Learning that your spouse wants a divorce can be a deeply emotional and overwhelming experience. Feelings of shock, sadness, anger, confusion, and fear about the future are natural. However, amidst this emotional turmoil, it's crucial to make informed and rational decisions that will shape the course of your life.
In this article, with insights from Joseph J. Russell, a renowned New Jersey Divorce & Family Law Attorney, we outline the steps to take if you find yourself faced with this challenging scenario.
Allow Yourself to Process
Firstly, give yourself time to process the information. It's normal to feel a gamut of emotions. Seek support from close friends, family, or consider professional counseling. Your mental well-being is vital during this challenging period.
Do Not Make Rash Decisions
Reacting impulsively, whether it's out of anger, sadness, or fear, can have lasting consequences. Avoid making quick decisions, especially those involving finances, living situations, or matters concerning children.
Seek Legal Counsel
Even if you hope to resolve the divorce amicably, it's beneficial to consult with an experienced divorce attorney. Joseph J. Russell and his team can provide:
- Insight into your legal rights and obligations.
- Guidance on the divorce process in New Jersey.
- Advice on assets, child custody, and other pertinent issues.
Understand Your Financial Situation
Knowledge is power. Gather details about:
- Joint and personal assets.
- Debts and liabilities.
- Income details and tax returns.
- Mortgage information.
- Retirement funds and other investments.
Protect Confidential Information
Change passwords for your personal accounts, emails, and social media. Ensure that your spouse does not have access to any confidential correspondence, especially if it pertains to the divorce.
If both you and your spouse are open to dialogue, consider mediation as an alternative to traditional divorce litigation. Mediation, guided by a neutral third party, can help address contentious issues in a less confrontational manner.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process where a neutral third party, the mediator, assists a couple in reaching a mutually agreeable settlement. The mediator doesn't make decisions for the couple. Instead, they facilitate discussions, ensuring they remain constructive and focused on finding solutions.
Why Consider Mediation?
- Cost-Effective: Mediation can be significantly less expensive than traditional court proceedings. By avoiding prolonged litigation, couples can save on legal fees and court costs.
- Confidentiality: Mediation is private and confidential. Unlike court proceedings, which are public, the details discussed in mediation aren't part of the public record.
- Flexibility: The mediation process is flexible, allowing sessions to be scheduled around the couple's convenience. This can reduce the stress and disruption associated with court dates.
- Control: Couples have more control over the outcome in mediation. They make decisions collaboratively, ensuring both parties' needs and concerns are addressed.
- Preserves Relationships: Especially important for couples with children, mediation promotes amicable discussions and collaboration. This can help maintain a civil relationship between the parties post-divorce, making co-parenting smoother.
- Tailored Solutions: Mediation allows couples to create customized solutions that best fit their unique situation, rather than relying on one-size-fits-all decisions from the court.
- Higher Compliance: Since agreements are mutually reached, couples are generally more likely to adhere to them, reducing the need for enforcement actions.
- Emotional Well-being: Mediation can be less emotionally taxing as it emphasizes understanding, collaboration, and forward-thinking. This can be beneficial for the mental health of all involved parties.
When Might Mediation Not Be the Best Option?
While mediation offers numerous benefits, it might not be suitable for everyone. Situations that involve domestic abuse, severe power imbalances, or where one party is not open to fair negotiations might not be conducive for mediation.
Familiarize Yourself with New Jersey Divorce Laws
Understanding the basics of New Jersey divorce laws can be beneficial. For instance, New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that assets acquired during the marriage are divided fairly, though not necessarily equally, in the event of a divorce.
Here's a concise overview of New Jersey's divorce laws to help you familiarize yourself with the landscape.
Grounds for Divorce
New Jersey allows both fault-based and no-fault grounds for divorce:
- No-Fault Grounds:
- Irreconcilable Differences: If you and your spouse have experienced irreconcilable differences for at least six months, it can serve as grounds for divorce.
- Separation: If you've lived apart (in separate residences) for at least 18 consecutive months, you can file for divorce on the grounds of separation.
- Fault-Based Grounds:
- Desertion (for at least 12 months)
- Institutionalization (for mental illness for 24 consecutive months)
- Imprisonment (for 18 consecutive months)
- Deviant sexual behavior
- Extreme cruelty (physical or mental cruelty endangering the safety or health of the spouse)
At least one spouse must have been a New Jersey resident for a minimum of 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce.
Alimony (Spousal Support)
The court can award alimony to either spouse. Factors considered include:
- The actual need and the ability of the other spouse to pay
- The length of the marriage
- The age, physical, and emotional health of both parties
- The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living
- The respective income or earning capacities of the spouses
- Whether either spouse has spent an extended time out of the labor market
- The length of time needed for a spouse to acquire the education or training needed to obtain employment
- The division of marital assets and liabilities
- The income available to each spouse from investments, assets, government benefits, etc.
- The parental obligations of each spouse
- Other alimony and child support obligations each spouse may have
Think About Living Arrangements
Determine where you'll stay. If you have children, it's often recommended not to leave the marital home immediately, as it could impact custody decisions. However, every situation is unique, so consult with your attorney.
Consider the Children
If you have children:
- Keep their well-being at the forefront.
- Avoid speaking negatively about your spouse in front of them.
- Reassure them that both parents love them.
- Consider counseling or therapy for them to process their feelings.
Keep track of all interactions, financial transactions, and any incidents that might be relevant to the divorce proceedings. This documentation can be beneficial in court.
Stay Active and Look After Yourself
Engage in physical activity, pursue hobbies, and try to maintain a routine. Taking care of your mental and physical health ensures you're in the best position to navigate the divorce process.
Join Support Groups
Connecting with others going through a similar experience can provide emotional support and valuable insights. Several divorce support groups operate within New Jersey.
Contact an Experienced Divorce and Family Law Attorney, Joseph J. Russell, for a Confidential Consultation About Your Case Today
Facing the prospect of divorce is never easy. However, with the right guidance, support, and a calm, informed approach, you can navigate this challenging phase of life more smoothly. Joseph J. Russell, an esteemed New Jersey Divorce & Family Law Attorney, has years of experience guiding individuals through the intricacies of divorce, ensuring their rights are protected, and they're poised for a brighter future.