What to Expect At Your Uncontested Divorce
Many clients come to me and state that they want an Uncontested Divorce but do not always know what that means. To have an Uncontested Divorce Hearing, all issues in a case must be settled. If parties cannot agree on all or some issues regarding their divorce, the matter is “contested” and Judge will decide the issues the parties cannot agree on.
If two people are in complete agreement, the Court will schedule an Uncontested Divorce Hearing which is the final step of the divorce process.
Prior to the hearing, a Settlement Agreement will be prepared by one of the attorneys. The parties will read the agreement and will sign it in front of their attorneys. It is very important to make sure that all issues involving the marriage are resolved by the agreement. The agreement should be as detailed as possible so there is never a question of what it means.
After the agreement is prepared and signed, one of the attorneys will prepare a “Judgement of Divorce”, which is your actual divorce decree. The same will be signed by the Judge at the Divorce Hearing and will serve as your proof of divorce.
At the hearing, you will sit in front of the Judge and be sworn to tell the truth. The Judge will be provided with a copy of the agreement and it will be placed into evidence with the Court. You should know that the Judge will not read the agreement and will not make a determination as to whether it is fair. The Judge will simply determine that you think it is fair and that you are voluntarily entering into the agreement.
After you are sworn in and your agreement is placed into evidence, your attorney will ask you questions regarding the agreement. These questions may include the following:
- You entered into a Matrimonial Settlement Agreement dated March 15, 2017?
- I’m showing you what has been marked as J-1 in evidence – Is J-1 that Settlement Agreement?
- Is that your signature on page 17?
- Do you also recognize your spouse’s signature on that page?
- Have you read this entire Agreement?
- Do you understand this entire Agreement?
- Understanding that settlement is a compromise, does this Agreement represent a resolution of this matter that is acceptable to you under the circumstances?
- Did anyone pressure, force, or coerce you into entering this Agreement?
- So you are entering into this Agreement voluntarily?
- Do you suffer from any mental or physical disability which would prevent you from understanding this Agreement or affect your ability to enter into this Agreement voluntarily?
- Were you under the influence of any alcohol or drugs when you signed this Agreement or at any time during the negotiation of the terms of this Agreement?
- As we sit here today are you under the influence of any substance that might affect your ability to understand this Agreement or the nature of these proceedings?
- You, me, your spouse and his attorney all engaged in a lengthy negotiations at my office prior to arriving at this final Agreement – correct?
- Do you believe that the negotiation and settlement process was “arms-length” – meaning that process was fair to you?
- You understand that you could have requested additional discovery and depositions prior to entering into this settlement, but you wish to proceed without the same?
- Do you understand that you could have had a trial on all of the issues addressed in this Agreement and the result could have been more or less favorable to you, but by entering into this Agreement you are waiving your right to that trial?
- Does this Agreement contain the entire settlement between you and your husband?
- There are no side agreements- are there?
- You and I spent a long time going through this agreement paragraph by paragraph and discussing each one- correct?
- Do you need any more time to review the Agreement before we proceed today?
- Have all of your questions regarding this Agreement and this proceeding been answered to your satisfaction?
- Do you have any further questions for myself or the Court?
It is important to take these questions very seriously and answer honestly. If at any time in the future a party attempts to get the agreement thrown out (extremely rare and difficult to do), the transcript from the Uncontested Hearing will most likely be used.
After your attorney questions you about the agreement they will question you regarding the cause of action (the reason for the divorce). They will confirm the date of marriage, names and dates of birth of any children, how long you have been living in New Jersey and the reason for the divorce.
Thereafter the Judge will put his finding on the records. They will usually state that they find jurisdiction to be proper in whatever County the matter is in, that the parties have shown the reason for the divorce, and that they are both voluntarily entering into the agreement placed into evidence. Thereafter the Judge will grant the divorce and sign the Judgement of Divorce. The Uncontested Hearing is the final step in what can often be a stressful process. It is usually non-adversarial and most parties leave the same feeling relieved that the divorce is over.
If you need assistance in reaching a settlement and getting to the point of scheduling an Uncontested Divorce Hearing, contact my office for a free consultation.