jersey divorce attorney.
New Jersey Divorce Residency Requirement
Before a divorce petition may be filed in a New Jersey court, at least one spouse must have been a New Jersey resident for at least one year up to the date that the petition is filed. Alternatively, there is no residency requirement if the divorce is filed on the grounds of adultery.
Equitable Distribution in New Jersey
When deciding how to divide and distribute assets and debts in a divorce, note that not everything you and your spouse owned or owed needs to be considered for distribution. Only marital property must be considered for distribution—assets and debts acquired by both parties during the marriage except for separate property. Separate property includes assets and debts owned individually by each spouse prior to the marriage or earned during the marriage from gifts, inheritance or insurance.
If you and your spouse fail to determine a fair division of your marital property in a divorce, the court may make the decision for you using the theory of equitable distribution. An equitable distribution of marital property is considered fair but not always equal in value or quantity. The court determines what’s a fair division of property by considering 16 factors, among which are:
- How long the marriage or civil union lasted.
- Each party’s debts and liabilities.
- The current value of the marital property.
- Each party’s contribution to the training, education or earning power to one another.
- The custodial parent’s needs for owning or occupying the marital home.
Separation vs Annulment in New Jersey
A divorce is only one way to end a marriage in New Jersey. The other ways are a legal separation or an annulment. Both of these methods serve different purposes, especially for religious couples whose beliefs condemn divorces.
A legal separation is typically used as the first step toward a final divorce. You don’t need a court to approve a legal separation in New Jersey—it only needs to be signed by both parties and notarized to be official. There are no laws or rules that govern how a legal separation agreement is made, but it should include details like:
- Who pays what portion of taxes, insurance, leases, debts and other household expenses.
- Child visitation rights and schedules.
- Child support payments.
- Spousal support (alimony) payments.
An attorney can help you determine and draft the details of a separation agreement.
An annulment renders a marriage invalid. It’s like a divorce, but the court decrees that the marriage never legally occurred. Annulments typically serve personal, social and religious purposes as it doesn’t carry the stigma of a divorce. The court may not award spousal support in annulment cases, too. An annulment may only be granted on specific grounds:
- Either party committed bigamy at the time of the marriage (i.e. was married to another partner).
- The marriage was not legal because of specific prohibitions unmentioned in these annulment grounds.
- Either party was incurably impotent at the time of the marriage without the other’s knowledge.
- Either party lacked the capacity to consent to the marriage due to a mental illness, the influence of intoxicants, duress or fraud.
- Either party was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.