Equitable distribution is defined as the “judicial division of property rights and obligations between spouses during divorce. It may be done by agreement, through a property settlement, or by judicial decree” (Wikipedia).
The State of New Jersey is a equitable distribution state. This means that the property and assets of a couple are not automatically divided evenly. It means the court will decide how the assets will be split up in a fair, but not necessary equal, way.
HOW LITIGATED DIVORCES WORK IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
The process involves the filing of a Complaint for Divorce in the Superior Court. Thereafter, an Answer needs to be filed within thirty-five (35) days of service of the complaint for divorce. A case management hearing is normally scheduled in the matter once the Complaint for Divorce, Answer, and Answer to any counterclaims for Divorce are filed. Many cases are now filed under the count of irreconcilable differences.
Discovery is the process in which all of the important documentation and information as to assets and debts are obtained. We often utilize experts such as real estate appraisers to value home(s), business valuation experts, vocational experts to determine how much a non-working spouse can earn, and accountant(s) to prepare Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDRO Orders) to split up retirement accounts and pensions without tax consequences. Interrogatories and Notice to Produce Documents are usually filed to obtain the necessary information. When necessary, depositions are utilized to determine important specifics needed in cases. The purpose is to obtain a clear financial picture of all assets, debts, real expenses, income and ability to earn income. Often, we attempt to streamline the discovery process as much as possible to save you funds while still protecting your rights.
Once discovery is complete, most litigated matters are referred to the Matrimonial Early Settlement Panel, which is a non-binding arbitration where recommendations are made on the case. Settlement conferences thereafter are held if the case is not resolved with the Judge who will be trying the matter. Thereafter, a trial would normally be scheduled. Most litigated cases settle after the M.E.S.P. but prior to trial in counties. We are here to assist you throughout the process. We often use settlement conferences between counsel to resolve or limit the issues that often need to be litigated to save you attorneys fees.
HOW NON-LITIGATED DIVORCES WORK IN THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY
In the event you and your spouse come to a mutually agreeable resolution, we can often represent one of you in the process of filing a divorce action and preparing a Property Settlement Agreement to finalize this case. These are often the simplest and cheapest alternatives to litigating divorce cases. We handle most of these simple non litigated cases on a flat fee basis, depending on your circumstances. Some litigated cases start off as litigated and quickly resolve themselves. The process of filing is essentially the same, but much more streamlined and quicker than litigated cases. We are here to assist you in either event.