Let’s face it: in our heart of hearts, hardly anybody wants to be involved in long, expensive, and drawn-out litigation.
Even attorneys–who generally relish being in the courtroom–know that an uncontested divorce often makes more sense for the clients than drawn-out divorce litigation.
Of course, there might be a huge battle getting to the point where a party feels comfortable with the Settlement terms, but the goal of both parties should (generally) be to settle the case, and to then enter into what is known in New Jersey as an uncontested divorce.
Uncontested Divorce Hearings
A New Jersey uncontested divorce hearing will be scheduled when the parties reach a Settlement, and advise the Court of the Settlement and intent to divorce. The actual uncontested divorce hearing is actually (in my opinion) the least complex part of the entire divorce process.
The Plaintiff and his or her attorney (if the Plaintiff has counsel), will attend the uncontested hearing. The Defendant/counsel will often choose to attend as well, although this is not required provided the Defendant did not file a counterclaim.
The parties will then be asked certain questions by their counsel, to establish a “cause of action” and that the settlement agreement is valid and willingly entered into. The cause of action is the divorce grounds, such as irreconcilable differences.
The Judge may then follow up with a few additional questions, although they will not make a determination as to whether the Agreement itself is fair and equitable.
You and your attorney have reviewed the Settlement Agreement over and over again. There were months (maybe even years) of discovery, settlement negotiations, and legal process that seemed like they might never end–and there were likely moments where it seemed that the end goal (divorce) might never be achieved at all. But you did it, and now you’re preparing for the New Jersey uncontested divorce hearing. You may be wondering, what can I expect?
First off, relax. As I’ve written on this blog before, the day of the divorce hearing is (generally) one of the simplest days of the divorce process. Now there is a caveat to that general rule, which is as follows: that is assuming that the Divorce Agreement has already been finalized and agreed to. Thus, if negotiations are still ongoing the day of your uncontested divorce (if it follows a case management conference or an ESP panel, etc), then the event will likely be much more stressful.
But let’s assume for the purposes of this blog post, that everything is in order prior to the day of the uncontested divorce hearing.
Day of the Uncontested New Jersey Divorce
You will (if represented) likely meet your attorney at the courthouse or inside the courtroom. The other party and his or her attorney will likely be there as well. The Judge will then ask each attorney (if applicable) to lay the foundation for the divorce. There are two major components to this:
1) The Cause of Action (have the statutory requirements for irreconcilable differences been met, for instance).
2) The Agreement (was the Agreement entered into without duress, for instance).
The foundation will consist of 20-40 questions overall from each side. The Defendant may not be required to lay out a cause of action if he or she did not file a counterclaim.
Maiden Name Resumption
This is also a great time for the resumption of a maiden name, as this can essentially be placed on the record without the need for further Court intervention.
Gold Sealed Copies
The Judge will then provide each party with a gold sealed judgment of divorce, incorporating the Divorce Agreement. With that in place, the parties are officially divorced. Your attorney should have some instructions for tying up loose ends following the divorce.
Note: It is very important to keep the gold sealed judgment and the Settlement Agreement in a safe place, as this will guide both parties in their new post-divorce relationship.
After the Hearing
After the hearing, the parties will be given gold-sealed copies of their Judgment of Divorce. It is important to keep this copy in a safe place, should future issues arise. It is also important to remember that there will often be certain unresolved issues or other post-divorce loose-ends/business to take care of. Your attorney should offer some guidance as to these issues. One thing to consider is immediately changing your will, so that your ex-spouse will be removed as a beneficiary.
The uncontested divorce hearing is a day of closure. It will likely be a bitter-sweet day for both parties. It’s both a closure and also the start of a new beginning. A qualified New Jersey Divorce attorney should be able to walk you through this procedure; by notifying you of what to expect the day of the hearing, reviewing the uncontested divorce questions with you in advance so you are prepared the day of the hearing, and later advising you of post-divorce loose ends.
Your New Jersey Divorce Lawyer:
If you’re considering a New Jersey divorce or Family Law action contact me to discuss your options. You can schedule an initial consultation by calling my office at 908-237-3096 or by scheduling your own divorce consultation online by clicking here.