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In New Jersey, the divorce process starts with the filing of a complaint, after which a number of things can happen. In a very basic case that does not involve children and only involves a limited number of assets, the couple may just agree to have Judgment of Divorce entered and be done with it. When spouses cannot agree on certain issues, such as how an asset will be divided or how much time each will spend with the children, then the process takes longer and likely involves discovery. Discovery includes an exchange of written questions and answers (interrogatories) and/or face-to-face or video questioning (deposition) while under oath. It involves review of various documents, such as those related to businesses, bank accounts, investments, and other assets and liabilities belonging to each party.
Once all discovery has been completed, the parties will often attempt to negotiate a settlement of the divorce. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, the parties attend an Early Settlement Panel (ESP). The ESP will involve attorneys from within the county who volunteer their time to help the parties reach a resolution. This is a free service provided by the court. If this is unsuccessful, then the parties will go to a financial mediator (an attorney who has been trained to try to resolve these kinds of cases). The first two hours of the mediation are free, but then the parties must pay the mediator at his/her hourly rate. If this is unsuccessful, then the parties might go to an intensive settlement conference with a judge.
If none of these attempts at resolution are successful, then the case will go to trial where a Judge will decide unresolved aspects of the divorce, effectively dictating important aspects of each party’s future and the lives of their children. It is always best when spouses can resolve matters on their own terms, because there is no way of knowing what a Judge will decide.
The law has a number of factors that must be considered by the court when making a custody decision. In almost every case the courts will grant joint legal custody so that each parent can be actively involved in their children’s lives. Joint legal custody simply means that the parents are equally involved in all major decisions, such as those concerning healthcare, education, religion, and welfare. A decision could involve something as basic as whether or not a child will be allowed to get a piercing, or something as significant as which surgeon will perform a serious operation on the child.
It is rare for the court to grant sole legal custody to one parent, but it is very common for the court to grant physical custody (i.e. where the child will reside) to one parent and parenting time to the other. These decisions are made pursuant to a series of factors set forth under the law, such as whether the parents get along with one another, whether or not there is a history of domestic violence between the parents, how old the children are, whether or not the children have any special care needs (e.g. needs related to an emotional or physical disability), whether or not the children have any special talents, and how to go about maximizing each child’s potential. The mantra is always “what is in the best interests of the child and who can provide the best and safest environment for the child”.
For more information on Process of Divorce In New Jersey, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (855) 208-3650 today.