"How long does a divorce take in Somerset County?" This is a question that I as a divorce attorney am asked in almost every initial consultation. When going through a divorce, timing is often of the utmost importance for many reasons. Potential clients want and deserve to know how long it will take to resolve their divorce issues. My answer is always the same: "It depends."
While I can and do estimate how long it will take for a client to actually go through a divorce, it is impossible to predict or guarantee any specific length of time. For instance, in Somerset County, New Jersey I would estimate that the average divorce case takes approximately 10-12 months, depending upon the issues that need be resolved. Many cases take longer, and some are resolved much more quickly. The process starts with the filing of a Complaint for Divorce. The other side then has 35 days to respond after being served with the pleadings. Unless a client comes to an attorney with a completely "settled" case, which is rare, both parties then exchange discovery, or financial disclosures. Often property or a business must be appraised. This all takes time. Once the attorneys have the necessary financial information, settlement discussions can begin in earnest. For such reasons, it is often impossible to quickly resolve a divorce case.
In Somerset County, New Jersey there are presently three judges who manage approximately 2000 cases in the Family Law Division. Currently Presiding Judge Margaret Goodzeit works along with Judge Angela Borkowski and Judge Thomas Miller, as the only full time judges in the Somerset County Family Law division. As such, if a case is not settled, and there are disputed issues, parties may have to wait years to finally be reached for a divorce trial.
In my opinion this is terribly unfair to litigants. Most of my clients have never been to court before for any reason, and find it frustrating that there are not enough judges to hear their cases on a timely basis when they do have to rely upon the court system. Fortunately, most cases do "settle", and are over with within a year. Hopefully additional Family Law Judges will be added in the future, so that the court system can better serve the residents of Somerset County.