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I’m getting divorced in New Jersey. Will I have to go to court?

There are some court appearances that are necessary when ending a marriage in New Jersey.

Choosing to end a marriage is a decision often fraught with stress and emotion. In New Jersey, it is also a process that must abide by the laws. There are a number of ways a couple may legalize their split. Here, we take a look at those options and discuss what the legal requirements of each spouse may be.

In short, yes, just about everyone who gets a divorce in the state will have to appear in court for one reason or another. However, there are certain steps to make that process go as smoothly as possible.

Filing for divorce

To initiate a divorce in New Jersey, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of the state for at least a year before taking action. People have the right to file either a "fault" or "no-fault" divorce. The paperwork must be filed in the county in which the reason for the divorce happened. Therefore, if the couple lived in a home in one county but the parties have separated and moved elsewhere, the paperwork would be filed at a state courthouse in the county where the couple lived.

Making key decisions

The area where most people are concerned about going to litigation in divorce is when it comes to making the decisions: Who gets the house? Who gets the kids? How will the bank account be divided?

It is true that these decisions could be left up to the courts. However, New Jersey has a mediation program in place for a number of civil disputes. According to the New Jersey Courts, there are pre-approved mediators who could help parties reach a resolution outside the courtroom.

However, when this is unsuccessful, the courts get involved in the divorce. A judge could then make determinations regarding child custody, child support and property division, among other items. Each party would have the opportunity to make a case for their wishes. Even when the couple reaches an agreement on their own, a judge still has to review and sign off on the document.

Finalizing the divorce

Another time people going through a divorce have to appear in court is when the divorce is actually granted. This is typically a simple process in which the parties testify to all the information presented in the complaint.

No matter what path a family law issue or other civil matter takes, it is important to work with the right professionals to ensure that rights are protected. Anyone who has concerns about this topic should speak with a family law attorney in New Jersey.