While never easy, divorce can become even more complicated when you are dealing with an uncooperative spouse. If you have a spouse who is so uncooperative that he or she refuses to sign your divorce papers, you may think you are stuck. However, the days when both spouses had to agree to a divorce are long gone, so you do have options.
New Jersey has both no-fault and fault divorce, although fault grounds are rarely used anymore. The causes of action for a no-fault divorce are either irreconcilable differences or separation (living apart for at least 18 months). The grounds for fault divorce include addiction, adultery, extreme cruelty, mental illness, imprisonment, institutionalization, or deviant sexual conduct.
Most couples that divorce in New Jersey go the no-fault route, citing irreconcilable differences. After you meet with your divorce attorney, the proper paperwork is prepared and a Compliant for Divorce is filed on your behalf. Your spouse then needs to be served with the Complaint, which is usually done in one of three ways:
- By the Sheriff’s Office;
- By a private process server; or
- Through your spouse’s attorney or your spouse signing an Acknowledgment of Service
Your spouse has 35 days to respond, which can take the form of:
- An answer — your spouse either agrees or disagrees with the Complaint.
- An appearance — your spouse doesn’t object to the divorce itself, but does object to one or more of the provisions in the Complaint (i.e., alimony, child support, custody, etc.)
- A counterclaim — your spouse asserts a ground (fault) for the divorce.
- No response — your spouse makes no response to the Complaint.
In the case of no response, you would ask the Court to enter default against your spouse. To enter default, you must show:
- Your spouse was served with the Complaint;
- Your spouse is not currently serving in the military; and
- Your spouse did not respond to the Complaint.
The Court then schedules a hearing. Prior to the hearing, you must file and serve a Notice of Proposed Final Judgment which addresses the outstanding issues of your marriage, which may include custody, parenting time, child support and equitable distribution. If the hearing is granted, your spouse will need to be notified of the hearing date and served with the Notice of Proposed Final Judgment in advance of the hearing. If there is still no response from your spouse, the court will rely on you to provide the necessary financial information for dividing marital property as well as for determining alimony, child support and/or child custody. Even though your spouse may have had no input whatsoever by his or her choice, the judge will still use a fairness standard to decide these matters.
At Murphy & Cistaro, we are not only concerned with your divorce today, but also with your quality of life long after your case is over. Your family law issues deserve to be managed with dignity and respect. You can prepare to civilly resolve your divorce, heal, and move on with your life with a legal team that has helped individuals all over New Jersey to heal and prosper. Contact us today for your free consultation.