1. What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce occurs about when the divorcing couple agree to all of the key issues in their divorce. The parties agree to all terms and they reduce their agreement to writing in a contract called a property settlement agreement (PSA). Thereafter, the parties have to go to court only one time. At the court date the parties must establish that they have a viable cause of action to put the divorce through. Moreover, the lawyers and the judge also must question the parties as to the fairness of the terms of the PSA and of the judgment of divorce.
There are several issues that the divorcing couple must also address in an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is not as simple as many people would tend to believe. The major issues that must be resolved in an uncontested divorce are:
a. A division of all property and assets. This included a division of any real estate, motor vehicles, savings accounts, mutual funds, pensions, retirement accounts, etc.
b. Determining who pays the marital debts. In this day and age, more uncontested divorces address the apportionment of debt than the splitting up the assets. In any divorce case the parties have to reach an agreement as to the apportionment of any credit card debt, car loans, mortgage debt, tax debt, etc.
c. An alimony award if any must be established. The parties have to agree if any alimony will be paid. If so, how much alimony will be paid, who receives the alimony, how long the alimony will be paid, and under what conditions could any alimony payments terminate.
d. A child support award must be determined. The parties must disclose any of their income and paychecks. This income info must be run into a child support calculation program. Thereafter, a child support award can be calculated. Any day care costs must be shared and split. The parties must agree as to how miscellaneous medical bills must be paid. Finally, the parties must agree as to how health insurance for the child(ren) must be paid.
e. Custody and parenting time issues must be resolved. The parties must agree as to who will have physical and/or legal custody. Moreover, a reasonable parenting schedule must be prepared for the non-custodial parent.
When the parties ultimately reach an agreement as to all of these key issues, then they must reduce them to writing into a detailed contract. This contract is called a property settlement agreement (PSA). The PSA must be signed by all of the parties. Thereafter, the PSA will become part of your judgment of divorce and you must live with the terms of it.
2. What is a contested divorce?
A contested New Jersey divorce often turns into a disaster. It is always advisable to try to resolve your divorce without spending years in litigation. Having a contested divorce is a great way to waste your money. In a contested divorce case, the divorcing couple simply can’t agree on the terms of a settlement. Thereafter, the parties have to engage in a maddening and tedious discovery process, deal with motion practice, attend endless court dates, face endless adjournments, and also incur thousands of dollars of legal fees.
Some examples of the potential areas of divorce warfare include;
a. One spouse insists on obtaining full custody of a child(ren) or extensive parenting time;
b. One spouse makes unreasonable demands child support or alimony payments;
c. The parties have divergent views as to a fair equitable distribution of the marital assets:
d. One spouse does not want to sell the marital home;
e. The parties can’t reach a fair agreement as to how to pay off the marital debts; and
f. The parties can’t agree on the type or the amount of alimony. In my experience, alimony disputes are the key issue that makes it very difficult to resolve many divorces.