NJ Divorce Process 2018-01-18T15:33:26+00:00

NJ Divorce Process

Filing For Divorce in NJ

Either party may initiate the litigation by filing a Complaint. The Complaint, also known as a pleading, is assigned a Docket Number by the Court. The Complaint will state with specificity the issues in dispute, parties to the action and requested relief. The party who files the Complaint becomes the plaintiff and the other party becomes the defendant. If the defendant also wishes to file for divorce with lawyers in NJ, he or she will file a pleading that is referred to as a Counterclaim.
Each party to a divorce action is required to prepare and file a Case Information Statement (“CIS”) within twenty (20) days of the final pleading. The CIS sets forth the parties’ earned and unearned income, expenses, assets and debts. While the parties will obtain additional information about the finances through the discovery process, the CIS is an important document that attorneys, mediators and the Family Part Judges will rely upon to evaluate settlement, argue motions and/or render a final decision after trial.

Joseph J. Russell, Jr
Joseph J. Russell, JrShareholder & Chair of the Family Law Department

The Discovery Process may include interrogatories (questions answered on paper), depositions (questions  answered orally while under oath at risk of perjury) and the exchange of relevant documentation such as bank statements, title to real and personal property, retirement account statements, credit card bills, etc., through a Notice to Produce. Parties may find it necessary to work with financial experts, such as real estate or pension appraisers or forensic accountants to determine the value of assets such as property, businesses, retirement plans, cash flow and the marital lifestyle.

If custody is an issue with the divorce lawyer, the parties will be compelled to attend parent education classes and custody/parenting time mediation at the courthouse. If custody remains in dispute, the parties may retain a joint or independent mental health professional to perform an evaluation and render a report as the parenting arrangement that is in the best interests of the children.

Court appearances may include Case Management Conferences (“CMC”) where the Family Part Judge assigned to your case will establish the issues in dispute, set deadlines for discovery and make certain that the case is moving toward a settlement, and if not, that it is prepared for a trial. Family Law Matters that do not settle will eventually go before an Early Settlement Panel (“ESP”) where depending on the County one or two neutral attorneys who are well versed in Family Law will provide the parties with a recommendation for settlement. The recommendation is confidential and non-binding to the parties. The parties may elect or be ordered to attend economic mediation with a retired judge or licensed attorney. Mediation is also confidential and non-binding on the parties. In the event that a financial or custodial issue arises that requires the Trial Court’s immediate attention, the parties through counsel may file an application with the court for relief pending the outcome of a trial. This application is called a Notice of Motion, or if it is an issue that may pose irreparable harm, the application may be filed on an emergent basis as an Order to Show Cause. Ultimately, if the case is not settled, the Court will eventually schedule pre-trial conferences and trial dates.

Mediation and arbitration are alternative methods to the traditional litigation process for settling divorce-related issues within the Family Part. Ask your attorney about the pros and cons of these methods and whether they may be appropriate for you and your spouse. The benefits of mediation and potential risks of mediation are set forth under the “ mediation section” of this website.

Over 98% of family law matters in New Jersey do settle at some point in time. Once the settlement is reached, both parties will briefly appear in court for an uncontested divorce hearing. If both parties cannot agree upon a settlement, a trial is scheduled. Because of the time and expense involved, few cases actually go to trial. However, there may be a more limited trial, or hearing, on a specific issue such as support, if some but not all of the issues are resolved by agreement.


Joseph J. Russell, Jr
Joseph J. Russell, JrShareholder & Chair of the Family Law Department
David M. Wildstein
David M. WildsteinShareholder


Jenna N. Shapiro
Jenna N. ShapiroAssociate
Sean Wirth
Sean WirthAssociate


client testimonial stars
“Joe continually had a firm grasp on the pulse of my case. His insight as to how to proceed with each step was spot on, and proved to be invaluable to me and the settlement of my significantly complicated divorce case. Joe is honest, trust worthy, and demonstrated several times throughout my case his desire to NOT take a course that would have increased his fees-but rather the best course-even if it meant it would minimize legal costs. I would highly recommend his services to my family and friends.”
Gary M., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“Mr. Russell is one of the most professional, compassionate, trustworthy, fair and kind human beings that I have had the pleasure and good fortune to have known and had in my corner during a most difficult time. Joe always went out of his way to be thorough and patient in explaining the process every step of the way. I highly recommend Mr. Russell to friends and family.”
Denise V., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“Joe was extremely professional and knowledgeable throughout the whole divorce process. Joe also showed real compassion, he was honest, practical, patient and very responsive to all my questions and needs, which made the difference, and this difficult time much more bearable. I could rely and trust his advice thus would highly recommend Joe to my friends and family!”
Tsipi F., Essex County, New Jersey
“I was extremely pleased with the service I received from Joe and his team throughout my divorce process. Whenever I emailed or called with any questions or concerns I was contacted back in a timely manner. Joe’s professionalism and understanding made this difficult process much less stressful. I would highly recommend him (and have) to friends and family in the future.”
Jennifer F., Ocean County, New Jersey
“Mr. Russell not only kept me highly informed of the entire process… he also reached out to me personally via email and telephone contact. He was extremely responsive to my needs during this difficult process, and always had a way of keeping me at ease. He was extremely confidential and trustworthy. I would highly recommend Mr. Russell.”
Marcy P., Ocean County, New Jersey
“Joe kept me in the loop and provided me with the best course of action throughout the entire process. I felt comfortable knowing he was working toward the best possible resolution for myself and my sons.”
Chris H., Morris County, New Jersey
“I spoke with several lawyers before I hired Joe to represent me in my divorce. What I liked most was his straight forward style, i.e., he did not tell me what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to hear in order to view the divorce with less emotion and more like a business transaction. I trusted that he was not looking to draw out the process for more legal fees, but to realistically come to a settlement, and was mindful of my priorities throughout the process. Divorce is emotionally charged and contentious by nature, but at the end of the day the law provides some ground rules and structure, so being mindful of a realistic outcome is important if you do not want to drive up legal fees to only, most likely, get the same results in the long run. I think in a successful / fair divorce settlement both parties leave the table not 100% happy. Joe did a great job in navigating through the emotions and keeping on task, while also fairly representing my best interests. I would not hesitate to recommend Joe and never regretted my choice in placing my trust in Joe.”
Maney F., Somerset County, New Jersey
“Take every misconception and misnomer you may have regarding lawyers and throw them out the window, because Ms. Jenna Shapiro has confidently, yet humbly, destroyed stereotypes and won our hearts. She possesses a patience, thoroughness, and resolve that all clients seek (but do not always get) from an attorney. She seeks amicable methods of resolving conflicts… those that are in the best interests of children, should they be involved, are among her highest priorities. However, she is not afraid to stand nose-to-nose with adversaries should the need arise. This is particularly important when working with sensitive matters, such as those commonly found in family law. It is these traits which endear her to her clients, such as my wife and I. Knowing Jenna is on our side puts us at ease when matters arise that require legal intervention, and it is precisely why we’ve recommended Jenna to friends and family members who have needed counsel as well.”
Anthony and Christina C., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“I am writing to you today to boast, praise, brag and just admire Jenna Shapiro. After 7 years of being a single mother with no child support being paid to me I decided to finally go to court for my daughter. I “shopped” lawyers for months because, lets face it, if I am spending big bucks I want the Pit Bull of lawyers to fight for what I deserved all along. I met some pretty boring and nasty lawyers who wanted nothing but the dollar and did not care about my needs or my daughters. The second I met Jenna I calmed right away. Her and I sat for hours and she really wanted my back story everything from the beginning. I cannot tell you what it feels like to know and be comfortable from the first moment you meet someone. I knew right away not only was this woman going to FIGHT for us but she and I would be friends someday. Jenna I cannot thank you enough for everything you did for us. You allowed and opened so many doors for us. We are now living in our new home, my daughter is in private school and thriving. I am so blessed to call you a friend now. Always there when I need you and YES WE WON!!! Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.”
Monica B., Monmouth County, New Jersey
“I have worked with Joseph Freda for over 6 years and can say that he is without question a top notch attorney and client advocate. Unfortunately for me, I have had a host of very serious post-divorce issues that continue even to this day. Throughout all of the conflict, Joe has never steered me wrong and is always concerned about doing what is in the best interests of his client. Unlike many attorneys, Joe never ran up my legal fees and was always available to assist me whenever I had any questions, concerns or worries. I am very thankful that Joe has ALWAYS given me his thoughtful, straightforward and honest advice-even if I did not want to hear it at times. If settlement was the way to go, Joe found a way to settle. If settlement was not humanly possible, Joe was not afraid to bring forth litigation and was always very comfortable and prepared in court with the results speaking for themselves. Above all, Joe is a trustworthy and extremely knowledgeable attorney who is passionate about family law and truly cares about his clients. I honestly do not know where I would be without the professional expertise of Joe Freda… He is one in a million!”
Cathy, Union County, New Jersey
“Mr. Freda, in my opinion, happens to be a superior, very well trained and dedicated family law attorney. He was a true gentleman who showed compassion by always being available day or night on his personal cell phone to be there for support and hand holding. He was a superior litigator having knowledge of the law, and my case details, and was able to articulate all of that information into precise briefs, which were essential to enable me to achieve an extremely favorable outcome. He wasn’t afraid to challenge my advisory or even the judge assigned to my case if he felt that I was being taken advantage of. I would therefore recommend Joseph Freda to represent ANYONE who is looking for an extremely competent and fair family law attorney. We all know that going thru a divorce is a very trying, stressful, expensive and an emotional roller coaster. Mr. Freda was someone who made this experience as palatable as possible. Mr. Freda is the type of attorney who truly changed my opinion about family law attorneys.”
Elesa, Essex County, New Jersey
“I hired Joe Freda from an excellent recommendation from my realtor in October of last year. I am extremely happy with the divorce settlement that he worked on for me, and my divorce was done and over with by mid-May. He is personable, intelligent, returns emails and phone calls… he put me at ease through the whole divorce process and it was a good feeling to have someone on my side who KNOWS divorce! If you are going through a divorce it is in your best interests to get a lawyer that only does divorce, especially Joe! All in all, excellent lawyer!!”
Janet, Somerset County, New Jersey
“I had a very difficult and long divorce. My ex was an attorney in his own practice and represented himself, which made it that much worse. I had spent over $100,000 in legal fees with a firm who did nothing for me, but run up my bill and battled my ex over things that were irrelevant to the divorce. Three years later, I still had nothing and wasn’t any closer to getting the case resolved. I hired Joe to take it over, based on a referral from his former adversary. Joe wrapped it up in a matter of months! He’s a no nonsense guy with the patience of a saint. He was on top of everything – always returned phone calls and emails promptly, and did whatever he could to get this done. He knew my case backwards and forwards within a very short period of time. I know I was a little unreasonable at times with some things (and he let me know when I was being an idiot) and I don’t feel like I got the lion’s share, but I did get a fair settlement and a far better one than I would have had I used my prior attorney who wasted my time and money. I would definitely recommend Joe to anyone who needs a great divorce lawyer. I’m sorry I didn’t find him sooner.”
Jaki, Morris County, New Jersey


If you are in need of assistance with a Family Law matter in New Jersey, you’ve come to the right place. Contact our experienced Family Law Team anytime for immediate assistance at (732) 726-6236.

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