We have been separated since August 5, 2015. I am trying to negotiate custody, ED, and alimony (I was a dependent spouse for 25 years) and it is not going smoothly. I expect that my soon-to-be-ex will file for divorce on the first date that he is able to as he seems anxious to remarry. I understand that if we don’t settle, I must sue for ED/alimony before the divorce is final in order to have a claim. Do I need to have filed suit before the divorce is requested, or before it is granted? Can I still file within the 30 days after I am served papers and before the hearing, or do I have to have a suit in place by August 5 (assuming he does file on that date).
You must have filed an action for equitable distribution (ED) prior to the absolute divorce being granted or otherwise, you are barred from receiving an equitable distribution of your property. It does not have to be settled before the absolute divorce is granted, but rather the action must be filed before the absolute divorce is granted.
You do not have to file a lawsuit for ED and alimony prior to the filing of the absolute divorce lawsuit (i.e. prior to when it is requested) or prior to the one-year mark of your date of separation. You can file a lawsuit for ED and alimony (and any other unresolved issues) within the 30 day time period you have to answer the absolute divorce complaint (assuming you are one served with the complaint for absolute divorce). This would be done as a counterclaim to the absolute divorce complaint.
The key thing to ensure is that an ED action or counterclaim (and alimony and other unresolved issues) is filed and at least pending prior to the entry of an absolute divorce judgment. The absolute divorce judgment can preserve any pending issues for later litigation.