In New Jersey, a divorce may be uncontested. Sometimes, divorcing spouses may resolve their property, custody, and support issues outside of court by entering into a Marital Settlement Agreement. However, even when parties are able to settle the issues in their case, they still need to go through the legal process of obtaining a Final Judgment of Divorce. This is accomplished through an uncontested divorce, which is permitted under current New Jersey law.
An uncontested divorce is recommended when possible because a contested divorce can be expensive and negatively impact you and your children during the process.
Grounds for an Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
One of the most common grounds for an uncontested divorce is when there have been irreconcilable differences between the spouses for at least six months, which suggests the marriage should be dissolved as there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. A spouse may also file for an uncontested divorce if they have been living apart from the other spouse for 18 months and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.
Uncontested Divorces Are Not Automatic
Even if the above conditions are met, a divorce may still be contested if the spouses disagree on key issues. For example, if they cannot agree on custody of the minor children or how much child support must be paid, there would need to be a trial or limited hearing before a Judge. Many divorcing spouses would prefer to avoid this path, which motivates them to settle their differences and avoid litigation.
You May Still Need to Negotiate and Resolve Many Issues
In order to reach the point where divorce is uncontested, the parties may need to go through extensive negotiations to resolve contentious issues. Both spouses rarely agree on all issues right off the bat. It is recommended that each party hire an attorney to help them negotiate and formalize a Marital Settlement Agreement, which is required to finalize a divorce without a trial. More often than not, a divorce only becomes uncontested after each spouse has put in a considerable amount of work to get to that point. It is possible that the divorce process begins as contested and shifts to uncontested when the spouses reach a settlement.
Steps to an Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey
Current New Jersey law has a specific process for uncontested divorces. Even though the issues may have already been resolved, there is still a formal legal process that must be followed. New Jersey law does not permit a joint divorce filing on behalf of both spouses. Like other court cases, one party must file certain paperwork, and the other party must respond.
When the parties intend for an uncontested divorce, they should do the following:
- One party will file a Complaint for Divorce with the Court as the plaintiff, submitting the necessary forms and the filing fee. The Complaint should indicate that the parties have resolved their matter and entered into a Marital Settlement Agreement.
- The other spouse, now acting as the defendant, will then file an “Appearance” in which they will note that they are not contesting the divorce. This spouse can also file an Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Entry of Judgment of Divorce.
- One of the parties will then need to submit the fully-executed Marital Settlement Agreement , which addresses all the issues that pertain to the end of the marriage, including, but not limited to, custody, property, and support provisions.
- Each spouse must sign the Marital Settlement Agreement in the presence of a notary.
- The Judge will review the Marital Settlement Agreement and, if acceptable, incorporate same into the Final Judgment of Divorce.
Even when your divorce looks like it might be uncontested, you should hire an experienced family law attorney to help you navigate the process. You have legal rights that you may inadvertently waive if you rush the process or make a mistake.
Somerville Divorce Lawyers at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC Can Help to Protect Your Rights During the Divorce Process
The experienced Somerville divorce lawyers at Lepp, Mayrides & Eaton, LLC ensure their clients’ rights are protected, whether settlement is reached, or litigation is necessary. Call us at 908-800-7676 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
Located in Somerville, New Jersey, our attorneys serve clients throughout Central New Jersey, including those in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Warren County, Morris County, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Union County, and Middlesex County.