For many people the decision to separate generally smolders for a long time. Change is hard. You are fearful of the unknown. Impetuous actions can lead to discomfort or regrets. Thoughtful planning can eliminate or minimize the unexpected results. Seeking out an unbiased third party to discuss as many outcomes as possible may be your first best step. Who that third party is (whether an attorney, a family counsellor, a financial professional) depends on you. Each of these can offer you valuable information before a separation on the “what if’s” you may encounter. In New Jersey, there is no legal separation unless there is a court order or a written signed agreement between the parties. You continue to be married until the marriage is dissolved in a court action.
Divorce – Litigation or not?
Even with the age of the Internet, many people assume there is only one way to divorce. Hire a lawyer. File a complaint in court and a judge will make all the decisions for you. Most people also believe that a judge will “immediately” address your issues and rectify troublesome matters between you and your spouse. There are many steps to be taken before a judge steps in. (Understanding the chaos caused by litigation).
It is true that only a judge can dissolve a marriage. However that is but one part, and generally the last part, of the divorce process, the final dissolution of the marriage. There has to be decisions made as to custody, parenting time and child support if there are children, alimony and property distribution either by agreement or court order. In most cases, when these issues are not agreed upon in a written settlement agreement before you file, you may not see a judge for months after you filed the complaint for divorce. Even if you make an application to address an emergent matter, the judge will be the one to decide if there is a true emergency. Judges will tell you that they don’t want to make decisions for you. When a judge does issue a decision, you may wait a long time to receive it.
Why is that? Very simply, judges have calendars with hundreds of cases. You can take control of the decision making process and the agreement you reach will be better in the long run than a court order imposed on you.
The process at the court house is subject to the court’s schedule and the attorneys’ schedules, not primarily yours. You will spend time waiting in the hallways for something to happen. Your life will be impacted not only emotionally, but financially because time is money in a divorce. No one can promise you a “cheap divorce” but you can contain your costs when you direct your energies to reaching a settlement agreement that the judge encourages from the very beginning. If that is not enough to consider, remember that there is an emotional piece that is not addressed in court and oftentimes heightened and accelerated by its adversarial nature. You may want to punish your spouse but oftentimes you are really punishing yourself. Your children will definitely be impacted by the hostility of court proceedings. They carry the images of warring parents in their minds far in to the future. Your investment in reaching an agreement-sooner rather than later- is of immense value to you.
Since in reality, you only need to file in court in order to dissolve your marriage, doesn’t it make sense to work out the terms of an agreement that addresses custody, parenting time, support and property distribution as quickly as possible? Only about one in every ten cases ever goes to trial. The rest result in an agreement by the parties, usually under the threat of a trial that parties can’t afford. So why take the path of preparing for a trial that doesn’t happen?
Options to Consider – Mediation or Collaborative Divorce Process
See a professional mediator or a collaboratively trained family lawyer to explore other possibilities. The decision to divorce is difficult and hard. Before you select a process that makes it even more painful, more expensive and takes longer, you owe it to yourself to explore all options as to how to divorce in Monmouth and Ocean counties. Before you commence divorce litigation, explore an out-of-court process such as a collaborative divorce or mediation. Get information about your divorce alternatives as early as possible to consider the best fit for you, your family, and finances. If you are considering divorce, learn more about collaborative divorce or mediation.