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Divorce Recovery Suite
New Jersey Divorce Laws

divorce decreeDivorce and recovery for New Jersey residents can seem like being trapped in a traffic jam in the Lincoln Tunnel... for months. Your first decision will be how to do your marriage: hire a lawyer or do-it-yourself. A complicated divorce (significant assets and/or a custody fight) steer you to getting a lawyer.

Do-it-yourself divorces aren't difficult as long as you focus on the details and make certain you know your options and don't overlook any detail.

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You will need to become familiar with certain aspects of New Jersey divorce law in order to successfully navigate the treacherous waters of becoming single again.

Click on each of the topics below. They open and close like an accordion.

Child Custody - Joint custody, shared custody, sole custody, legal custody

Smart Legal FormsThe divorce laws in New Jersey charge the family courts with putting the best interests of the children above those of their parents in all child custody considerations. Parents are afforded the opportunity to agree on a Parenting Plan, Child Custody Schedule and Parenting Schedule. If they are unable to agree, the courts will make judgments or orders concerning care, custody, education and maintenance for the minor children. Minors will not be taken forcibly or against the will of the parent having custody by the other parent without a court order. Further considerations by the court will include:

  • the parents' ability to agree, communicate and cooperate in matters relating to the child,
  • the parents' willingness to accept custody and any history of unwillingness to allow parenting time not based on substantiated abuse,
  • the interaction and relationship of the child with its parents and siblings, custody strategies
  • the history of domestic violence, if any,
  • the safety of the child and the safety of either parent from physical abuse by the other parent,
  • the preference of the child when of sufficient age and capacity to reason so as to form an intelligent decision,
  • the needs of the child; the stability of the home environment offered,
  • the quality and continuity of the child's education,
  • the fitness of the parents,
  • the geographical proximity of the parents' homes,
  • the extent and quality of the time spent with the child prior to or subsequent to the separation,
  • the parents' employment responsibilities, and
  • the age and number of the children.
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Having primary child custody does not permit one to use it in any form to punish or penalize the other parent. This includes not denying child custody (visitation, co-parenting) if the other parent is delinquent on paying child support.


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Download New Jersey Divorce Forms

[New Jersey Statutes - Title 2 A - Chapters: 34-23]

Marriage Annulment - Are you qualified to file for a marriage annulment?

justiceThe marriage annulment process is not spelled out in New Jersey divorce law as much as it is based on case law (previous cases settled). It is a legal process in much the same way as a divorce is and if your annulment petition successful, the court will declare that the marriage never existed (a nullity). An annulment can carry with it less stigma than a divorce, and for those with religious concerns, annulments can pave the way for subsequent religious annulments or future marriages. There are four 'grounds' accepted for annulments in this state.

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Fraud is the most common plea for annulment. An example of fraud would be that your spouse represented that they could have children, and you find out later that wasn't true. Another example of fraud eligible for annulment would be if someone married you while still married to someone else.


Concealing a material fact would be grounds for annulment. An example would be if someone concealed an addiction to alcohol or drugs, a felonious criminal past or that they have children.

Inability to consummate the marriage is a ground for annulment.

A significant misunderstanding or deception would be a condition for a marital annulment. An example would be that your spouse indicated a desire for children but now says no way.

[New Jersey Statutes - Title 2 A - Chapters: 34-1, 20; 37:1-1 ]

Child Support - Who pays, when they pay and how much they pay

child supportNew Jersey divorce laws determine how child support payments are to be calculated and assigned to parents of children in this state. Family law guidelines are based on the income of both parents with the expectation that the higher income earner pay a greater share of that amount. NJ child support guidelines direct that the courts consider the following: custody strategies

  • The needs and liability of the child,
  • All sources of income and assets of each parent,
  • The standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent,
  • The earning ability of each parent including education, training, skills and experience,
  • The need and capacity of the child for education,
  • The age and health of earning capacity of each parent and child,
  • The income, assets and earning ability of the child,
  • The responsibility of the parent for court ordered support of others,
  • The reasonable debts and liabilities of each parent and child and
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant and just.

Any order or judgment that includes NJ child support will include provisions indicating which party is responsible for maintaining health care coverage for the child and the terms and conditions by which that coverage is to be maintained. The New Jersey child support obligation ends once the child reaches the age of majority (18).


[New Jersey Statutes - Title 2 A - Chapters: 34-23]

Legal Separation or Marriage Separation - Is it recognized in New Jersey?

fightingAs a resident of New Jersey, you will need to put together a separation agreement in advance of a marriage annulment, and have it be details that your spouse is willing to fully agree to. In many cases, people retain an attorney to have a

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separation agreement completed. Others will use the links made available here (see custody and visitation sections here) to get the job done and save money.

Together you will need to have all details of caring for any children of the marriage, how you'll pay the expenses of two homes, and what you plan to do with the marital assets. Legal separation (or marital separation) is most often pursued when one of the parties wants to stay married for religious reasons, wants the advantage of deductibility of spousal support payments for income tax reasons, wants to maintain various insurance coverage's, or do not want to wait the state statutory waiting period for termination of marital status.


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Divorce Settlement, distribution of assets - How marital property gets divided

marital assetsNew Jersey is an equitable distribution state as it relates to a divorce settlement. Equitable distribution is defined as dividing the marital assets in an equitable (or fair) manner, but not necessarily an equal one.

If you and your spouse are unable to reach a divorce settlement, the court will step in. In most every case, you and your spouse will be much better off if you can agree on a divorce settlement rather than let the court decide.

Factors the court may consider are:

  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties,
  • The income or property brought to the marriage by each party,
  • The standard of living established during the marriage,
  • Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning an arrangement of property distribution,
  • The economic circumstances of each party at the time the division of property becomes effective,
  • The income and earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children, and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage,
  • The contribution by each party to the education, training or earning power of the other,
  • The contribution of each party to the acquisition, dissipation, preservation, depreciation or appreciation in the amount or value of the marital property, as well as the contribution of a party as a homemaker,
  • The tax consequences of the proposed distribution to each party,
  • The present value of the property,
  • The need of a parent who has physical custody of a child to own or occupy the marital residence and to use or own the household effects,
  • The debts and liabilities of the parties,
  • The need for creation, now or in the future, of a trust fund to secure reasonably foreseeable medical or educational costs for a spouse or children,
  • The extent to which a party deferred achieving their career goals, and
  • Any ante nuptial settlements the couple may have constructed in writing.


good ideaWorried about a custody battle? Don't be blind sided by your ex. Learn the facts by owning a complete Child Custody Library on the best strategies for winning or keeping child custody.


Lock up the assets

If you think your spouse might try to hide assets, or spend them, we suggest you file a petition for a financial temporary restraining order. This order prevents liquidating assets or spending money beyond the basic necessities of daily living. You might first consider allocating enough funds to see yourself through, because the restraining order will apply to you too. good idea

[New Jersey Statutes - Title 2 A - Chapters: 34-23]

Alimony (Spousal Support or Maintenance) - Past court cases (case law) influence a ruling in your case

alimonyNew Jersey family law courts have the ability to order alimony (also known as spousal support or maintenance) by one party for the benefit of the other in any manner it sees fit. Consideration of who will provide for the majority of care, custody, education and maintenance of the children will factor into any alimony decision. Reasonable and just are the operative words here. Note: when a couple has a track record of one parent staying home to care for the children while the other works outside the home, the courts will, in most cases, consider the stay-at-home parent's contribution to the marriage to be equal to that of the "bread-winner".

The court will consider any or all of the following factors:

  • The actual need and ability of the parties to pay,
  • The duration of the marriage,
  • The age, physical and emotional health of the parties,
  • The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living,
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties,
  • The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance,
  • The parental responsibilities for the children,
  • The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income,
  • The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities,
  • The equitable distribution of property ordered and any pay outs on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair,
  • The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party,
  • The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment, and
  • Any other factors which the court may deem relevant. 


Visitation (Co-Parenting) - The non-custodial parent receives court-ordered time with the children

Smart Legal FormsVisitation in New Jersey, or more recently known as 'co-parenting', is determined by divorce laws for child custody. Parents have the opportunity to negotiate on, and agree to, an overall parenting plan, which will include a custody or visitation schedule. If the parents are unable to agree on an overall Parenting Plan, the Family Court will intervene with its own plan. A visitation schedule will typically provide co-parenting time to the non-custodian that will include every other weekend and one or two nights during the week, and alternating holidays.

For those that fail to exercise their visitation privileges, the courts, if petitioned, can increase child support. Whether its during the negotiating process, or after the divorce is final, make sure everything is in writing. Details such as who picks up and drops off the kids should be in writing. Who pays which expenses? Right of first refusal if the custodial needs to find a care-giver/sitter for occasions such as sickness, work demands etc. So that you don't miss any details, check the links below.


Grounds for Divorce - You must file papers using one of these allowed grounds

cheatingNew Jersey divorce laws detail accepted grounds for divorce. You either have to accuse your spouse of one of the eight marital misconducts below [fault divorce], or live apart from your soon-to-be ex for eighteen months, and use that separation as the basis for your petition [no-fault divorce].

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[New Jersey Statutes - Title 2 A - Chapters: 34-2]

Residency - Have you lived in the state long enough to file for divorce?

residencySixty days isn't much to ask, is it? The petitioner or respondent must have been an actual resident of the state for 60 days immediately preceding the filing of the petition. New Jersey divorce laws require residency before a petition for divorce can proceed. Any person who has been a resident of or stationed at a United States post or military reservation within the state for 60 days immediately preceding the filing of the petition may file an action for divorce in any county adjacent to the post or reservation. A spouse may have a residence in this state separate and apart from the residence of the other spouse.


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[New Jersey Statutes - Title 2 A - Chapters: 34-8, 34.10]

Waiting Period - Restrictions on how much time must elapse before proceeding

tetheredDivorce laws in New Jersey provide that there is no waiting period, other than the 18 month uninterrupted separate-living requirement needed to obtain a no-fault divorce.

There are no restrictions against remarriage following a divorce decree.


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Mediation - Use a mediator to resolve disagreements before or instead of trial

mediationDivorce laws in New Jersey provide for a mandatory education program known as the "Parents' Education Program." It is designed to assist and advise divorced parents on issues concerning divorce, separation and custody. It is a form of marriage counseling. The course can be the gateway for mediation.

The purpose of the program is to promote cooperation between the parties and to assist parents in resolving issues which may arise during the divorce or separation process, including, but not limited to:

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  • Understanding the legal process and cost of divorce or separation, including arbitration and mediation,
  • Understanding the financial responsibilities for the children,
  • Understanding the interaction between parent and child, the family relationship and any other areas of adjustment and concern during the process of divorce or separation,
  • Understanding how children react to divorce or separation, how to spot problems, what to tell them about divorce or separation, how to keep communication open and how to answer questions and concerns the children may have about the process,
  • Understanding how parents can help their children during the divorce or separation, specific strategies, ideas, tools, and resources for assistance,
  • Understanding how parents can help children after the divorce or separation and how to deal with new family structures and different sets of rules, and
  • Understanding that cooperation may sometimes be inappropriate in cases of domestic violence. 
  • If parents are unable to resolve issues and agree to a parenting plan, the court may require mediation, unless mediation is determined inappropriate in the particular case.


Grandparents Rights - Federal and State Laws permit visitation in many instances

grandmotherA grandparent or any sibling of a child residing in this State may make application for an order for visitation. Grandparents rights are conferred by Federal law and reaffirmed by NJ divorce laws. It is the burden of the applicant to prove that the granting of visitation is in the best interests of the child. The court will consider the following factors in making that decision:

  • The relationship between the child and the applicant,
  • The relationship between each of the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing and the applicant,
  • The time which has elapsed since the child last had contact with the applicant,
  • The effect that such visitation will have on the relationship between the child and the child's parents or the person with whom the child is residing,
  • If the parents are divorced or separated, the time sharing arrangement which exists between the parents with regard to the child,
  • The good faith of the applicant in filing the application,
  • Any history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect by the applicant, and
  • Any other factor relevant to the best interests of the child.



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A Word On Your Journey Toward Healing And Recovery ...

At some point in the process, you may discover that you will not be able to manage the divorce recovery all by yourself. If you are a man, you are apt to bury the hurt and anguish and force yourself to Move On. However, unresolved feelings are just that- unresolved, and are likely to become issues later on. If you are a woman, you will feel the process more, and likely will experience a feeling of loss while feeling lost. We recommend you spend time discovering why things worked out as they did, so that you grow with the new knowledge. We offer a myriad of tools that can get you to the other side. The more you learn, the less you fear. Trust us on this. Spend some time and a few bucks and the return will be ten-fold.

Arm yourself with Child Custody Strategies, begin an on-line Parenting Plan and download Divorce Forms. Begin TODAY.