When you go through a divorce in New Jersey, your case will either be contested or uncontested. It's important to understand the differences between contested and uncontested divorces so that you know which process might be better in your situation. When you work with a divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group LLC, we can clarify what each of these types of divorce might involve and advocate for you regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Here's some information about these types of divorce and how they might affect the process involved in your case.
What Is a Contested vs. an Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
When a divorce is uncontested, it means that both spouses agree to all of the aspects and issues involved in ending their marriage, including issues concerning how their property, debts, and assets will be divided, how child custody and support will be handled, and whether one spouse will pay the other spouse alimony. When two spouses agree on everything, they won't need to litigate their case before a judge at a divorce trial. Instead, they can negotiate and draft a settlement agreement that addresses how everything will be handled, sign it, and file it with the court.
By contrast, a contested divorce occurs when the spouses disagree about one or more issues involved in their case and can't resolve them outside of the court process. When this happens, they will have to litigate any unresolved issues at a divorce trial by presenting evidence and arguments. The judge will then make decisions on how the outstanding disputes will be resolved and issue a final judgment.
In some cases, the estranged spouses might initially be at odds but eventually, come to an agreement with the help of their attorneys. A divorce lawyer in New Jersey might negotiate on behalf of their client to try to resolve all outstanding issues favorably. If this happens, the parties can draft and submit a settlement agreement with the court and avoid a divorce trial.
Understanding Contested Divorces
In a contested divorce, the spouses might not be able to resolve certain outstanding issues or agree to anything. If the spouses can agree on some details involved with their divorce, they can file a partial settlement agreement and litigate the unresolved issues at a divorce trial. Contested divorces frequently involve an extended period of discovery, motions, hearings, and court appearances before a trial is held. Since these things must be scheduled on the court's docket, how quickly the case can be resolved will also be affected by the court's calendar. As a result, contested divorce cases can take months up to a couple of years to be resolved and can be much more expensive than uncontested divorces.
In some cases, one spouse won't agree to divorce. However, since New Jersey allows no-fault divorce, the court will not prevent someone from divorcing their spouse even when the other party disagrees. However, the party who is unhappy with the divorce might take steps to try to draw the process out and make it more difficult.
Understanding Uncontested Divorces
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree about all details involved in their case. Spouses might fully agree from the beginning or eventually reach an agreement through mediation or negotiations. When both spouses agree to all of the terms of their case from the start, an uncontested divorce can be fast and take only a few months. If significant negotiations are required, an uncontested divorce might take longer but still less time than a contested divorce. Uncontested divorces don't require trials and other legal procedures, which also means that the fees involved are typically much less expensive than they are in contested cases.
Appeals in Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces
If your divorce is uncontested, you won't be able to file an appeal once your settlement agreement is accepted by the court. However, if your situation substantially changes after your divorce is over, you might be able to request modifications to certain portions of your agreement. For example, if you agreed to pay your spouse a certain amount of alimony for five years, but you have since lost your job, you might be able to file a motion to modify your alimony amount with the court in light of the changes in your financial circumstances.
The orders issued by the judge in a contested divorce are appealable. However, you must have grounds to appeal the orders based on the law. Simply being unhappy with the court's orders is not a ground for appeal.
In most cases, divorcing spouses are happier when they can reach an agreement between themselves rather than leaving the decisions up to a judge. However, there are some situations in which spouses can't reach an agreement about important issues involved in their case. When you work with an experienced divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group LLC, your attorney might be able to help you reach an agreement even when it might seem impossible to you.
Does Your Spouse Have to Agree to an Uncontested Divorce?
Since an uncontested divorce will involve a full agreement that settles all issues in your case, your spouse will have to participate. if your spouse won't engage in good-faith negotiations, you might be left with no other choice than to pursue a contested divorce. In many cases, once the spouses meet with their attorneys, they can receive guidance about the benefits of uncontested divorce and learn how certain seemingly intractable issues might be handled. Getting legal advice from an experienced attorney can often help people who are undergoing significant emotional conflict to take a more objective perspective so that some or all of the issues can be resolved.
No-Fault vs. Uncontested Divorce
A no-fault divorce simply refers to the reason why you are seeking a divorce. New Jersey does allow people to pursue fault-based divorces, but most choose to pursue no-fault divorces based on irreconcilable differences or on living apart for 18 or more months. Even if you file a no-fault divorce complaint, that doesn't necessarily mean that your divorce will be uncontested. You and your spouse could still have trouble agreeing to various terms involved in your divorce.
There are four main categories under which disputes commonly arise in contested divorce cases, including the following:
- How the property, assets, and debts should be divided between the spouses
- Who should have legal decision-making authority for the children and how child custody and visitation should be handled
- Who will pay child support and how much the payments will be
- Whether one spouse should pay spousal support, the amount of the payments, and how they should be structured
Each of these categories might involve numerous smaller issues that will need to be resolved. In some cases, the issues involved in a divorce can be complex and difficult to address. To make sure that every detail is properly addressed so that you can avoid future issues from arising, you should talk to an attorney at the Ziegler Law Group LLC.
Speak to a Divorce Lawyer in New Jersey
If you are preparing to divorce, you might be worried that the process will be long, expensive, and bitter. However, it might be possible for you to reach a full settlement agreement with your spouse when you have the help of an experienced divorce lawyer from the Ziegler Law Group LLC. Contact us today to request an appointment by filling out our contact form or calling us at 973-878-4373.
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