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Most people hope for an amicable divorce, but it does not always work out that way. Even when couples agree about most of the issues they must settle, one major sticking point could derail progress and lead to a contested divorce.
Divorce procedures statewide offer you and your spouse multiple opportunities to reach an agreement and move forward with your separation. If you cannot resolve all issues, your divorce will go to trial, and a judge will decide. A Maplewood contested divorce lawyer could provide you with strong support and aggressive advocacy to make your case before the judge. Our skilled divorce attorneys in New Jersey can carefully address your concerns and fight to protect your interests.
Divorcing requires couples to address multiple issues: child custody, child support, alimony, and identifying and allocating marital assets. If the couple can agree on all these issues, their attorneys can enter their agreement into a formal document and file it with the court. Judges almost always adopt the spouses’ agreements and make them a part of the final divorce decree.
This process spares the court’s time and relieves judges of deciding issues that the couple is better off deciding for themselves. To encourage spouses to reach an agreement, New Jersey Court Rules 1:40-4 allow a court to order couples to engage in one or more forms of alternate dispute resolution (ADR) before putting a divorce on the court’s docket for trial.
Different forms of ADR are available in Maplewood, including mediation, where the couple works out their differences with the help of a mediator and the spouses’ contested divorce attorneys. Arbitration is a process like a trial but less formal; it isnvolves an arbitrator making a final, legally binding decision after hearing the evidence. Collaborative divorce involves professionals from several disciplines, including financial and real estate experts, mental health professionals, educators, business valuators, and others, depending on the issues that divide the couple. A knowledgeable legal representative can help a divorcee navigate these complex proceedings to help ensure an agreeable resolution.
In uncontested divorces, when the parties agree to all major issues without judicial intervention, they could be divorced within a year of filing their complaint. Contested divorces often do not proceed as quickly.
A contested divorce means there is a dispute about a fundamental issue in the marriage. Maybe one spouse believes the other is hiding marital assets, or one spouse thinks the other is intentionally underearning to be eligible for alimony. Collecting and reviewing information to prove or disprove these contentions takes time and often requires expert opinion, which takes more time.
If the parties gather the information and still cannot resolve their differences through ADR, they request a trial date and estimate the number of days the lawyers will require to present their cases. A contested divorce attorney for a Maplewood litigant would request a trial date with the Essex County Superior Court, Family Division, in Newark. Spouses might wait several months for a trial date. If a trial requires several days, the scheduled trial dates could be weeks or even months apart.
In the weeks leading up to a trial, a Maplewood attorney will spend hours reviewing all the evidence relating to the issues in a contested divorce. The sides must exchange all the information they might use at trial three weeks before the trial date, so a legal professional will get very familiar with the other side’s evidence as well.
A divorcing spouse should expect to testify at a trial. Their attorney will work with them ahead of time, practicing and preparing for the questions the other lawyer will likely ask.
On the trial date, courts will usually ask the parties to have a pre-trial meeting to resolve outstanding issues. If parties cannot come to an agreement at these meetings, the trial will proceed, and the judge will hear testimony and review evidence. At the end, the judge will hear closing arguments and will usually issue a decision within a few weeks. The judge’s decision is legally binding for all parties, but either party may file an appeal if they believe the decision was erroneous.
A contested divorce can be an emotionally draining process. Our Maplewood contested divorce lawyers will do everything in their power to help you and your spouse resolve the issues in contention without going to trial.
However, if a trial is necessary, our attorneys will be fierce advocates for your position. If you are planning on pursuing a divorce where contentious issues may come into play, do so with a committed legal professional in your corner. Give us a call today to learn more.