Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Family Law
If you’re about to go through a divorce, child custody dispute or other family law matter, you likely have many questions. That is perfectly understandable. At South Jersey Divorce Solutions, we believe that answering questions is an essential part of our job because clients need to have the confidence to make informed decisions. On this page, we’ve provided answers to some of the most common questions we receive from clients and prospective clients. After reading, we invite you to contact us for detailed answers to your own questions.
Do I need a lawyer?
You are not required to have a lawyer to represent you in court. However, if you appear in court without an attorney, you will be held to the same rules and requirements as a lawyer. If you believe your case is relatively simple and you decide to represent yourself, our firm offers a limited set of legal services to assist you with the process. You can receive counseling on how to appear in court, assistance in drafting papers and research.
Hiring an attorney is generally a good idea. When choosing a firm, however, you should consider what types of services they provide. South Jersey Divorce Solutions offers mediation and collaborative divorce services, as well as negotiated settlements and litigation.
How long will it take to divorce?
There is no simple answer to this question, as each case is unique. Methods like divorce mediation and collaborative divorce tend to be faster than litigation, but the timeline depends on how well you and your spouse work at resolving your issues. If you are both motivated to move quickly, the divorce can be done in a couple of months. But the pace can be set based on your needs. When going through the courts, the average is around 18 months from the filing of the complaint until it is completed. Depending on where you live, it could be longer. In cases where you have negotiated a settlement, the time to finalize the divorce is significantly reduced.
What are the grounds for divorce in New Jersey?
New Jersey has two “no-fault” options for divorce: irreconcilable differences and 18-month separation.
The “fault based” causes of action (grounds) are:
- Willful and continued desertion for a period of 12 months
- Extreme cruelty
- Addiction or habitual abuse of narcotics or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 months
- Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 months
- Imprisonment for a period of 18 consecutive months
- Deviant sexual behavior
Most clients choose no-fault divorce because it doesn’t require either party to be blamed for destroying the marriage, nor does it require one spouse to prove their allegations about the other spouse’s fault.
What happens if my spouse already filed for divorce?
You should consult with a lawyer right away to discuss your options on how to proceed. It is important to do so quickly, as you have a limited time to respond.
Is it possible to modify a family law court order?
There are many reasons why you may need to see an attorney after you are divorced. You may be retiring and need to discuss what happens with the alimony. Your child may be attending college and you and your ex are unable to agree on what to contribute. You may wish to move out of state with your minor children. Or your spouse may not be paying all of his or her obligations. At South Jersey Divorce Solutions, we can assist you with any of these issues post-divorce. We can talk about your options and help you seek resolutions either in or out of court.
What will happen to our children?
When you and your spouse divorce, there will be decisions made about the custody, care and support for the children. If you never married or you are a same-sex couple where only one of you is the legal parent, you may need to first establish your parental rights. There court will encourage you and your co-parent to try to resolve these issues together. If you are unable to come to an agreement regarding custody, parenting time and related matters on your own, then the judge will make decisions for you both. In a contested matter, the judge may rely on experts to make his or her decision. Experts can be costly and take a great deal of time. There is no guarantee that the expert’s opinion will be in your favor. You lose control of the outcome. It is in your best interest to reach a negotiated agreement whenever possible.
Will there be child support?
Both parents have a financial obligation to support their children. In New Jersey, the courts generally use the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. This is a calculation that is based on statistics as to how much families in similar financial situations spend on the children. Parents can agree to a child support amount that they both believe is in the best interest of the children, even if it is not the same as the Child Support Guidelines.
Will alimony be awarded?
There may be alimony in your case. If there is a significant difference between your earnings and that of your spouse, it is likely. The amount and duration of alimony are determined by a number of factors. Each case is different and fact-dependent. You should consult with an attorney to discuss the possibility of alimony and how that is determined.
How much will it cost to get divorced?
This is probably the question we receive most often. There is no easy answer because no two divorces are alike. Much of it will depend on you and your spouse and how much you cooperate throughout the process. Melissa Fecak, Esq. can work with you to discuss how you can lessen some of the costs associated with divorce.
What is a prenuptial agreement?
A prenuptial agreement is a contract you and your future spouse make to set out how assets will be divided in the event of a divorce.