It’s a common belief that to start the divorce process in New Jersey, you need to file a “Complaint for Divorce” with the court.
If you and your spouse are on relatively amicable or civil terms, however, you might reach a divorce agreement quicker and at less cost by first exchanging financial information with your spouse.
For instance, your lawyer might ask you to first complete a Case Information Statement. The Case Information Statement, or CIS, is a sworn statement of your income, expenses, and assets and liabilities.
In New Jersey, each spouse is generally required to file a completed CIS with the court and forward a copy to the other. The CIS is often considered the most important document in a divorce case. Generally, it provides your financial profile.
The CIS is important because it: (1) tells your lawyer most things needed to know about your financial status; and (2) facilitates disclosure of the same information to your spouse that he or she will need so there can be meaningful talks of settlement. Without the information contained in the CIS, neither spouse will likely be able to make informed decisions about the significant financial issues.
Therefore, even if neither of you has yet filed a Complaint for Divorce with the court, you can still exchange Case Information Statements because the information is so crucial in a divorce.
The Case Information Statement is an important part of what’s often called “discovery” in a divorce case. The term “discovery” refers to the exchange of information by each spouse. The purpose of discovery is for each of you to obtain such information as the values of marital income, assets, and debts.
Discovery may also be obtained by Interrogatories, Notices to Produce financial and other records, and subpoenas. Discovery also includes obtaining necessary valuations of such assets like the marital residence and pensions. Finding out values for certain assets, however, like a home or business, might require outside professionals like appraisers or accountants.
Generally, when both you and your spouse are satisfied that all marital income, assets, and debts have been identified and valued, one of the attorneys will typically draft the divorce agreement and send it to the other spouse’s lawyer.
This agreement is often called the “Marital Settlement Agreement.” It is a comprehensive legal agreement that resolves all of the issues between you and your spouse. When the court enters a Judgment of Divorce, the Marital Settlement Agreement generally gets attached and becomes binding as a court order.
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