Most people spend a long time considering divorce before they take the plunge. But once the decision is made to get divorced, they may be anxious to get it over with and start the next chapter.
How long does a typical New Jersey divorce take? What’s the quickest it could happen – and the worst case scenario? Naturally, every divorce is different. But an attorney can give you a ballpark idea of how long the process is likely to take in your case.
Is there such a thing as a “quickie divorce?”
Maybe in Las Vegas, but not in New Jersey. As a general rule of thumb, rushing your divorce is a bad idea. Hastily drawn divorce papers are likely to come back to bite both of you. If you are the one in a hurry to get unhitched, you are more likely to sign off on a lopsided settlement.
If the decision is mutual and you and your spouse agree on all legal matters, your divorce could be finalized as soon as 6 to 8 weeks from the filing of the papers. More typically, an uncontested divorce takes 3 to 4 months to iron out the settlement agreement and get court approval. If any issues are contested – custody, property, alimony, child support – the process may last six months to a year.
First things first: Is there a waiting period?
Fault-based divorce petitions, such as adultery, extreme cruelty or willful desertion, may require that a certain period of time has passed before filing on those grounds. With or without a waiting period, proving the other party’s “bad actions” can drag out divorce proceedings.
The only requirement for a “no-fault” divorce is that irreconcilable differences have persisted for six months with no chance of reconciling. There is no divorce waiting period if the spouses (a) have been married for less than six months or (b) have already been living apart for 18 months.
Why do some divorces take so long?
Court proceedings lengthen the divorce process. If you can avoid court, that usually reduces the duration. But if you have children, there is a mandatory hearing on custody matters. And even if you are on civil terms, you may need a judge’s ruling to resolve parenting disputes (visitation, child support) or complex asset division (business valuations, separate property). The more contentious the divorce, the more likely you will be back in court multiple times. The docket is crowded, and each time you go to the back of the court calendar.
However, New Jersey courts have cracked down on divorces that drag on for years. Under the mandate, most divorces should be resolved within 12 months of the filing of the divorce complaint (petition). There may be an exception for high-conflict cases involving complex litigation.
The divorce timeline can be shortened by divorce planning. A lawyer can help you establish your priorities and anticipate the “pain points” that would make divorce longer than necessary.
Source: New Jersey Legal Requirements For Divorce (FindLaw)