In New Jersey, there are two different routes to getting an "absolute divorce" (the state's legal term for what most people think of as regular divorce): a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce. If you and your spouse disagree about some or all of the issues involved in ending your marriage, your divorce will be contested. Unless you manage to settle those disputes at some point during the legal divorce process, you'll need to go to trial to have a judge resolve the issues for you.
In contrast, there's no need for a trial when you have an uncontested divorce, because you and your spouse have worked out an agreement on all of the issues. And if you can reach that agreement before you before you file your divorce papers, an uncontested divorce will be much cheaper and quicker than a traditional, contested divorce. That's because you can avoid lengthy and expensive court battles over every disagreement.
Many couples find that they can navigate the uncontested divorce process without hiring lawyers. And if they want some help with the paperwork, they can often use a service to file for divorce online. But you always have the option of getting help from a lawyer, either to handle all of the legal matters in your divorce or for a more limited role—such as reviewing your settlement agreement to make sure that you haven't given up any of your legal rights.
If you want to file for an uncontested divorce in Michigan, you'll need to meet three basic requirements: a comprehensive agreement on the issues, agreement on the legal reason for your divorce, and residence in the state for a certain period of time.
To qualify for an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree on all of the issues in your case, including:
If you're having trouble reaching agreement on these and any other matters you want to address in your divorce, mediation might help you work through the obstacles. Most mediators will prepare a document that reflects any agreements you've reached during the process. You can use this document as the basis for your written marital settlement agreement. Some mediation services will even help with the process of actually filing for divorce.
You need to have a legally accepted reason (or "ground") for divorce in any state. New Jersey allows fault and no-fault grounds for divorce. But the easiest (and most common) way to file for an uncontested divorce New Jersey is to agree with your spouse that your marriage has been broken for six months due to your "irreconcilable differences," with no reasonable prospect of getting back together. (N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-2 (2022).)
Finally, in order to get any kind of divorce in New Jersey, either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the state for at least one year just before you file the initial divorce papers. (N.J. Stat. § 2A:34-10 (2022).)
While the process of getting an uncontested divorce is easier and quicker than a contested divorce, you'll still need to make sure that you've filed all the required forms and followed all the required steps.
New Jersey doesn't allow you and your spouse to file for an uncontested divorce jointly. One of you (the "plaintiff") must start the process by gathering, completing, and filing all of the required forms. The New Jersey Courts' Self-Help divorce page provides some of the forms you'll need, along with information on where you can find the others. (If you're using an online divorce service, the service should provide you with all of the completed forms that you'll need.)
Along with your settlement agreement, the key document you'll prepare is the divorce complaint, which gives the court information about you, your marriage, and what you're asking for in the divorce (such as alimony and child support). You'll also need to complete a summons and various certification forms.
The next step is to file your divorce complaint, settlement agreement, and other documents with the Family Division of the New Jersey Superior Court in the proper county. The rules for choosing the right county are complicated and are based on where you or your spouse was living when the reason for your divorce happened (or, in legalese, when the "cause of action arose"). When you're filing for an uncontested divorce based on irreconcilable differences, the cause of action arose at the end of the six-month period when you experienced a breakdown in your marriage. So you should file for divorce:
(N.J. Rules of Court, rule 5:7-1 (2022).)
The court clerk generally charges a fee to file the divorce papers. As of 2022, New Jersey's filing fee for the divorce complaint was $300, plus a $25 fee for a parenting workshop if you have minor children. These fees are always subject to change, but the court's filing fee page will show the current fees as well as information on how to apply for a waiver if you can't afford to pay the fees. If you meet the income guidelines for a waiver, a judge will sign an order eliminating any court fees during your case.
Your next step is to serve your spouse (the "defendant") with the divorce papers that you filed, including the summons. The easiest way to do this is simply to give or mail the documents to your spouse, who will then sign an "acknowledgment of service" that you'll file with the court. Otherwise, you'll have to arrange to have the documents hand-delivered by the sheriff or another authorized process server. (N.J. Rules of Court, rules 4:4-3, 4:4-4, 4:4-6 (2022).)
In an uncontested divorce, your spouse may simply file an appearance form. Even when your spouse isn't filing a formal answer to the complaint, there's still a fee to file the appearance ($175 as of 2022).
If your spouse doesn't file an appearance or other response within 35 days after receiving the divorce papers, you might be able to use the process in your county for a default divorce.
The New Jersey court system now has a procedure for requesting an uncontested or default divorce judgment without having to go to a court hearing. See the court's directive regarding "divorce on the papers" for details on the procedure and required forms. Even though the procedures outlined in the directive are different for uncontested and default divorces, some counties apparently use the default procedure in all uncontested divorces. So you should also check with the court clerk's office for the court's practices in your county.
Even if you've filed all the right forms and met the requirements, the judge might still decide to require you to attend a hearing. With or without a hearing, the judge will review all your paperwork and, if everything is in order, will sign the divorce judgment that you've provided.