Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
In the last article of our New Jersey divorce series, we discussed the first step of the divorce process: the initial filing. After this essential step is complete, your spouse’s response will be extraordinarily significant in determining the trajectory of your divorce. In essence, the initial filing, also known as the Complaint for Divorce, contains the provisions you seek as it relates to alimony, division of assets, child custody, child support, etc. Whether or not your spouse shares the same views about these key issues will indicate your propensity to undergo a contested or uncontested divorce in New Jersey. In this article, we will thoroughly examine contested versus uncontested divorces and identify the mechanisms through which each of these types of divorce can be ultimately resolved.
Contested Divorce in New Jersey
“Contest” means to oppose or to challenge. In terms of your New Jersey divorce, it means that you and your spouse oppose or challenge each other’s views on any or all of the following: the child custody arrangement; necessity for, amount, or duration of alimony; equitable distribution of assets, or request for child support. When a contested divorce cannot be resolved through negotiation; a form of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborate divorce; or during one of the State’s mandatory mediation or settlement conferences, it proceeds to trial.
Divorce trial proceedings occur in the Family Division of the Superior Court in the county in which you filed your initial divorce complaint. Like other trials, it provides both parties (and their divorce attorneys) with the opportunity to argue their positions and present evidence to support these arguments. The evidence presented may include interrogatories, documents, deposition transcripts, and expert reports, all of which are gathered during the discovery period of the divorce process. At the conclusion of the trial, which may take place over several hearings, the judge will issue his or her decision regarding all issues, which will then be included in the Final Judgement of Divorce.
Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
Unfortunately, contested divorce is often a protracted process that can drag on for months or even years, depending on the specific case. Due to the time and money often associated with contested divorce, many divorcing couples choose to resolve their issues through negotiation or a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Divorce attorneys from both sides can regularly engage throughout the divorce process, proposing settlement terms that the other party may consider and respond to. Through negotiation, you and your spouse may come to mutually-agreeable terms that allow you both to move forward without spending additional time and money. You may also pursue alternative dispute resolution, which simply means resolving your issues outside of the traditional litigation process. The most commonly used forms of ADR to resolve divorces in New Jersey include:
- Mediation: You and your spouse enlist a mediator who serves as a neutral third party throughout your divorce discussions. The mediator does not tell you what to do but creates an environment that allows you to communicate more effectively in an effort to reach an agreement. The mediator may provide suggestions, but no part of the process is legally binding. In other words, if mediation is unsuccessful, you can still pursue the trial route.
- Arbitration: This is similar to mediation; however there are some important fundamental differences. First, both parties agree to abide by the arbitrator’s decision at the outset of the process. Second, the arbitrator’s decision is legally binding.
- Collaborative Divorce: This is a team approach to the divorce process, as both parties, their attorneys, and a group of selected professionals come together to determine the most favorable settlement for both parties. Your collaborative divorce team may include professionals with expertise in the realm of finances, property, children, or any other relevant area.
Determining What is Right for Your New Jersey Divorce
Like your relationship, your divorce is extremely personal. As such, the decision to pursue a contested or uncontested divorce will be entirely dependent upon your specific situation and the willingness of your spouse to compromise. An experienced divorce attorney can serve as a critical asset as you make these important decisions, ensuring that you are thoroughly educated about all of your options, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each. Stay tuned for our next article about New Jersey divorce or contact our offices in Little Falls at 973.233.4396 to speak with one of our highly knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorneys. Consultations are always provided free of charge.