Cost of Divorce in New Jersey

Cost of Divorce in NJIf you are considering getting a divorce, you have a multitude of questions and concerns about the process. Your worries may include concerns over division of assets, length of time for the divorce process to be completed, and of course, questions about how much your divorce will cost.

There are many factors that come into play when considering the cost of a divorce. One of the biggest determining factors of cost is typically whether your divorce is contested or agreed upon.

Court Fees

Certain financial pieces of your divorce are clear, while other will vary depending on your circumstances. In New Jersey, the court fees to process a Complaint of Divorce are $250. If you have children, you will also need to pay the $25 Parent Education fee to the court as well. These fees are non-negotiable and will be charged to you whether you represent yourself or go through a lawyer or mediator.

Uncontested Divorce – Mediation

One option to reduce fees associated with divorce is to seek a divorce mediator instead of hiring a litigator. If both parties agree to the divorce and the equitable distribution of assets, as well as any child custody issues, mediation can save a lot of money. Mediators can be hired at either a flat rate for their service, or at a lower hourly rate if more meetings are required. The hourly fee for mediators is typically much lower than the hourly rate for a lawyer who needs to argue your side of the divorce in court.

Contested Divorce

When one spouse wants a divorce and the other doesn’t, it can cause a number of tricky additional steps to the process. With each additional hurdle, your legal fees could increase. Even if you both agree to a divorce, disagreements over the distribution of assets, assignments of alimony and child support, or even child custody can greatly increase the amount of negotiating between lawyers, and possibly in front of a judge. All of these extra steps and increased hours means your total cost of divorce will be much higher.

How Much Will It Cost?

With so many variables, it is difficult to state an actual cost for divorce at all. Divorce costs in New Jersey could range anywhere from a few hundred dollars up to tens of thousands of dollars when all fees and costs are totaled.

Who Can Help?

In order to be sure you understand all issues affecting the cost of your divorce, it is important to have a trusted attorney or mediator working with you. A divorce lawyer who not only knows the ins and outs of New Jersey divorce law, but who also understands your financial concerns can be hard to come by. The experienced, successful, and dependable lawyers at Castronovo & McKinney can help you understand your options to make the best choices for your own situation. Contact us today to inquire about hiring a divorce lawyer or mediator to assist you through this difficult time.

The Economy Versus The Divorce Rate

divorce rates vs. economyIt seems that many families who having been “just holding on” in their unhappy marriages may start taking steps toward finalizing divorces soon, according to Bloomberg and other economic news sources. These sources are linking an increased divorce rate to an improving economy.

Looking back to 2009, the United States divorce rate hit a 40-year low, coinciding with what the media reported as the end of the recession. Yet, the 2012 data shows that the divorce rate is creeping back up, which could be a sign that the general public thinks the economy is improving.

The studies claim that families tend to hold on during rough economic periods, even if they are unhappy in their marriages. They fear that job prospects may not be readily available, so they need to delay divorce in order to stay financially afloat. When house values are down, no one wants to fight over a property in a divorce settlement that may be under water. So they stay married until they feel they are better equipped to handle the financial struggles that come with divorce.

However, research shows that, when divorce rates increase, the housing market fares better as a result. When families split, two homes are required instead of one. Two members of the family need larger incomes, which require more jobs. It becomes a sort of “chicken or the egg” conundrum.
Do divorce rates increase because the economy is improving? Or does the economy benefit from increased divorce rates? There may not be just a one-way correlation.

There were 2.4 million divorces in the United States in 2012, versus 840,000 in 2009.
Were people unhappy in their marriages because the economy was so bad? Did the financial struggles create dissention and discord, resulting in the higher divorce rate of the next few years?

Or, were unhappy people only holding on until the economy get better to get out of their unhappy marriages?

There is no clear answer or proven catalyst to the equation. Instead, we simply look at the numbers and recognize the significant increase in divorce over the past few years, and watch home values and other parameters go up as well. Whether the egg came first or the chicken, both are seeing an upswing.

Valid Reasons for a Divorce

reasons for divorceWhen your marriage is falling apart, nearly everything your spouse does is bound to seem like a valid reason for getting a divorce. However, the state of New Jersey requires that you choose one of nine specific grounds for divorce as you file your paperwork.

No Fault Divorce in NJ

The most common reasons for divorce are the two “no fault” grounds of Separation and Irreconcilable Differences. By choosing one of these no fault grounds for divorce you and your spouse both agree to end the marriage amicably.

If filing for divorce based on separation, you must prove that you and your spouse have lived apart for at least 18 months before filing the Complaint for Divorce. If using irreconcilable differences as your reason, there is no waiting period, but you must each claim that your marriage has been suffering for at least 6 months and there is no hope of reconciliation.

At Fault Divorce in NJ

There are seven acceptable at-fault grounds for divorce in New Jersey. Each carries with it a different waiting period and justification requirement, so be sure to have all of your information together before you file.
If your spouse has cheated on you, you may file using Adultery as your ground for divorce. You must be able to prove that your spouse had both the opportunity and inclination to cheat. There is no waiting period to file for divorce based on Adultery.

If your spouse left you, you may file for divorce based on Abandonment or Desertion. This means you have been left without reason for 12 months or more before you can file. You must prove that your spouse has left your home for the entirety of the 12 months consecutively to file for divorce based on claim of abandonment.

Addiction to drugs or alcohol is another acceptable at-fault ground for divorce in New Jersey. You must attest to your spouse being habitually drunk or under the influence of drugs for twelve months or longer.
If you have been mistreated in the bedroom, you may claim Deviant Sexual Conduct as your legal ground for divorce. Any deviant sexual act performed on you by your spouse without your consent qualifies for this ground for divorce, however, be aware that it can be tough to prove in court.

Extreme Cruelty as a ground for divorce refers to either verbal or physical abuse toward you by your spouse. If you are initiating the divorce process, you must wait at least three months from the act of cruelty before filing your Complain for Divorce. However, there is no waiting period to use Extreme Cruelty in a counter-claim against your spouse if they filed for divorce first.

If your spouse has been in prison for 18 months or longer, you can use Imprisonment as your legal ground for divorce in New Jersey. If his/her jail sentence was less than 18 months, you must prove that you were separated before or after the sentence so the time apart totals 18 months combined.

Institutionalization is also a legally accepted ground for divorce in New Jersey. You may use this claim if your spouse was institutionalized for mental illness for at least 24 months in a row after the beginning of your marriage.

Contact our our experienced divorce attorneys in NJ for a free consultation on your case.

How Long Does It Take To Get Divorced in New Jersey?

length of a divorceDepending on the circumstances, the divorce process can be quick and easy, or drawn-out and difficult. One of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not to go through with divorce is often the length of time it will take to finalize the split. No one wants to live in an unhappy marriage, so it makes sense to know what lies ahead before taking the first steps toward divorce.

In New Jersey, the courts have mandated that no divorce should take longer than 12 months from the date the Complaint for Divorce is first filed at the clerk’s office. While exceptions can be made for complex cases, the majority of New Jersey divorces will be complete in less than twelve months.

In fact, when both parties agree to a no-fault fault divorce in New Jersey, the process can be as short as one and a half months from start to finish. It is important to note that each of the nine acceptable Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey carries its own waiting period. When you file the Complaint for Divorce, that waiting period must have already passed.

The shortest length of time for a divorce in New Jersey would be just under 2 months. That includes the time between first filing and divorce finalization with “Irreconcilable Differences” as the ground for divorce. Using this no-fault ground for divorce only requires both parties to state that the marriage has been suffering for at least six months and there is no hope for repair.

If there are children in the marriage, hotly contested division of assets, or arguable blame for at-fault divorce, the length of time from first filing to dissolution of the marriage may take much longer.

It is the New Jersey court system’s goal to keep as many divorce proceedings to less than one year. If you make sure your affairs are in order before filing the complaint for divorce, the process should move more smoothly.

Contact our experienced New Jersey divorce lawyers to schedule a free consultation.

Marital Abandonment in New Jersey

Marital Abandonment

In New Jersey, marital abandonment is viewed as willful and continued desertion for a period of 12 or more months. This is one of the at-fault grounds for dissolution of marriage in the state. Though no-fault options are also available, some spouses are still motivated to assign blame.

Legal Criteria for Desertion or Marital Abandonment

To demonstrate desertion by your spouse, you must prove the following:

  • Your spouse has been residing outside of the marital home for at least one year;
  • You did not agree to the separation or abandonment;
  • You did not cause the departure; and
  • Your spouse failed to support you, your kids and/or the household while away.

Defenses to Marital Abandonment

If you and your spouse have reconciled and lived together at any point after the initial desertion, the clock is reset. The one year period must be continuous. If your spouse is transferred or relocates due to his/her job and you refuse to move as well, this is not considered abandonment by the courts for the purposes of an at-fault divorce ground. Additionally, your behavior is a pertinent consideration for the purposes of establishing abandonment. If you have made it unbearable for your spouse to remain in the marriage, his/her desertion will likely be seen as constructive desertion. This may be due to mental cruelty or physical violence. Even refusal to engage in sexual intercourse can result in constructive desertion. This may also be viewed as cruel and inhuman treatment.

Marital Abandonment and Child Custody

In 2007, New Jersey law added irreconcilable differences as a ground for divorce. This transformed New Jersey into a no-fault state. Though fault based grounds are still available, these days they are rarely used to terminate a marriage. Moreover these at-fault grounds typically have little to no impact on how a judge determines the various orders for your divorce settlement. In the case of child custody, your spouse’s abandonment may have some impact, however. If the court finds that your spouse has deserted the children of the marriage, this can have come bearing on these rulings. Essentially, if you have had sole parental custody for the year or more that your spouse has been gone, the court is likely to make this arrangement permanent and legal in your divorce order.

Legal Representation

If you are involved in a contested divorce alleging abandonment or other grounds, the New Jersey Divorce Lawyers of Castronovo & McKinney have the experience and skills needed to assist you through mediation, collaborative law and/or court proceedings.