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Contested vs Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey

A couple filing for divorce through an attorney

A divorce in New Jersey can be either contested or uncontested. When both spouses have no disagreements on the terms of the divorce, it is considered uncontested. When they disagree on at least one issue, it is a contested divorce. 

Whether a divorce is contested or not plays a significant role in how long the legal process will take before the divorce is finalized. Contested divorces are usually more costly for both parties as a result of increased attorney and court fees. 

An experienced divorce lawyer at Rosenblum can help navigate your contested or uncontested divorce. In this article, we explain more about the differences between the two types of divorces.

Understanding Divorce in New Jersey

In New Jersey, a divorce is referred to as a “dissolution.” The same divorce process is followed for domestic partnerships and civil unions. 

At least one spouse must be living in the state in order to file for divorce in New Jersey. The party that initially files for divorce is known as the “plaintiff”, while the other spouse is referred to as the “defendant.”

A party filing for dissolution must state the grounds for divorce. Here are some potential grounds:

  • No-fault or irreconcilable differences: This is the most common grounds for divorce in New Jersey. , The couple must have been experiencing irreconcilable differences for at least 6 months before the filing of the Complaint.. Also, one spouse needs to have been living in New Jersey for at least 12 consecutive months.
  • Separation: A couple needs to have been living apart for at least 18 months before being allowed to file on these grounds.
  • Extreme cruelty: Filing on these grounds requires that the plaintiff allegedly be a victim of the defendant’s actions, such that the defendant allegedly endangered the plaintiff’s safety or made it unreasonable or improper for the plaintiff to continue living with the defendant.
  • Adultery: The unfaithfulness of one spouse is a legitimate legal ground for dissolution.
  • Willful and continued desertion: This happens when one spouse has unilaterally decided to stop living with the other spouse on a permanent basis without the consent of the other. The desertion must have been continued for at least 18 consecutive months in order to file for divorce on these grounds in New Jersey. 
  • Other grounds: Some other acceptable legal grounds for divorce include institutionalization for mental illness, addiction issues, imprisonment, and deviant sexual conduct. The law will require certain conditions to be met for each of these grounds to be cited for filing a divorce.

Contested Divorce in New Jersey

A divorce is considered contested when the parties disagree on at least one issue. There are various issues that could cause disagreement, such as:

Once it is clear that a divorce will be contested, the parties must navigate the litigation process. 

  1. The plaintiff files the initial complaint in the appropriate County, which is were at least one of the parties has resided for the past 6 months. The defendant may respond to the complaint by submitting proper paperwork to the court. The deadline to submit a response is 35 days after the plaintiff serves the defendant with the divorce complaint and summons.
  2. Litigation begins with the discovery process, in which evidence and documents are submitted to the court by both sides with the aim of bolstering respective legal arguments. Some of the evidence that could be submitted are financial documents, testimonies from family and friends, expert testimony from mental health experts, and more.
  3. After discovery is complete, the parties are ordered to go to an early settlement panel and economic mediation, which is the Court’s attempt to help resolve the divorce.   If those fail, the parties then attend an intensive settlement conference with the Judge.
  4. If the parties do not agree on one or more of the issues, the divorce is contested and trial follows.

A contested divorce can be daunting. However, an experienced family law attorney can help clients navigate the process by representing their client in mediation, making court appearances, and advocating for their client in child custody and financial disputes. A lawyer also can guide their client through the discovery process to ensure evidence is submitted to the court in a timely manner and in the proper format. 

Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey

If both parties to a divorce have no disagreements on the terms of the dissolution, the divorce is known as uncontested. This means both spouses are in agreement on the major aspects of a dissolution: division of assets, child custody, spousal support, etc.

There are many benefits of an uncontested divorce. For example, the parties come to a quick agreement and negate the need for a lengthy, costly trial.  An uncontested divorce involves less conflict, which can minimize the emotional strain and hardship on both parties and, sometimes, their children. 

A finalized uncontested divorce cannot be appealed. However, if one of the parties later decides they are unhappy with the terms, that spouse can file a motion to modify the agreement. 

Before signing an uncontested divorce settlement agreement, one should be sure that the terms are fair financially and that the personal burden of the arrangement is shared in a just manner. It is also important that the settlement agreement complies with applicable New Jersey law. 

An experienced divorce attorney can help draft a settlement agreement and review the final version to ensure it meets legal requirements and protects their client’s interests. The attorney will also be able to ensure the proper paperwork and documents are filed to meet all timelines required by the court process. 

The Role of Mediation in Divorce

Although many times litigation is the only reasonable option, there are some cases in which mediation might be a better way to move forward in a divorce. Mediation is the process in which a neutral third party, prescreened and approved by the court and both parties, tries to help resolve some or all issues of disagreement. 

In a contested divorce, mediation is mandatory before starting the litigation process. Even if the parties can agree on only some issues, it will still save time, money, and headaches during litigation. 

In an uncontested divorce, mediation can still be helpful in working out the smaller details of a divorce agreement and ensuring both parties are clear on what they are agreeing to. This will help ensure that the uncontested divorce does not become contested.

During the mediation process, each party must have a solid legal strategy in place. A divorce attorney will devise this strategy and represent the spouse during the mediation sessions. In some cases, the parties will not have their own attorneys but will rely on a single attorney specializing in divorce mediation to act as the neutral mediator during the negotiations.

Financial Considerations in Divorce

One essential aspect of divorce pertains to financial considerations. Division of property and assets can significantly alter one or both parties’ quality of life, especially if they have not been working outside the home and developing a career during the marriage. 

In addition, how alimony and child support payments are calculated determine how much revenue one can depend on in order to make ends meet after the divorce is completed. Hiring a competent attorney can help a party in advocating for the outcome that is in his or her best financial interests.

Child Custody and Support in New Jersey Divorces

The best interests of the child are the primary standard that governs child custody in New Jersey. In addition, New Jersey and many other states have adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in order to mitigate potential interstate conflicts between divorcing parents. 

An attorney who is well-versed in the UCCJEA and other applicable laws in New Jersey will be best suited to assist a parent in negotiating a fair child custody arrangement and child support payment schedule.

Call a Rosenblum Divorce Attorney Today

Given the various factors that could affect the outcome of a divorce, it is a good idea to consult with a legal professional in order to formulate the best legal strategy to move forward with. Failure to do so can result in avoidable strategic and tactical errors that can be quite costly in the end. 

Rosenblum Law attorneys have decades of experience in handling divorce cases. Be sure to contact Rosenblum right away for a free consultation with a knowledgeable attorney who will analyze your specific situation and determine what can be done to ensure the best results possible from the divorce process. 


How does custody work in contested vs. uncontested divorces?

Child custody terms in uncontested divorces are agreed to by both parties. In contested divorces, the parties present arguments in court for their preferred custody arrangements. The Judge decides final child custody terms based on the best interests of the child. 

What happens if we agree on some issues but not others?

The divorce is classified as contested, and issues not agreed upon are decided through the mediation and litigation process. 

How long does an uncontested divorce take in NJ?

An uncontested divorce takes at least a few months, although it takes much less time than a contested divorce.

How does the process for uncontested divorce work in NJ?

If both parties agree to all major issues in the divorce, the plaintiff informs the court that the divorce is uncontested. All of the necessary legal documents still need to be filed, along with payment of court fees. The parties also need to sign a settlement agreement that details the terms of the uncontested divorce.

What are the financial implications of contested vs. uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce can save both spouses significant money. Because a contested divorce is more contentious than an uncontested divorce, the litigation process takes longer, which means higher legal bills and more court fees. 

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