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Filing for Divorce in New Jersey: Does it Matter Who’s First?

Filing for Divorce in New Jersey: Does it Matter Who’s First? | The Micklin Law Group

Filing for Divorce in New Jersey: Does it Matter Who’s First? | The Micklin Law Group

On their first conversation with me, countless men and fathers in New Jersey say they’re fairly certain they want a divorce and wonder whether it matters if they pull the trigger and file first. While many things in the New Jersey divorce process have prescribed timelines and deadlines, the question of when to begin and whether it makes any difference if you or your wife files first has nearly as many answers as there are reasons why couples are planning to end their marriage.

For starters, I always tell a father that if their children are at any risk because of the mother’s behavior – physical, emotional or sexual abuse, alcoholism, or drug addiction – the child’s safety must be their first concern. We can file an initial application for divorce and ask the court to grant an emergency order awarding temporary custody of the kids to the father. I can’t think of an instance in this type of situation where the court didn’t agree. But assuming the safety of your kids isn’t an issue or if you don’t have any children under age 18, here is some general information about the process and the upside or negatives about filing first.

Divorce in New Jersey for Men Filing First

Even if you have decided on filing for divorce from your spouse, there are some tactical advantages to keeping your powder dry for a few more weeks and then filing first. Perhaps the most important reason for a man or father gets divorced in New Jersey is that you will have time to gather together all of the financial, tax and bank records you will need when we prepare the filing. Especially in a marriage where there are significant and complicated assets such as a business, investment accounts and real estate, retirement funds, mortgages and other loans, more than one home, and multiple automobiles, you can quietly collect these without arousing suspicion.

It may be difficult to do this once the divorce starts especially if your wife is being uncooperative or you elect to move out of your home.

At the same time, you will have time to assemble a team of other experts such as business valuation authorities, forensic accountants, tax and financial planning advisors, and psychologists. We can provide referrals for you to all of these professionals who have unique skills and experience to help you. If resolving custody and visitation issues will likely be a serious issue, as a New Jersey father divorcing the children’s mother, you will have time to think through and decide what you want such as sole or joint custody and co-parenting rights.

Finally, by preparing to file first you have the ability to decide whether you are seeking a no-fault divorce or divorcing on specific grounds. If she files first, you have to respond to what she raises in her petition regardless of how outrageous it might be.

A Divorcing Man or Father in New Jersey Can Control the Timing

Once you’ve taken two weeks to a month to get the information and retain any extra help you might need, we can draft and file the court documents. If your spouse files first, you will have to do all of this within 35 days. That is how much time the court allows you to answer the initial complaint filed by your wife.

It may sound like a lot of time but it isn’t once the clock starts ticking. There are also some benefits not related to the law or the schedule of a family court.

You can decide whether you want to separate and file when the children are in school or on holiday. Likewise, you can delay taking on any major, new financial obligations for the family or for your business. A divorcing man or father can use the time to open individual bank accounts and deposit at least part of your check in the new account. This enables you to accumulate some cash to cover the initial cost of your own apartment and the living expenses that will go along with suddenly being on your own.

Aiding the Emotional Health of a Divorcing Man or Father

Regardless of how bad the marriage may have been, getting a divorce is one of life’s biggest emotional disruptions. While you are collecting the information you will need, you can also use the time to become better prepared emotionally for what lies ahead. Yet by taking control of the situation, both in terms of the advance planning and by taking the initiative to end the marriage, you are being proactive rather than reactive.

Filing first will give you a sense of control over the events governing your life, at least at the outset. Even better, you will be well-prepared to cope with what may feel like an unwieldy situation yet you will be better equipped to move on with your life than your spouse is likely to be. If you wonder if a divorce is the best route for you and whether you should file first, you’re welcome to join our support group for men and fathers divorcing in New Jersey. You don’t need to be a client to participate.

If you have any questions about getting a divorce in New Jersey, please call me at either 973.562.0100 in Nutley or, in Montclair, at 862.245.4620. You can also contact us online.

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