Originally appeared in Newance Magazine.
Newark is home to many fine businesses, restaurants, bars, and museums, but only one business offers an authentic slice of the American way: cheap divorce.
You can’t miss it. Driving down Route-21, passing a proverbial rainbow of dry cleaners, liquor stores, and restaurants – and then the biggest sign of them all hits you. It says, “Divorce $399 – Spouse’s Signature Not Required.”
Like anyone seeing the sign, you’re wondering what wonderful magic do these legislative wizards work, especially why you don’t need a spouse’s signature to end that pesky marriage.
Tri State Community Services, established in May 2006, is not a law office, it’s a divorce factory. They specialize in the minutia of divorce, but do not practice law or give legal advice. In fact, they have a disclaimer that explicitly states, “Our service is not the substitute for the advice of an attorney.”
Tri State Community Services provides no lawyer – their website warns prospective clients, “If representing yourself is not what you want, then we recommend that you hire an attorney.”
If there are no lawyers, they don’t give legal advice, and the clients represent themselves, what does Tri State Community Services do?
Tri State Community Services primarily offers typing and filing services. Diane, 25, an employee, said that for $399, Tri State Community Services will file the paperwork for you.
“It’s got to be uncontested divorce,” said Diane. “First there’s a case number, then the spouse signs, notarizes, agrees to the divorce. Then you send off a second packet, and that’s when you’ll receive the court date, then that’s basically it. The plaintiff will go to court – that’s a divorce.”
The key phrase is “uncontested divorce.” This means that no one is arguing with the filing, it’s mutually agreed. Simply put, if one person wants the divorce and the other doesn’t, you’re on your own.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Tri State Community Services is that you don’t need the other spouse’s signature. If the other spouse refuses to sign the papers, they receive a visit from the sheriff who serves them papers. If they don’t respond within 35 days, the divorce proceeds regardless.
“The sheriff then goes and knocks on your door, gives you 35 days to respond,” said Diane. “You have to respond to the court with a motion, now if there’s no kids, no property, there’s nothing – the court in 35 days gives the plaintiff a court date anyway when there’s no response.”
Essentially, Tri State Community Services’ purpose is to expedite the end of already troubled marriages. Assets must be hashed out by both parties on their own. As long as no one contests the filing, it will go through – another accursed marriage brought to its inevitable end.