What are the Elements of a Contested Divorce?

March 9, 2020

In New Jersey, there is no law preventing one spouse from divorcing another. One spouse cannot contest the divorce filing itself, but can contest elements of the divorce settlement. A contested divorce makes the process much more complicated. If the spouses cannot agree on the divorce settlement, a judge will make the decision. However, if a spouse disagrees with the decision, it can be appealed.

A contested divorce takes much longer to complete than an uncontested divorce. Divorce is an emotional process and some are contested for underlying reasons, such as wanting to punish the other spouse.

Most divorcing spouses eventually agree on a settlement, but there are certain issues that tend to trigger contested divorces.

Child Custody

When children are involved, all decisions are supposed to be made in the child’s best interests. Parents often disagree about childcare and arrangements. A parent may contest the child custody arrangement, visitation schedule, the amount of child support awarded, and other conditions.

In some cases, a social worker or a mental health professional may evaluate the children and parents. Older children may have a say in custodial preference.

Spousal Support

Often referred to as alimony, spousal support is often very complicated. There is no formula for spousal support, which means a great deal is left to the discretion of the judge. The judge may even decide not to grant spousal support.

Factors such as the duration of the marriage, health and age of the divorcees, parental responsibilities, education, and employment history will have an influence on the judge’s decision. The level of financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage will also be considered.

Assets and Liability Distribution

Spouses often contest the distribution of assets and liability. New Jersey is an equitable state regarding marital assets. Marital assets include:

  • Marital home
  • Businesses
  • Motor vehicles
  • Commercial or rental properties
  • Bank accounts
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Pensions
  • IRAs
  • 401ks and similar plans

Marital liabilities involve various types of debt, including mortgages, student loans, and credit card debt.

The tax consequences to either spouse in asset division is also an area requiring careful handling.

Marital property is defined as assets acquired during the marriage. Assets acquired by either spouse before the marriage are not considered marital or inherited assets.

Contested divorces may occur over disputes about what is considered a marital asset. One spouse may accuse the other of hiding marital assets. In such situations, good documentation is essential. It may be necessary to hire professionals to conduct a financial analysis. Keep in mind that spouses are not likely to get everything that they want.

Moorestown Divorce Lawyers at Stockton Family Law Can Help Those Going Through a Contested Divorce

If you are considering moving forward with a contested divorce, speak to one of our experienced Moorestown divorce lawyers at Stockton Family Law. Our team will help you through this difficult time while protecting your rights. Contact us online or call us at 856-412-5052 to schedule a confidential consultation. Located in Moorestown, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including those in Moorestown, Mount Laurel, Burlington County, and Camden County.


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