Your Spouse Does Not Respond to Divorce Papers: Can You Still Get Your New Jersey Divorce?
After months of careful consideration—and procrastination—you decide that divorce is really what you want. You meet with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer. After confirming that you have lived in the state for more than 12 months, your attorney then asks you if you have thought about what ground you want to use as your cause of action. When you seem unsure, he explains your options.
Grounds for Divorce in New Jersey
There are both fault and non-fault grounds for divorce.
Your attorney tells you that there are two non-fault grounds in New Jersey: irreconcilable differences and a separation of at least 18 months.
He adds that there are several fault grounds: adultery, abandonment, deviant sexual behavior, extreme mental or physical cruelty, substance addiction, imprisonment, and institutionalization.
Not wanting to place blame on your spouse and not having lived apart for 18 months, you choose irreconcilable differences. Your lawyer tells you that this is what most New Jersey couples select.
Complaint for Divorce
The next step you take is the completion of a Complaint for Divorce. In doing so, you provide facts about you, your spouse, your children, the date and place of your marriage, the ground for divorce, and other pertinent information.
With the assistance of your New Jersey divorce attorney, you prepare the necessary paperwork that will be submitted with your Complaint: the Confidential Litigant Sheet, the Certification of Insurance Coverage, and the Complementary Dispute Resolution notice.
Confidential Litigant Sheet: This sheet requires dates of birth, social security numbers, and other confidential information that will not go into public divorce records.
Certification of Insurance Coverage: You must provide detailed information about all types of insurance. This is to protect both parties from changes being made during the divorce process.
Complementary Dispute Resolution: The CDR is a waiver certifying that you have been made aware of out-of-court means of resolution, such as arbitration and mediation.
Your forms completed, you file your paperwork with the clerk’s office and pay the fee. (This fee can be waived if it would be an economic hardship.)
Serving Your Spouse with the Complaint for Divorce
The Complaint has been processed and you have received your copy of it marked “Filed.” Copies of all the paperwork have been made, and the time has come to serve your spouse with the divorce papers.
Depending upon your relationship with your spouse, you will send the material in one of 3 ways:
- through the sheriff’s office;
- by certified mail; or
- through your spouse’s attorney.
You do not know that name of your spouse’s attorney, so your attorney sends the papers via certified mail. He explains that your spouse has been advised to respond within 35 days and that you can expect that response to take one of several forms.
- File an Answer – The defendant—your spouse—either agrees or disagrees with the statement made in the Complaint by the plaintiff—you.
- File an Appearance – The defendant does not object to the divorce itself, but does object to one or more specific provisions, such as those regarding alimony, child support, or child custody.
- File a Counterclaim – Your spouse may respond by asserting a ground for the divorce. In this scenario, an Answer & Counterclaim will be filed.
- No Response – It is possible that your spouse will not even acknowledge being served with the Complaint for Divorce. Thereafter, you will be permitted to proceed by default.
Your Spouse Does not Respond: Requesting a Default Judgment
Suppose the 35 days have passed and your spouse still has not responded. You have 60 days to request a default judgment of divorce.
In New Jersey it is possible for you to dissolve the marriage even if your spouse does not respond when served with a Complaint for Divorce. The judge can grant a default judgment of divorce.
When you request a default hearing, the first thing you must do is prove these facts to the court:
- that your spouse was served with the Complaint of Divorce;
- that your spouse is not serving in the military; and
- that your spouse did not respond to that petition.
If you are granted a default hearing, New Jersey law requires that you inform your spouse of the date.
Information to Provide
If your spouse has not responded, then the judge will have to depend on the financial and other information you present. There is more paperwork than you imagined, but your New Jersey divorce lawyer makes it easier.
These are among the issues that must be addressed:
- assets and debts:
- child support;
- spousal support;
- custody/parenting time; and
- equitable distribution of marital property.
Even in a default hearing, the judge must be convinced that the judgment is fair, and it will be up to you—with the help of your NJ divorce lawyer—to make your case.
Contact a New Jersey Divorce Attorney
The decision to divorce is a difficult one. Of course, it is easier if you and your spouse have come to a mutual decision to end your marriage. However, this is not always the case, and in New Jersey divorce is possible even when only one spouse wants it.
The issues involved in a divorce are very complicated. It is important to have the assistance of a highly skilled New Jersey divorce attorney who knows New Jersey family law and who will be able to analyze your unique situation and guide you through the process step by step.
Are you contemplating the dissolution of your marriage?
Has your spouse unexpectedly served you with divorce papers?
If you answered, “Yes,” to either of these questions, then the experienced New Jersey divorce and family law attorneys at Aretsky Law Group, P.C., can help. For an initial consultation, call us 24/7 at 800-537-4154.