How to Prepare a Complaint for Divorce

Man and his child.

If you’re thinking about pulling the plug on your marriage, you better strap in and prepare for the wild ride ahead. Lucky for you, we’ve got the inside scoop on how to lay down the law with a divorce complaint, why legal advice is non-negotiable, and what legal requirements you need to check off before you can fly off like a free bird. 

We’re not going to sugarcoat it – divorce is messy. But with our insights and guidance, you’ll be armed with everything you need to come out on top. No need to hit that panic button just yet. Keep on reading, and we’ll have you feeling like a divorce pro in no time.

Step 1: Find a Badass Matrimonial Lawyer

When you’re thinking about calling it quits with your partner, it’s not just about packing up your stuff and walking out the door (you can do that, but you’ll likely leave a legal mess behind). The legal and financial consequences of divorce are massive, so you better get yourself in gear and seek some darn good legal advice from a family law pro. 

Why? Because they’re the ones who can lead you through this divorce minefield, help you wrap your head around all your legal rights and responsibilities, and give you the inside scoop on how to make the smartest decisions for your future. 

Don’t go in blind, folks. Get yourself an experienced matrimonial attorney who’ll have your back and keep you from getting screwed over. 

Step 2: Arm Yourself With Knowledge

Before you even think about filing those papers, you gotta make sure you’ve got all your ducks in a row. So, what are these legal requirements we’re talking about? Well, it depends on where you live, but you can count on things like residency requirements, grounds for divorce, and the almighty Court to come into play.

Don’t let these legal hurdles trip you up, folks. Do your research, know your stuff, and don’t forget to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. After all, this is your life we’re talking about – make sure you’re in control of the situation.

Residency Requirements

Did you know that you can’t just walk up to any state and file for divorce? Nope, you must meet certain residency requirements first.

Basically, this means you gotta have been living in the state for a hot minute before you can even think about filing those papers. The specific amount of time varies depending on where you are, but it usually falls somewhere between six months and a year.

So, if you’re thinking about getting divorced in New Jersey, you better make sure at least one of you has been calling it home for a year before you file. Trust us, you don’t want to get caught out by these pesky legal details.

Grounds for Divorce

In some states, you have to have a reason – a.k.a. grounds – to back up your decision before going through with a divorce. These grounds can include adultery, cruelty, abandonment, or simply having differences that can’t be fixed. And you better know your stuff when it comes to your state’s specific grounds for divorce because it could have a serious impact on the final outcome of your case.

For a Jersey-style divorce, make sure you’ve met the following requirements: 

  • Residency in New Jersey for a continuous period of 12 months by either you or your spouse
  • Experiencing irreconcilable differences for at least six months
  • Having no possibility of reconciliation

The Role of the Court

Let’s dive a little deeper into the role of the court in your divorce case. When you file for divorce, the court becomes the ultimate authority, making decisions that will impact your life for years to come. And let’s be real, these decisions aren’t just minor ones – we’re talking about major issues like child custody, child support, spousal support, and the division of your hard-earned property.

Now, you might be thinking, “Okay, but what exactly does the court do?” Well, to put it simply, they’re going to be the ones overseeing your entire divorce case. They’ll be responsible for making rulings on any disputes that come up between you and your soon-to-be-ex. And let’s face it – when you’re in the middle of a divorce, there are bound to be some disputes.

When it comes to child custody, the court will be taking into account the best interests of the child. They’ll be looking at factors like each parent’s living situation, work schedule, and ability to provide for the child. And let’s not forget about child support – the court will be determining how much each parent is required to pay in order to support their child.

Now, when it comes to spousal support, things can get a little more complicated. The court will be looking at factors like each spouse’s income, their earning capacity, and the length of the marriage. And of course, there’s the issue of dividing up your property. The court will be making decisions on who gets what, taking into account factors like each spouse’s contribution to the marriage and the length of the marriage.

Pro Tip:  Now remember- this all is assuming that you are going through with a traditional litigated divorce. If you are looking to keep matters more peaceful and private there are better options out there such as mediation, negotiation, and collaborative divorces. These options can also save you a ton of time and money. Check out our divorce survival guide to learn more. 

Step 4: Let’s Get Started – Prepare Your Complaint for Divorce

The Complaint is like a roadmap that tells your soon-to-be ex and the court exactly why you’re throwing in the towel. It outlines the grounds for divorce and the relief you’re seeking. It’s a big deal, but don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging. Here are the steps you need to take to prepare that bad boy:

First, Get Your Ducks in a Row

If you’re ready to start penning a complaint about your marriage, you better get organized first. That means gathering up all the juicy deets about you, your spouse, and your rocky relationship. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Personal Information of both parties: Your full legal name, date of birth, and address, as well as your spouse’s full legal name, date of birth, and address.
  • Information about the marriage: The date and location of the marriage, whether you and your ex have had big “differences” in your marriage, and whether you believe you can reconcile.
  • Information about any children from the marriage: The names, dates of birth, and current addresses of any children from the marriage, as well as any custody or support arrangements that are in place.

Next, The Complaint (and Supporting Documents)

You’ve gathered all the details and you’re ready to put pen to paper and start drafting that complaint for divorce.  Here’s what you would need to include:

  • Introduction to the Complaint: This section should identify the parties involved and provide a brief overview of the issues involved in the divorce.
  • Explanation of the Grounds for Divorce: This section should explain the grounds for divorce, citing the relevant law and providing a brief description of the facts that support your claim.
  • Request for Relief: This section should outline the relief you are seeking, such as custody of children, child support, spousal support, and the division of property.

And after that is done, in New Jersey you’ll also need to complete a Confidential Litigant Information Sheet, an Affidavit of Insurance Coverage, a Certification and Verification of Non-Collusion, and a handful of additional Certifications required by the Court. These papers are so complex that the New Jersey courts will not make the papers available online.

Sounds stressful? It is. We do not recommend that you go this alone. Your lawyer will draft your Complaint and other Court-required documents, so don’t stress too much about your legal skills. 

Now, to File the Complaint

Get ready to have your lawyer file that bad boy with the Court. The procedure varies depending on where you live but typically involves forking over some cash and filing your Complaint to the court clerk. 

But be prepared – it’s going to cost you a bit! So, make sure you budget accordingly. In New Jersey, for example, you’re looking at a $300 filing fee for your divorce case. If you are the person filing, it is also best practice to file an Answer to your spouse’s Counterclaim, which will be another smaller fee in New Jersey. Small price to pay for your freedom.

Lastly, “You’ve Been Served”

And don’t forget, after your Complaint is accepted and stamped “Filed” by the Court, you’ve got to serve a Summons and a copy of your Complaint to your soon-to-be ex. The Court rules are very specific on how this is done, and your lawyer knows the ropes on your options. A process server can give you the “hands off” approach, or the Complaint and supporting documents can be sent by certified mail under certain circumstances. Either way, be sure you follow the rules of Due Process or your Complaint will go nowhere or, worse yet, be dismissed. 

But Wait – There’s More

Once your ex is served, they have the opportunity to respond (and usually do). Counterclaims for divorce are very common in New Jersey, and you must respond under the Court Rules or risk defaulting. You’ll want your lawyer to guide you through the process as well.

What if *I* Get Served?

Do not panic! This is not a criminal court. And you are in luck – everything that’s written above pertains to you as well.  Believe it or not, you have a chance not only to respond to your ex’s Complaint, but you can file your OWN Complaint for Divorce in response. This is called a “Counterclaim,” and it’s very common. Again, for the reasons above, let your attorney be your guide.

Time to Lawyer-Up, Buttercup

We’re not going to sugarcoat it – filing for divorce is a tough pill to swallow. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that nobody wants to ride. But with the right legal advice and a bit of grit, you can start taking those baby steps toward a brighter future.

So, where do you start? First off, get yourself some legal support. We’re talking about the matrimonial attorney who can guide you through the legal hoops and keep you from making any rookie mistakes. With their help, you’ll be on your way to greener pastures in no time.

We hope that this blog post has given you some insight into what you can expect and how to prepare for the process. But we’re not going to leave you hanging – if you need more help or have any questions, our team at Keith Family Law is here to offer you the support you need. Don’t be shy, give us a shout

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