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What happens after a complaint for divorce is filed?

New Jersey residents who file for divorce may be interested in a speedy resolution to the matter so that they can move on with their lives. Several factors may affect the timing as a case is scheduled for court activity. If it is uncontested, the case could be heard as soon as three months from the filing date. However, delays may be expected if the court is extremely busy. As a date is selected for the hearing, the parties will be notified to appear.

A case may take longer to go to court if the other party has contested the action. Various steps must be completed in a contested divorce, including the appraisal of marital property. To facilitate this process moving as smoothly as possible, it may be helpful for both parties and their lawyers to meet to discuss the possibility of a settlement with regard to disputed matters. If these issues can be resolved in advance, the court may require less time to hear the case and finalize the divorce.

In some cases, parties involved in a contested divorce may be referred to meet with an Early Settlement Panel to resolve financial matters and support issues. State guidelines are used to compute child support and alimony in applicable situations. If an agreement cannot be reached during this process, the case will go to trial. While this may be preferable if attempts to settle are not satisfactory, it is important to note that a trial can take more time and increase legal costs to finalize the divorce.

In attempting to streamline the divorce process, a party may want to have financial and other documentation prepared so that these issues can be handled in a timely manner. Additionally, it may be important to discuss settlement goals with a lawyer prior to conferencing or meeting with an assigned panel.

Source: New Jersey Courts, "Divorce/Matrimony", November 18, 2014

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