It is a common misconception that divorce means going to court and having a judge make important decisions about child custody, alimony, or how to divide the marital assets.
To the contrary, the overwhelming majority of divorce cases in New Jersey are actually settled by mutual agreement.
Therefore, when you and your spouse have agreed on decisions including child custody, parenting time, child support, college costs for children, alimony, and division of marital assets and debts, you would both typically sign a divorce agreement, often called a “Marital Settlement Agreement.”
When the court enters a Judgment of Divorce, the Marital Settlement Agreement generally gets attached and becomes binding as a court order.
Generally, you and your spouse would sign your divorce agreement once you are each satisfied that all marital income, assets, and debts have been identified and valued. An experienced family lawyer can properly guide you in this process.
For instance, your lawyer would typically have you complete a Case Information Statement. The Case Information Statement, or CIS, is a sworn statement of your income, expenses, and assets, and liabilities.
The CIS is generally filed with the court and exchanged with your spouse. 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.
Your lawyer can help you generate settlement options, conduct strategic negotiations on your behalf, draft and review your Marital Settlement Agreement, and file a divorce complaint and other necessary legal documents with the court so that a divorce can be entered.
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