The termination of marriage in New Jersey is legally referred to as a Divorce from the Bond of Matrimony.
To file for absolute divorce or dissolution of a civil union on grounds other than adultery, either party must be a resident of the state for one year prior to commencement of the action.
Nullity of Marriage and Dissolution of a Civil Union:
To file for nullity or marriage or dissolution of a civil union, either party must be a bona fide resident of New Jersey at the time of the commencement of the action; and process is served upon the defendant as prescribed by the rules of Supreme Court.
A Plaintiff, filing party, may file a Complaint for Divorce, in the Superior Court of the county in which the Plaintiff resides at the time the cause of action arises. If the Plaintiff does not reside in New Jersey, he/she may file in the county in which the Defendant, other party, resides.
In New Jersey, the court, administrative agency, or quasi-judicial entity authorized to establish, enforce or modify judicial orders is referred to as a tribunal.
The court, upon or after granting a divorce from the bonds of matrimony or dissolution of a civil union, may allow either spouse or partner in a civil union couple to resume any name used by the party prior to the marriage or civil union, or to assume any surname.
New Jersey civil unions are available to same-sex couples only. Civil union couples are eligible for all the state rights that a married couple has. A civil union grants all the same benefits, protections and responsibilities under the law, whether they come from statute, administrative or court rule, public policy, common law or any other source of civil law, as are granted to spouses in a marriage.
Criteria for Establishing a Civil Union:
To establish a civil union in New Jersey, the parties must meet the following requirements:
Entering into a civil union in New Jersey is similar to entering into a marriage. As in marriage, a license for a civil union must be obtained from the registrar in the New Jersey municipality where either applicant resides, if one or both is a resident of New Jersey.
If both parties are not residents of New Jersey, the license must be obtained from the Registrar of the municipality where the ceremony is to be performed and is only good for use in that municipality.
There is a 72 hour waiting period between applying for the license and receiving the civil union license. The couple must have the ceremony within 30 days of applying for the license.
Due to the implementation of the Civil Union Act in New Jersey in 2007, the Domestic Partnership Act was amended to allow new domestic partnership registrations only to individuals age 62 or older.
Couples, who registered as domestic partners prior to the establishment of civil unions with the Civil Union Act, are not required to subsequently enter into civil unions. They may continue to have the rights afforded to domestic partners under the Domestic Partnership Act.
Same sex couples who are already registered as domestic partners (provided they meet the requirements) may enter into a civil union with one another if they choose, without first terminating their domestic partnership. If the domestic partnership was registered in New Jersey, it automatically terminates when the civil union is registered. If the domestic partnership was registered in another state, that state's laws determine the impact of the civil union on the domestic partnership.
Grounds for divorce from the bonds of matrimony:
2. Willful and continued desertion for the term of 12 or more months;
3. Extreme cruelty, defined as including any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the Plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the Plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the Defendant, provided that no complaint for divorce shall be filed until after three months from the date of the last act of cruelty complained of in the complaint;
4. Separation, provided that the husband and wife have resided separate and apart for a period of at least 18 or more consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation;
5. Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug, or habitual drunkenness for a period of 12 or more consecutive months after the date of the marriage and prior to filing the complaint;
6. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months after the date of the marriage and prior to the the filing of the complaint;
7. Imprisonment of the Defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after marriage, provided that if the action is not commenced until after the defendant's release, the parties have not resumed cohabitation following the imprisonment;
8. Deviant sexual conduct voluntarily performed by the Defendant without the consent of the Plaintiff; and
9. Irreconcilable differences which have caused the breakdown of the marriage for a period of six months and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
Civil Union Dissolution:
The dissolution of a civil union may be adjudged for the following causes:
1. Voluntary sexual intercourse between a person who is in a civil union and an individual other than the person's partner in the civil union couple;
2. Willful and continued desertion for a period of 12 or more consecutive months;
3. Extreme cruelty, defined as including any physical or mental cruelty which endangers the safety or health of the Plaintiff or makes it improper or unreasonable to expect the Plaintiff to continue to cohabit with the Defendant, provided that no complaint for dissolution of the civil union shall be filed until after three months from the date of the last act of cruelty complained of in the complaint;
4. Separation, provided that the partners in a civil union have resided separate and apart for a period of at least 18 or more consecutive months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation;
5. Voluntarily induced addiction or habituation to any narcotic drug or habitual drunkenness for 12 or more consecutive months after the establishment of the civil union and before filing the complaint;
6. Institutionalization for mental illness for a period of 24 or more consecutive months after the establishment of the civil union and before filing the complaint; and
7. Imprisonment of the Defendant for 18 or more consecutive months after establishment of the civil union, provided that if the action is not commenced until after the defendant's release, the parties have not resumed cohabitation following the imprisonment.
The dissolution of civil unions shall follow the same procedures and be subject to the same substantive rights and obligations that are involved in the dissolution of marriage.
If a court nullifies a marriage, there is a judicial statement that there never was a marriage. Although more commonly referred to as annulment in other states, New Jersey statutes refers to this procedure as the Nullity of a Marriage.
Nullity of Marriage:
Judgments of nullity of marriage may be rendered in all cases when one of the following criteria is met:
Nullity of Civil Unions:
Judgments of nullity of a civil union may be rendered in all cases when one of the following criteria is met:
New Jersey is an equitable division state. In all actions where a judgment of divorce, dissolution of civil union, divorce from bed and board or legal separation from a partner in a civil union couple is entered, the court may make such award or awards to the parties, in addition to alimony and maintenance, to effectuate an equitable distribution of the property, both real and personal, which was legally and beneficially acquired by them or either of them during the marriage or civil union.
However, all such property, real, personal or otherwise, legally or beneficially acquired during the marriage or civil union by either party by way of gift, devise, or intestate succession shall not be subject to equitable distribution, except for gifts between spouses or between partners in a civil union couple which shall be subject to equitable distribution.
In making a determination for equitable distribution of property, the court shall consider the following factors:
The court may not make an award concerning the equitable distribution of property on behalf of a party convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to murder the other party. No person convicted of Murder; Manslaughter; Criminal Homicide; Aggravated Assault; or a substantially similar offense under the laws of another jurisdiction may receive alimony if the crime results in death or serious bodily injury to a family member of a divorcing party; and the crime was committed after the marriage or civil union.
In all actions brought for divorce, dissolution of a civil union, divorce from bed and board, legal separation from a partner in a civil union couple or nullity, the court may award one or more of the following types of alimony: permanent alimony; rehabilitative alimony; limited duration alimony; or reimbursement alimony to either party.
When determining an award of alimony and what type, the court shall consider the following factors:
In determining the length of term of alimony to be awarded, the court will consider the length of time it would reasonably take for the recipient to improve his/her earning capacity to a level where limited duration alimony is no longer appropriate.
Rehabilitative alimony shall be awarded based upon a plan in which the receiving spouse or partner shows the scope of rehabilitation, the steps to be taken, and the timeframe, including a period of employment during which rehabilitation will occur.
Reimbursement alimony may be awarded under circumstances in which one party supported the other through an advanced education, anticipating participation in the fruits of the earning capacity generated by that education.
New Jersey law declares that it is in the state's public policy to assure minor children of frequent and continuing contact with both parents after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage, and that it is in the public interest to encourage parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing in order to effect this policy.
In any proceeding involving the custody of a minor child, the rights of both parents shall be equal and the court shall enter an order which may include one of the following:
When making an award of custody, the court shall consider the following factors:
A parent shall not be deemed unfit unless his/her conduct has a substantial adverse effect on the child(ren).
When the parents of a minor child live separately, or are about to do so, the Superior Court, in an action brought by either parent, shall have the same power to make judgments or orders concerning care, custody, education and maintenance as concerning a minor child whose parents are divorced.
The New Jersey legislature, in noting that there has been an increase in filings for dissolution of marriage, declares that the best interests of the children of these marriages in maintaining close relationships with both parents regardless of which parent has the physical custody of the child is paramount.
Therefore, the legislature has bolstered the statutory civil remedies available to judges who hear these matters. A judge who sanctions a party for failure to comply with an order of visitation shall have the following remedies available:
Abuse and Custody or Visitation:
A person convicted of sexual assault, sexual contact or endangering the welfare of a child under New Jersey statutes shall not be awarded the custody of or visitation rights to any minor child, except upon a showing by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the best interest of the child for custody or visitation rights to be awarded.
However, if a court makes this judgment, it shall stay enforcement of the order or judgment for at least 10 days in order to permit the appeal of the order or judgment and application for a stay in accordance with the Rules of the Court.
A denial or custody or visitation under this rule shall not by itself terminate the parental rights of the person denied visitation or custody. Nor shall it affect his/her obligation to support the minor child.
Parents' Education Program:
The Parents' Education Program is a mandatory education program designed to assist and advise divorced parents on issues concerning divorce, separation and custody. The program is made available twice a month.
The purpose of the program is to promote cooperation between the parties and to assist parents in resolving issues which may arise during the divorce or separation process, including the following:
The court shall order every person who has filed an action for divorce, nullity or separate maintenance where the custody, visitation or support of minor children is an issue to attend the Parents' Education Program, with the exception of a party with a restraining order obtained pursuant to domestic violence.
New Jersey uses the Income Shares Model for calculating child support. In determining the amount to be paid by a parent for child support and the period during which the duty of support is owed, the court shall consider the following factors:
The obligation to pay support for a child who has not been emancipated by the court shall not terminate solely on the basis of the child(ren)'s age if the child suffers from a severe mental or physical incapacity that causes the child(ren) to be financially dependent on a parent.
The obligation to pay support for that child shall continue until the court finds that the child is relieved of the incapacity or is no longer financially dependent on the parent. However, in assessing the financial obligation of the parent, the court shall consider the child's eligibility for public benefits and services for people with disabilities and may make such orders, including an order for the creation of a trust, as are necessary to promote the well-being of the child.
Jurisdiction over non-resident parent:
In a proceeding to establish, enforce or modify a support order, a tribunal of the State may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident individual or his/her guardian or conservator in the following situations:
When one parent acts as the primary guardian for a child, the other parent is generally required to contribute to the financial needs of that child. Generally, in New Jersey, the amount of child support one parent pays another is based on the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines. These Guidelines are found in Appendix IX of the New Jersey Court Rules.
When a married couple separates but chooses not to terminate their marriage, they may seek a divorce from bed and board. When partners to a civil union seek to live separately but do not want to dissolve their civil union, they may seek an order of legal separation from the court.
Divorce from bed and board may be granted for the same grounds as divorce from the bonds of matrimony with the following provisions:
Legal separation from a partner in a civil union couple may be granted for the same causes as dissolution of a civil union with the following provisions:
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