An uncontested divorce happens when both spouses agree about the terms of their divorce regarding child custody, child support, tax deductions, division of property, assets, and debt. On the other hand, a contested divorce is when you and your spouse disagree on any of those key terms. Over 90% of all divorces eventually do settle, even if they start out as contested matters. Having the right lawyer can ensure that your settlement is not just amicable, but also fair to you.
Do I Qualify for an Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey?
Every case is unique. That is why it is critical that you speak to an experienced divorce lawyer, even if you plan to file for an uncontested divorce. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you are a candidate for an uncontested divorce. You may qualify if all the following are true:
- There are no anticipated pretrial proceedings, such as discovery disputes
- There is no dispute regarding any of the key terms of the divorce, such as child custody, visitation, property division, etc.
- Both parties are in full agreement and no spouse is contesting the divorce
- You have a signed property settlement agreement that memorializes all the terms of your divorce
How to File for Divorce in New Jersey
The person filing for divorce is called the plaintiff, and the other spouse is called the defendant. In order to start the divorce process, the plaintiff files a Complaint in the Superior Court of the County in which the plaintiff resides, and the plaintiff must certify as to:
- The date and place of the marriage, as well as whether it was a civil or religious ceremony.
- The addresses of the plaintiff and the defendant (absent very limited circumstances, at least one of you must have lived in New Jersey for at least one year before filing)
- The names and birth dates of any children involved.
- The cause of action for the divorce (for uncontested matters, “irreconcilable differences” is the norm)
- Whether there have been any prior court or legal proceedings involving the parties.
- What relief you want once the divorce is granted (ex. primary custody of the children, title to the marital home, etc.)
Other Steps for Filing for Divorce in New Jersey
Filing for an uncontested divorce involves not just the Complaint, but also other tedious paperwork. Along with the Complaint there is a Confidential Litigant’s Sheet, a Certification of Insurance, and other Certifications as required by the Rules of Court. Also, once the Complaint is filed, it must also be properly served on the defendant with a Summons and an Affidavit of Service. The complaint can be served through a Sheriff’s officer in the county where the defendant lives, or by a private process service company. The defendant then has 35 days to formally answer the Complaint.
There also are ways to obtain a divorce if you cannot locate your spouse. The plaintiff must first make a “diligent inquiry” to locate their spouse, but if they fail, they can petition the court to use an alternative method of service, such as putting a public notice in a local newspaper.
What if My Case Starts Out Contested? Can it Become Uncontested?
After the defendant is served in a contested divorce, the parties begin to exchange “discovery.” This entails providing each other with paper and information about debts, assets, and property. This time period may also involve the hiring of certain experts for custody, lifestyle, and business valuations. After discovery is over, the court will schedule your divorce case to attend Early Settlement Panel (ESP) to try to resolve your case amicably. If a settlement is not reached at ESP, the parties will be sent to another round of mandatory mediation, and then eventually your case will be send to trial, where a judge will determine how assets, child custody, and visitation are to be divided. But, at any time in the contested divorce process, if you and your spouse come to an agreement on all issues, your case can then become uncontested and be put through more quickly and amicably.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Represent Couples in Uncontested Divorces
There are many benefits to filing for uncontested divorce. The experienced divorce lawyers in New Jersey at Lyons & Associates, P.C. can help you review documents and ensure that you get a fair outcome. If you have questions about filing for uncontested divorce, call us today at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. We serve clients throughout New Jersey, including but not limited to the communities of Somerset, Somerville, Mendham, Bridgewater, and Woodbridge.