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UNCONTESTED DIVORCE HEARING IN NJ

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new jersey uncontested divorce hearingFor those going through or considering divorce the stress of litigation and court dates can weigh heavy on the mind; however, only 2% t0 3% of cases do not settle out of court and half of these settle either before or at trial. Once settled the other 97% to 98% of divorce cases end with a uncontested divorce hearing in NJ. Although the judge and attorneys (in litigated divorce) will be present, the process is relatively short and stress free.

Property Settlement Agreement 

In order for a divorce case to settle the parties must reach a mutual agreement. All cases are unique which means that the time it takes to reach this agreement is different for each couple. Equitable distribution and child custody/parenting time, if applicable, must be addressed. Equitable distribution includes the marital home, vacation homes and timeshares, tangible personal property, cars, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, credit card debt, income tax liabilities and any other property or assets not exempt under NJ law. In some situations experts are required to perform a valuation or assets or a custody and parenting time evaluation, further delaying the process. Parties may also find that one or both of them is not emotionally ready to settle the case and will delay the process until they have accepted the end of the marriage.

Once all of the issues have been explored and the case is ready for settlement, a contract stating the terms of the marital agreement is drafted by a NJ divorce attorney, divorce mediator or the parties themselves. This is known as a Property Settlement Agreement (PSA). The PSA should be tailored to cover the fact of the case and address all relevant issues of the marriage. This document will be binding so careful consideration should be given to its language and provisions. Future amendments of the PSA will require the consent of both parties or the filing of a motion in Court.

Uncontested Divorce Hearing in NJ

Once the PSA is carefully reviewed, approved and signed the divorce is ready to be finalized. A Complaint for Divorce stating the legal cause of action must be filed by one party. The most common cause of action in NJ, especially in uncontested divorce, is irreconcilable differences. If the PSA has been executed, the other party may waive the right to file an Answer for Divorce and the right to appear at the uncontested divorce hearing in NJ. In this case, the Plaintiff (the party who filed the Complaint for Divorce) will be scheduled to appear before a NJ Superior Court Judge and an uncontested divorce will be granted. The Judge will sign a Final Judgment of Divorce, legally dissolving the marriage and both parties will be bound by the terms of the PSA.

Mediation for Uncontested Divorce

Successful divorce mediation always ends with an uncontested divorce hearing in NJ. The process is cost-effective for couples who are open to settlement and are emotionally able to directly discuss the divorce with one another. The more ready parties are to settle, the less time they will need to attend mediation, thus lowered the cost of the divorce. Both parties must be present and willing to participate in all mediation sessions.

The divorce mediator guides the parties toward reaching a settlement and acts as a neutral party. Some cases may require the assistance of experts such as accountants or psychologists. Each party has the right to consult with their own attorney to review the PSA before signing; however, this attorney must not be from the same firm as the divorce mediator.

LAWS ON CHILD RELOCATION IN NEW JERSEY

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nj child relocation lawsDuring or after divorce parents often find themselves facing new questions regarding their minor children. In New Jersey, a custodial parent who wishes to move out of state with their child must have a Court Order or the written consent of the other parent. Child Relocation in New Jersey can become more complex if the noncustodial parent does not agree to the move, and the Court must decide whether the relocating parent can leave the state. If a non-custodial parent wants to move out of the state there are no laws preventing it.

In the 2001 case of Bauers v. Lewis, 167 N.J. 91 (2001) the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the custodial parent seeking to relocate the child must prove good faith and that his or her request to move is in the best interest of the child. The Court established various factors to consider in determining whether to grant the custodial parent’s application to relocate a child if the non-custodial parent objects:

  1. Reasons given for the move;
  2. Reasons given for the opposition;
  3. Past history of dealings between the parties insofar as it bears on the reasons advanced by both parties for supporting and opposing the move;
  4. Whether the child will receive educational, health and leisure opportunities at least equal to what is available here;
  5. Any special needs or talents of the child that require accommodation and whether such accommodation or its equivalent is available in the new location;
  6. Whether a visitation and communication schedule can be developed that will allow the noncustodial parent to maintain a full and continuous relationship with the child;
  7. Likelihood that the custodial parent will continue to foster the child’s relationship with the noncustodial parent if the move is allowed;
  8. Effect of the move on extended family relationships here and in the new location;
  9. If the child is of age, his or her preference;
  10. Whether the child is entering his or her senior year in high school at which point he or she should generally not be moved until graduation without his or her consent;
  11. Whether the noncustodial parent has the ability to relocate; and
  12. Any other factor bearing on the child’s interest.

After the burden of good faith and best interest of the child is met by the custodial parent, the non-custodial parent must provide evidence that the child’s interest will suffer from the relocation. Visitation alone is not considered proof as to whether the child’s interest will be jeopardized by the move

Parents considering moving within New Jersey must also be aware of whether they will need permission to do so. Generally, a move that is far enough away to necessitate a change in a previously entered Court ordered parenting plan or a mutually agreed-upon schedule will require permission from the non-custodial parent. As with child relocation out of state, unless a consent order is signed by the non-relocating parent, the parent interested in moving must seek the Courts approval through filing a motion.

Child relocation in New Jersey is a complex and emotional issue that many divorced New Jersey parents must face. Due to the complicated and sensitive nature of the matter it is recommended to consult with a New Jersey family law attorney familiar with child relocation.