The New Jersey Divorce Litigation Process
Although most divorce cases in New Jersey eventually settle before a judge renders a final decision on the evidence presented at trial, there are multiple steps in divorce litigation that the divorcing parties (litigants) must endure. Unlike New Jersey divorce mediation, the divorce litigation process in New Jersey consumes a considerable amount of time, energy and money. Individuals going through a New Jersey divorce typically feel frustration and helplessness as the process ever so slowly grinds forward. Animosity built up by the litigants towards each other during the process is slow to dissipate and affects their future dealings with each other. A couple divorcing in NJ, who battle each other in court find that they must thereafter continue to communicate as parents. As a result, the communications are generally hostile and detrimental to the children and often lead to post divorce motions.
Following is a breakdown of the divorce litigation process in New Jersey which many litigants experience. The inclusion of particular steps depends upon the divorcing couples' assets, liabilities and whether children are involved. In every instance, the litigated route is far costlier and more time consuming than if the divorcing couple chose New Jersey divorce mediation.
The solution to the divorce litigation process is to engage in constructive dialogue in Montclair Divorce Mediation's empathic environment to achieve a workable, fair and reasonable agreement one which takes into account everyone's concerns for the present and also provides a framework for future behavior.
Steps in the New Jersey Divorce Litigation Process
- Meet with attorney
- Preparation and filing of (divorce) Complaint with New Jersey court
- Serve Complaint on spouse
- Spouse's attorney prepares and files an Answer and possible Counterclaim with court
- Preparation and filing of Answer to Counterclaim with New Jersey court
- Attend Parent's Education Seminar at New Jersey court
- Attorneys attend Case Management Conference with Judge
- Attend possible parent coordination meetings
- Both sides prepare and file Case Information Statements with New Jersey court
- Attorneys prepare and serve Interrogatories on each party
- Attorneys prepare and serve Notices of Demand for Documents
- Both sides prepare and submit answers to Interrogatories
- Both sides gather and submit documents
- Obtain authorization forms from litigants
- Subpoena records from third parties (financial, medical, employment)
- Possible motion for additional documents
- Attorneys prepare for and conduct depositions of each litigant
- Attorneys submit documents to experts (forensic accountant, pension appraiser, employment analyst, custody evaluator)
- Attorney orders real estate appraisal
- Attorneys review and exchange experts' reports
- Attorneys prepare for and conduct depositions of experts
- Attorneys attend second Case Management Conference with Judge
- Attorneys and litigants prepare for and attend Early Settlement Panel
- Litigants attend minimum two-hour court approved divorce mediation
- Judge may order litigants to attend Blue Ribbon Panel for settlement
- Judge may appoint Court's expert
- Attorneys conference with Judge
- Attorneys prepare for trial
- Trial occurs (no jury) testimony obtained, evidence introduced thereafter, judge renders decision
During the New Jersey divorce litigation process, motions may be initiated by either side for a variety of reasons. These may include; continued household, spousal and child support; payment of particular expenses; production of certain documents, and other issues in which the litigants can't agree upon and seek the New Jersey court's intervention.
At the time of the initial case management conference the judge will assign the case to a track which provides for a time frame in which the attorneys must conduct and conclude discovery. The tracks are determined based upon the complexity of the cases. The Standard Track requires the completion of discovery within 120 days. The Priority and Complex Tracks are set by the judge during the conference and can be as long as 365 days.