Whether you have been married for a few years or a few decades, deciding to end a marriage is challenging and emotional. Divorce can be not only emotionally complex, but also a legally complex process where conflicts may arise around decisions about the custody of children, property distribution, alimony, child support, and other related issues. It is a major transition personally and legally.

Couples must answer many questions when they decide to divorce. One of the main questions couples will need to answer is whether to pursue a contested or uncontested divorce. Many couples do not understand the differences between these two methods of divorce. Read on to learn what an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce mean and what these types of divorce entail.

Contested and Uncontested Divorces in New Jersey

In New Jersey, there are two paths to attain a divorce: a contested or an uncontested divorce. The best-suited option is usually decided on several factors but comes down to the agreement of the two spouses. Here is a short overview of the differences between contested and uncontested divorces in New Jersey.

Contested Divorces

In a contested divorce, spouses oppose each other’s views on various issues, including:

  • Child custody arrangements
  • Amount or duration of alimony
  • Equitable distribution of assets and liabilities
  • Requests for child support
  • Other important issues

In New Jersey, couples facing a contested divorce will do an Early Settlement Panel (ESP). Each party presents their case before a panel of two volunteer matrimonial attorneys. After hearing both sides, the panelists give the parties their recommendations on how the case would likely settle in court. If the ESP is unsuccessful, the parties must attend an Intensive Settlement Conference (ISC) at the courthouse to resolve their case. The court will arrange a trial if a settlement cannot be reached during this conference.

If negotiation between parties and the other types of alternate dispute resolution processes cannot solve opposing views and disagreements between spouses, then the case will proceed to trial. Trials in family court operate by each side presenting evidence and interviewing witnesses to support their positions. After each person has presented their case, the judge will deliberate and settle each issue through a written judgment known as the Final Judgment of Divorce. 

The process of a contested divorce is long, sometimes taking months or year, depending on the case. Many divorcing couples resolve their issues through negotiation or by using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) because of the time and money needed for a contested divorce.

Uncontested Divorces

Different from a contested divorce, an uncontested proceeding takes place when the parties can agree on major issues relating to the divorce. In New Jersey, an uncontested divorce may occur by default when the responding spouse (the defendant) fails to appear to contest the divorce. When the divorcing parties resolve all issues amicably, they will enter into a marital settlement agreement and appear in court for an uncontested divorce proceeding. The court will incorporate the agreement into the Final Judgment of Divorce and issue the divorce decree. Divorce can happen without a trial when the parties agree on all issues. In the case of a default, the other party may obtain a Judgment of Divorce by default.

Marlton Divorce Lawyers at Burnham Douglass Help Couples Through the Divorce Process

If you are getting divorced and you need professional guidance on the process of divorce, contact our skilled Marlton divorce lawyers at Burnham Douglass. Call us at 856-751-5505 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation. From our Marlton, New Jersey offices, we serve clients in Camden County, Burlington County, Atlantic County, Gloucester County, Mercer County, and throughout South Jersey.