No-Fault or “Irreconcilable Differences”
At the outset, it is worth explaining what “no-fault” means in New Jersey. A person seeking divorce no longer has to prove adultery or some other cause for divorce. Instead, they need only claim the couple suffers from “irreconcilable differences.” They do not need to cite any specific reason other than that there has been a breakdown of their marriage that has lasted at least six months. No-fault divorce allows divorces to proceed much more amicably, without having to dredge up dirt in order to seek divorce.
If a couple is unable to agree on all terms of the divorce, including alimony, child support, child custody, and the equitable distribution of property, then the divorce will be “contested.” A contested divorce requires that the parties proceed through litigation to resolve any outstanding issues. A judge will be assigned to the case to rule on motions and specific issues, and ultimately resolve any particular point of disagreement. Ideally, the parties would settle on an agreement on all counts at some point throughout the litigation, but if they cannot agree, the case may go to trial on whatever points of contention remain.
In order to resolve any outstanding issues relating to divorce, and to avoid a protracted and expensive court battle, there are forms of “alternative dispute resolution” that provide divorcing parties with a less contentious venue for working out their points of disagreement. Mediation involves hiring a neutral third party to facilitate divorce discussions. The mediator will not make any final decisions for the parties but instead will help the parties resolve disagreements and find common ground in order to avoid a battle in court. If mediation fails, the parties can always go back to court.
Married couples can choose to resolve their differences via arbitration. Like mediation, the couple will hire a neutral third party to facilitate amicable discussion and resolve issues. Unlike mediation, the parties also agree that the arbitrator can and will make final decisions on issues about which the parties cannot agree. The arbitrator’s decisions will be legally binding.
Collaborative divorce is another alternative to traditional litigation. In a collaborative divorce, the spouses will each meet with their attorneys to discuss their respective needs. Then, the parties will meet in a series of four-way discussions to resolve outstanding issues. The parties will bring in experts such as mental health professionals and financial experts to help resolve specific issues. Once the parties come to an agreement, the attorneys will file the ultimate settlement with the court as an uncontested resolution.
Help with a New Jersey Divorce
For seasoned and compassionate legal help with a New Jersey divorce, custodial dispute, or other family law matter, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.