New Jersey Family Law: An Overview
Some of the most common cases in New Jersey courthouses concern family law. Family law is an area of New Jersey law that regulates prenuptial agreements, adoption, legal separation, child custody, marital property division and many others. A New Jersey family law attorney can be a crucial advocate. An attorney is experienced in these matters and can treat your case with the sensitivity it deserves.
If you have a family law case in Atlantic City, New Brunswick, Trenton or elsewhere in New Jersey, LawInfo is your source for information and legal help. LawInfo’s New Jersey Family Law section includes legal overviews, summaries of state laws and other resources to help you make the right decisions for you and your family.
New Jersey Marriage Requirements
To legally qualify for marriage in New Jersey, couples must meet certain requirements. If these requirements aren’t met, the marriage won’t be legally recognized by the state. This could result in a couple’s ineligibility to benefits like tax breaks and family insurance. Couples must meet these requirements:
- Parties who are age 16 or 17 must present written parental or guardian consent. Parties under 16 years of age must receive written approval from a Superior Court judge. If both parties are 18 years of age or older, they don’t require parental or guardian consent.
- Parties who were previously married must provide proof of divorce, dissolution, or death of their spouse.
- Neither party may be currently married to a third party.
- Neither party is allowed to marry his/her parent, sibling, child or aunt/uncle. First and subsequent cousins are allowed to marry each other.
New Jersey Marriage License
Before you get married in New Jersey, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license. A license legally officiates the marriage in the state where the license was attained.
When planning to apply for a marriage license, you will have to carefully work it into your schedule. Once you’re approved and receive your license, you must wait 72 hours before having your wedding ceremony. Your license is valid for only 30 days starting from the time it’s issued.
To apply for a marriage license, you will need to visit your local New Jersey Registrar. If you are applying from out of state, apply in the county where your ceremony will be.
New Jersey Divorce Requirements
Getting a divorce is a highly emotional event. Perhaps you and your spouse aren’t ready to completely end your marriage but can’t live with each other for the time being. In New Jersey, there are two types of divorce: a divorce from the bonds of matrimony and a divorce from bed and board.
A divorce from the bonds of matrimony is your standard divorce. It can be granted on specific fault or no-fault grounds, including:
- Desertion for one year or longer.
- Separation for 18 months or longer without hope for reconciliation.
- Extreme physical or mental cruelty that either endangers a spouse’s health or safety, or makes life unbearable for that spouse.
- Voluntary, addictive intoxication by alcohol or drugs for one year or longer.
- Institutionalization at a mental hospital for two years or longer prior to filing for divorce and continued institutionalization thereafter.
- Imprisonment for 18 months or longer.
- “Deviant” sexual conduct without a spouse’s consent.
- Irreconcilable differences resulting in a breakdown of the marriage for six months or longer. (This is the “no-fault” ground.)
A divorce from bed and board isn’t a complete divorce; rather, it’s New Jersey’s version of a legal separation. This type of divorce is similar to a divorce from the bonds of matrimony in that the same fault or no-fault grounds must be met. However, it doesn’t completely dissolve a marriage should the couple reconcile their issues.
A divorce from bed and board can be converted into a divorce from the bonds of matrimony at a later date.
Distribution of Marital Property in New Jersey
In New Jersey, each divorcee doesn’t necessarily get to keep half of everything they owned during their marriage. While it’s possible that a court may decide to divide and distribute marital properly equally in a 50/50 split, an uneven division is entirely possible in New Jersey.
New Jersey equitably distributes marital property in a divorce. This means that, while the division may not be equal, it is fair based on numerous factors that the court must consider. These factors include the fault grounds for the divorce, how long the marriage lasted, personal information about each divorcee and their living conditions following the divorce.
When Do I Need a New Jersey Family Law Attorney?
Whether you need a family law attorney depends on a number of factors specific to your case. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Few couples need a lawyer to get married but attorneys may be required if there’s a prenuptial agreement involved.
Individuals often benefit from hiring an attorney when dealing with divorce, child support, and especially child custody matters. Because emotions can run high during some divorces, hiring an attorney to negotiate and resolve difficult issues can be invaluable.
Many lawyers offer free initial consultations, so it may be worth your time to speak with an experienced New Jersey family law attorney if you have additional questions.