When you file for divorce, you are obviously not pursuing a contested divorce, which is generally more expensive, more time-consuming, and more emotionally fraught than an uncontested divorce. Ideally, you and your divorcing spouse would peacefully resolve the unresolved terms of your divorce and would effectively and efficiently proceed toward an amicable settlement. Unfortunately, however, divorce doesn't always work this way. Every divorce follows its own unique path, and some proceed smoothly while others tend to go off the rails. There are certain factors that make obtaining an uncontested divorce that much less likely, and you shouldn't beat yourself up if this is not your reality. If you're facing a contested divorce in New Jersey, the best path forward is with an experienced divorce attorney in your corner.
Your Contested Divorce in New Jersey
If your divorce in New Jersey is contested, it means that one or more of the unresolved terms involved is challenged and requires the court's intervention. While no two divorces are ever identical, the terms that must be resolved remain the same, including (as applicable):
- Child custody
- Child support
- The equitable distribution of marital property
- Alimony (or spousal support)
Once you've exhausted your negotiation options, including negotiating between yourselves (with the professional legal guidance of your respective divorce attorneys); allowing your attorneys to negotiate on behalf of each of you; and/or engaging in an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, such as mediation, arbitration, or collaborative divorce, the next step is proceeding toward trial (the hallmark of a contested divorce). In the State of New Jersey, your divorce trial will take place in the Family Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey in the county where your initial divorce complaint was filed.
The Divorce Process
The divorce process is complicated at the best of times, but if your divorce case is contested, it means that a settlement agreement (in which you and your divorcing spouse hammer out each of the terms that pertains to your divorce case) is likely out of reach. Although you are not required to hire an attorney to guide you through the process of a contested divorce, you are very well advised to do so. In fact, the New Jersey Courts – in the general information it provides – recommends that anyone who is either considering filing for divorce or who is responding to a divorce complaint should seek legal counsel if they are able to do so.
The Terms Most Likely to Be Contested
The terms most likely to be contested in divorce are the division of marital property and child custody, both of which are primary elements of family law that can be as challenging as they are important.
The Division of Marital Property
The State of New Jersey is what is known as an equitable distribution state, which means that, in the event of divorce, the assets the couple acquired as a married couple must be divided equitably between them. Equitably does not necessarily mean equally – or 50/50 – but, instead, means fairly when the relevant circumstances are considered. All the assets you acquire as a married couple – except for gifts or inheritances that are in one spouse's name only – are marital property, and this is true regardless of who made the purchase or whose name is on the documentation. Because divorce directly affects both parties' financial rights and financial future, the division of marital property has the potential to become a hotly contested issue. Factors that tend to make this division that much more challenging include:
- High valued assets
- Business ownership
- Complicated financials that intermingle separate and marital property
- Ownership of multiple real estate holdings
New Jersey addresses child custody in terms of both legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody refers to who will be making the major parenting decisions post-divorce, including those related to all the following:
- The children's schooling
- The children's health care
- The children's religious upbringing
- The children's extracurricular activities
You and your children's other parent can make these decisions together; one of you can take on tie-breaking authority; one of you can make the decisions on your own, or you can divide the responsibility according to the kind of decision that is being made.
Physical custody relates to how you and your children's other parent will divide your parenting time. Physical custody can be sole (in which one parent becomes essentially the primary custodial parent while the other has a visitation schedule) or joint (in which the parents divide their parenting time equally or nearly equally).
It's Time to Consult with an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Attorney
The accomplished New Jersey divorce lawyers at the law firm of Villani & DeLuca, P.C., are committed to helping you obtain as amicable a divorce as possible but recognize that some divorces require the court's intervention. We are both well positioned and well prepared to help skillfully guide your case – regardless of the direction it takes – towards a beneficial resolution. For more information, please don't hesitate to contact or call us at 732-709-7757 to schedule your free legal consultation today.