There are two basic types of divorce proceedings, contested and uncontested.
In an uncontested divorce the parties and their respective counsel meet to discuss the various financial and personal factors which must be addressed. The parties work together to craft an Agreement which addresses the needs of the parties, including; alimony, child support, visitation, division of assets and debts, health insurance, and college expenses. The Agreement, together with financial statements (see below), are submitted to the court. A brief hearing is held at which the Agreement is approved and entered as an enforceable
Judgment. In Middlesex County a court date for an uncontested divorce can be obtained immediately. In other counties a hearing date may require 3 to 12 weeks.
In a contested divorce, one spouse serves the other with a Complaint. The Complaint sets forth the grounds for divorce, and requests that the Court enter Orders regarding alimony, division of assets, division of debts, custody of minor children, college expenses, health insurance, and visitation. At the request of one of the parties the Court will usually enter Temporary Orders to address short term financial issues such as child support and mortgage payments. Over the course of the following several months the parties will exchange financial information, conduct discovery, and proceed towards trial. Although the Court is attempting to resolve issues resulting from a backlog of cases, the average time from the filing of the Complaint until the initial trial date for a contested divorce continues to be 12-18 months. Parties who begin the process by filing a contested Complaint may convert the case to an uncontested matter at any time after reaching an agreement on the relevant issues