This article explains the divorce process in New Jersey. The same process applies to registered domestic partners or couples in a civil union who wish to terminate their relationship.
The court will grant a divorce if you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences that cannot be resolved. You may also file for divorce if you have lived apart for at least 18 months, or based on fault grounds including adultery, desertion for more than one year, extreme cruelty, imprisonment for more than 18 months, deviant sexual conduct, or alcohol or drug abuse.
One spouse must live in New Jersey for at least one year before you may file for divorce. You may file your divorce petition in the county where either spouse lives. A judge may enter a decree of divorce after a court hearing; there's no specific waiting period.
New Jersey is an equitable distribution state; thus, the court’s goal is to divide marital property in a way that's equitable and fair, but not necessarily equal. Marital property is any property, including income, that you or your spouse acquired during marriage. Separate property acquired during the marriage through gift or inheritance is not subject to division and remains the separate property of the spouse who acquired it. When dividing property, the court will look at factors such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s contribution of income or property to the marriage, each party’s economic circumstances at the time of divorce, and the standard of living during the marriage.
The court may order one spouse to pay temporary or permanent alimony depending on the financial needs of the other spouse. To determine an amount the court may consider the standard of living during the marriage, each spouse’s earning capacity, education level, and employability, and whether either spouse needs additional education or job training. The court may also look at each spouse’s contributions to the marriage such as caring for minor children, and evaluate long it may take the receiving spouse to become self-supporting. Alimony orders may be modified by the court if either spouse’s circumstances change.
See Understanding and Calculating Alimony in New Jersey for more detailed information.
In New Jersey, parents must financially support their child until the child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever is later. Child support is calculated using the parents’ combined income and taking into consideration the child’s needs, the parents’ earning ability and economic circumstances, and the child’s and each parent’s age and health. A judge may also order one parent to pay for the child’s health insurance, medical, and educational expenses. New Jersey Child Support enforces child support obligations and can also assist you with filing for child support. To modify a child support order, the parent seeking the change must show significantly changed circumstances.
Parents are encouraged to work together to create a parenting plan setting forth their custody and visitation agreement. However, if the parents cannot agree on a plan, the court will make custody orders based on what is in the child’s best interests. This means a judge will examine the parents’ ability to communicate, to cooperate, and to address the child’s physical, emotional, and educational needs. The judge will also look at the child’s relationship with parents and siblings and at the stability of each parent’s home. Once a custody order is in place, it may only be changed if both parents agree of if either parent presents evidence to the court that a modification is in the child’s best interest.
To learn more about the "best interests" standard and how it applies to child custody cases, see Child Custody in New Jersey: The Best Interests of the Child.