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New Jersey Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

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New Jersey Marital Settlement (Divorce) Agreement

Updated April 02, 2024

A New Jersey marital settlement agreement is a legal arrangement that has been executed by a married couple with the purpose of laying out their rights and obligations after the dissolution of their marriage. A settlement agreement can be established before or during the divorce process in court.

While it’s not required, it is recommended that the spouses obtain legal counsel to ensure a fair and mutually beneficial agreement. This marital settlement agreement will cover topics such as alimony, child support, and custody, insurance, division of property and other assets, liabilities and debts, and future rights and responsibilities.

Table of Contents

Divorce Laws

Statutes – § 2A:34

Alimony (§ 2A:34-23) – Alimony is awarded by the court to either party in the form of open durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, or reimbursement alimony. The following factors are considered by the court while making their decision:

  • Actual need and ability to pay
  • Duration of the marriage
  • Age and physical/emotional health
  • Standard of living
  • Earning capacity, education, vocational skills, and employability
  • Length of absence from job market (if applicable)
  • Parental responsibilities
  • Time and expense necessary to find appropriate employment
  • History of financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage
  • Equitable distribution of property
  • Income from investments
  • Tax consequences on alimony payments for both parties
  • Litigation support payments

Alimony Calculatorcalculators.law

Child Support (§ 2A:34-23(a)) – Child Support Guidelines is covered in Rule 5:6A of the Rules Governing the Courts of the State of New Jersey.

Child Support CalculatorNew Jersey Child Support

Division of Property (§ 2A:34-23.1) – Division of property is determined by equitable distribution, i.e., distributed fairly amongst the parties and not necessarily equally.

Grounds for Divorce (§ 2A:34-2) – The following are legal causes for divorce in the state of New Jersey:

  • Adultery
  • Willful desertion for twelve (12) consecutive months
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Separation for eighteen (18) consecutive months
  • Ongoing alcohol or narcotic addiction for twelve (12) consecutive months
  • Institutionalized for a mental illness for twenty-four (24) consecutive months
  • Imprisonment for eighteen (18) consecutive months
  • Deviant and nonconsensual sexual conduct
  • Irreconcilable differences causing a marriage breakdown for at least six (6) months

Interim Support (§ 2A:34-23) – The court may order that alimony and child support be awarded to either party pending any matrimonial action.

Residency (§ 2A:34-10(1)) – To file for divorce, either spouse must have lived in New Jersey for one (1) year preceding the filing date. However, if the case involves adultery, this residency requirement is waived.

Separation (§ 2A:34-2(d)) – Spouses do not need to be separated before filing for divorce; however, if the couple wish to file for no fault divorce on the grounds of separation, they have to be living in separate dwellings for at least eighteen (18) months.

Divorce Forms

Uncontested Divorce With / Without Children:

How to File for Divorce in New Jersey (5 steps)

  1. Marital Settlement Agreement (Optional)
  2. File Complaint
  3. Serve Defendant
  4. Defendant’s Response
  5. Default Judgment
  6. Uncontested / No Default Judgment

1. Marital Settlement Agreement (Optional)

An iPad showing a New Jersey Marital Settlement agreement A Marital Settlement Agreement is not a court-mandated form, but it can help a divorcing couple avoid excessive time and money spent in court. This agreement can be executed by the couple, with or without the help of attorneys, so they have more control over their uncontested divorce process. A marital settlement agreement can be established before they file for divorce with the court or at any point during the proceedings.

2. File Complaint

In New Jersey, a spouse can file for a no-fault divorce for (2) two reasons: separation or irreconcilable differences. To file for divorce based on separation, the couple must have lived in the state for twelve (12) consecutive months and lived in separate residences for eighteen (18) months prior to filing. For divorces based on irreconcilable differences, the same twelve-month rule applies, and the couple has to have experienced irreconcilable differences in their marriage for at least six (6) months prior to filing a divorce action. One of the spouses (referred to as the “plaintiff”) must file a Complaint with the Family Part of the Chancery Division to begin the divorce action. The following complaint forms are provided depending on the situation:

In addition to the Complaint form, the plaintiff must download and complete the following documents:

Copies of each document must be made, and all forms can be filed with the court clerk, who will charge a $300 filing fee. If minor children are involved in the case, there is a $25 fee for the mandatory Parents’ Education Program that both parents must attend (the defendant can pay their fee later). The clerk will assign a judge and a docket number to the case. This information can be entered into the appropriate fields of all forms.

3. Serve Defendant

A man reading divorce documents in his robe during the early morningThe non-filing spouse will be referred to as the defendant for the purposes of the divorce proceedings. The plaintiff must be serve the defendant with copies of the Complaint form (1A or 1D), the Certification of Insurance (Form 2), the Certification of Notification (Form 2B), and a Summons with Attached Proof of Service (Form 7). In an uncontested divorce, the plaintiff can serve the defendant in one (1) of the following manners:

4. Defendant’s Response

Once the defendant has been served, they have thirty-five (35) days to file an answer or enter a general appearance. An appearance (see example here) allows the defendant to agree to the divorce but contest certain claims to relief requests made by the plaintiff (i.e., alimony, child support, property division, etc.). If they have already sent the Acknowledgment of Service (Form 8) to the plaintiff, the form can act as a general appearance. When the defendant files an appearance as defined above or files an answer that contains a counterclaim, the case becomes a contested divorce. If the defendant files an answer without a counterclaim, the case is uncontested and not in default (process continues in Step 6 – Uncontested / No Default Judgment). It’s possible that the defendant simply doesn’t answer at all or misses the thirty-five-day window. In this situation, the plaintiff can file for a default judgment (see Step 5 – Default Judgment).

5. Default Judgment

A default divorce judgment stamped "approved"A default judgment may be requested by the plaintiff in cases where the defendant has failed to answer the complaint within the thirty-five-day period. There are still a number of steps the plaintiff must take; a default judgment is not awarded automatically due to the failure on the defendant’s part to answer in time. To file for default judgment, the plaintiff must complete the following forms:

These forms must be filed with the court clerk, who will provide a date for the default hearing. Once a date has been issued (this could take a couple of weeks), the plaintiff will have to complete the following forms:

All forms (except “court only” forms) must be served on the defendant so they are aware of the fact that a default judgment for divorce may be entered without their presence. The plaintiff must file all forms with the court and prepare the Final Default Judgment of Divorce/Dissolution (Form 21). At the default hearing, the plaintiff will be asked to show evidence to support their request for relief (alimony, property division, etc.). The judge will consider all evidence and, in some cases, hear testimony from the defendant (if they show up and convince the judge they should be heard). Once the judge has decided what relief to order, they will sign the Final Default Judgment of Divorce. This signed document must be sent to the defendant (if they did not attend the hearing) along with the Cover Letter to Defendant – Final Default Judgment of Divorce/Dissolution (Form 21A).

6. Uncontested / No Default Judgment

If the plaintiff and defendant agree on all matters of their divorce (alimony, property distribution, child custody/support, etc.), the judge will call a brief hearing to ensure the parties’ statements are true. It’s unlikely that any testimony or evidence will be required; the judge simply wants to see that the parties are on the same page. Before the hearing, the plaintiff should complete the appropriate fields of the Consent Order – Final Judgment of Divorce/Dissolution (Form 24) to be signed by the judge after the hearing. Section 13 of the Final Judgment allows either party to notify the judge that they will be resuming their former name after the divorce. Doing this now instead of after the divorce is finalized could save the spouse from petitioning for a name change with the court at a later date. All documents that have been filed up to this date should also be brought to court in case the judge is missing any pertinent information. Furthermore, if the parties have executed a marital settlement agreement at any point before or during the divorce proceedings, this document can be attached to the judgment of divorce before it is signed by the judge; the judge will want to confirm that both parties have read and understood the terms and conditions therein. Once the judge is satisfied with all the matters presented to them, they will sign the judgment of divorce to finalize the dissolution of the marriage.