Filing for divorce can be emotionally painful and expensive. It may be tempting to try to handle the procedure yourself rather than retain an attorney. However, the decisions made during a divorce often have serious long-term consequences. Sometimes when couples want to handle a divorce themselves, without the involvement of lawyers, they are simply not able to communicate with each other sufficiently to reach an agreement. At other times the issues are too complex to be worked out without the help of a lawyer. Tenacious and compassionate Bergen County divorce attorney Brian D. Iton can guide individuals throughout Bergen County and the surrounding areas toward a satisfactory divorce settlement.Getting to Agreement
The overwhelming majority of divorce cases are finalized through a written settlement agreement signed by both spouses. The question is: What is the best route for you to get to an agreement with your spouse on the issues in your case? To arrive at a divorce settlement agreement you have three basic options: (1) you can work out your issues outside of court, with or without a lawyer, and process your case on an uncontested basis; (2) you can attempt mediation with a private mediator, or; (3) you can file for a contested divorce.Uncontested Divorce
Uncontested divorces are those in which the spouses agree on the issues in their case outside of court, write up their agreement (if necessary) and ask the court to grant them a divorce based on their written agreement.
Once you and your spouse reach agreement on the issues the divorce settlement agreement can be drafted. The divorce settlement is a written contract in which the spouses agree on all major issues, such as how to split the marital property, whether spousal support will be paid, and how much time a child will spend with each parent. It should be noted that issues relating to child custody and parenting time (visitation) may be modified by the court even after the agreement is signed and the divorce is finalized (usually until the child becomes an adult). During that period either parent can petition the court if there is a “substantial change in circumstances” making it in the child's best interest to modify the earlier divorce settlement agreement. Similarly, certain financial and economic provisions set forth in the divorce settlement can be modified in appropriate circumstances if the court is presented with evidence of a substantial change in financial circumstances.
In a case where the spouses can communicate with one another the quickest and least expensive way to settle a case (and have a written settlement agreement prepared and signed) is for one spouse to work with a lawyer to produce a written settlement agreement containing all of the agreed upon issues. This written settlement agreement is then reviewed and signed by the other spouse (with or without a lawyer). Once this document is signed by both spouses it can be processed as an uncontested divorce.
Usually coming to agreement requires some discussion of legal rights and options. This is where the lawyer can be very helpful in an uncontested divorce. For example, the lawyer can answer questions regarding the grounds for the divorce, property division, child support, child custody, and spousal support. Once the agreement is written up and signed only one person has to show up in court to process the divorce. The other party can default out and still have their rights protected through the signed settlement agreement.Mediation
Mediation is more expensive and more time-consuming than an uncontested divorce. However, if it works, it is usually less expensive and less time-consuming than a fully contested divorce. Depending on your situation mediation can work, or it can be a frustrating waste of time and money.Reaching a Settlement During a Contested Divorce
In a contested divorce case which is not settled prior to trial a judge winds up making all the decisions related to the divorce. Important matters such as property division, child custody, and spousal support are settled by the judge, not the parties, if they can’t reach agreement prior to the trial date. Almost all couples would prefer to settle these matters themselves.
If your situation requires that you file for a contested divorce there is still a very good chance that your case will be settled and not tried in front of a judge. In New Jersey contested divorces almost always become uncontested divorces through negotiation and signing of a marital settlement agreement.
If you are able to reach a divorce settlement and the divorce becomes uncontested, you can submit it to the court for approval. A court typically approves a contested divorce settlement as long as the court hears testimony from the parties that they believe the agreement is fair and that it was entered into without coercion. Therefore, when negotiating the agreement, it is important for spouses to keep in mind that the court will want to hear that both parties thought that the agreement was arrived at through a fair and voluntary process of negotiation. New Jersey family courts strongly favor divorce settlements, which is a good thing for families because going through a trial and paying expert witnesses, such as custody experts, employability experts, real estate and business appraisers, not to mention your lawyers can be extremely expensive.
In contested divorce cases, many settlements are reached at “4-way” conferences, where the parties and their lawyers sit down together and try to settle all of their issues. Divorce settlements are also achieved through court-sponsored early settlement conferences, intensive settlement conferences, and mandatory economic mediation. Like in an uncontested case, once the parties sign the settlement agreement it is made part of the divorce judgment.Consult an Experienced Bergen County Attorney During a Divorce
Reaching a divorce settlement is more straightforward with the help of an experienced family law lawyer. For more than 20 years, Bergen County divorce lawyer Brian D. Iton has helped clients resolve child custody, support, alimony, and other elements of a divorce. He has worked with residents from all of Bergen County’s communities, including Hackensack, Paramus, and Mawah, providing efficient and cost-effective legal representation. Call the Law Office of Brian D. Iton or contact us via our online form to set up a free consultation. We also represent residents of Paterson, Jersey City, and Newark, among other cities throughout Passaic, Hudson, and Essex Counties.