What is an Uncontested Divorce?
In many cases, situations arise where the parties are not in agreement on fundamental issues regarding their marriage. These divorces are contested divorces. However, if the parties have reached a written agreement on all issues relative to their marriage, the terms can be set forth in an agreement. These issues include:
- Child Custody
- Support (both alimony and child support, if either or both are applicable)
- Parenting time
- Division of assets
Such an agreement can be drafted by a mediator or an attorney and signed and notarized by the parties. The case is now an uncontested case.
When Can You File for an Uncontested Divorce?
If neither party has filed a Complaint for Divorce, either one can do so at this time using the “no-fault” cause of action of “Irreconcilable Differences,” providing that at least one of the parties has jurisdiction to file a complaint in New Jersey. One must be a resident of New Jersey for at least one year in order for New Jersey to have jurisdiction over the divorce. Further, the party filing for divorce must have been a resident of the county in which the case is filed at the time of the filing in order for jurisdiction to be complete.
The New Jersey Uncontested Divorce Process
Thus, with a comprehensive, signed agreement and at least one party meeting the jurisdictional requirements, a Complaint for Divorce is filed. The party filing the Complaint is designated the Plaintiff and the other party the Defendant. The Defendant will have to be served with a copy of the Complaint and will have 35 days in which to file an Answer to the Complaint. If the case has already been resolved and is uncontested, normally no answer will be filed. The 35-day time period can be expedited if the Defendant signs an Acknowledgment of Service and Consent to Entry of Judgment. Once the 35 days have expired, or the aforesaid Acknowledgment has been filed with the court, the court will set the matter down for an uncontested hearing.
Copies of the signed Agreement, as well as a proposed Judgment of Divorce, prepared by the attorney, is taken to the hearing. At the hearing, the judge will take testimony from the Plaintiff regarding the jurisdictional requirements, as well the circumstances surrounding the signing of the agreement. Generally, the Plaintiff’s attorney will guide the questioning. The judge will not require that the terms of the agreement be read in court, nor will testimony be taken about specific issues in the agreement. The judge merely needs to determine that:
- The agreement was entered into freely and voluntarily
- It was not signed under duress or coercion
- Under all of the circumstances of the marriage, the Plaintiff believes the terms to be fair and equitable and that the Plaintiff intends to abide by the terms of the agreement.
The judge will then sign a Judgment of Divorce, attach the agreement and the divorce will then be final.
Contact Katherine K. Wagner Today
A qualified and experienced attorney can make sure everything goes smoothly in your divorce case. There are a lot of factors to consider in a divorce, even if couples think they have everything figured out. Contact Somerset County Divorce Attorney Katherine K. Wagner today to discuss your NJ uncontested divorce.