What Happens in a New Jersey Family Court on the day my Divorce is Finalized?
As a member of the Middlesex County Assignment Judge's Family Lawyers Committee for well over ten years, I have firsthand knowledge that year after year 99% of all divorces in the state of New Jersey are resolved by a settlement reached between the parties. So, on the day that your divorce is finalized, I appear with my client with a signed Agreement which contains all of the terms of the settlement reached in their divorce case. Your soon to be "ex" spouse will be in court as well with their attorney. Then, once the Judge comes out and sits in the bench, the proceedings begin.
Now, there are basically two aspects to the your day of divorce. First, either myself or the Judge shall ask you the following questions regarding the grounds for divorce and other related issues:
1. When and where were you married?
2. Where do you presently live?
3. How long have you been living there and have you lived in New Jersey for at least a year prior to filing your Complaint for Divorce?
4. Is this your signature on the Complaint for Divorce? Is everything stated in your Complaint for Divorce accurate and truthful?
5. What are the names and ages of your children that born during your marriage?
6. Have you ever been to Family Court before with your spouse?
7. (For the wife) Do you wish to resume your maiden name? If so, are you doing so to evade criminal prosecution or to hide from any creditors? Please state your date of birth.
The second part of the process shall be questions regarding the settlement and written agreement reached between you and your spouse:
1. Do you recognize this Matrimonial Settlement Agreement?
2. Did you closely read this agreement?
3. Does the agreement accurately reflect the negotiations that took place between you, your spouse and your respective attornies?
4. Did you had enough time to think about the agreement before you signed it?
5. Considering all of the facts surrounding your situation, would you agree that, while this settlement may not be everything you wanted, do you feel that the agreement is fair and reasonable?
6. Did anyone threaten or force you into making this settlement and agreement?
7. Do you fully understand all aspects of your settlement and agreement?
8. Are you under the influence of any medication or alcohol that would not allow you to fully understand the agreement?
9. Do you have any questions about your agreement?
10. Are you willing to enter into this Agreement instead of having a trial?
11. As your lawyer, are you satisfied with the legal advice that I have given you throughout your case? Are you happy with the job I have done?
12. Is alimony or child support part of your settlement?
13. Do you feel that you will be able to enjoy a similar lifestyle to that you enjoyed during your marriage?
All of these questions are very important. This way, your ex-spouse can never (outside of a case of fraud) come back to the Superior Court of New Jersey and try to overturn your settlement. All of these questions are asked because over decades of New Jersey Divorce, countless people have tried to go back to the Superior Court of New Jersey in order to attempt to "blow up" the agreement for all of these kinds of reasons. These people have claimed to be on drugs and claim that they were not understanding what they were doing. Others have tried to claim they were "forced" into signing the Agreement against their own will. Some have claimed that they did not understand what they were actually agreeing to. By the Court (or your lawyer) asking these questions, that cements your settlement and outside of proving a "significant change of circumstances" in the future, this agreement is "iron-clad."
At this point, the Judge will bring the hearing to a conclusion, your divorce is final and I will give you the official divorce papers to be kept in a safe place in case you ever need them. I have had countless clients say to me after the hearing, "I cannot believe how fast that was?!?!" I then always explain that after months and months of negotiations, the final uncontested hearing always feels like it went by in a flash.
As always, if you or a loved one is facing a divorce, please view our web site or give my office a call so that we may talk about your situation.