Monmouth County Divorce Lawyers
Divorce is painful. Even when you believe it’s the right thing to
do, you can go through emotional turmoil. We can’t prevent that
(although we would if we could), but what a good Monmouth County divorce lawyer
can do is bring clarity and understanding to the legal process. You need strong
representation, and you need your questions about divorce law answered.
That’s why we’re here.
Filing for Divorce in Monmouth County
The state’s divorce law requires that you or your spouse be a resident
for at least a year before filing. It’s not necessary that both
of you still live here in New Jersey, but at least one party should still
reside in the state.
So, if you and your spouse separated a little over a year ago and you moved
to Manhattan to be closer to where you work, while your spouse stayed
at the house in Freehold, you can still be the one to initiate divorce
proceedings in New Jersey.
Grounds for Divorce
Every couple has their own reasons for ending a marriage. What all of those
reasons have in common is that they must be categorized as one of the
“grounds” for divorce. In New Jersey, those grounds are:
Separation–if you and your spouse have lived separately for the past 18 months,
that alone is grounds for divorce.
Irreconcilable differences–this is the legal definition if you simply can’t get along
with your spouse and see no possibility of anything changing. Only one
spouse needs to cite irreconcilable differences to make this a ground
Adultery–an important note here is that adultery is the one exception to
the 12-month waiting period noted at the top. If your spouse has been
unfaithful and you can prove it, you can file for divorce immediately.
Desertion–if your spouse left at least 12 months ago and hasn’t returned,
you have grounds for divorce.
Extreme cruelty–This includes both physical and mental abuse.
Drug and alcohol problems that can be proven in court.
Other mental illnesses that lead a spouse to be institutionalized for at least two years after
you were married.
No-Fault Divorce vs. Fault-Based Divorce
The first two grounds listed above–separation and irreconcilable
no-fault divorce. They are not about proving that one party did anything wrong.
All the other grounds are
fault-based divorce. While they may vary in gravity, the one common thread is that the filing
spouse will need to prove that the other spouse has, in fact, done something wrong.
Fault-based divorce may require not just an attorney, but a private investigator,
to gather the necessary proof of what is being alleged. That proof will,
of course, need to be presented to a judge in a formal hearing and your
spouse will have the opportunity to respond. This process will, by its
very nature, have the potential for confrontation and for bringing secrets
out into the open.
We don’t say any of this to discourage you from filing fault-based
divorce. If your spouse has been unfaithful, you have grounds for divorce.
If your spouse is spending their nights at the bar and coming home intoxicated,
you have grounds for divorce. And certainly, if your spouse is being abusive,
you to have to take the appropriate steps to protect yourself and your children.
Furthermore, it is at least
possible–though by no means assured–that proving fault can have a positive
impact on any settlements in the areas of alimony and child support. The
ability of your Monmouth County divorce lawyer to understand the unique
aspects of both your divorce and your long-term
family situation, in the context of New Jersey law, can potentially make a difference here.
However, we encourage clients to understand that when no-fault divorce
is available as an option, it’s something to strongly consider.
Couples with children may not want their kids to hear dirty laundry aired.
If nothing else, while divorce is
never going to be easy, there are certainly emotional advantages to coming through
it with a minimum of legal confrontation.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested is related to the issue
of fault vs. no fault, but it is not a direct connection. It’s possible
for a no-fault divorce to be contested.
The decision to end your marriage is just the start of the process. Divorce
proceedings will involve issues of
alimony payments and the
distribution of assets. If any of those are in dispute, your divorce is a contested one and the
disputed issues will need to be settled by a judge.
Now, the fact that you and your spouse disagree on how to split your assets
does not, on its face, mean the divorce must be contested. Remember, “contested”
in this context is a legal term, not a personal one. If you and your spouse
bring your disagreement to negotiation or
mediation and work out a settlement, then the divorce will officially be “uncontested,”
and the judge is only needed to sign off on the final settlement.
Divorces sometimes happen because one party shies away from confrontation.
If that describes you, know there is nothing wrong with that. We all have
different temperaments and that’s a good thing.
But it’s something that can work against you in a legal proceeding.
A good Monmouth County divorce attorney can fight zealously for you when
you may have a hard time fighting for yourself.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that divorce comes with a
lot of forms. Even if you try to file yourself, the paperwork still piles
up. That’s just one of several reasons we believe you’ll benefit
from having a good lawyer to keep this all straight for you.
After the initial complaint and summons, you’ll still need to fill
out a wide range of forms, including–but not limited to–certifying
your insurance coverage and certifying non-collusion. An example of collusion
would be a couple agreeing to falsify an earlier separation date to speed
up the date of eligibility to file. Your certification will assure the
court that everything is following the proper legal framework.
Forensic Accounting in a Divorce
There’s no such thing as a simple divorce for anyone, but high-asset
couples filing for divorce often find themselves needing to settle not
just how to divide up their property, but what their property is worth.
A forensic accountant can be particularly valuable in these circumstances.
Examples might include if there is a family-owned business. Perhaps it’s
agreed upon which spouse will run the business but defining the actual
value of the business will have ripple effects on how the rest of the
couple’s assets are divided. A bankruptcy filing is another factor
that can make defining the overall value of a couple’s assets more
challenging than simply looking at a number on a bank statement.
These are examples that can presume an uncontested divorce, where the couple
is talking in a reasonable manner. But if the divorce is uncontested,
the couple’s assets are high and one of the spouses has taken over
management of money matters, it’s not unheard of for that spouse
to try and hide assets. You might be entitled to half, but if that asset
can’t be found, you stand to lose a lot.
Forensic accountants are skilled at combing through detailed financial
paperwork and developing good numbers for the value of property. They
also produce analysis as to how that figure was arrived at, something
that can be very important in a contested divorce where the figures need
to be explained to a judge. Furthermore, forensic accountants have the
know-how to track down whether or not your spouse moved money offshore
or used some other nefarious method to deny you equitable distribution
in the settlement.
We can’t promise anything on the timetable, but we can say that what
typically decides the length of a divorce case is whether it is contested
or uncontested. It’s possible, if everything is settled between
the spouses, to see it through in as little as two months. However, realistically,
you should prepare yourself for up to a year.
The divorce process is hard, but with the right Monmouth County divorce
attorney, you can at least count on strong representation and the hope
of getting to the other side with a chance of a new beginning. You can
count on someone who will fight for your best interests. That’s
what we do at Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group. Call us today at
(732) 585-1651 or
contact us here online and set up a consultation today.