If you want to end your marriage, you are likely dreading the process involved with going through a divorce. Many people think that getting divorced will involve protracted, bitter court battles. However, many cases can be resolved outside of court. It's possible to obtain an uncontested divorce in New Jersey to dissolve your marriage if you and your spouse can reach agreements about all of the issues involved. At the Ziegler Law Group, LLC, an NJ divorce attorney can negotiate for you to try to reach a global settlement agreement and by doing so you can avoid a divorce trial.
Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
While reaching a negotiated agreement might sound like an ideal resolution to your case, it can sometimes be more difficult than anticipated. Some couples agree that getting divorced is the best option but struggle to reach agreements on how to divide their property and debts or how child custody and visitation should be handled. If there are any issues that you can't agree upon, your divorce will be contested.
A contested divorce is one in which some issues can't be resolved outside of court. Any issues in dispute will have to be litigated in court, and the judge will make the final determination.
Reaching an agreement with your spouse on all issues before you file for divorce is a much better approach. This can help to shorten the process, reduce stress, and lower the expenses involved in ending your marriage.
Understanding an Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
It's important to explain the basic types of divorce in New Jersey before delving into what constitutes an uncontested divorce. Divorces can be fault or no-fault divorces. The type of dissolution can be contested or uncontested.
Fault vs. No-Fault Divorce
New Jersey provides multiple fault grounds for getting divorced, including adultery, extreme cruelty, abandonment, imprisonment, and others. These types of divorces allege there is a specific reason for getting the divorce. Obtaining a fault-based divorce means that you will have to present evidence proving the reason for the divorce. Because of this, most people choose to get a no-fault divorce instead.
There are two different types of no-fault divorce in New Jersey. You can pursue a no-fault divorce after living separately for 18 or more months. The second type of no-fault divorce is one based on irreconcilable differences. To get a divorce based on irreconcilable differences, you will need to certify to the court that the irreconcilable differences have existed for six or more months and that you no longer want to remain married. Most people choose to claim irreconcilable differences as the cause of action because they won't have to prove fault and also won't have to live separately for 18 months before filing for divorce.
To obtain an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree to both dissolve your marriage and to all of the terms of your divorce. This means you will need to agree on the following issues:
- How to divide your marital property and debts
- Whether one spouse will pay alimony to the other
- How long any alimony will be paid and in what amounts
- Residential and legal custody of the children and a parenting schedule
- Who will provide medical insurance for the children
- Child support and responsibility for expenses
If you and your spouse don't agree on one or more of these issues, you can try to reach a negotiated settlement with the help of your divorce attorney in Essex County NJ at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC with offices in Essex and Bergen County. You might also be able to reach an agreement through an alternative dispute resolution process such as mediation.
Timeline and Process of an Uncontested Divorce in NJ
While it can vary, the average time it might take to finalize an uncontested divorce in New Jersey is between three and six months. The process can be shorter if you and your spouse agree on all of the details of your divorce and submit complete and accurate documents. Here are the steps involved:
1. Filing the Legal Forms
For an uncontested divorce, one spouse will need to file the complaint for divorce and pay the filing fee in the county in which he./she lives or in the county where the other spouse lives. The other spouse can sign an acknowledgment of service to waive service and file an appearance form. This form lets the court know that the spouse doesn't want to contest the divorce. They will also need to pay a filing fee.
2. Drafting and Signing the Settlement Agreement
Once the forms and fees have been submitted, you will then need to draft and sign the settlement agreement. This document should include all matters involved in your case, including how the property and debts will be divided and all terms concerning child custody, child support, and alimony. It's important to have help with drafting this document to ensure that all of the terms are included. An attorney can help you think about things that should be agreed upon and draft it appropriately so it will be legally binding and enforceable. Once it is drafted, you and your spouse will need to sign it in front of a notary public and then file it with the court.
3. Court Appearance
You won't necessarily need to appear in front of a judge to get an uncontested divorce. You can submit a written request to have the divorce entered without appearing. You will need to make sure that you have filed all of the required documents and your settlement agreement. If everything has been submitted, your case will be sent to the judge within five days. After reviewing your documents, the court will send the divorce decree to both of you by mail.
If there is a missing or incomplete document, the court clerk will send a notice to you. You must correct the issue within 10 days, or you might be required to attend a hearing.
Cost of an Uncontested Divorce
If you and your spouse choose to represent yourselves, you will have to pay the initial $300 filing fee (325 if you have children) and the $175 response fee. Some couples choose to divide these fees in half. If your incomes are low, you might qualify for a fee waiver to reduce the cost.
You are not required to hire a lawyer to get an uncontested divorce. However, it might be a good idea to make sure all of the documents are completed correctly and to draft your settlement agreement.
Some other situations in which it might be best to retain a lawyer include the following:
- Complicated finances
- Retirement accounts that need to be divided
- Child custody and parenting plans
Consult a Divorce Attorney with offices in Essex and Bergen County
If you want to end your marriage and think that you can reach an agreement with your spouse, talk to the experienced legal team at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC with offices in Essex and Bergen County. We can help to prepare all of the documents for you and negotiate anything that might need to be ironed out. Call us today at (973) 878-2373.
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