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The New Jersey divorce process generally enables marriages to end with an at-fault divorce, a no-fault divorce, or an annulment. The processes for at-fault and no-fault divorces are slightly different. However, they generally abide by the same state laws for child custody, distribution of assets, and other important matters.

When one spouse is at fault for causing a marriage to end, there is no waiting period to file for divorce. The aggrieved spouse could file right away and initiate the divorce process.

A no-fault divorce requires the spouses to be legally separated for at least 18 months before a spouse could file for a no-fault divorce. Showing proof of a separate residence could affirm the separation. Utility bills and either a lease agreement or mortgage contract would suffice.

Every divorce is decided on a case-by-case basis. There are no standardized timelines to conclude the divorce process.

Must Show Grounds to File for Divorce

Any divorce must have some grounds, including a no-fault divorce. The grounds for a no-fault divorce often are something like irreconcilable differences or irreparable breakdown of the marriage. A no-fault divorce only is treated as such if the other spouse does not contest it.

An at-fault divorce needs one or more grounds that the filing spouse generally could prove in divorce court. The potential grounds for an at-fault divorce could include:

  • Adultery by the other spouse
  • Alcohol or drug addiction
  • Abandonment
  • Infliction of emotional cruelty or pain

If you file for an at-fault divorce, you will have to testify in court at least once and provide evidence of your claims. Witness statements, relevant documents, medical records, and similar evidence would help to demonstrate fault.

You can file for divorce with the clerk of court in the New Jersey county in which you live or lived while married. You do not have to be a New Jersey resident to file for divorce in the state. However, you had to have resided in the state prior to the divorce filing.

Both spouses could file claims against the other. It also is possible that both spouses can prove claims against the other. If so, the court decides which spouse was more at fault and grants the divorce filing by the other party.

That is called comparative rectitude and enables a court to end a marriage. If neither party wants to be married, the court will do its best to legally end the marriage instead of denying both divorce filings.

Potential Defenses Against At-Fault Divorce Claims

Husband contemplating divorce and in need of the Marlton divorce lawyers at Burnham Douglass to protect his rights and fight for the best possible outcome for his family.

Just because a spouse files for divorce does not mean it will be granted. An at-fault divorce could face several potential legal defenses that might defeat it.

Collusion is an example of a potentially effective legal defense against an at-fault divorce filing. Collusion refers to a married couple agreeing to concoct a false ground for divorce to legally end a marriage. That might be done to protect a family home or other valuable assets from creditors.

If one spouse afterward decides against following through with the divorce, that could negate or lessen an at-fault divorce filing because of collusion.

Other potential defenses against an at-fault divorce could include:

  • Connivance
  • Recrimination
  • Condonation
  • Provocation

Connivance occurs when a complaining spouse enticed, agreed to, or participated in one or more adulterous acts. That spouse could not afterward file for divorce because of adultery.

A spouse also could not claim adultery as grounds for divorce owing to recrimination, which occurs when both spouses engage in adultery. Recrimination also applies to other grounds for divorce. When done equally by both sides, there are no legitimate grounds for an at-fault divorce.

Condonation occurs when the complaining spouse knew about a matter and continued the marriage. The court generally could conclude that the complaining spouse had forgiven the offender only to raise the issue again long afterward.

Provocation occurs when one spouse acts in a manner that provokes the other to react, such as leaving the home. For example, if the complaining spouse physically or mentally abused the other spouse, leaving the home would be a reasonable reaction. The abusive spouse could not cite abandonment as a ground for an at-fault divorce.

Equitable Distribution of Assets

A divorce does not mean the spouses split marital and other assets down the middle. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. That means the respective court will divide assets fairly when finalizing a divorce.

The court will decide what is fair on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, there are no standardized systems for dividing marital and other assets when two spouses divorce.

One spouse might file for an at-fault divorce and prevail with multiple grounds affirmed. Proving multiple grounds for divorce could result in a larger distribution of assets to the filing party. If the at-fault spouse was not especially bad but the divorce is granted, the judge could be more lenient when dividing assets.

The judge also would consider the respective incomes and abilities of each spouse to earn income and maintain a relatively similar lifestyle. If any children are involved and one parent gains full custody, that might affect assets distribution.

Child Custody and Potential Alimony or Palimony

Many marriages produce children who need to live with at least one parent. The divorce court can rule on child custody.

Custody might go fully to one parent or both parents might share custody in which one or more children spend generally equal time with both. The court also could declare partial custody or grant visitation rights if one parent is kept much busier than the other with job requirements; the judge likely would grant custody to the other parent.

Although parental rights always are a consideration in determining child custody, the welfare of each child is the most important consideration. The judge likely will grant custody to the parent most capable of providing supervision in a loving home.

Unless a prenuptial agreement already addresses the matter, the court also will rule on alimony or palimony. Those decisions often are based on the relative incomes of each spouse and if child custody is involved.

An experienced divorce lawyer could help to present the strongest arguments for or against financial support for a spouse.

How an Annulment Works in New Jersey

An annulment essentially erases a marriage. It is like the marriage never happened. That means there are no annulment terms or conditions by which either party must abide. However, the situation must qualify for an annulment.

A marriage would qualify for annulment if one of the spouses already is married. An annulment also would apply if they were closely related. Other qualifying conditions include:

  • One spouse was forced or tricked into the marriage through duress or fraud.
  • A spouse is impotent and did not say so prior to marriage.
  • One or both were incapacitated because of drugs, alcohol, or mental condition when married.
  • One spouse was under 18 when married and wants an annulment.

The annulment process is faster and easier than the divorce process. That is because there are no assets, child custody, or other issues to argue and decide in court. If you can show at least one of the conditions listed above applies, the court could annul the marriage relatively quickly.

How a Marlton Divorce Lawyer Can Help

Filing for even a no-fault divorce can be difficult. There is a lot of legal paperwork and various affidavits that must be completed and filed correctly. An experienced divorce lawyer could help you to file the correct paperwork supported by strong evidence for an at-fault divorce.

If you are on the receiving end of an at-fault divorce filing, an experienced lawyer could help you to present the strongest possible defense. A finding against you in an at-fault divorce could affect any alimony or assets division.

Marlton Divorce Lawyers at Burnham Douglass Uphold Your Rights Throughout the Divorce Process

Whether planning to file for or defend against divorce, reach out to the Marlton divorce lawyers at Burnham Douglass.  Our experienced and compassionate legal team will help you through the divorce process, protecting your rights and working toward an amicable agreement.  Contact us online or call us at 856-751-5505 for a free screening. We are located in Marlton and Northfield, New Jersey, and we serve clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, and Mercer County. We are proud to serve residents in and around Marlton, Cherry Hill, Voorhees, Trenton, Northfield, Linwood, Atlantic City, Pleasantville and surrounding towns in Atlantic County, Camden County, and Mercer County.

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