divorcing couple

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 for divorce.
  • 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 differences–are considered 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 child custodyalimony 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.

Completing Forms

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.

The Timetable

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 Zeigler Law Group, LLC. Call us today at 732-361-4827 or contact us here online and set up a consultation today.

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