The Ultimate Divorce Survival Guide: New Jersey Edition

Divorce is a grueling marathon that’ll push your limits and resilience to the brink. Imagine running uphill, against the wind, and through a raging storm all at the same damn time. It’s a brutal battle, but don’t throw in the towel just yet! With a solid team of warriors by your side, you can conquer those obstacles and charge across the finish line with your head held high like the badass you are.

Whether you need a coach to help you stay focused, a cheerleader to lift your spirits, or a pit crew to keep you fueled and on track, Keith Family Law will be running by your side, supporting you every step of the way. Our team is here to be your ride-or-die squad, whether your divorce is amicable or an all-out war.

We’ve got you covered with all the resources, knowledge, and expertise you need to make this journey as smooth as possible. Our step-by-step survival guide is like the ultimate cheat code. It will help you understand the different types of divorce in New Jersey, get all the necessary documents, negotiate your settlement like a boss, and finalize your divorce with confidence.

So take a deep breath, and let’s get started! With Keith Family Law on your side, you can turn this marathon into a breeze and come out the other side with a brighter future ahead.

The Different Types of Divorce
(And Why It Actually Matters to You)

man sitting on a couch

There are actually a bunch of ways to get a divorce – who knew, right? But seriously, understanding all the different types of divorce is key to figuring out which one is going to work best for you and your family. Let’s start out with a couple of options that aren’t quite an official divorce.

Separation vs. Divorce: What’s the Difference?

Before you go full steam ahead with a divorce, it’s important to know the difference between separation and divorce. Hint: they’re not just different flavors of the same ice cream, they’re two totally different desserts altogether.

Separation is when a couple decides to live apart while still being legally married. It’s like a trial run to see if they can work things out or if they move on to divorce. On the other hand, divorce is like the nuclear option – it’s when you officially end the marriage in the eyes of the law.

Learn More about Divorce vs Separation

Divorce from Bed and Board: Let’s Hit the Pause Button

Divorce from Bed and Board, also known as a limited divorce or legal separation, is basically the relationship equivalent of “it’s complicated.” It’s a legal proceeding that allows couples to live apart without officially ending their marriage. Think of it as putting your marriage on pause.

This option is not available in all states, but if you’re in the Garden State (aka New Jersey), you’re in luck! With a divorce from Bed and Board, you and your spouse are still technically married, but the court issues an order outlining each person’s rights and responsibilities. This covers important topics like child custody, visitation, child support, and property division.

One of the benefits of a divorce from Bed and Board is that it can be a good option if you’re not ready for a full-on divorce. Maybe you have personal or religious beliefs that prohibit divorce, or perhaps you need to maintain health insurance benefits or protect assets from creditors. Whatever the reason, this type of divorce allows you to hit the pause button on your marriage without totally calling it quits.

Just keep in mind that the terms of the order can be modified if you and your spouse reconcile or if you decide to move forward with a full divorce later on. So, it’s important to consider your options carefully and seek legal advice to ensure you make the right decision for your unique circumstances.

Amicable Divorce: The Most Peaceful Option

An amicable divorce, also known as an “uncontested” or “out of court” divorce, is like the holy grail of divorce options. It’s when both parties are able to put aside their differences and work together to reach an agreement on the terms of their divorce without having to go to court.

Basically, it means the couple gets to make their own decisions about all the issues that typically come up in a divorce – things like property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support. And let’s be real, that’s way better than leaving it up to some judge who doesn’t even know you.

The best part? An amicable divorce can be way less expensive and time-consuming than a litigated divorce because it avoids all the drama of a courtroom showdown. In an amicable divorce, the couple works with their lawyers or a mediator to hammer out the details. This may involve compromising on certain issues, but the end result is a document (“Settlement Agreement”) that both parties agree to and sign. The agreement is then submitted to the court for approval, and once approved, it becomes a legally binding contract.

Of course, an amicable divorce isn’t for everyone – it only works if both parties are willing to be respectful and collaborative throughout the process. But if you’re looking to minimize the emotional and financial costs of divorce, it’s definitely worth considering.

woman sitting on a couch

Collaborative Divorce: Working Together to Move Forward

Collaborative divorce is the ultimate team effort in which each party hires a lawyer who’s trained to play nice in the sandbox with others. Plus, the parties bring in a whole crew of professionals, like financial gurus and child whisperers, to keep things running smoothly.

During the process, the parties work together to reach an agreement on everything from who gets the sweet record collection to who pays the bills. Unlike a traditional divorce, this one actually encourages playing nice and listening to each other’s perspectives.

One of the biggest perks of a collaborative divorce is the reduced stress and an easy timeline. Since the parties are working together, there are fewer legal fees and less conflict. Plus, the process is flexible and personalized to the unique needs of the couple.

But let’s not sugarcoat it. If the collaborative process fails, it’s time to bring in the big guns and move on to a litigated divorce. The parties will need to put on their fighting gloves. So, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that!

Learn More about Collaborative Divorce vs. Amicable Divorce

Negotiation: A Verbal Dance-Off

Negotiation is a game of give and take – where two or more parties with different needs, goals, or preferences come together to find a mutually agreeable solution.

This informal process doesn’t require any fancy legal procedures or formal documentation. Instead, it’s all about communication. Both parties engage in a friendly exchange of ideas, interests, and proposals to find common ground and strike a deal that works for everyone involved.

Negotiations involve a lot of back-and-forths, with both parties making offers, counteroffers, and concessions. To sweeten the pot, they may also use different negotiation techniques like active listening, reframing, clarifying, and empathizing. It’s like a verbal dance-off but with fewer jazz hands and more legal jargon.

Mediation: A Game of Give-And-Take

What is Divorce Mediation?

Need another way to avoid duking it out in court? Mediation is a way for parties in conflict to resolve their disputes with the help of a neutral third party: The mediator (obviously). While mediation can be used in various disputes, it’s especially useful in divorce and family law cases, where it can be a great alternative to a litigated divorce. Because, as we’ve learned, it’s best to avoid litigation and save your sanity.

In a mediated divorce, both parties team up with the mediator to come up with a settlement agreement that suits their individual needs and interests. Unlike a judge, the mediator doesn’t take sides or make decisions but instead facilitates communication, negotiation, and compromise on issues such as property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support.

Similar to the amicable and collaborative divorce methods, mediation is typically less expensive and definitely less confrontational than a litigated divorce. With fewer court appearances, legal fees, stress, and conflicts, mediation is a voluntary process that puts the parties in control of the outcome. This means they can work together to find a solution that works for everyone.

Another perk of mediation is that it allows for more flexibility and creativity than a litigated divorce. In mediation, parties can consider a wide range of options for resolving their issues, including those that may not be available in court. For instance, parties may be able to design a personalized parenting plan that fits their family’s unique needs instead of relying on a one-size-fits-all court order. Because let’s be real – one-size never fits all! Everyone’s family and situations are different.

Mediation can be a highly effective way to resolve disputes and reach agreements that satisfy all parties involved. So if you’re looking for a way to avoid a costly and stressful litigated divorce, consider giving mediation a try. Learn more about mediation below, and also check out our mediation checklist.

Learn More about Mediation

Contested Divorce: When Things Can Get Messy

If you just read the entire section about amicable divorce and either rolled your eyes or literally laughed out loud – don’t worry, you’re not alone. The truth is that no matter how many benefits there are to keeping your divorce out of the courtroom – it’s simply not always possible! I mean… you’re getting divorced. Emotions are at an all-time high, and let’s face it, you and your current spouse may not be the best versions of yourselves right now. And honestly, that’s totally normal. Now we’re going to talk about what exactly a contested (or “litigated” or “in-court”) divorce is so that you can best prepare and protect yourself and your family.

When a couple can’t agree on one or more critical issues like child custody, support, alimony, property division, or other related matters, it’s time to lawyer up and head to court. Yup, that’s right – a judge will have to decide on the unresolved issues because the couple just couldn’t see eye to eye. In a litigated divorce, each party will need to hire their own attorney to represent their interests. These lawyers will gather evidence, present arguments, and make requests on behalf of their clients during hearings and trials. It’s like a legal boxing match – ding ding ding, round one!

As my grandma would say, the process can be “as slow as a snail crawling through molasses.” The couple will have to wait for a court date, which can take several months. And as if that’s not enough, contested divorces are almost always hella expensive! The fees for attorneys and court filings can quickly add up, and the financial burden can be even more significant if the divorce is highly contested and requires multiple hearings and experts. Let’s just say the more contentious the divorce, the more expensive it becomes.

stressed out couple on a couch

As you can imagine, contested divorces can also be emotionally draining and exhausting for both parties. They’ll be going through a legal battle where their relationship is under scrutiny, and the pressure can be unbearable. And let’s not forget about the kids – they can get caught in the middle of their parents’ dispute and the legal process, which can be extra tough for them.

To sum it all up, contested divorces are like a bad game of tug-of-war, and nobody truly feels like the winner. As mentioned, it’s best to try to resolve issues through negotiation and compromise to avoid the cost, time, and stress of a litigated divorce. However, if that’s not in the cards, stay calm and read on.

Facing a Contested Divorce? Don’t Panic!

We know that not every divorce can be a friendly hug-fest with your soon-to-be-ex. Sometimes, things can go from zero to Hulk-smash in a hot minute, or maybe your partner is as stubborn as a mule. But don’t sweat it, because Keith Family Law is here to walk alongside you through the entire journey, no matter how difficult.

We’re like the Yoda to your Luke Skywalker (except not as green). We’ll help you navigate the dark side of a contested divorce and guide you through the trenches. We’re not just your basic legal team; we’re your battle buddies, your support system, and your safe harbor through the storm. Our mission is simple: To make your life easier during this chaotic time.

We know it’s not easy, but we’ve got the skills, experience, and Jedi mind tricks to help you get through it. So, sit back, attempt to relax, and let us do the heavy lifting.

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Prepping for Your Divorce

What Steps Should You Take Before Filing for Divorce?

Documents You Will Need For A Divorce

Before you even think about pulling the trigger on your divorce, you better have all your ducks in a row. That means getting your hands on some paperwork (Woohoo! Paperwork! Yay!). Here’s a checklist of some of the things you’ll need:

  • Financial documents, like your tax returns, bank statements, and investment account statements going back several months (gotta know where that cash is at, honey – and where it might have gone)
  • Real estate documents, including mortgage statements and property deeds (because who doesn’t want to argue over who gets to keep the house?)
  • Retirement account statements (it’s never too early to start planning for that midlife crisis)
  • Insurance policies, including health, auto, and life insurance policies (in case life decides to throw yet another curve ball your way. *Sigh*)
  • Debt statements, including credit card statements and loan documents (because let’s be honest- we’re all in debt, right?!)

Make sure you have all of these documents and keep them organized. If you’re not sure what you need, don’t worry. Our team of experts will help you create a list of the necessary documents and guide you through the process of getting them.

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Dream Big: Make Your Life Plan (Yes, Right Now)

During a divorce, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos and forget about your life goals. But taking a moment to dream big and plan for your future makes a world of difference. It might feel like the last thing you want to do, but trust us, it’s crucial.

Think about where you want to be in your career, what kind of lifestyle you want, and how you want to spend your time. Also, don’t forget about your relationships with loved ones. Having a clear plan for your post-divorce life helps you make better decisions and regain a sense of control. So, it’s time to put on your dreaming cap and start planning for the future you want!

The Littles: Create a Plan for Custody and Parenting Time

We get it, your munchkins are your world, and that’s why hashing out custody and parenting time with your ex can, well… suck! Crafting a solid parenting plan is key to ensuring your littles’ needs are front and center. Who’s bunking where, when can they chill with each parent, and how will big decisions be made? We’ll guide you through every step of the way so that your kids’ needs always come first. Because, honestly, these are grown-up problems, and we want your kids to have as smooth of a ride as possible.

Learn About Child Support & Custody


Don’t Jump the Gun: Practical To-Do’s Before You File Your Complaint

While we’d like to think both parties will always treat each other with respect, that is too often not the case. Even if you are doing everything right, your ex may take advantage of the situation at hand, either out of anger, sadness, or who knows. What’s important is that you protect yourself and CYA (cover your *ss)! Here’s how:

Take stock of your assets and debts: Think of it like a Marie Kondo-style inventory, but instead of deciding what brings you joy, you’re deciding what belongs to who. Make a list and gather relevant documents.

Check your credit report: It’s like an x-ray for your financial health. Make sure you’re aware of any outstanding debts or other issues that need to be addressed.

Open your own bank account: It’s time to manage your own dough. Consider opening a separate bank account in your name only.

Open your own credit card account: Time to open your own darn credit card account! Because nothing says “I’m over you” quite like swiping your very own credit card with reckless abandon.

Update your estate plan: Let’s make sure your will, power of attorney, and healthcare directive reflect your new situation.

Keep in mind that every divorce is unique. That’s why it’s important to speak with your attorney before taking any major steps. We want to ensure you’re making the best decisions for YOU.

How to Negotiate Your Amicable Divorce

So, you and your partner are actually getting along for once, and you’re ready to file for an uncontested divorce. Congrats, you’re basically relationship unicorns! As we’ve mentioned before, this is often a way smoother and cheaper process than many alternatives.

Say What You Want: Make a Proposal for Settlement

The first step is to make a proposal for settlement. Think of this as your big chance to lay out all the juicy details of how you want to split assets and debts and set up custody, child support, and alimony (if applicable).

This proposal should outline the terms of the divorce, including how assets and debts will be divided and any arrangements for child custody, child support, and alimony. The proposal should be comprehensive and detailed but also flexible enough to allow for negotiation and compromise. You should be prepared to make concessions in order to reach a mutually agreeable outcome. If you’re like, “what?” it’s okay- your lawyer will guide you through this process.

Make a Few Compromises: It Takes Two to Tango

Once you’ve put your cards on the table, the negotiation dance begins. This is where you and your partner volley offers and counteroffers back and forth until you come to a happy middle ground. It can be a bit like playing volleyball, except instead of a ball, you’re lobbing terms and conditions at each other. This means being open to compromise and considering the needs and concerns of both parties.

Sign the Dotted Line: The Marital Settlement Agreement

You and your spouse are like Batman and Robin, working together to save the day…or at least make your divorce process a little smoother (you’re obviously Batman). Now that you’ve come to an agreement on the terms of your divorce, the next step is to sign a marital settlement agreement (MSA). Think of an MSA as a friendship contract but with legal weight. This document will spell out the nitty-gritty details of your divorce, including what’s happening with the littles, money, and other assets. Once both of you have put your John Hancocks on the MSA, it becomes a binding agreement that will be submitted to the court as part of your divorce case. It’s like a fancy high-five to celebrate your successful negotiation skills!
stressed out man and woman

Hold On Tight: Filing for Divorce Is One Wild Ride!

The First Step Towards Moving On

You need to find yourself a reliable lawyer who will have your back throughout the legal circus, even if it’s “just an uncontested.” And trust me, you’ll want someone who knows the ins and outs of the system because this ain’t gonna be a walk in the park.

When you sit down with your lawyer, they’ll give you the lowdown on what it takes to file for divorce in the great state of New Jersey. They’ll also help you get your ducks in a row by gathering all the important documents you’ll need.

But the fun doesn’t stop there, my friend. Once your divorce complaint is filed, you’ll need to be ready for court appearances and negotiations, which is where your lawyer will really come in handy.

No Drama Allowed: Navigating Uncontested Divorce Like a Pro

First things first, you’ll need to file a Complaint for Divorce with your Settlement Agreement attached, which outlines all the terms you and your ex have agreed upon. Don’t worry, your lawyer will prepare this bad boy for you, making sure you’re dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s on all your documents.

Then there is a bit of legal back-and-forth, including getting your ex served with the court-filed papers (yes, even in an “uncontested” divorce), and then filing more papers to prove that you did it. Don’t worry, your lawyer has your back on this one, too. Then, your ex has to file their papers, too, and serve the papers on you in the same way (yes, even in an “uncontested” divorce).

Assuming the court accepts your Complaint and Settlement (fingers crossed), you’ll have a hearing before the Judge and be granted a Final Judgment of Divorce, complete with all the juicy details of your divorce agreement.

Now, before you go thinking you don’t need a lawyer for this because it’s all sunshine and rainbows, let me stop you right there. It’s still crucial to have a fierce lawyer in your corner, fighting for your rights and making sure everything is legally sound. Last thing you want is to have your petition rejected or dismissed, and to have to go through this all over again.

When Negotiations Fail: What Happens If Your Case Is Contested?

Well, well, well, looks like negotiations didn’t exactly go as planned. Cue the courtroom drama because a contested divorce means it’s time to call in the big guns.

When it comes to custody, support, and property division, the court will be considering all kinds of factors, like the duration of your marriage, your age and health, and the standard of living you established together. It’s like a high-stakes game of chess, and you need a lawyer who knows how to make all the right moves.

We know that when your case is headed to court, having an experienced divorce lawyer by your side is crucial. We’re here to be your fierce advocates, protecting your rights and fighting for your interests every step of the way.

We understand that the legal process can be overwhelming and stressful, but with our extensive knowledge and expertise, we’ll help you prepare for court appearances and negotiations. We’ll make sure the court considers all relevant factors when making decisions about your case. So take a deep breath and trust us to guide you through this difficult time with the expertise and compassion you deserve.

The Nine Circles of Hell: The Contested Divorce Case

Ah, the nine circles of hell, otherwise known as a contested divorce case. When you’re in the middle of a contested divorce, it’s easy to feel like you’re drowning in a sea of anger, frustration, and sadness. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your head above water.

But fear not, my friends, because your lawyer is here to be your safe harbor through the storm. They know how to navigate the legal and emotional challenges of a contested divorce like a pro. They’ll help you develop a strategy for negotiation and litigation, and they’ll make sure your interests are protected every step of the way. With the right lawyer by your side, you WILL get through this.
man and woman sitting next to each other on a couch

Finalizing the Divorce

Once you and your ex have agreed on the terms of the divorce settlement, it’s time to submit it to the court for approval. The judge will scrutinize the agreement to make sure it’s all above board and doesn’t leave either party high and dry. Assuming everything looks hunky-dory, the judge will enter a final judgment of divorce, aka the divorce decree. It’s like getting an official stamp of approval on your newfound independence.

But hold up! Before you start popping bottles of bubbly, you’ll need to update your legal documents and financial accounts to reflect your single status. This means changing your name (if you’re ditching the old ball and chain’s last name), updating your will, and making sure your insurance policies are up-to-date. Trust us, the last thing you want is for your ex to cash in on that sweet life insurance policy you forgot to update.

Modifying or Enforcing the Settlement Agreement

Ah, the joys of life. Just when you thought your divorce was finally over, life throws you a curveball. Maybe you lost your job, or your ex found a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Whatever the reason, if your circumstances have changed since your divorce settlement, you might need to modify the agreement.

If you and your ex can agree on the changes, that’s great. You can submit a request to the court to modify the settlement agreement. But if you can’t agree, it’s time to put on your battle armor and head back to court.

Now, modifying a settlement agreement is no walk in the park. It’s complicated, messy, and just plain exhausting. That’s why you need a seasoned lawyer by your side to help you navigate this treacherous terrain.

And if your ex is not playing nice and complying with the terms of the settlement agreement, it’s time to take action. You might need to file a motion with the court to force them to get their act together and stick to the agreement. Don’t let them get away with breaking their promises – fight for what’s rightfully yours.

Keith Family Law: Your Safe Harbor Through the Storm

At Keith Family Law, we’re not just here to help with the legal mumbo-jumbo (though we’re pretty darn good at that – if we do say so ourselves). We’re here to support you emotionally and make sure you come out the other side with your rights, interests, and reputation intact.

Our team of lawyers is filled with no-nonsense negotiators and fierce litigators, ready to protect your interests. We’ll work with you to figure out what you want to achieve and come up with a strategy to make it happen.

But here’s the real kicker: we actually care about you. Yeah, you heard us right. We’re not just some emotionless suits churning out cases. We understand that every divorce is unique, and we’re here to hear your concerns and answer your questions.

So, if you’re looking for some straight-shooting, no-BS attorneys who will stop at nothing to get you the results you deserve, then Keith Family Law is the team for you. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and just plain over it, let us be your rock. We’ll go the extra mile to ensure that your rights are protected, your needs are met, and that you walk away from your legal battle feeling like a total boss. Let’s do this thing.

Contact Our Team

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