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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey

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Divorce often involves heightened emotions. It can be a complex, messy process, intermingling issues of finance and legal intricacies with personal feelings and social concerns. For many reasons, divorces often end up as long, combative, drawn-out events. Having a lengthy, bitter divorce is not a foregone conclusion, however. When divorcing parties can put aside their differences and focus on shared goals, they may be able to streamline the process by proceeding with an uncontested divorce. Continue reading to learn about the differences between contested and uncontested divorce in New Jersey. If you are facing the prospect of divorce, call an experienced New Jersey family law attorney.

What is a Contested Divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree on all issues relating to the divorce. In a contested divorce, the parties are unable to come to an agreement on at least one divorce-related issue, whether it be the equitable division of property, child support, spousal support, child custody, or other important matters. If the parties cannot agree on an issue, then the matter will be decided by the court. The court may resolve certain issues as a matter of law on summary judgment, or the case may proceed all the way to trial.

The court will encourage the parties to settle throughout the process. In New Jersey, parties to a divorce proceeding must attend an Early Settlement Panel (“ESP”) where each party presents their case to a panel of volunteer family law attorneys. The panel will then issue recommendations based on how they believe the case would resolve at trial, encouraging the parties to settle. The parties will participate in a later settlement conference, as well as other settlement negotiations. If the parties are still unable to resolve the matter completely, then the case will proceed to trial. Divorces that wind up in trial can take many months or even years to resolve.

How is an Uncontested Divorce Different?

Uncontested divorce is possible where the parties are able to resolve all issues relating to the divorce without the need to resort to the court. Divorcing parties may already be inclined to agree on divorce-related issues, or they may find that shared goals persuade them to settle their differences. Shared goals may include, for example, goals for their children and a shared preference to put the divorce behind them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Parties who do not start in complete agreement may still be able to reach a resolution without the need for court by way of settlement negotiations, or through alternative dispute methods such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce.

If the parties can resolve all issues relating to the divorce without the need for a trial, they can enter into a marital settlement agreement. The parties will then appear in court only to present the marital settlement agreement. If all parties agree, the court will incorporate the settlement into a final divorce judgment and issue a divorce decree.

Trusted Legal Advice and Representation For Your New Jersey Divorce or Family Law Matter

If you need tried-and-true legal assistance with divorce, paternity, child custody, premarital agreements, child support, alimony, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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