Going through a divorce is a difficult journey. It often puts physical, psychological, financial and emotional strain on the parties involved and can deeply impact the family witnessing it. Added to the stress is the legal process itself is the uncertainty of charting into foreign legal territory. It is important to have an attorney by your side. If you are getting divorced, our firm is ready to guide you through the process, helping you make informed decisions and protect your rights. If you are seeking a divorce and would like to talk to an experienced divorce attorney, contact the Law Office of Sarina Gianna, LLC to schedule a consultation.
A basic outline of the traditional divorce litigation process
Knowing what is going to happen next can help alleviate your stress. This list is a very basic outline of the divorce litigation process in New Jersey. We get into a little more detail below. In our experience, we have found that there are many twists and turns along the way. Throughout the divorce litigation process, we remain at the client’s side, guiding and giving counsel.
- Initial pleadings: Filing the complaint with the Superior Court, this document includes grounds for divorce. The other party can either file an answer or counterclaim or seek a default judgment, depending on the situation.
- Temporary orders: While the divorce is pending, “pendente lite” orders may be requested to address issues like child custody and child support.
- Discovery: The process of obtaining important information about the case from the other side or third parties. Information can include bank records and other financial documents, as well as the identities of witnesses.
- Parent educational seminar and custody mediation: These resources are designed to keep parents focused on the rights of the children and minimize the effect of conflict on the children. If child custody is not resolved by agreement, mediation is required prior to any trial.
- Early settlement panel: Prior to setting a trial date, the parties must appear in a matrimonial early settlement panel in an attempt to address disputed economic issues.
- Trial: If the parties cannot reach agreements on the issues, the disputed issues will be decided by a judge at trial. The judge’s decision could be further subject to an appeal.
- Final judgment: A divorce is finalized with a Final Judgment of Divorce, addressing all issues.
Filing for divorce / Grounds for divorce
The divorce process begins by the filing of a divorce complaint alleging one of the causes of an action for a divorce recognized in New Jersey. These are called grounds. New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state, but not a pure one. While a divorcing couple can cite no-fault grounds, including irreconcilable differences or a separation of at least 18 months, they can also choose to pick fault grounds, including:
- Extreme cruelty
- Deviant sexual conduct
- Institutionalization for mental illness
Case management conference
Once the divorce complaint is served and papers are filed, the court will need to address certain matters. The judge will review the issues of the case and assess the practicality of the alternatives to litigation, hoping to expedite the process. This is called the Case Management Conference. Parties will address the following:
- Contested marital issues
- Pretrial discovery
- An Early Settlement Panel date
- Selection of witnesses
- Child custody and parenting time disputes
The Early Settlement Panel
If parties are unwilling or unable to address issues to expedite the process, the judge will often move the case to the Early Settlement Panel, a team of attorneys who are ready to make an unbinding recommendation as to how to resolve contested issues. If the parties deny the recommendation, they can still look towards mediation. If they can still not resolve their matter, they may need to turn towards litigation.
Finalizing a divorce
The divorce process ends when a judgment is secured through family court. This judgment usually contains an agreement that is worked out between the parties, whether through negotiations, litigation, mediation, collaborative practice or arbitration. With a Final Judgment of Divorce, the parties can move on with their lives.
A court can only decide on matters with the facts available. As we all know, the future can bring a whole new set of variables and a whole different set of problems. With that in mind, the court understands that things change, and orders may need to as well. In order to modify a court order, a party will need to demonstrate evidence of a significant and continuing change in circumstance that makes it impossible to abide by the judgment. Do not ignore an order. Contact an attorney that can make your case.
In addition, courts expect all parties to follow a court order. When one party ignores the court’s word, a judge may take action. If you are a person impacted by a disregard for what the court decided, you may request legal intervention to ensure that he or she is held accountable. Contact our firm to discuss.
Contact an effective divorce attorney in Ocean County
The Law Office of Sarina Gianna, LLC provides effective legal services to clients across New Jersey who are facing divorce and other family law matters. Our firm is dedicated to guiding clients every step of the way, working to ensure that their rights are protected. Contact our firm to discuss your legal matter with a professional.