DIVORCE IN NEW JERSEY –FLAT FEE UNCONTESTED DIVORCES AND UNCONTESTED DIVORCES AND LITIGATED CONTESTED DIVORCES – What you need to know.
April 19, 2023
Whether you are having a Middlesex County Divorce, Bergen County Divorce, Monmouth County Divorce, or Somerset County Divorce, the issues regarding flat fee divorce, uncontested divorce and contested divorces are much the same in terms of procedure and how to keep your litigation costs as low as possible while you try to either settle your case or litigate your case.
Parties that are amicable and have much of their terms worked out or have gone to mediation to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for an uncontested divorce can often have their cases settled early in the process with a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement (MSA) or Property Settlement Agreement (PSA) so that a flat fee divorce in an uncontested manner may proceed.
A complaint for divorce is filed and a docket number is obtained from the court that will be used to track the case going forward. The summons and complaint for divorce are then served on the other party either with an acknowledgement of service or it may be served with a process server. The party being served may waive their 35 days to answer or not with acknowledgment of service that they sign in the presence of a notary. If the party being served does not file an answer or appearance, the case may proceed as a default matter. Both parties can then sign off on the negotiated MSA and a default hearing is requested of the court. Upon the court giving notification of the default hearing date, the matter is scheduled via either zoom or can be put through on the papers, if both parties sign a Certification that they are submitting the MSA voluntarily and without coercion. If there is a hearing on the record with the court, a similar litany is placed on the record by the Plaintiff, and Defendant, if they appear, and the cause of action generally of irreconcilable differences is also placed on the record, along with venue and jurisdictional requirements, and the divorce is put through in an uncontested fashion.
The parties will then receive a Judgment of Divorce from the Court with the Court’s electronic seal. A gold seal may be obtained by paying $25 for it through the courthouse, depending on the court, this may have to be mailed to you. Most courts only accept cash or a money order, they generally do not accept a credit card or personal check.
This process of an uncontested divorce in New Jersey should only take 3-4 months, more or less, however, with Covid, and reductions in staffing, some courts have gone much longer to finalize this process.
Call Green & Associates today to ask us about our flat fees for an uncontested divorce at 732-390-0480 or 201-242-1119.
A contested divorce in New Jersey can take as long as the parties do not agree on terms until a court orders a trial date, in which case, at that time, you will go to trial. Upon the parties agreeing upon terms during the litigation, a contested divorce becomes an uncontested matter and may proceed to putting the divorce through with the Court after the parties have signed off on a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement. It depends on the County in New Jersey as to when you may be given a trial date, Middlesex County divorces generally will be given a trial date around the one year mark from the filing of the complaint. Other counties may take much longer before they will issue a trial date, merely because of the shortage of Judges available in the Family Part at this time.
A contested divorce might start as an uncontested and the parties then realize they are not in agreement on terms or cannot reach agreement. Assuming both parties are in the case, meaning, one party has filed a complaint, and the other party has answered, and/or counterclaimed or put in an appearance, the parties must then follow the court’s calendar for their case so that it will proceed as expeditiously as possible.
The case is generally first scheduled for a Case Management Conference (CMC). It is here where the case is scheduled by court order on when certain events will proceed such as discovery and Early Settlement Panel and when parties are to submit their Case Information Statements, produce documents, have appraisals completed and expert reports completed. If there are unemancipated children, custody and parenting time mediation is scheduled for the parties to go to on their own, generally remote, to try and resolve the issues of child custody and parenting time, including holidays.
As an aside, if child custody is an issue, and will not resolve at mediation, that generally will track in its own way at a certain point. A Guardian Ad Litem report may be requested by the parties, generally an attorney appointed by the court, to give a best interest evaluation as to custody and parenting time. The GAL will make a recommendation after interviewing the parties as to what they opine is in the best interest of the children regarding custody and parenting time. Generally, a court will follow the recommendations of the GAL if the parties cannot come to an agreement. Alternatively, for those cases that are more problematic, those that may include serious parental alienation or substance abuse, a psychologist report may be obtained. These are often more detailed, more costly and more time consuming. So, obviously to avoid an expensive and time-consuming process it is best, if possible, for the parties to resolve the custody and parenting time issues.
After CMC, the parties will attend Early Settlement Panel, Economic Mediation, Intensive Settlement Conference (ISC) and finally trial. In other blogs I have more specifically mentioned these.
However, as to trial, in more detail, the parties should know they are likely to spend the most amount of time and money in their case. Briefs are generally required before and after the trial. Exhibits must be organized for the court and all of this must be done prior to the trial. Trial may be days and not consecutive days that may go on for months. The money spent on a trial could easily be much more than you have spent on the entire litigation prior to trial in terms of attorney’s fees. So, again, if you can settle prior to trial, you are avoiding a very costly and time intensive process. Most cases do settle well before trial.
Divorce is a very difficult process for most. Considering a perspective on the process and its cost and time up front is a very good use of your time so you can individually determine what is best for you and your family going forward.
At Green & Associates, we are here to help you however you wish to proceed. Call us today at 732-390-0480 or 201-242-1119 for a free consultation for your divorce.