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Divorce is not always easy because there are so many legalities involved in the process. Child custody, property settlements and parental responsibilities are some of the legal issues that come into the picture when getting a divorce. It can be mentally and emotionally taxing and the last thing you want to do is struggle with the process. A divorce lawyer comes in handy during this trying phase of your life. The divorce attorney represents and guides you through the process, making it easier for you to handle. But to enjoy a smooth process, you must find yourself a reliable attorney.

1. Talk to friends and relatives

2. Know what your needs are

3. Do your research

4. Create a budget

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Mediation is a dispute resolution process in which an impartial third party - the mediator - facilitates negotiations among the parties to help them reach a mutually acceptable settlement. The mediator does not make a decision about the outcome of the case. The parties work toward a solution with which they are comfortable.

Couples who seek divorce mediation in New Jersey need to be aware of the NJ mediation program, which was developed by the Supreme Court. Mediators participating in the program have been approved for inclusion on a roster by a subcommittee of the Committee on Complementary Dispute Resolution, after meeting training requirements set forth by the Court.

In order to file for a divorce in New Jersey, either spouse must have been a resident of the State for at least one year prior to the filing of the action. The only exception to the one-year residency requirement is when the grounds for divorce are for adultery. In cases of adultery the requirement is that at least one spouse must be a New Jersey resident. In New Jersey there are eight grounds or causes to file for divorce. The three most popular grounds are extreme cruelty, no-fault separation, and adultery. Remember, the grounds of extreme cruelty are just a "term of art" and it does not mean that your spouse was extremely cruel.

No-Fault Divorce Cause of Action

Separation is New Jersey's only no-fault ground for divorce. To qualify under this grounds, both the husband and wife must have lived separately, in different houses (not only different rooms) for a period of at least eighteen consecutive months. Moreover, in order to qualify for the no fault divorce, there must not be a reasonable expectation of reconciliation.

FAULT DIVORCE CAUSES OF ACTION

Extreme Cruelty

Extreme cruelty includes any physical or mental cruelty which makes it improper or unreasonable to expect that individual to cohabitate with their spouse. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(c). The courts are very liberal as to what type of conduct constitutes extreme cruelty.

Adultery

The courts have held that "adultery exists when one spouse rejects the other by entering into a personal intimate relationship with any other person, irrespective of the specific sexual acts performed; the rejection of the spouse coupled with out-of-marriage intimacy constitutes adultery." New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2 requires that the plaintiff in an adultery divorce case, state the name of the person with whom the offending conduct was committed. This person is known as the correspondent. If the name is not known, the person who files must give as much information as possible tending to describe the adulterer.

Desertion

The willful and continuous desertion by one party for a period of twelve or more months, and satisfactory proof that the parties have ceased to cohabit as man and wife constitutes desertion under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2(b). It is important to note that the parties may live in the same house. The crucial element here is "as man and wife." Thus, desertion may be claimed after twelve or more months of a lack of sexual relations.

The discovery part of a divorce case is in many cases the most important part of the divorce. The purpose of discovery is to enable the parties to ascertain what assets each party has, and what constitutes the marital estate.

New Jersey Court Rule 5:5-1 allows for discovery including interrogatories, depositions, production of documents, requests for admissions, and copies of documents. The time lines for conducting discovery are held at the Case Management Conference. Discovery can make a divorce very expensive. It is time consuming, and it can really create a lot of billable hours. If at all possible, the parties should try to reach a reasonable agreement, to avoid all of the expense of conducting discovery. However, this is easier said than done.

Request to Enter a Divorce by Default

If the defendant fails to file an answer or an appearance in a divorce case, then the divorce is defaulted. This means that the person has "blown" his chance to respond or contest the divorce. A request for a default against such a party is governed by R. 4:43. This rule requires the party requesting entry by default to make a formal written request for the entry of the default, supported by the attorney's affidavit. The affidavit shall explain the manner of service of the complaint upon the defendant, the date of service, and that all time periods in which the defendant may file a pleading have expired. The request to enter a default must be filed together within six months of the actual default. The notice to request a default must also be served on the defaulting spouse.

Please keep in mind, that if there is a default, this does not mean that the case is over. If a spouse is seeking equitable distribution, alimony, child support or any other relief, then a process known as "filing a request for equitable distribution" must be filed.

When equitable distribution, alimony, child support or any other relief is sought by the plaintiff, a notice of application for equitable distribution pursuant to R. 5:5-2 is required to be filed before the entry of default. This notice must be filed and served upon defendant twenty days prior to the hearing date and must include the following:

Notice of the trial date,

Statement of the value of each asset,The amount of each debt sought to be distributed,

A proposal for distribution,

A statement whether plaintiff is seeking alimony and/or child support and, if so, the amount, and

A statement of any other relief sought.

As a result, the moving party must still attend court in order to obtain a divorce by entry of a default. The spouse must also bring a certificate of nonmilitary service verifying that her soon to be ex-spouse is not in the military. The courts do not want spouses to be divorcing their ex spouse while they are in the military overseas, and possibly in combat somewhere.

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Is personal jurisdiction necessary to get a divorce? Generally, yes. But the details vary. Personal jurisdiction deals with the power of the court to enter orders as to a person or a thing. If there is property in a geographic location where the court is sitting, the court likely has personal jurisdiction over that property which is known as in rem jurisdiction. Personal jurisdiction over a person is known as in personam jurisdiction. What is the significance of this distinction as applied to a divorce? A big one.

If the Petitioner (the one who files for divorce) files a petition against the spouse but is unable to personally serve the spouse with notice of the dissolution, the court can still enter orders dissolving the marriage, disposing of the in-state property, and custody. Why? Because the marriage itself and the in-state property are in rem and the necessary personal jurisdiction can be conferred through publication as long as the court grants the motion for the publication, which generally requires a showing that due diligence has been made to first try personal service. Children involve special jurisdictional rules which allow custodial determinations without personal service under certain circumstances. So, it is possible to get a divorce, the children, and the in-state property, without the other spouse ever knowing what happened.

However, personal service is required for any orders which require the spouse to do anything such as pay maintenance, child support and attorneys fees. It is also required for any orders regarding property located out of the state. A couple caveats: First, the spouse could waive any service by simply filing an appearance or answer, or even filing as a co-Petitioner. Second, service on an out-of-state spouse might still not be sufficient if the spouse does not have any contacts with state in which the petition was filed, such as never having a marital domicile here or never having conceived of a child here.


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