For some couples, divorce is a mutual decision after a tumultuous marriage. For others, one spouse is shocked to receive divorce papers hand-delivered to their door and may be unwilling to cooperate. Regardless of your situation, people who are getting divorced in New Jersey need a divorce attorney who will advocate on their behalf. Although we wish all divorces were amicable, many spouses cannot agree on basic issues, which means that a day in court is often unavoidable.
At Petrelli Previtera, LLC, our New Jersey divorce lawyers have helped many men and women get the divorce they want. Please contact us today for assistance.
“When it comes to responsiveness, our firm goes above and beyond for our client. Find out how we balance compassionate and dedicated advocacy with aggressive legal representation.”
Melinda Previtera, Partner at Petrelli Previtera, LLC.
Grounds for Divorce in NJ
A couple cannot divorce in New Jersey unless they have a reason, which is called the “ground” supporting the divorce petition. Our state recognizes both fault and no-fault options.
N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-1 identifies the fault options:
- Desertion for at least 12 months
- Addiction to drugs or alcohol for at least 12 months
- Deviant sexual conduct
- Extreme cruelty, which includes both mental and physical abuse
- Imprisonment for at least 18 months
- Institutionalization for mental illness for at least 24 months
By far, most divorces are sought for no-fault grounds, which under New Jersey law includes separation for at least 18 months or irreconcilable differences which have caused the marriage to break down for at least six months.
When spouses can agree on key issues in a divorce, they can save themselves time and money. The key issues are that need to be resolved are:
- Child custody, if the couple has children
- Child support
- Division of marital property and debts
- Spousal support (“alimony”)
Spouses should draft a marital separation agreement and submit a signed copy to the judge. If the document looks fair, most judges will sign off on it, and the divorce is final.
Unfortunately, not all couples are able to agree to a divorce settlement, even after participating in mediation. When negotiations break down, a couple must present their dispute to a judge for resolution.
Child custody disputes are some of the most difficult our New Jersey divorce lawyers have handled. Many emotions are in play, and young children can be scarred or traumatized if the dispute is not handled in a sensitive manner.
Under New Jersey law, there are two types of child custody:
- Legal custody, which is the right to make important legal decisions for your child, involving such issues as education, medical care, religious upbringing, and extracurricular activities.
- Physical custody, which involves the ability to make decisions about where your child resides
Parents can share joint custody, or sole custody can be awarded to one parent.
Judges decide child custody issues based on the best interests of the child, which requires looking at many factors, such as:
- Whether either parent endangers the child
- The stability of each parent’s home
- The relationship that currently exists between parent and child
- The child’s relationship with any siblings
- How well the parents work together and communicate
- The child’s preference, if he or she is old and mature enough
A parenting plan serves as the foundation for co-parenting after a divorce. This plan will be quite detailed and should identify where the child will be on which days and how parents hand the child off to each other.
New Jersey has child support guidelines judges use to determine how much each parent must contribute to the child’s upbringing. Generally, child support requires the non-custodial parent to make monthly contributions to the custodial parent.
Many factors are involved in calculating child support, such as each parent’s income, the amount of time they spend with the child, and any additional expenses like childcare and health insurance. Judges can depart from the guidelines in certain situations, such as when a child has special needs or when parents have a high combined income.
No issue causes more confusion than the division of marital property. Although New Jersey is not a community property state, most of the assets a couple obtains while married will qualify as marital. Exceptions include any gifts or inheritances a spouse received. But most assets, like homes and retirement accounts, are marital regardless of whose name the asset is held in.
If you can’t divide your assets between you, a judge will do so using principles of equitable distribution. The foremost question is how to divide them fairly between the couple, and judges look at many factors, such as the length of the marriage, each spouse’s physical health, and the living standards the couple enjoyed.
Marital debts also must be divided. For example, the spouse who gets the family home might also get the mortgage—or maybe not. Dividing debts is critical because our clients often remain legally responsible for a loan even after divorce.
Alimony is money one spouse pays to the other following divorce, and it is a crucial source of support for many of our clients. There are many reasons for alimony, but the primary ones are to mitigate the economic hardship a lower-earning spouse will suffer and to help the lower-earning spouse get more education or work experience to become self-sufficient.
Judges do not follow a formula when deciding spousal support. Instead, they take a holistic view of the circumstances to determine whether to award alimony in the first place and how much and for how long. There are many factors found in N.J.S.A. § 2A:34-23 that a judge must consider.
A contested divorce can take a year or longer to complete. During this time, our clients might need child support or spousal support. Temporary child custody must also be assigned until the divorce is completed.
Many attorneys overlook the importance of temporary orders. New Jersey judges often want to maintain the status quo, and the temporary child custody arrangement can easily ripen into the final divorce decree. Our New Jersey divorce lawyers strive to make the strongest arguments when temporary orders are being decided to set up our clients for the best possible resolution to contested issues.
Contact Our New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Today
Petrelli Previtera, LLC, is a leader in New Jersey divorce law. If you see a divorce on the horizon, please contact us today to schedule a consultation. An agent is available every day of the week to take your call, or you can schedule your own consultation on our website.
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