Edward R. Weinstein, Esq.

The Evolution of the Complaint for Divorce in New Jersey

Throughout my career as a divorce lawyer, I have observed many significant changes to New Jersey’s Complaint for Divorce. As an attorney who only handles divorce and family law related matters, I have applauded many of the additions that have been made to this initial pleading. Following I shall break down some of the more noteworthy modifications I have witnessed over the past twenty years.

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GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE

For most of my career as a divorce lawyer, New Jersey did not allow folks to use “irreconcilable differences” as a ground for divorce. This was the case notwithstanding the fact that most states would allow for this. Therefore, we would have to typically proceed under the grounds of “extreme mental cruelty” or adultery. These terms obviously bears a harsh tone.

Many clients would be nervous that their spouse would take such inflammatory language “the wrong way.” This was especially true when an amicable and peaceful resolution was on the horizon. All told, my client would be concerned that the extreme mental cruelty or adultery ground for divorce would cause an unnecessary uproar that could potentially complicate an otherwise “easy” divorce. Certainly, when children are involved, the very last thing I want to see happen as a divorce lawyer is for any extra divorce tension adversely affecting the kids.

I always frowned upon the fact that my client and I had no option for a more delicate ground for divorce. Fortunately seven years ago the state of New Jersey passed new legislation that allowed folks to file a Complaint for Divorce under grounds of irreconcilable differences. Firstly, I was relieved that my clients and I no longer had to have these cumbersome conversations. Moreover, my law firm’s clients, in my opinion, now have one less problem to deal with while they enter into what many consider to be about the most stressful events a person may ever endure.

The only “catch” so to speak is that the parties must be married for at least six months before filing for divorce. Having said that, if your marriage does not survive six months, my experienced guess is that things are already “inflammatory,” to say the least.

All told, my educated guess would be that approximately 95% of divorce complaints filed in the state of New Jersey utilized the grounds of irreconcilable differences.

Please find a sample Complaint for Divorce at the end of this blog.

CERTIFICATION OF INSURANCE COVERAGE

During the earlier stages of my practicing as a New Jersey divorce attorney, one of the more troubling circumstances that I would see occur is one spouse dropping medical, life or automobile insurance while the case is still active. Sadly, this was typically done out of spite due to the ill will that many divorces generate. While I am well aware that I could have this issue most likely addressed by the Superior Court of New Jersey on an emergent basis (i.e., an Order to Show Cause), this would cost my client great stress and increased legal fees.

Fortunately, New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2 was amended to include a Certification of Insurance Coverage. Essentially, the spouse filing for divorce (or either parties’ initial pleading) enumerates all insurances policies of the marriage (i.e., life, medical, automobile and homeowners insurance). More importantly, the litigant affirms to the court that they have not made any changes to these essential insurance policies for at least ninety days before execute of the Certification. If a change has been made, the litigant must state so, under oath.

Once the Certification of Insurance Coverage went into effect, I noticed an immediate and dramatic drop in cases wherein one party dropped the other from the insurance. This was yet another change to New Jersey’s Complaint for divorce that I was very happy to see occur.

Please find a sample Certification of Insurance Coverage at the end of this blog.

DISPUTE RESOLUTION ALTERNATIVE TO CONVENTIONAL LITIGATION

In 2006, The New Jersey Supreme Court required this document to be attached to every Complaint for Divorce (or Answer and Counterclaim). In summary, this document advises both spouses of the alternatives that they may consider before “fighting it out” in a New Jersey Family Court. This most commonly used option is mediation. However, this document always advises litigants of other alternatives and professionals that they may want to consider making part of the divorce process. Examples include therapists, social workers, psychologists and even financial advisors.

I have always believed that an educated client is much more likely to handle this difficult time of life in a much better fashion than one who is “in the dark” as to their options.

Please find a sample Certification of Insurance Coverage at the end of this blog.

In conclusion, the foregoing “new” requirements and amendments to a Complaint for Divorce have demonstrated that New Jersey continues to strive to both protect the public as well as inform divorce litigants of their rights. For more information, please never hesitate to contact my office.

_________________, Esq. Attorney ID # _______________
LAW OFFICES OF EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, LLC
Weinstein Professional Building
214 Highway 18 North, Suite 2A
East Brunswick, New Jersey 08816
732-246-0909
Attorneys for ___________________

_______________________, SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
CHANCERY DIVISION: FAMILY PART
Plaintiff, ______ COUNTY

DOCKET NO.: FM-__-________
v.
CIVIL ACTION
_______________________,

Defendant. COMPLAINT FOR DIVORCE

________________________________________________________________________

The Plaintiff, _____________________, residing at ____________________, in the

Township of ________________, County of ___________________ and State of New

Jersey, by way of Complaint against the Defendant says:

FIRST COUNT

1. The Plaintiff was lawfully married to the Defendant, ___________________, on

_____________________, in a (religious or civil) ceremony which took place in

_______________________.

2. The Plaintiff, ___________________, currently resides at _____________________, in

the Township of _________________, County of __________________ and State of New

Jersey.

3. The Plaintiff was a bona fide resident of the State of New Jersey when this cause of

action arose and has ever since and for more than one (1) year prior preceding the

commencement of this action continued to be such a bona fide resident.

4. The Defendant, ___________________, currently resides at

__________________________, Township of __________________, County of

_________________ and State of ________________________.

5. The plaintiff feels irreconcilable differences (N.J.S.A. 2A:34-2i) have caused the

breakdown of the marriage for a period of six (6) months and which make it appear that the

marriage should be dissolved and that there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.

6. There were (# of children)__________children conceived during the course of this

marriage, to wit: (name of child)___________, Born January _______________.

7. Property and debt was legally and beneficially acquired and incurred by the parties,

and/or either of them, during the marriage, which should be equally distributed.

8. There have been no prior matrimonial actions between the parties regarding the

dissolution of the marriage.

WHEREFORE, the Plaintiff demands judgment:
A. Dissolving the marriage between the parties pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-24;
B. Awarding Plaintiff custody of the minor children of the marriage;
C. Compelling Defendant to pay child support, in accordance with the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines;
D. Compelling Defendant to contribute to child related costs, including, but not limited to, child care and extracurricular activities;
E. Awarding Plaintiff alimony, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23b.
F. Equitably distributing all property whether real, personal or mixed, which was legally and beneficially acquired by the parties, during the course of the marriage;
G. Directing payment of Plaintiff’s counsel fees and costs; and
H. For such further relief as the Court may deem equitable and just.

LAW OFFICES OF EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, LLC
Attorneys for Plaintiff, _____________________
Dated:

By:_______________________________________
EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, ESQ.

CERTIFICATION PURSUANT TO R. 4:5-1(b)(2)

I hereby certify that to the best of my information, knowledge and belief that the matter in controversy is not the subject of any other action pending in any court or of a pending arbitration proceeding, that no other action or arbitration proceeding is contemplated, and I am not aware of any other person who should be joined in this matter.

LAW OFFICES OF EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, L LC
Attorneys for the Plaintiff, ________________________

BY: _____________________________________________
EDWARD WEINSTEIN, ESQ.
Dated:

TRIAL COUNSEL DESIGNATION PURSUANT TO R. 4:5-1(c)

Pursuant to the provisions of R.4:5-1, Edward Weinstein, Esq., is hereby designated as
trial counsel on behalf of the Plaintiff, _______________________________.

CERTIFICATION OF VERIFICATION AND NON-COLLUSION
PURSUANT TO R. 5:4-2(c)

I, __________________________, being of full age, hereby certify and state as follows:
I am the Plaintiff in the foregoing Complaint for Divorce. The allegations in the Complaint are true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief, and the said Complaint is made in truth and good faith and without collusion for the causes set forth therein. I am aware that if any of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment.

_________________________________
Dated: , Plaintiff

Certification of Insurance Coverage

I, ______________________, of full age, hereby certify:

1. I am the (Plaintiff/Defendant) in the foregoing divorce action. To the best of my knowledge and belief, the insurance coverage within this Certification represents all insurance coverage of myself, and the (Plaintiff/Defendant) in this matter.

2. To the best of my knowledge and belief, none of the insurance coverage listed within this Certification was canceled or modified within the ninety (90) days preceding the date of this Certification.

LIFE INSURANCE:

Name of Company:
Address:
Policy Number:
Beneficiary:
Face Amount:
Name of Insured:
Policy Owner:
Policy Term (if applicable):

Name of Company:
Address:
Policy Number:
Beneficiary:
Face Amount:
Name of Insured:
Policy Owner:
Policy Term (if applicable)

HEALTH INSURANCE:

Name of Insured:
Name of Company:
Address:
I.D. Number:
Group Number:
Coverage Type: [ ] Single [ ] Parent/Child [ ] Family [ ] Multi-Plan
[ ] Optical [ ] Hospital [ ] Major Medical [ ] Dental [ ] Drug [ ] Diagnostic
Check if made available through employment [ ] or personally obtained [ ]

HEALTH INSURANCE (cont’d):

Name of Insured:
Name of Company:
Address:
I.D. Number:
Group Number:
Coverage Type: [ ] Single [ ] Parent/Child [ ] Family
[ ] Optical [ ] Hospital [ ] Major Medical [ ] Dental [ ] Drug [ ] Diagnostic
Check if made available through employment [ ] or personally obtained [ ]

AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE:

Name of Company:
Address of Company:
Policy Number: Policy Expiration:
Make of Vehicle: Year of Vehicle:
Coverage Limits:
Lawsuit Threshold: [ ] Yes [ ] No
Umbrella Coverage: [ ] Yes [ ] No Umbrella Coverage: $
Driver(s) of Vehicle:
Lien Holder/Lessor (if applicable):
Address of Lien Holder: Use of Vehicle: [ ] Personal [ ] Business [ ] Personal and Business

HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE:

Name of Company:
Address of Company:
Policy Number: Policy Expiration Date:
Address of Covered Residence:
Coverage Limits: $
Umbrella Coverage: [ ] Yes [ ] No Umbrella Coverage: $
Mortgagee (if applicable): N/A
Address of Mortgagee: N/A
Rider(s) to Policy: [ ] Jewelry [ ] Furs [ ] Artwork [ ] Other

I certify that all of the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware that, if any of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment.

Date: ______________________________

DIVORCE – DISPUTE RESOLUTION
ALTERNATIVES TO CONVENTIONAL LITIGATION

[Text Promulgated 12/04/06 as Approved by the Supreme Court]

Resolving issues concerning your divorce can be costly and difficult. While only a judge can actually grant a divorce, division of your property and your debts, alimony, child support, custody and parenting time are some of the other issues that may need to be resolved. A judge can decide all issues at trial. However, there are other ways to resolve many of the issues in your divorce. These alternate dispute resolution methods offer greater privacy than resolving the issues in a public trial. They also may be faster and less expensive, and may reduce the level of conflict between you and your spouse during your divorce. You are encouraged to discuss alternative dispute resolution with your lawyer to decide whether these alternate methods may help you and your spouse resolve as many of the issues relating to your divorce as possible before the matter is presented to the judge.

What follows are short descriptions of various forms of alternative dispute resolution that may be used in divorce cases.

MEDIATION

Mediation is a means of resolving differences with the help of a trained, impartial third party. The parties, with or without lawyers, are brought together by the mediator in a neutral setting. A mediator does not represent either side and does not offer legal advice. Parties are encouraged to retain an attorney to advise them of their rights during the mediation process. The mediator helps the parties identify the issues, gather the information they need to make informed decisions, and communicate so that they can find a solution agreeable to both. The court maintains a roster of approved mediators or you can use private mediation services. The judge would still make the final determination as to whether to grant the divorce.

ARBITRATION

In an arbitration proceeding, an impartial third party decides issues in a case. The parties select the arbitrator and agree on which issues the arbitrator will decide. The parties also agree in advance whether the arbitrator’s decision will be binding on them or instead treated merely as a recommendation. While an arbitrator may decide issues within a divorce case, the judge would still make the final determination as to whether to grant the divorce.

USE OF PROFESSIONALS

Parties in a divorce may also seek the assistance of other skilled professionals to help resolve issues in a case, such as attorneys, accountants or other financial professionals, and various types of mental health professionals, and various types of mental health professionals (e.g., psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and therapists). These professionals may help the parties resolve all of the issues or just specific portions of the case. As with mediation and arbitration, parties making use of these professionals to resolve issues in the Divorce are encouraged to consult their attorney for advice throughout this process. While this approach may resolve some issues in the case, the judge would still need to make the final decision to great the divorce.

COMBINATIONS OF ALTERNATIVES

Depending on your circumstances, it may be helpful for you to use a combination of mediation, arbitration, and skilled professionals to resolve issues in your divorce.

CONCLUSION

Just as every marriage is unique, every divorce is unique as well. The specific circumstances of your divorce determine what method or methods of dispute resolution are best suited to resolve issues in your divorce. You are encouraged to ask your attorney about these alternative dispute resolution methods to resolve issues relating to your divorce.

Using these alternative dispute resolution methods allows you to participate in the decision on those issues, rather than leaving all of the issues to the judge to decide. And presenting the judge with a case in which only decision remaining is whether to grant the divorce will permit that decision to be made more expeditiously. While the judge must be the one to decide whether to grant the divorce, your role in deciding some or all of the other issues can be enhanced through these alternative dispute resolution methods.


____________________, Esq. ID #_________________
LAW OFFICES OF EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, L.L.C.
Weinstein Professional Building
214 Highway 18 North, Suite 2A
East Brunswick, New Jersey 08816
Telephone: (732) 246-0909
Facsimile: (732) 246-2888
Attorneys for Plaintiff, _____________________

___________________________,

Plaintiff,

v.

___________________,

Defendant.

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
CHANCERY DIVISION – FAMILY PART
____________ COUNTY
DOCKET NO.: FM-__-____________

CIVIL ACTION

RULE 5:4-2(h) CERTIFICATION
BY ATTORNEY

I, _____________________, of full age, hereby certify as follows:
1. I am the attorney for the Plaintiff in the above-captioned matter.

2. I make this certification pursuant to New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2(h).

3. I have provided my client with a copy of the document entitled “Divorce–
Dispute Resolution Alternatives to Conventional Litigation.”

4. I have discussed with my client the complementary dispute resolution alternatives
to litigation contained in that document.

5. I certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware that if any
of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment.

DATED: _________________________________
, ESQ.

___________________, Esq. ID #____________
LAW OFFICES OF EDWARD R. WEINSTEIN, L.L.C.
Weinstein Professional Building
214 Highway 18 North, Suite 2A
East Brunswick, New Jersey 08816
Telephone: (732) 246-0909
Facsimile: (732) 246-2888
Attorneys for Plaintiff, ________________

__________________________,

Plaintiff,

v.

___________________________,

Defendant.

SUPERIOR COURT OF NEW JERSEY
CHANCERY DIVISION – FAMILY PART
_________ COUNTY
DOCKET NO.: FM-___-_______________

CIVIL ACTION

RULE 5:4-2(h) CERTIFICATION
BY CLIENT

I, __________________, of full age, hereby certify as follows:

1. I am the Plaintiff in the above- captioned matter and am represented in this divorce matter by ____________________, ESQ.

2. I make this Certification pursuant to New Jersey Court Rule 5:4-2(h).

3. I have read the documents entitled “Divorce-Dispute Resolution Alternatives to Conventional Litigation.”

4. I thus have been informed as to the availability of complementary dispute resolution alternatives to litigation.

5. I certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware that if any of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I am subject to punishment.

DATED: ________________________________
(Clients name)