Everything You Need to Know before Getting Divorced in New Jersey

Navigating a divorce in New Jersey is not for the faint of heart. At one of the most emotional moments of your life, you will have to make many decisions that could significantly affect your physical and financial future. 

It’s essential to arm yourself with information so you make the right decisions for yourself. Here are some things you will need to know if you’re filing for divorce in New Jersey. 

New Jersey divorce prerequisites

Do you meet the residency requirement?

Before you can file for divorce in New Jersey, you must first meet state residency requirements. You or your spouse must have lived in New Jersey for 12 consecutive months before filing.

You will file for divorce in the county clerk’s office where you lived when the grounds for your divorce arose. If you didn’t live in New Jersey at that time, you will file in the county where your spouse resided.

If neither of you lived in New Jersey when the grounds arose, you will file in the county where you currently live. 

Do you have a reason for divorce (grounds)?

To file for a divorce in New Jersey, you need a reason for it that the law condones. This is known as grounds. In New Jersey, you can get a no-fault divorce or a fault-based divorce.

A no-fault divorce uses the grounds of irreconcilable differences. This means the marriage is over, and you feel there is no possibility of reconciliation. You may file a no-fault divorce if one of the following applies:

  • The two of you have lived separately and apart for at least 18 consecutive months 
  • The two of you have had irreconcilable differences for at least six months.

Acceptable fault-based grounds in New Jersey include the following:

  • Adultery
  • Abandonment
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Drug or alcohol addiction for a period of 12 consecutive months or more during the marriage
  • Institutionalization for mental illness for 24 consecutive months or more during the marriage
  • Imprisonment for 18 or more consecutive months during the marriage
  • If your spouse performed deviant sexual misconduct without your permission

If you decide to pursue fault-based grounds, note that you will be required to present evidence to the court that your spouse engaged in the misconduct you have alleged and that this behavior was the cause of your marriage ending. 

Financial disclosures

Full financial disclosures by both you and your spouse are required as part of the divorce process in New Jersey. In some states, you have the option to mutually waive this requirement, but there is no waiver available in New Jersey.

Read: What Are Financial Disclosures?

Parenting class

If you and your spouse are parents, you will be legally required to attend the New Jersey Parent Education Program before your final judgment will be issued. This parenting class is designed to provide you and your spouse with resources and tools to effectively co-parent your kids during and after your divorce.

The parenting class will typically cover such topics as:

  • How and what to say to the kids about your divorce
  • How children may react to divorce and how to deal with these behaviors
  • How to develop healthy co-parenting structures
  • Strategies, tools, and resources to help your children through the process

Both parents must attend the classes unless granted a waiver.

Forms and fees

The person who initiates the divorce is the plaintiff. The other spouse is the defendant. To begin the divorce process in New Jersey as the plaintiff, complete and file the following documents:

The divorce complaint will also list the other topics you want addressed in your settlement, such as child support, child custody, spousal support, and marital property division. Depending on the grounds you are using to file for your divorce, there may be different forms of the complaint to file.  

The filing fee for the plaintiff is $300. For the defendant, it’s $175. If you feel you can’t afford this fee, you can request a waiver. If you have children and seek custody or parenting time, the parenting workshop fee is $25. New Jersey offers a free divorce guide with instructions here

Some states provide residents with an opportunity for a simplified and streamlined divorce procedure that moves faster than regular uncontested divorce. However, there is no such procedure in New Jersey. The most simplified divorce procedure available in New Jersey is an uncontested no-fault divorce. 

What are the basic divorce steps in New Jersey?

Divorce procedures in New Jersey vary depending on the type of divorce you seek. Here are some basic steps you can expect.

  • Meeting residency requirements: You or your spouse must meet residency requirements before filing for divorce in New Jersey.
  • Grounds: You must have a legally admissible reason, or grounds, for divorce. You can file for a no-fault divorce using the grounds of irreconcilable differences, or you can file using fault-based grounds.
  • Filing the complaint: As the plaintiff, you will file the complaint with the court in the appropriate county, depending on your residency. This step formally initiates the divorce process and notifies your spouse of your intention to divorce.
  • Service of summons: Once the complaint has been filed, the documents must be served to your spouse within 30 days of filing. Proof of this service is required by the court. 
  • Response: Your spouse has 35 days to respond to the summons and complaint. The response acknowledges receipt of the petition and makes note of any disagreements regarding the proposed terms.
  • Discovery: You and your spouse will exchange financial disclosures during the discovery process. This helps determine how your marital property will be divided. 
  • Negotiation: You and your spouse can choose to work together to create a settlement agreement outline the terms of your divorce. This will include how your property will be divided, child support and custody terms, and whether one of you is requesting spousal support.
  • Settlement agreement resolution options: If the two of you are unable to come to their own settlement agreement, you may be able to work through your differences through mediation or another resolution method. 
  • Finalizing the divorce: If you and your spouse reach a settlement, the court will review it and issue a final judgment. If you are unable to reach a settlement, your divorce case will go before the court, where each of you will be able to present your position. A judge will then make the final decisions regarding the terms of your divorce.

Property division overview

During the divorce process, you and your spouse will be required to fairly divide your marital property. New Jersey follows the principle of equitable distribution. Note that “equitable division” does not necessarily mean a 50/50 split of your marital property.

Marital property is any property purchased or acquired by either of you while you were married. 

You and your spouse may be able to come to your own property division settlement that you consider fair. If not, once the court becomes involved, they consider many variables when “equitably” dividing your marital property:

  • Your marital debts and liabilities
  • The duration of your marriage
  • Both your and your spouse’s income
  • Both your and your spouse’s earning capacity
  • Both spouse’s ages
  • The emotional and physical health of both you and your spouse
  • Your standard of living
  • Each of your contributions to the marriage or marital property

Child custody overview

If you and your spouse have children, you will need to decide on custody terms. One or both of you will have legal custody. This reflects who will make major decisions for the kids about their medical care, education, religious affiliation, and more.

Another term to understand is physical custody, which differs from legal custody. Physical custody reflects who will be responsible for your children’s housing and physical care. 

Child custody options in New Jersey include:

  • Joint legal custody: Co-parents share access to information and make decisions together regarding the child. This is the most common form of legal custody in New Jersey since it allows both parents to have input.
  • Sole legal custody: One parent is responsible for making all of the child’s big decisions (schooling, medical care, and such).
  • Primary residential custody: For over 50% of the time, the child lives with one parent. This parent has primary residential custody.
  • Shared residential custody: Parents share equal time with the child.

The type of custody terms you agree to can also affect your child support payments. 

What to know about spousal support 

Spousal support, sometimes called alimony or spousal maintenance, is payment awarded from one spouse to the other. Five types of spousal support can be considered in New Jersey.

  • Pendente lite: Temporary alimony awarded to one spouse while the divorce is pending
  • Rehabilitative alimony: This can be ordered by the court when one spouse needs further education or training to become financially independent.
  • Reimbursement alimony: This can be ordered by the court when one spouse supported the other while pursuing advanced education with the expectation they would share in the better earning capacity afforded by that education.
  • Limited duration alimony: This is temporary needs-based support and is typically awarded after a short-term marriage.
  • Permanent or open-duration alimony: This is sometimes awarded at the conclusion of longer-term marriages.

When making a spousal support decision, the court will consider the following:

  • The financial needs of one spouse and the other’s ability to pay
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • The age and physical and emotional health of both spouses
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the couple
  • Each party’s earning capacity
  • The time and expense necessary for one spouse to become financially independent
  • Both spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage

What about remarriage? In New Jersey, an alimony award will end automatically when the collecting spouse remarries (or enters into a civil union) or when the payer spouse dies. 

Child support in New Jersey

In New Jersey, both you and your spouse are required to share your children's financial care. This includes paying for their housing, food, clothing, medical care, and education. Child support is money paid by one parent to the other to help provide for this care. 

In New Jersey, state guidelines take a percentage of your total combined incomes to calculate each person’s share of child support. The court may deviate from these guidelines under certain conditions, including very high or low incomes, reimbursement for medical expenses or tuition, special needs expenses, or other financial obligations that are out of the ordinary. 

The court will always consider the child’s best interests when making decisions regarding child support or any deviations from the guidelines. 

FAQ about New Jersey divorce

How long does the divorce process take?

There is no such thing as a “quick divorce” in New Jersey. Divorce can take a matter of months or years, depending on the individual variables in your divorce case. 

What can have an effect on the length of your divorce?

  • Fault-based vs. no-fault grounds: A no-fault divorce doesn’t require proving fault in court. A fault-based divorce will require a trial and be subject to court and attorney schedules. 
  • Uncontested vs. contested divorce: When you and your spouse can agree on all divorce terms, your divorce will be less time-consuming and less costly. A contested divorce typically requires a trial and will likely take much longer to resolve.
  • Mediation: Even if both of you can’t agree, getting assistance from a divorce mediator can usually allow you to come to mutual resolutions without the cost and time involved in individual attorney negotiations and litigation.

Bottom line: The more conflict between you and your spouse and more attorney and court involvement, the longer and more costly your divorce will be. 

Can I e-file my divorce papers in New Jersey?

Yes. Although the state of New Jersey recommends filing for divorce with legal counsel’s assistance, it does offer an online option for e-filing for divorce. All filings must comply with state and local rules, so check with your local court to understand all requirements. 

If you are considering a divorce in New Jersey, it's critical to understand your legal responsibilities and options. This can be difficult to do on your own. Online divorce platforms like Hello Divorce can guide you in the process. With our online divorce plans, flat-rate legal assistance, mediation services, and divorce coaching services, we can also help you avoid costly attorney fees and court costs. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call with us to learn more about our services. 


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Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.