Same-sex marriages were legally recognized in New Jersey on October 21, 2013, two years before the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. After this date, all state judges began to recognize not only any same-sex marriage but also gay divorce under equal conditions for all citizens of New Jersey.
For instance, the requirements to get a same-sex divorce in New Jersey are based on residency, not sexual orientation, or any other circumstances. All issues related to marriage dissolution are considered by Family law and can be found in New Jersey Statutes.
Before 2013, same-sex couples were only allowed to enter into civil unions, which at that time did not grant the same benefits as married heterosexual couples had. Civil unions are still legal in New Jersey, whereas a common-law marriage was outlawed in 1939.
Same-sex divorce online
In New Jersey, divorce over the Internet has become an alternative solution for spouses who have an uncontested divorce. Unlike a traditional marriage dissolution procedure, uncontested cases are affordable and easy to obtain and can be managed without a lawyer. You only need to meet the residency requirements to file for same-sex divorce in New Jersey.
The main advantage of do-it-yourself divorces is that they are inexpensive, especially compared to the average cost of contested cases that can reach tens of thousands of dollars.
On the contrary, online services, such as newjerseyonlinedivorce.com, offer their help at only $139. This service provides you with completed same-sex divorce papers required in New Jersey courts. After a quick registration process and a questionnaire, the website sends you printable documents that you only have to sign and submit to the court.
Same-sex divorce papers in New Jersey
Same-sex divorce paperwork in New Jersey is essentially the same for all residents of the state. The divorce process for both same-sex and heterosexual couples usually begins when one of the spouses files the necessary papers with the court.
The package of same-sex divorce forms in New Jersey depends on the local rules of each county and each case. Uncontested cases may require fewer documents, and in most instances, you can handle them by yourself without attending a divorce trial.
Any person married to a same-sex partner can get a divorce in New Jersey with either the help of a lawyer or using online services. The difference between these two options is that the involvement of an attorney will make the case much more expensive. In any case, you should study more information on how to file same-sex divorce in New Jersey before you start any divorce proceeding.
Valid grounds for same-sex divorce in New Jersey
To dissolve a same-sex marriage, one of the spouses must provide grounds, with which he or she will file for divorce in New Jersey. There are two types — no-fault and fault-based grounds.
A spouse filing for divorce can choose one of the following reasons that the marriage is no longer viable (Chapter 2A:34-2 of New Jersey Statutes):
- Willful desertion for one year and more
- Physical and mental cruelty
- Separation for more than 18 months
- Substance abuse (drugs, alcohol) for at least 12 months
- Imprisonment for 18 months after the marriage
- Deviant sexual behavior
- Irreconcilable differences
Under New Jersey law, if the cause of the breakdown of the marriage is the insanity of one of the spouses, the dissolution of marriage can only be obtained if the ill spouse was confined to a mental institution for 24 consecutive months after marriage and remains there at the time of proceedings.
Custody of the Child
In order to get custody of children, a person must be their legal parent, either natural or adopted. If spouses have minor children, they can get a same-sex divorce in New Jersey after the issues of custody and child support are resolved. Both parents have equal rights to be awarded custody and are encouraged to share the responsibilities of child upbringing (N.J.S., Chapter 9:2-4).
When deciding on the custody, a judge considers the existing parent-child relationship and some other important factors including:
- the ability of parents to cooperate and agree about their child’s needs;
- the relationship with siblings;
- history of domestic abuse;
- conditions of the home environment;
- educational needs of a child;
- employment schedule of parents;
- and other factors.
In New Jersey, both parents are required to attend a parenting class to receive training in how to help a child cope with the stress. These classes are available online or in-person and must be approved by the court.
One or both parents can be ordered to provide financial support to their minor children.
The amount of support is determined by the child support guidelines adopted in the state. They include such parameters as the combined income of the parents, the number and age of children, and the amount of time that a child spends with each parent.
The judge also considers several factors, such as (N.J.S., Chapter 9:17-53):
- needs of the children, their health and age;
- standard of living and income of each parent;
- earning capacities and employment skills of parents;
- educational needs of a child;
- debts and financial liabilities of all parties.
Typically, the payments will continue until the child’s 19th birthday. However, some circumstances can extend the period of child support. A paying parent may apply for child support modification if his or her financial situation changes in any significant way.
Divorce laws in New Jersey about alimony (maintenance) are the same for same-sex unions and heterosexual marriages. One of the spouses can be ordered to support the other party based on provided financial information. There are four types of alimony: open durational, rehabilitative, limited durational, and reimbursement.
In determining the type and the amount of support, the court shall consider the following factors (Chapter 2A:34-23 of N.J.S.):
- the need for alimony and the ability to pay it;
- the length of marriage;
- the age and health of parties;
- responsibilities for minor children;
- the standard of living during the marriage;
- the earning capacities, education, employment skills;
- the available income of both parties;
- other relevant factors.
Spousal support can be terminated on several occasions, including cohabitation of the receiving spouse with another person or the retirement of a paying spouse.
New Jersey is a state of equitable distribution of all property acquired during the marriage. In cases where the couple does not have a prenuptial contract, a judge will divide assets fairly between the spouses. The following factors will also be considered (Chapter 2A:34-23.1 of N.J.S.):
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and health of the spouses
- Earning capacity of each party
- The income and property brought by each party
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The facts of dissipation of marital property
- Debts and liabilities of each party
- Other factors that the court considers relevant
How is property divided if the couple decides to reach an amicable agreement? In this case, the judge will accept the negotiated terms if they are not harmful to either party.
Separate property, which is any property owned before the marriage as well as property received via gift, advice, or inheritance, stays with its owner.
In New Jersey, mediation is mandatory in any marriage dissolution procedure where parties have not reached a mutual agreement on critical points before the court hearing. Mediation is a better alternative to trial because it gives the spouses more control over the situation and more privacy.
Typically, there is a trained person (a mediator) who guides the spouses through the process of mediation. The mediator helps them find a compromise for such issues as child custody and support, alimony, and property division. Both parties can consult attorneys or even have them participate in the process of negotiation.
Filing fees for same-sex divorce in New Jersey
A gay couple can file for same-sex divorce in New Jersey in the county of residence of either one of the spouses. The submission of a “Complaint for Divorce” will cost $300. Any new motion will add $30-$50 to the expenses. Couples with children also have to pay $25 for a parent education class.
If the petitioner lacks the financial resources to pay the court fees, they can request a waiver. The rules require the submission of a fee waiver application and financial documents that support it. However, if a person wins $2,000 as a result of marriage dissolution, he or she must repay the waived fees.
How long will it take
Unlike many other states, there is no waiting period in New Jersey to get the case finalized. The time needed for a divorce for same-sex couples in New Jersey depends on many factors. For example, if there is no contest between the spouses regarding financial issues or child custody, the length of the divorce process usually does not exceed 90 days. Complicated cases are not as fast to obtain. They might take anywhere from several months to a few years.
The decision on how to serve the defendant also affects the overall time. A person serving the documents can be either a sheriff or someone over 18 years of age whose interests are not involved in the case. Sometimes, a person married to a same-sex partner seeks to get a divorce in New Jersey if the spouse is out of state. In this case, the papers still have to be served upon the defendant, and they will have 35 days to submit a response.