It may seem redundant to refer to a divorce as a contested divorce. However, the term “contested” does not refer to the fact that the parties do not get along, but to the process by which divorce matters are resolved. In an uncontested divorce, a couple is able to agree to the material terms of the divorce despite their differences and without extensive third-party involvement. In contrast, in a contested divorce, a couple is unable to reach an agreement on their own and consequently requires the intervention of the family court to resolve disputes. If you anticipate a dispute or are in the midst of a contested divorce, Bergen County contested divorce lawyer Howard Leopold can advise and represent you.Guidance in a Contested Divorce
If there are significant conflicts between your spouse and you on matters like asset division and custody, it is likely that you will need legal help. A contested divorce entails extensive involvement in court-related proceedings, as well as tight adherence to court-imposed deadlines. Consequently, an experienced and knowledgeable divorce attorney is critical to your pursuit of a satisfactory result.
Legally, the dissolution of a marriage begins when one spouse files a valid complaint for divorce with the appropriate court and serves these papers on the spouse. Once served, the spouse has 35 days in which to file and answer the complaint, file a counterclaim, or make an appearance. This begins a series of proceedings involving the court system, your spouse, you, and your respective attorneys.
Both spouses must file a Case Information Statement (CIS). The CIS must completely disclose the financial position of each of the parties: assets, liabilities, income, debts, and expenses. Not infrequently, there are disputes regarding matters in the CIS. For example, spouses may dispute the valuation of assets, disagree about whether an asset is separate or marital property, or even allege that some assets remain undisclosed. Accordingly, after the CIS is filed, there is additional discovery. During this period, each side attempts to find out more information by requesting documents like banks statements, tax returns, expert appraisals, and credit card statements, by requesting interrogatories, and by taking depositions.
Following discovery, the case will be assigned to an Early Settlement Panel. The panel is made up of attorneys who have extensive experience in divorce matters. The divorcing parties have an opportunity to present their cases before this panel, which will then issue an unbiased settlement recommendation regarding all of the financial matters. (Generally, child custody matters are not addressed.) Although the recommendation is not binding, it may be instrumental in leading the parties toward settlement. If a settlement is still not reached, the next step is a trial.
Few divorce cases reach the trial stage. However, if your case does, it is essential that you and your attorney prepare diligently. In many cases, the more willing you are to go to trial and the more thoroughly you prepare your case, the more likely it is that the other side will be willing to settle the case on terms that are favorable.
If your case does reach trial, a family law judge will hear and decide all of the disputed matters. The strength of your case will depend upon the soundness of your legal arguments, and how well you have buttressed your arguments with evidence.
Meanwhile, since the entire process of a contested divorce may take as long as two years, courts are empowered to hear preliminary matters and issue temporary orders to address custody and visitation, spousal support, payment of bills, and other urgent matters during the interim. However, the purpose of these orders is simply to maintain the status quo before all matters are finally settled. They are not indicators of the final results of a divorce decree.Discuss a Contested Divorce with a Bergen County Lawyer
To protect your interests during a divorce proceeding, you will need an experienced Bergen County contested divorce attorney to advise and assist you. These matters have too substantial an impact on your future to risk going it alone without legal representation. To set up a free consultation with Howard Leopold, call us at 201-345-5907 or contact us online. He represents people throughout Northern New Jersey who need a family law attorney, including in Bergen, Hudson, Essex, and Passaic Counties.