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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.

NAME CHANGE IN NJ

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Deciding whether to keep a married name or re-assume a maiden name is a common dilemma among women going through and after divorce.  The New Jersey Final Judgment of Divorce gives both the husband and wife the chance to legally change his or her name to one used before marriage, or any other last name.  This also applies to same sex couples in which one partner assumed the name of the other in marriage or civil union.  Unlike divorce, a legal separation known as “divorce from bed and board” or “limited divorce” does not satisfy the requirement of the name change statute.

New Jersey Statute 2A:34-21 states that “the court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony to either spouse or dissolution of a civil union to either partner in a civil union couple, may allow either spouse or partner in a civil union couple to resume any name used by the spouse or partner in a civil union couple before the marriage or civil union, or to assume any surname.”

Before granting a request for name change in NJ during divorce proceedings, the court usually requires that the party state under oath:

(1)   that the request is not intended for any New Jersey Name Changefraudulent purpose;

(2) if he/she was ever convicted of a crime and if so, the nature and sentence imposed; and

(3) whether any criminal charges are pending.

Although these requests are usually granted, an applicant who has a pending bankruptcy action in NJ will generally be denied.

In addition to the use of a previously used name, the statute also grants permission for the spouse to assume any surname, even if never previously used before the marriage or civil union.  If the name was never used, the spouse may be required to comply with the notice provisions of the general name change in NJ statute, 2A:34-21, which requires a detailed sworn affidavit.

The initial divorce pleadings should include the request for name change; however, it is still possible to resume a maiden/previous name after a finalized divorce.  A post-judgment motion will be used for this purpose.

If a spouse is also interested in changing a child’s name, the statute for name change in NJ permits minor children to legally change surnames; however, the process is much more complex than spousal name change.  A formal name change case must be filed in civil court that identifies the other parent, his or her residence, and the parents raising the child. The case will then be transferred to the family court. An experienced NJ family law attorney can guide the parent through this process.

New Jersey Divorce Name Change

The official seal on the judgment of divorce legally authorizes a spouse to change his or her name on all legal documents such as a driver’s license, social security card, and birth certificate.  Once these documents are changed, any relevant government agencies, financial institutions, and businesses should be notified.  Some other institutions to be notified include schools, children’s schools, Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Records or Vital Statistics, passport office, post office, Social Security Administration, insurance agencies, and phone and utility companies.  It can be helpful to notify all family, friends, and neighbors of the new name to spread the word. Only the new name should be used by the individual in both work and social settings. Wills or living wills, power of attorney, and all contracts should also be amended to include the new legal name to avoid future confusion.

Whether requesting a name change post-divorce or as part of divorce pleadings, it is crucial to have the services of a competent NJ family law attorney.