Getting married and having children is a very important, even life-changing, decision. Ironically, it is very easy to actually get married: Plunk down a few dollars for a license, pay a small fee to a judge or clergyman, and voila! You’re hitched. It is even easier to have children. But getting a divorce in New Jersey is difficult and can be expensive.
New Jersey divorce laws are complex. In the years I have been helping men and fathers get a divorce I have found that a lot of clients don’t really understand some of the issues before they arrive in our office that complicate matters even more. It makes sense to have some facts before walking in and saying, “I want to get a divorce!”
Here are seven things that all men and fathers wondering how to get a divorce in New Jersey need to keep in mind as they start the process.
1 – New Jersey has Fault and No-Fault Divorce.
A no-fault divorce means neither side blames the other for the end of the marriage. For men and fathers, a no-fault divorce is generally much faster to resolve and is always less expensive. Even though you think “it’s all her fault!”, try setting that aside so you can focus on your goals and what you want. Keep thinking about what you want your life to be like after the divorce so you can move through the process as quickly as possible.
Most of the time, an at-fault divorce does little more than cause emotional hardship, increase the cost of your divorce, and prolong the time it takes to end your marriage. None of those things work in your favor. However, if you can prove your ex has an addiction problem, is abusive towards the children, or has inflicted extreme mental cruelty, it may affect the court’s decision regarding child custody matters. In these rare circumstances, you might want to talk with your attorney for men about the possibility of an at-fault divorce.
2 – Second thoughts are normal.
It is natural for a man or father to have second thoughts about getting a divorce. You may start to remember the good times and begin to question your decision. If you keep wondering if you are doing the right thing by filing for divorce in New Jersey, then there may still be hope that you can reconcile with your spouse. Some men find participating in our support group helpful, and you do not need to be a client to take part. Or, we can refer you to a family therapist or psychologist who might be able to work with you and your spouse to try repairing the damaged marriage. Just know that the issues that lead to divorce are often very difficult to resolve and take a commitment from both spouses.
3 – Strong emotional reactions will cost you money.
Obviously, divorce can be emotional, and it’s normal to be angry about your spouse’s shortcomings. However, both you and your ex are paying lawyers to represent you. If you each sit in a boardroom to negotiate the specifics of a divorce – property settlement, support payments, custody and visitation schedules – and your emotions flare because of what the other is saying, nothing gets settled.
Yes, getting a divorce can be an emotionally challenging process. Still, it is in your best interests to leave your emotions at the door so you can try to resolve the divorce quickly. Emotions can cause you to make rash decisions or turn down a beneficial arrangement for alimony, property division, or child support. Being wrapped up in a heated, prolonged battle will cost a lot of money.
4 – Put the children first.
It’s not just the parents who are concerned with a child’s best interest during a divorce. State law requires that family courts put the best interests of the children ahead of all other considerations during the New Jersey divorce process. Among other things, this means it’s a very bad idea to try using your kids as a weapon in your divorce. Don’t bad mouth your wife to the children or expect them to take sides. It’s not only unhealthy for the children but it can prolong the entire divorce process because your ex is likely to try to retaliate. Judges do not take kindly when it is revealed that one parent attempted to turn their kids against the other parent. They will absolutely remember these tactics when it comes time to create a custody arrangement.
5 – Try hard to resolve the economic relationship amicably.
It is common today for both spouses to be working, and one or both of you may own a business or professional practice. You’ve likely acquired assets during the marriage from cars and the marital home with its furniture and other possessions to, often, a vacation home, collectables and art. You also have debts: A mortgage, car loans, lines of credit, charge cards. All of these must be divided equitably. If you do not work these issues out on your own, the court will do it for you – and nobody is ever happy when a judge gets involved in dividing assets and liabilities. Instead, be prepared to compromise with your spouse and her lawyer to get more of what you want out of the divorce. You might not get absolutely everything, but you’ll always be better off negotiating than if you leave things up to the judge.
6 – Mothers are not automatically named the custodial parent.
Many men and fathers getting a divorce in New Jersey want to be named the custodial parent for the couple’s children. In the past, this was hard to do as a judge’s normal predilection is to award custody to the mother. But judges are starting to pay attention to the desire of a father to have custody of the couple’s children. Joint custody arrangements are now commonplace. Further, judges are more willing to admit that a mother may not be the best custodial parent. As a result, fathers are much more likely to be given the custody arrangement they desire. If you’re a father getting divorced in NJ, consider whether you want to have sole custody, joint custody, co-parenting to simply visitation rights with your children.
7 – Consider the value of mediation and arbitration.
Not all divorces need the court to be resolved and finalized. In fact, mediation and binding arbitration can avoid court altogether. They will greatly speed the process along with reducing the cost. This is an ideal approach if you and your wife are close to settling the division of property and debts, or if you have minor differences over custody issues. Ask your lawyer about all your options, including mediation, to make sure you choose the best path forward.
These things to know if you’re getting divorced are a great start, but this is by no means a comprehensive list. Working with a divorce lawyer for men in New Jersey is a great way to have all your questions about the process answered.
If you or a man or father you know is considering a divorce, feel free to call me or one of our family law attorneys for men and fathers in New Jersey who can walk you through the process and answer your questions. Reach us at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620.