NJ Family Law - Divorce Procedure

Understanding the Divorce Procedure:

Essex County


N.J.S.A. 2A:34-9 et seq. provides for the jurisdiction of the Superior Court of New Jersey over all causes of divorce, when either party is a resident of this State at the time the action is started and process is served upon the defendant. Furthermore, the jurisdiction of the court over the defendant is fully established when the defendant files an acknowledgment of service of process, enters an Appearance, or files an Answer to the complaint.

The Complaint

Filing a complaint initiates a divorce action. The requirements regarding the content of the complaint are described in the New Jersey Court Rules, Rule 5:4-2, and require a statement as to the essential facts which form the basis for the petition for divorce, the addresses of the parties, and in cases involving a child, the address, date of birth, and information as to where and with whom the child resides.

Filing Fee

A filing fee is required at the time of filing of the complaint for divorce with the court.

Answer, Answer and Counterclaim or Appearance

An answer is the defendant’s written response to the plaintiff's complaint in the divorce action in which he or she may deny any of plaintiff’s allegations or offer defenses to these allegations. In conjunction with his answer, the defendant may file counterclaims. Alternatively, the defendant may file an Appearance with the court, where he is not disputing the claims in the complaint.

Answer to Counterclaim

If the defendant files a Counterclaim, the plaintiff is permitted 20 days in which to file any responsive pleading.

Case Information Statement (CIS)

Case Information Statements are critical in matrimonial cases and form the foundation for the financial disclosures submitted by the parties to the court. Rule 5.5-2 requires both parties to file and serve CISs in all contested family actions where there is any issue as to custody, support, alimony or equitable distribution. The parties to the divorce action are under a continuing duty to inform the court of any changes in the information supplied on their CIS.

The primary purpose of the CIS is to identify all assets and liabilities (whether subject to division or not) of the party, like the income picture, shelter, transportation and personal expenses of that party.

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