Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in New Jersey

uncontested divorce vs contested

Deciding to end your marriage is one of the most difficult decisions you’ll ever make. But once that life-changing choice is made, you’re faced with another important crossroad – will your divorce be uncontested or contested?

The path you choose can have major implications on your financial and emotional well-being. The ideal path forward depends on your unique situation and ability to work through disagreements respectfully.

In this guide, we’ll examine the pros and cons of each divorce type to help determine the best choice for your circumstances and goals. With some introspection and the right approach, you can make this transition as peaceful as possible.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is when you and your spouse agree on all aspects of how you’ll dissolve your marriage.

With an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse see eye-to-eye on important matters like:

  • How you divide assets and debts
  • Child custody arrangements
  • Child support calculations
  • Whether one spouse will pay the other alimony

You’re able to compromise and reach mutually acceptable terms. Many couples find that mediation helps facilitate productive negotiations.

Ultimately, you can file paperwork and finalize an uncontested divorce without ever stepping foot in a courtroom. This streamlined process allows you to save time and money.

What is a Contested Divorce?

In a contested divorce, spouses cannot agree on one or more major issues involved in the separation. Common disputes involve:

  • Division of real estate, investments, or retirement accounts
  • Physical custody of children
  • Amount of child support or alimony

Without an agreement, the contested divorce process is longer and more complex. It may involve attorneys negotiating, mediation, or presenting your case in court.

Contested divorces in New Jersey take an average of 12-18 months to finalize. In contrast, uncontested divorces often wrap up in just a few months.

The drawn-out contested process tends to deplete more emotional energy and financial resources. Attorney’s fees, expert witness costs, and other legal expenses can quickly add up to tens of thousands of dollars.

In the end, a judge makes final rulings on any disputed aspects of the divorce. The court’s decisions are binding, whether you agree with the outcome or not.

Key Differences Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce

As you weigh your options, keep these major distinctions in mind:

  • Agreement – In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree on major terms. A contested divorce involves disputes over issues.
  • Court Intervention – An uncontested divorce rarely requires court intervention. However, a contested case often necessitates mediation, hearings, or trial.
  • Timeframe – An uncontested divorce can be finalized in a few months. A contested divorce takes 12 months or longer in most cases.
  • Cost – Contested divorce costs tend to be much higher with attorney’s fees and expert costs. An uncontested divorce has minimal legal expenses.
  • Control – With an uncontested divorce, spouses craft their own agreement. A judge ultimately decides the terms in a contested case.

Regardless of the type of divorce, you must file your marriage for reasons recognized under New Jersey law. In most cases, couples choose to file under the no-fault based grounds of irreconcilable differences.

However, in a contested divorce, either spouse has the opportunity to file based on grounds like adultery or cruel treatment, which, if proven, can affect the final divorce settlement.

It’s essential to consult with a local divorce attorney to discuss your specific situation and the best course of action for your case.

How to Decide Which Type of Divorce is Best For You

When considering divorce, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to pursue a contested or uncontested divorce. The choice between the two can significantly impact the duration, cost, and emotional toll of the process.

An uncontested divorce is generally the better option if you and your spouse agree on all the key issues, such as property division, alimony, and child custody. This type of divorce is typically faster, less expensive, and less stressful, as you can avoid lengthy court battles and negotiations.

On the other hand, if you and your spouse have disagreements on one or more significant issues, a contested divorce may be necessary. In this case, you’ll need to go through the court system to resolve your differences, which can be time-consuming, costly, and emotionally draining.

To determine which type of divorce is best for you, consider the following factors:

  1. Level of agreement with your spouse
  2. The complexity of your financial situation
  3. The presence of children and the need for custody arrangements
  4. Your ability to communicate and compromise with your spouse
  5. Your personal preferences and emotional readiness for a lengthy legal process

Ultimately, the decision between a contested and uncontested divorce depends on your unique circumstances. It’s essential to carefully evaluate your situation and consult with a knowledgeable divorce attorney to help you make the best choice for your future.

Contact Netsquire for Legal Guidance

If you’re considering divorce, schedule a consultation with our office. We have years of experience helping New Jersey residents through this challenging transition.

During a consultation, we’ll explain your options and provide guidance on whether an uncontested or contested divorce makes sense for your situation. Our goal is to equip you to make informed choices.

We’ll also discuss creative solutions to help you avoid a lengthy court battle if possible. Many cases can be settled through skilled mediation or negotiation by divorce attorneys.

Divorce is an extremely personal decision. No one should decide how to pursue it but you. But our team at Netsquire is here to help you take control and obtain the fair, balanced outcome you deserve.

We invite you to schedule a consultation with our team. Together, we can start mapping out a divorce strategy tailored to your unique situation and goals.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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