New Jersey Divorce Process

New Jersey divorce proceedings start with filing a complaint for divorce. They then involve legally addressing matters of property division, alimony payments, child custody agreements, and child support. They end with an official judgment of divorce from a New Jersey court.

As part of your preparation for divorce in New Jersey, you should consider what was created by your marriage and what will need to be dismantled or altered as a result of your divorce.

The initial legal step is to file and serve your spouse with a complaint for divorce. Following this, mediation is an option to manage any disputes that arise. But before you file, it’s a good idea to learn what you should expect, what you will need to legally dissolve the marriage, and what options you have to make the process easier and faster. 

What to consider before starting the divorce process in New Jersey 

Divorce is a life-altering decision, so it’s a good idea to start by taking a personal inventory of what you hope to gain from the divorce and the timeline you have in mind. It’s also important to honestly assess the status of your relationship and the ability of you and your spouse to come to agreements throughout the process.

Here are some questions and indicators to help guide you.

Why do you want a divorce?

Are you simply unhappy in your marriage, or is leaving your marriage a matter of personal safety? The cause of your divorce – irreconcilable differences, infidelity, abuse, or other factors – can impact the type of divorce you are eligible to file for. It also affects the type of documentation you need to prove your case.

Have you both tried to work on the marriage?

Consider whether you and your spouse could resolve your issues through therapy or open dialogue before filing for divorce. Make sure divorce is the appropriate next step before moving forward.

Are you able to have a civil discussion? 

It is natural to feel angry, sad, or grieved when going through a divorce. At the same time, it’s important to do what you can to separate your emotions from your choices going forward. 

If you two are amicable, you might file for an uncontested divorce. In so doing, you can avoid going to court. This can save you a lot of money and time.

Are there any potential legal, financial, or child custody challenges?

If children were born or adopted into the relationship, you will need to determine things like child support payments and custody arrangements. If there is a large estate in one or both of your names, you will likely need to hire financial advisors to assist you in property division and debt allocation. 

If there are any extenuating circumstances, try to work those out in advance with your spouse. If you are unsure of how to proceed, a mediator may be able to help.

Read: How Mediation Can Make Your Divorce Easier

Do you have a support system?

As part of your divorce journey, consider who could provide you with the emotional support you will need. People who are not your spouse’s family members or shared friends are usually the best choices for this role. 

Are you financially prepared for divorce?

Divorce can be costly. Not only are there legal costs to consider, but you will also likely be living on your own and incurring related costs.

Creating a budget for yourself, cutting extra expenses, and adding up what it would cost to file and complete the divorce process can help you determine what, if any, career changes might benefit you. 

Any steps you can take to keep divorce costs down, like going through mediation rather than a trial, can have a big impact on the final price tag of the divorce.

How will the children be impacted?

Your emotions may be high, but remember that your children are going through a crisis as well. Consider how a divorce will impact them emotionally and psychologically, and do everything you can to make the transition as smooth and simple as possible. 

If both parents prioritize the well-being of the children above all else, it’s more likely that you will come to agreement on many issues relating to them.

What are the steps to getting a divorce in New Jersey?

Divorce can be an intricate process. Understanding its various steps is key to a successful resolution. Here's an outline of how divorce in New Jersey works:

Step 1: File a divorce complaint

To initiate the divorce process in New Jersey, you'll need to file your forms in the county where both of you lived when you separated or where your spouse resides. Your divorce complaint will detail all aspects of your separation, from personal information to how you expect to manage the division of assets and child custody as well as whether alimony or child support is expected. 

In New Jersey, there are two primary types of divorce to choose from:

  • No-fault divorce: If your marriage can no longer work, getting a divorce without placing blame can be done by citing irreconcilable differences. If this is an uncontested divorce, meaning both parties agree to the divorce and its terms, it will be far simpler and less expensive. 
  • Fault-based divorce: You can also file for a divorce based on a specific reason, like one person cheated or there was extreme cruelty, desertion, substance abuse or addiction, mental illness, or a long prison sentence. A few characteristics and timelines change with this type of divorce. More documentation will be needed, and the divorce will more than likely be contested, which will ultimately increase the time and cost involved. 

Step 2: Spouse responds to divorce complaint

Once the complaint is filed, the spouse being served has a maximum of 35 days to respond. In the response, they can either admit or deny the allegations in the complaint. If they deny the claims, they can supply information that refutes the statements made in the complaint. They may also make allegations of their own and requests for how to dissolve the judgment. 

Step 3: Case information statement completed and filed

Both parties must complete and file a Case Information Statement (CIS), which is a document detailing financial information, assets, and debts. This will be used to help determine who gets what and who is responsible for paying off marital debts.

Step 4: Pretrial motions

If either party wishes, they may file a pretrial motion, such as a motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment, which aims to resolve the case without going to trial.

Step 5: Case management conference and discovery

After the pretrial motions are addressed, there will be a case management conference with the judge. At this conference, deadlines for completing discovery will be established. Discovery is the phase where both parties exchange crucial case-related information, such as supporting documents and depositions.

Step 6: Divorce court or Early Settlement Program

If a settlement isn't reached following the discovery period, the case may proceed to divorce court. New Jersey offers an Early Settlement Program (ESP) where you and your spouse can meet with a mediator before trial in an attempt to reach a settlement without having to spend time arguing in court.

If you come to an agreement, you will still go to the scheduled hearing, but it will likely just take a few minutes for the judge to look over the filings and provide a judgment of divorce.

Step 7: Mediation

If no agreement is reached through the early settlement panel, additional mediation is an option. A neutral third party assists you and your spouse in coming up with a settlement. The mediator can help you work through sticky points where you might not agree, helping you find common ground.

Step 8: Settlement conference and trial

If your mediation and other negotiation efforts fall short, your case may advance to a settlement conference or trial. During the settlement conference, you, your attorneys, and a judge may work together to try to reach a final agreement. If no accord is reached, a trial will occur, with the judge making decisions on the remaining issues.

Step 9: Judgment of divorce

Once all matters are settled and the judge is satisfied, a judgment of divorce will be issued, formally terminating your marriage. This judgment covers aspects like property division, alimony (spousal support), child custody, child support, and any other relevant issues.

Step 10: Post-divorce matters

Following the finalization of the divorce, both parties are expected to adhere to the terms outlined in the judgment. This includes child custody and support arrangements. These are considered to be orders of the court, effectively law for the two now ex-spouses. 

Should situations change regarding income level or children, you may go back to court to update the document. Additionally, if either spouse moves, they are required to update their contact information with the court so they can be contacted if any new developments arise.


Custody/Visitation. New Jersey Courts.
Divorce. New Jersey Courts.
Divorce: Making it Easier on You and Your Kids. New Jersey Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect Reports.
Early Settlement Panels. New Jersey Courts.
Contested and Uncontested Divorces. New Jersey Courts.
Senior Editor
Communication, Relationships, Divorce Insights
Melissa Schmitz is Senior Editor at Hello Divorce, and her greatest delight is to help make others’ lives easier – especially when they’re in the middle of a stressful life transition like divorce. After 15 years as a full-time school music teacher, she traded in her piano for a laptop and has been happily writing and editing content for the last decade. She earned her Bachelor of Psychology degree from Alma College and her teaching certificate from Michigan State University. She still plays and sings for fun at farmer’s markets, retirement homes, and the occasional bar with her local Michigan band.