The paperwork involved in filing for divorce is challenging, and it can seem like an impossible task when you do not know what forms go to who or why you have to complete them. New Jersey Court’s self-help resources and the Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) self-help guide do offer information on which forms you need, how to fill them out, and how to file them. But the best way to conquer the paperwork for filing for divorce is to work with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer at MR. Men’s Rights Divorce & Family Law of New Jersey by Schultz & Associates, LLC. The reason for this is that if you submit your paperwork wrong, the Court will likely return it to you to fix it before they are able to file the documents.
When Can You File for Divorce in New Jersey?
You can file for divorce in New Jersey when you are at least 18 years old, married, and a resident of the state. You’ll usually file in the county where you live or the county where your current spouse lives, if you are not living together anymore. If you don’t live in New Jersey, but your spouse does, like above, then you can file in the county where your spouse lives. There are times that you might be able to choose where you file for Divorce–the county or the State so before you make a decision, please speak with an attorney. There may be strategy reasons you do not just “want to pick” a place and file. You may want to be intentional about this decision.
New Jersey Divorce Forms
There are several forms you must file with the clerk of the court to start a divorce case:
The Complaint for Divorce
The complaint provides a judge with your and your spouse’s basic information and asks for a divorce on certain grounds. You can file a no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences. Or you can file a fault-based divorce on the grounds of separation (at least 18 months), extreme cruelty, adultery, incarceration, and a few other reasons.
Depending on the type of divorce you want, you have to fill out the paperwork differently. You’ll give the clerk of the court the original and two copies for filing and pay the required court filing fee.
The Certification of Verification and Non-Collusion
At the end of the complaint for divorce is the Certification of Verification and Non-Collusion, which you’ll sign. It says you’re filing the complaint in good faith, and everything in your documents is true to the best of your knowledge. It also says that there are no other pending proceedings related to you marriage; if there are, you must disclose that on the form.
The Summons and Proof of Service
You have to fill out a summons that you’ll eventually send to your spouse, simultaneously with the divorce complaint. This tells your spouse you’ve filed a formal action (a request) in the Court for divorce and it starts the divorce process.
You’ll send the original summons, and two copies of the Complaint for Divorce to either the sheriff’s office or a certified process server (check online for companies), along with the other attached forms except the Confidential Litigant’s Sheet (that’s Confidential!). Make sure to keep a copy for your records. The Sheriff or process server will serve your spouse; you have to make sure your spouse receives the documentation. The Sheriff or the process server will then ‘certify’ to you (on a form) that your spouse has been served. You are then responsible to take the proof of service from the Sheriff or Process Server and file that with the Court to let the Court know and confirm that your spouse received a copy of the documentation you filed.
Summons by Mail
If your spouse has agreed to be served by mail instead of by the sheriff, then you’ll need an Acknowledgement of Service form to have your spouse simply sign off that he/she received a copy of the Complaint for Divorce and Summons. If your spouse is represented by an attorney and you know that, then you have to serve the attorney, not your spouse directly. You can send the Summons, Complaint for Divorce, the Acknowledgment of Service, all other attachments by regular and certified mail, with a return receipt requested. You’ll need the original and two copies signed and notarized of the Acknowledgment of Service to file with the clerk.
Are You Unsure of How to Serve Your Spouse?
If you don’t know how to serve your spouse, talk with an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney. When you can’t simply serve your spouse through the sheriff’s office or by mail, there are other options that are feasible depending on your situation. But the most effective and practical option depends on your specific circumstances.
The Certification of Insurance Coverage
The Certificate of Insurance form is a court required document, where you list your health, medical, life, homeowners or renters, auto, or other insurance policies in effect at the time you’re filing for divorce. This form ensures your and your spouse’s insurance coverage doesn’t change during the divorce. You’ll attach this to your complaint and give the clerk the original and two copies when you file. If you do not have all the information necessary, put as much down as you can, but try to find the rest. Otherwise write “TBD” on the form and make sure to supplement this form when you do obtain the information necessary– or give it to your attorney.
The Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives
First, read the Explanation of Dispute Resolution Alternatives form. Then, fill out the Certification of Notification of Complementary Dispute Resolution Alternatives. You’ll sign this form and attach it to your complaint for Divorce packet that you will be filing.
The Family Part Case Information Statement
If your divorce involves child custody, child support, alimony, or an issue about the equitable distribution, eventually you will need to complete and file a document titled “Family Part Case Information Statement”– but this does not need to be filed at the same time with your complaint for Divorce. This document explains you and your spouse’s individual and joint finances, including your incomes, expenses related to the children, a current budget, and a list of your valuable assets. You’ll need to include other paperwork as well, like tax returns and copies of your pay stubs. Make sure to redact any personal identifiers such as your social security number of yourself, your spouse, and the children. There is a time and place that the CIS will be necessary and you may want to speak with an attorney about when it is appropriate to file this with the Court. It is required in every case, but not necessarily when filing the Complaint for Divorce.
The Confidential Litigant Information Sheet
The Confidential Litigant Information Sheet is — confidential. It is where you write down the personal information for the parties involved and the children, including birth dates, social security numbers, and medical information. DO NOT attach it to your complaint. It is a form used by court personnel only. So, like we said above, when you are serving copies to your spouse, make sure to remove this document from the packet!
The Request for Waiver of Fees
If you can’t afford the filing fee, then you can ask for a fee waiver. To be eligible, your income must be at or below 150% of the current poverty level, based on the number of people in your household, and have no more than $2,500 in cash or the bank. Most people do not qualify for the waiver, but if you are in financial hardship, it is worth a shot.
The Filing Letter to Court
You will want to prepare a cover letter to the Court to send along with your complaint and other forms. Submit the form when you file the documents with the clerk (or online as the case may be), but please make sure to keep at least one copy for yourself. There are plenty of times when the Court may misplace your documents and you want easy access to re-file them if need be.
There Are More Forms that Depend on What Happens Next
There’s an initial batch of forms you must complete and file to get your divorce case started. The next forms you need to use depend on how your spouse responds, including whether your spouse files just an Answer to your Complaint for Divorce, or files an Answer and Counterclaim for Divorce– or maybe your spouse does not respond at all! You have to Answer if your spouse files a Counterclaim for Divorce, but if your spouse fails to respond, then you will be able to proceed with a default divorce or default Judgment, which involves other kinds of paperwork that you need to do before the Court can divorce you without your spouse’s involvement.
By working with a New Jersey divorce lawyer, you’re prepared for any scenario. You can be confident that the right forms are filled out fully and accurately, and then properly filed with the court. An experienced attorney takes away the guesswork.