Uncharted Waters: My Bold Plunge into the Divorce Abyss

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Introduction

Okay, folks, gather ’round. Here’s the deal: I’m not a lawyer. Never played one on TV and never dreamt of being one in my wildest dreams. So, if you’re looking for legal advice, I’m as useful as a screen door on a submarine. But if you’re here for a tale of divorce that’s more tangled than headphones in your pocket, you’re in the right place.

Picture this: New Jersey, five years, and a divorce saga that’s more drawn out than a bad soap opera. Yep, that’s me. I juggled three attorneys like a circus performer, watched my bank account do a Houdini, and ended up representing myself in the grand finale. Why, you ask? Because my wallet was emptier than a politician’s promises and my patience thinner than a supermodel on a juice cleanse.

Did I finally get divorced? Oh, absolutely. Did I win? Well, if by ‘winning’ you mean emerging with a house, a heap of debt, and enough legal drama to fill a Netflix series, then sure, call me a champion. But let’s be real—it’s like winning a pie-eating contest and finding out the prize is more pie.

Alright, here it goes: If you’re up for a ride that’s as unpredictable as a cat on a skateboard, stick around. I’ve got stories, and trust me, they’re better than fiction.

What is Divorce? 

Now, if you were to peek into a dictionary (yes, those ancient, dust-gathering tomes), you’d find a definition of divorce that’s drier than a Thanksgiving turkey left in the oven too long. But here at DubG’s Den of Divorce Delirium, we prefer our definitions with a little more flavor.  Grab your metaphorical popcorn, folks, and let’s redefine divorce, DubG style!

Divorce, noun (di-vors): A magical legal process that transforms your better half into a better quarter, or if you’re really unlucky, a better tenth. It’s like waving a wand and turning Prince Charming into The Frog, but without the satisfaction of a fairytale ending.

Usage in a sentence: After my divorce, I realized that ‘happily ever after’ is just a fancy term for ‘I get the remote control to myself.’

It’s like signing up for a marathon only to realize you’ve been running in circles, and the only prize at the finish line is a mountain of paperwork and an oddly shaped lawyer who looks like he last smiled during the Nixon administration.

Divorce is what happens when you realize that ‘for better or worse’ was actually a multiple-choice question and you definitely picked the wrong option. It’s like playing a game of emotional Jenga, where every block you pull out is a memory, a regret, or a shared Netflix account.

In the animal kingdom, divorce is akin to a hermit crab changing its shell because the old one was too cramped, too leaky, or kept leaving socks on the ocean floor. In the human world, it’s realizing that ’till death do us part’ was more of a gentle suggestion than a legally binding contract.

How Do You Get a Divorce? 

It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book, but with more tears and less fun.

  • Collaborative: an alternative dispute resolution method that keeps parties out of court. I tried this and got absolutely nowhere. It’s like trying to play tennis with someone who refuses to pick up a racket. This was my first attorney. He took $5K, sent my ex a letter and 12 months later, he hadn’t responded, so I had to hire another attorney to file. I thought it made sense, and my ex thought I was kidding. That’s not a good scenario either
  • Online Dissolution Services: For couples who agree on most issues. It’s like online dating but in reverse.
  • Legal Separation:  It’s not recognized in New Jersey. The only states it is not recognized in are Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas, unless you are a civil union. In states where it is, it can be reversed and can give you space to figure things out. It’s the “We’re on a break” of legal options.
  • Uncontested: This can save you money on legal fees and get you through the court system faster. It’s the express checkout of breakups.
  • Hire a Lawyer (But Choose Wisely)

The more aggressive they are, the more it ends up costing in the end, and I’m not just talking about money. It’s like hiring a bulldog when you needed a golden retriever.

What are the Steps To Get a Divorce? 

Filing the Divorce Petition: The Starting Gun

It all kicks off with a bang, or more accurately, a bunch of paperwork. One of you, dubbed the ‘petitioner’ (sounds fancy, right?), gets the honor of trotting down to the court and saying, “I’d like one divorce, please.” You’ll need to prove you’ve been hanging around the state long enough to make it official. States have this quirky rule where they want you to actually live there before they let you split. Go figure.

Picking Your Divorce Flavor: At-Fault or No-Fault

Next up, you get to choose your flavor of divorce. It’s like ice cream, but less sweet and more bitter. At-fault grounds are the sprinkles of adultery, abandonment, and the not-so-fun stuff. No-fault is more like vanilla – ‘irreconcilable differences’ is just a fancy term for ‘we can’t stand each other anymore.’

Temporary Court Orders: The Intermission Snack

Now, waiting for the grand finale (aka the divorce decree) can be like waiting for paint to dry. So, if you need some quick decisions on the kiddos or the cash, you can ask for temporary orders. It’s like asking for an appetizer before the main course.

Serving Up the Papers: You’ve Been Served!

Once you’ve filed, it’s time to serve your spouse a portion of the fun. It’s like getting mail, but instead of coupons, it’s a notice that your marriage is on the chopping block. Don’t forget to tell the court you’ve done your duty; it’s like RSVPing to a party nobody wants to attend.

Settlement Time: Let’s Make a Deal

If you and your soon-to-be ex can play nice, you might just settle things without a judge. It’s like haggling at a garage sale, but what’s on sale is your stuff, your kids, and your future. No pressure.

The Divorce Trial: The Unwanted Sequel

Signing the judgment

Signing the judgment

If settling doesn’t work, welcome to the divorce trial. It’s the sequel nobody asked for. Here, you get to air all your dirty laundry in court. Fun times.

The Grand Finale: Signing the Judgment

Finally, the judge waves the magic pen and—poof—you’re divorced! It’s like the end of a marathon, except instead of a medal, you get a new single status.

Uncontested Dissolution: A Mythical Creature or a Real Deal?

Ah, the elusive, uncontested dissolution of marriage. Is it a mythical creature that only exists in the land of fairy tales, or is it a real deal that can save you time, money, and headaches? Well, my dear reader, the answer is both.

On one hand, dissolving a marriage uncontested is a real thing. It’s a divorce where both parties agree on all the issues involved, such as child custody, division of assets, and spousal support. This means that there’s no need for a trial, as the couple has already reached an agreement on everything. In theory, an uncontested case can be a smooth and painless process that doesn’t require much involvement from lawyers or the court.

On the other hand, an uncontested divorce can also be a mythical creature that’s hard to come by. Even if both parties want to avoid a complicated mess,  reaching an agreement on everything is easier said than done. There may be disagreements on important issues, such as who gets the house or how much child support should be paid. In some cases, one party may be unwilling to compromise or may try to hide assets to gain an advantage.

 

Divorce is tough, but staying together is harder So, is dissolving a marriage uncontested a real deal or a mythical creature? The answer is both. It’s a real thing that can save you time and money, but it’s not always easy to achieve. If you’re considering an uncontested divorce, it’s important to be realistic about your chances of reaching an agreement with your spouse. It may be helpful to consult with a lawyer or mediator to help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.

Success Stories or Fairy Tales? Do People Actually Pull This Off?

As someone who has gone through a pro se trial after a default judgement had already been entered (way after), I can tell you that it’s not a fairy tale, but it’s also not impossible. Many people have successfully navigated the process without the help of an attorney, but it’s important to understand the statistics and challenges before deciding if it’s the right choice for you.

According to Forbes over 90% of divorces are uncontested, meaning both parties agree on all major issues. This is the ideal scenario if you decide to file as a pro se litigant, as it significantly reduces the complexity and likelihood of disputes. However, even when it’s uncontested,  it’s important to understand the legal requirements and procedures for filing and finalizing your divorce.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the success rate for pro se litigants varies widely depending on the jurisdiction and individual circumstances. In some cases, judges may be more lenient towards pro se litigants, while in others, the lack of legal representation may put them at a disadvantage.

Ultimately, the success of a pro se litigant depends on the individual’s ability to navigate the legal system, negotiate with their spouse, and properly file and serve all necessary documents. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can be a viable option for those seeking a dissolution of their marriage. 

In conclusion, while pro se divorces are not for everyone, they are a viable option for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to navigate the legal system. It’s important to understand the statistics and challenges before deciding if it’s the right choice for you.

 

Who Throws the First Punch? Does It Matter If I File or He Does?

Ah, the age-old question of who throws the first punch. In the case of divorce, it’s not about physical violence but rather who files for divorce first. So, does it matter if I file or he does?

Well, the answer is both yes and no. Legally speaking, it doesn’t matter who files for divorce first. The court will treat both parties equally regardless of who initiated the divorce proceedings. However, there are some practical implications to consider.

If you file for divorce first, you get to set the tone for the proceedings. You get to choose the court where the case will be heard, and you get to choose the initial terms of the divorce. This can be an advantage if you have a strong case and want to push for certain terms.

On the other hand, if your spouse files for divorce first, they get to set the tone. They get to choose the court where the case will be heard, and they get to choose the initial terms of the divorce. This can put you at a disadvantage if your spouse has a strong case and wants to push for certain terms.

So, who throws the first punch? It doesn’t really matter from a legal standpoint, but it can have practical implications. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if you want to file for divorce first or wait for your spouse to make the first move.

The Blame Game: Fault Divorce Versus No Fault Divorce 

Ah, grounds—the gold mine that private investigators built their fortunes on—that is, until spyware, microphones the size of a fleck of dust and drones became a thing.  The reasons why we’re calling it quits. but does it really even matter? Well… it depends. There are 17 states that it truly does not matter because they are a true no-fault state

California Colorado District of Columbia Florida Hawaii Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Michigan Minnesota Montana Nebraska Nevada Oregon Washington

All of the remaining states, including New Jersey, which is my lovely home state, give you a choice. However, it’s really important you understand the difference, because if you file fault, or they do, it’s a whole mountain of paperwork and billable hours (or hours you should be making money not reading this crappy blog post) but let’s just keep it simple instead of getting into all the complicated jargon. Here’s the deal:

No fault Divorce:

It’s like a breakup without the drama. Nobody has to point fingers and say, “You did this!” Instead, it’s all about admitting that the love boat has hit an iceberg and it’s time to abandon ship.

The Reason? The marriage is as broken as my favorite coffee mug after my toddler got hold of it. Irreconcilable differences, irretrievable breakdown—call it what you want—it’s over. The Availability? Every state in the US offers no-fault divorce, like a bad buffet that’s open 24/7. Some states might make you live apart for a bit, like a trial separation from your favorite chocolate cake. The Benefits? It’s cheaper, faster, and less messy. Think of it as the fast-food drive-thru of divorces.

Fault Divorce: 

Now, if you’re in the mood for some courtroom drama, fault divorce is your ticket. This is where you stand up and say, “Your Honor, they did me wrong!” It’s like a soap opera, but with more paperwork.

Yes, it’s an option, but it could lead you down a very long road. I did no-fault and it still took five friggin years.

The Accusation? We’re talking adultery, cruelty, no not turning off your game right before the last down; it has to be extreme cruelty, twisted stuff,  abandonment, and even impotence (wait, wouldn’t that go under pros of the marriage?) The Proof? You need evidence, like a detective in a bad crime show. Photos, texts, a diary—whatever it takes to show they messed up. The Perks? You might get more money or alimony if you can prove they were the villains in your marriage story. The Downside? It’s like trying to assemble IKEA furniture without the instructions: harder, more expensive, and likely to end in tears.

So, does it even matter what the grounds are? In most cases, no. But if you’re in a fault state or want to go that route for personal reasons, then yes, it does matter. To add a delightful twist to this, several states require you to live separately for a period of time before you can even file. If you live in Hawaii and you want to file “No-Fault” you have to live separately for 2 years before you are able to… That is crazy! Note: This rule doesn’t apply to “fault,” because if you really are suffering from extreme cruelty, get the heck out of there and for once the court agrees with me.

Expert Grounds Insights

As NOLO.COM stated in their article No-Fault Divorce vs. Fault Divorce FAQ “No matter what the reason for choosing a fault-based divorce, though, these divorces tend to be more expensive, as many spouses choose to hire a lawyer to help them present their evidence and convince the judge of their arguments.”

Whether choosing no-fault or fault divorce, understanding the legal nuances is essential. Consult a qualified attorney, and remember: navigating a divorce is rarely simple, but informed decisions can ease the process.

Length of Marriage: The Great Debate, Is It Really Cheaper to Keep Her?

Ah, the age-old question: is it really cheaper to keep her? When it comes to ‘splitts-ville’, the length of marriage can play a big role in the financial outcome of the split. But is it true that it’s always cheaper to keep her/him? 

Well, the answer is… it depends.

On one hand, if you’ve been married for a long time, you may have accumulated a lot of assets together. Splitting assets can be costly, especially if you have to pay alimony or child support. Plus, if you’ve been married for a long time, you may have built a life together that would be difficult and expensive to untangle.

On the other hand, if you’ve only been married for a short time, the financial impact may be less severe. You may not have accumulated as many assets together, and you may not have to pay as much in alimony or child support. Plus, if you’re able to separate amicably, you may be able to avoid costly legal fees.

So, is it really cheaper to keep her? The answer is that it depends on your specific situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer for all of these complicated twists and turns in the legal system (oxymoron anyone) and the best thing you can do is consult with a lawyer to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

In the end, the decision should I stay or should I go,  is a personal one, and it’s important to weigh the financial and emotional costs of both options before making a decision.

DIY Divorce: How Hard Can It Be? 

I speak, of course, firsthand when I say that representing yourself in court is not for the faint of heart. It’s like doing your own dental work; it might save you money, but, oh boy, is it painful?

For me, after 3 attorneys and almost 4 years, I had no choice. It was like being stuck in a never-ending episode of “Law & Order,” but without the catchy theme music. I wanted to quit so many times and actually did so many times, cleared my head, and did what I had to do in the end.

It can be a long, complicated, and stressful process. You’ll have to fill out an insane amount of paperwork (more than a tax return), go to court hearings (without Judge Judy’s witty remarks), and negotiate with your spouse (good luck with that).

And if you make a mistake, it could cost you dearly. It’s like baking a cake without a recipe; it might turn out okay, or it might be a disaster.

Shock and disbelief of a pro se litigant, in a divorce hearing when the judge orders another postponement and extension of previous ordersA Word of Warning: In my personal biased opinion, the court system in NJ, especially where I live in Monmouth County, is not friendly toward women. It’s like going to a party where no one likes your outfit. Or maybe I’m just a crazy narcissistic hoo-ha, like my ex loves to state on the record regularly, and they jotted that down over all the evidentiary facts presented… That’s probably it.

But if you’re determined to go it alone, there are some things you can do to make the process a little easier. Here are a few tips:

  • Educate yourself: Read up on the divorce laws in your state and familiarize yourself with the court procedures. The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. Understand all of the forms you will be required to complete. It’s a lot. You want to find your state and county-specific forms, but this spreadsheet should give you an idea of what you’ll need  and NJ forms can all be found here NJ Divorce Forms
  • Get organized: Keep all your paperwork in one place, and make sure you have copies of everything. Keep a calendar of court dates and deadlines, and make sure you don’t miss anything.
  • Be professional: Dress appropriately for court hearings, and be respectful to everyone involved in the process, including your spouse and the judge.
  • Consider mediation. If you and your spouse can’t agree on everything, consider hiring a mediator to help you work out your differences. It can be a lot cheaper and less stressful than going to court.
  • My lifesaver: AiLawyer: My god, this thing is awesome. In 5 seconds, it took a 20+ page court document and broke it down for me in layman’s terms, section by section, and pointed out where I am vulnerable. Mind blown… The best part is that it’s $10 a week. Seriously, if you need an AI that will write documents and motions for you in any state, you only pay $10 for one week, then cancel anytime. Holy Cr… Ok, you’ve got my point. But please do use my link so I can make my $1ish commission, lol. No really, I really need it

Conclusion

In conclusion, dear warriors of the World Wide Web, let’s be real: divorce can be about as emotionally uplifting as a root canal and as financially soothing as a wallet on a diet. Whether you both decided to call it quits or one of you pulled a surprise ‘Houdini’ on the marriage, it’s a ride. Not a fun one, mind you—more like one of those rides where you wish you had read the safety instructions first.

But here’s the kicker: getting a grip on the ins and outs of this legal tango can actually make the dance a bit less toe-stomping. Understanding the steps, from the grand opening petition to the final bow with the judge’s signature, doesn’t exactly turn it into a fairy tale. However, it does add a few breadcrumbs to the trail out of the forest.

So, while divorce might feel like trying to assemble IKEA furniture with missing instructions and extra screws, knowing the process is like finding that one friend who actually understands those cryptic diagrams. It won’t make it a party, but it might just stop you from throwing the manual (or a chair) out the window.

Stay strong, my fellow life-jugglers. We might not have asked for this particular circus, but we sure as heck can learn to tame the lions.