You may be wondering what happens if you want a divorce, but your spouse refuses to accept that the marriage is over and essentially disappears off the grid when it comes to engaging in the process. What happens if your spouse refuses to accept service of the divorce complaint? What happens if your spouse refuses to address any of the divorce issues with you or your attorney? What if your spouse refuses to get an attorney? These are all questions that are sure to arise if your spouse takes a stonewall approach to make your path of divorce as difficult as possible.
New Jersey is a no-fault state. This means that if you meet the jurisdictional requirements for filing a divorce in this state and allege a cause of action in your Complaint for irreconcilable differences (and any other grounds), the divorce matter will proceed. Your spouse then has the choice to cooperate or not, but either way you will still ultimately be able to be divorced if you follow the necessary steps.
Once a complaint for divorce is filed against your spouse, they will have 35 days to respond to it. If your spouse does not file any kind of responsive pleading (usually an answer and/or counterclaim) after 35 days, a default judgment can be requested within 60 days of the last day they had to respond.
On a county-by-county basis there are different rules on whether you will need to go to court if your spouse does not respond. If you do have to attend a court proceeding, it will likely be for a default hearing. A default hearing is where the judge will make certain determinations about your divorce matter on issues such as: (1) alimony; (2) child support; (3) child custody; (4) equitable distribution of marital property; and any other relief that may have been requested in your complaint for divorce.
Judges are often cautious before granting a default divorce. In the interests of justice, the Court wants to ensure that both spouses have had a fair chance to be heard. Courts may even extend or delay proceedings when the spouse who has not responded at all thus far, comes to court with an explanation of why there has been no response and they seek to “cure” the default and be involved in the matter. A Court will generally permit the defaulting party to get into the case and be heard, but usually requires counsel fees to be paid to the non-defaulting spouse.
The first step to dealing with these issues is hiring an experience divorce attorney to assist you in navigating the process. Monmouth County Divorce Attorneys at the Law Office of Sylvia Costantino are here to help. They are experienced and dedicated to ensuring that the divorce process goes as smoothly as possible.