“Contested” Divorce Versus “Uncontested” Divorce

We often get calls from potential clients who say, “I need an ‘uncontested’ divorce.”  What we explain to them is that every divorce starts out as “contested.” “Contested” means there is no written agreement as to all of the issues that arise as part of a divorce.

The reality is that a divorce does not become “uncontested” until the parties have reached an agreement on all issues, their agreement is formalized in a writing and that agreement is signed.  Once that agreement is signed by everyone, the divorce goes from “contested” to “uncontested.”

Sometimes, people may have discussed terms between themselves, and have verbally agreed, and believe their divorce is “uncontested.”  Oftentimes what this means is that parties will agree to the “big” issues in their divorce, such as custody and parenting time or what to do with their house (sell it or one person buys out the other).  But once they speak with an attorney, they learn about all of the other ancillary issues that they have not discussed that need to be agreed upon – such as life insurance, holiday parenting time, alimony, child support, retirement division, tax implications, etc.

If you are facing a divorce or having problems agreeing on the terms of separation with your spouse, the divorce lawyers at The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill can help you settle matters in your best interests and without unnecessary delays and expenses.

New Jersey Contested Divorce

What is a contested divorce?

Once someone files for divorce, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement and come to an “uncontested” divorce, then the parties must engage in an expensive trial and have the judge decide who gets what.
Every chance will be provided by the New Jersey courts for the couple to settle before it gets to that stage. Spouses generally want to avoid the delays and expenses associated with a trial as for most people, the trial is cost-prohibitive.
Even spouses who start out at odds with each other can eventually find common ground and avoid a trial using alternative dispute resolution methods like a collaboration between lawyers and mediation.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce only occurs if both parties accept that the marriage is over and agree on all of the key elements—and put it in writing.
Sometimes, couples who start out in general agreement on all of the major terms of separation discover that they are not yet ready to sign a legal document committing to it. They may then require the help of a divorce lawyer or mediator to resolve their differences.

Can a contested divorce become uncontested?

The key point to remember with contested divorces is that all divorces should be considered contested until the couple is prepared to sign a written agreement that all matters are resolved.
Unless everything has been documented in a valid and signed separation agreement, no New Jersey judge will sign the divorce decree to legally end the marriage. The case will require court intervention and you should discuss your position with an experienced divorce lawyer.
Divorce trials are presided over by a Judge from the Family Division of the Superior Court in Monmouth County or the county in which you filed your initial divorce complaint.
With the right legal advice and a spirit of compromise rather than conflict, however, there is a good chance that your contested divorce can become uncontested.

Commonly disputed matters in a contested divorce

The major terms of separation to be discussed between a couple during the divorce process generally include:

  • Property division: how will the marital estate be divided (including the marital home, other properties, businesses, pensions, investments, etc.)?
  • Child custody: who will make decisions for and look after the children (what are the best interests of the child)?
  • Parenting rights: how will the parenting time schedule for the noncustodial parent be arranged?
  • Child support: how much will the noncustodial parent pay towards the child’s upbringing?
  • Spousal support: is alimony due—if so, how much and for how long?

New Jersey allows no-fault divorces

“No-fault” divorces are where a couple cites “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for a marriage breakdown also known as the “grounds” for divorce.
This type of divorce avoids the need to apportion blame for the marriage failing. The spouses agree that there has been a breakdown in their relationship for the last six months and the marriage cannot be salvaged.
However, New Jersey is not a pure “no-fault” state because divorcing couples also have the option of seeking a fault-based divorce on the following grounds:

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Desertion
  • Voluntarily induced narcotic addiction
  • Habitual drunkenness
  • Institutionalization for mental illness
  • Deviant sexual conduct
  • Imprisonment

At-fault divorces are rare in Monmouth County because they generally result in additional conflict, lengthy court processes, and significant extra costs.

Contact a Monmouth County Contested Divorce Attorney

Not all contested divorces end up at trial – but you may need to be prepared to go through the litigation process.
Whether you have disagreements with your partner over property and assets, your children’s welfare, or support payments, these matters may be too important to compromise on.
The experienced contested divorce attorneys at The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill are compassionate and firmly committed to your best interests. We can negotiate, mediate or litigate on your behalf, depending on how your divorce case evolves.
Contact us for an initial divorce consultation today.

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