The Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
The divorce process really begins before the paperwork is filed. Impulse decisions in the early stages of divorce can lead to mistakes that ultimately hurt your final settlement. When both parties can resolve most (or all) of the case issues outside the courtroom, they can save a lot of time and money.
Uncontested Divorce Definition
In an uncontested divorce, both parties agree on all issues of the divorce case. This includes division of assets and debts, alimony, custody, and child support. Both parties reach a settlement agreement without litigation but should still consult divorce lawyers to review all paperwork and agreements before they are finalized.
In New Jersey, the ground for divorce most often used for an uncontested divorce is “irreconcilable differences.” This can be likened to something called “no-fault divorce” in other States. It allows the marriage to end without assigning blame to either party for the divorce. This option lets both parties keep embarrassing revelations out of the official court record and protects the privacy (and reputations) of parents and children.
Uncontested divorce cases are typically resolved more quickly, since both parties are on the same page about the details of the settlement. If done correctly, the only required court appearance may be on the date the matter is finalized.
Contested Divorce Definition
In a contested divorce, both parties are unable to agree on one or more issues of the case. This can include custody, division of assets and debts, alimony, child support, and more.
In some cases, a party may be unwilling to participate because they disagree with the divorce and want to remain married. In this case, a final decision will have to be made by a judge. In New Jersey, a stubborn spouse cannot “hold you hostage” by refusing to sign divorce papers, like we often see in the movies. A family law attorney can help you get a divorce without a signature or agreement from your spouse, even if they refuse to participate in the process.
Understandably, contested divorces involve more conflict than the alternative. But they do not instantly doom your case to hours of courtroom litigation.
Couples can explore alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, arbitration, and collaborative divorce. Contested matters will be ordered to economic mediation after discovery is completed and the parties have participated in an Early Settlement Panel. If the matter does not settle after the mandatory economic mediation, the court may order one or more mandatory settlement conferences before the case moves forward to trial.
Contested divorces usually take longer than uncontested divorces, which means they are typically more expensive. It makes sense– there are simply more issues to figure out. If the matter moves to trial, the costs of preparation for trial as well as attendance at the trial itself can overwhelm many budgets.
The more organized you can stay, the better. Have all necessary paperwork collected before your meetings with legal counsel and hire a divorce lawyer who is well-respected in your jurisdiction and known for creative problem-solving. Attorneys with a “shark” reputation are eager to start a fight, and those fights are generally detrimental to your emotional health, your children, and your bank account.
The right divorce lawyer will help both parties share information and reach a settlement in a way that prevents unwanted drama and reserves litigation and unnecessary expense as a last resort.
Hire a New Jersey Divorce Lawyer
Every divorce case is different because every marriage is different. Whether you decide to pursue a contested or an uncontested divorce will depend on the facts of your case.
Arons & Solomon will help you transition through the divorce process in a way that regains a sense of stability and control over your life. We help clients make a divorce plan that protects what’s most important.