Until recently, it was impossible to get a divorce in New Jersey without at least one party appearing before a Judge and requesting the divorce. However, despite the new procedure many attorneys still proceed with the standard default divorce procedure.
The new procedure is slightly more complex than the standard default divorce. In a “default” divorce, one spouse would file the complaint and serve the complaint on the other spouse. If the second spouse did not respond to the complaint within the appropriate statutory time limit, the filing spouse could request that the court schedule a hearing and enter a divorce judgment by default.
The “on the papers” process as modified starts off the same way. One party files the complaint, and after the appropriate statutory waiting period has elapsed, the filing party requests that the court enter a default judgment. A default hearing is scheduled. However, because the parties have executed a property settlement agreement, they are able to get a divorce without ever appearing in Court.
The parties must forward to the Court, prior to the default hearing the following documentation:
1. Verified Complaint
2. Proof of service of defendant
3. In adultery cases, notice to correspondent and proof of service, which shall include that the correspondent has not moved to intervene or otherwise respond to the notice.
4. Request for default and proof that such default was served on the defendant
5. Affidavit of non military service
6. Affidavit of Insurance
7. Plaintiff’s sworn statement in support of request of judgment (see below)
8. An original and two copies of the Proposed Final Judgment of Divorce,
indicating that the matter was heard on the papers submitted and that the court made no finding on the merits
9. Child support guidelines worksheet, and if a deviation from the guidelines, a statement of reasons for the deviation
10. Written statement required by the probation department
11. A stamped, addressed return envelope
Appropriate proofs must be submitted to establish the plaintiff’s right to the relief requested. Unless the following are contained in the complaint, such a request should be in the form of a sworn statement (affidavit or certification), captioned “Certification in Support of the Request for Judgment” (or a similar title), and should:
1. Include a statement identifying all prior and pending proceedings in this or any other jurisdiction. The statement must indicate the caption, docket number and a brief indication of the status. If there are no other proceedings, the statement must certify that there are no other pending matters between the parties.
2. Certify that neither party is on public assistance, or if so, the nature of the assistance being received, the amount of the assistance for plaintiff and children, if any.
3. If incorporation of a PSA is requested, state the agreement was entered into voluntarily and freely and without coercion; that it resolves all the issues between the parties; that plaintiff considers it to be fair and equitable under all the circumstances; that plaintiff waives a right to trial and that plaintiff is satisfied with the legal services provided, if any, and a request to incorporate the Agreement into the Final Judgment of Divorce.
4. In cases where permanent alimony is a relief requested, or where the PSA contains a provision for permanent alimony, include a “Marital Lifestyle Statement” consistent with Crews v. Crews, 164 NJ 11 (2000), and a CIS which is less than one year old.
5. State that plaintiff is aware that s/he is waiving the right to have the judge decide these issues.
If Plaintiff requests the continuation of prior final orders, the complaint or certification must:
1. include copies of the orders.
2. identify the orders in the body of the certification.
3. confirm there is no other property or debt to be distributed.
4. confirm that there are no other outstanding issues between the parties.
5. confirm that plaintiff is aware that s/he is waiving the right to have the judge decide these issues.
6. recite that plaintiff understands that all prior orders not specifically referenced in the Final Judgment will be vacated upon the entering of the final judgment; except that no Restraining Order entered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act shall be vacated by the entry of a Judgment of Divorce.
7. state whether or not either party seeks to continue a restraining order previously entered under the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.
If either spouse is requesting a name change, the complaint or certification must confirm that the party qualifies for a name change and is not changing their name to avoid creditors or criminal prosecution.
Once the staff has confirmed that all the above is included in the file, the file will be forwarded to a Judge to enter the Final Judgment of Divorce.