You get a knock on your door and a person you never met is standing there. They ask you for your name and hand you papers and leave. You go through the papers and realize that your spouse wants a divorce. Maybe you knew this was coming, maybe it was a surprise. After it sinks in, you then need to know what to do next.
First, what you received is a Complaint for Divorce, which is a formal document that has been filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey by your spouse requesting that your marriage be dissolved. It will state what grounds they are seeking a divorce on and also what type of relief they request. The requested relief is often very general and likely more than what your spouse wants – the idea is that everything should be requested and then can be resolved later. The Complaint should also have a summons with it. A summons is a formal document requesting that you appear in court and, in this case, be part of a divorce action.
After you receive the Divorce Complaint and summons, you have approximately thirty (35) days from the date that you receive the summons and complaint to file responsive pleadings. A majority of the time you must file what is known as an Answer. An Answer is a written pleading in opposition and response to the Complaint for Divorce. Along with the Answer, it is usually good practice to file a Counterclaim for Divorce, which is essentially your own Complaint for Divorce against your spouse specifically requesting what you want out of the divorce. For example, if you are seeking custody of your children and your spouse has already filed a Complaint for Divorce, you should file a Counterclaim for Divorce and seek custody of your children.
Of course, if you are served with a Complaint for a Divorce, you should consult with a divorce attorney right away. The reason is because every case is different and you want to make sure that your rights are protected and that the Complaint is properly responded to. If it is not, it could severely adversely affect your interests. Therefore, if you do receive divorce papers, please contact me immediately to schedule a free consultation so that we can discuss your case in detail!