What can I expect if my case goes directly to court?
In the traditional process, a divorce starts when one party files a Complaint for Divorce. The Complaint is served on the opposing party, who has 35 days to file an Answer or Counterclaim. The court then schedules a Case Management Conference for the attorneys and the Judge enters an Order setting deadlines for the exchange of documents. This is called “discovery” and may include Interrogatories (written questions) and depositions. There will be discussions between the attorneys to try to resolve the issues and more court conferences will be scheduled. If the issues are not settled, you and your attorneys will appear before the Early Settlement Panel. This is a revolving panel of two attorneys who make recommendations for settlement. If the issues still cannot be settled, the court will direct you and your spouse to attend at least one mediation session with a court-approved mediator. And, if the issues are still not resolved, a trial will be scheduled.
How long does it take?
A litigated divorce will take at least one year and often longer, depending on whether you have a trial. The court’s calendar is often very crowded. When a trial is scheduled, it is rarely held on consecutive days and may extend over several months. The Judge may not issue his or her decision for several months thereafter. In some counties, trials may extend the length of a divorce to two or more years.
How much does it cost?
Litigation can be very expensive as there are repeated court appearances, waiting time and preparation for the attorneys, who are charging by the hour. A trial can last several days and requires extensive preparation. Therefore, it increases the cost of a divorce significantly.
What happens once the issues are settled or after they are decided by the court?
At the conclusion of your case, the Judge will sign a Judgment of Divorce (JOD). The JOD will include provisions for custody and parenting time, child support and alimony (if any) and division of property. It will have a gold seal that officially memorializes your divorce.
What are the advantages of litigation?
When the parties do not cooperate or cannot reach agreement, even with the assistance of their attorneys, a judge will decide the issues so that the divorce can be concluded. The formal discovery process with extensive documents is sometimes required to uncover hidden assets or dissipation of assets.
What are the disadvantages of litigation?
Litigation increases the hostility between the parties. It is very expensive and may drain the finances of the parties and their emotional energy. Children can be caught in the middle of warring parents. The process is slow. Few cases (less than 2% in NJ) actually go through an entire trial, so, in the end, the issues must be settled and this often happens under pressure and without adequate time to consider the consequences.
How do I Know Which Process is Right for Me?
Click on the Tabs at the top of the page to read more about Mediation and Collaborative Divorce. You can also contact our office at 609.951.2222 to discuss your questions with Risa A. Kleiner. Risa has been an accredited mediator for 14 years and a trained collaborative law attorney since 2007.