What is a Contested Divorce?
A “contested divorce” is a divorce action in which the parties are either unable or unlikely to reach an agreement on all of the issues presented by the divorce case without the intervention of a judge. In New York, a marriage cannot be legally ended unless all of the issues arising from the marriage have been resolved. Because there are so many issues on which agreement must be reached before the parties can be divorced, many cases end up being contested even though both parties want to be divorced, and even though they may agree on many if not most of the issues.
However, navigating a contested divorce is not impossible, especially when working with a skilled Long Island divorce attorney. The attorneys at Petroske Riezenman & Meyers, PC, are adept at reaching a settlement whenever possible. Even cases that start out with a fight over one or more issues can be settled when the right leverage and insight is applied.
Read below to learn more about a contested divorce or call to speak to one of our experienced divorce attorneys for a free and confidential consultation. Our firm serves Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island with the knowledge, experience and trust to give you the best advice.
How Are Issues in a Contested Divorce Resolved?
A contested divorce is resolved one of two ways– the parties compromise and enter into a settlement agreement, or a trial is held and a judge renders a decision. There is no jury in a divorce trial.
If you and your spouse are in a disagreement about how to settle issues in your divorce, reaching an agreement can feel impossible, especially if the divorce has led to hostile feelings. However, reaching an agreement is very important. If you and your spouse are unable to agree on the terms of your divorce, your case will be decided after an expensive trial by a judge whose decision will often lack the comprehensive and nuanced terms of a good settlement. And trials are not only expensive, they are time-consuming and often emotional ordeals that can exhaust whatever remnants of good will may still exist between you and your spouse that may be needed to co-parent children or co-exist with mutual friends and family in the future.
After a case is assigned to a judge, it takes many months for it to be ready for trial, during which there are numerous opportunities for settlement. During this time, the parties will gather, exchange and/or subpoena financial documents that can include bank, investment, retirement and debt statements, and they will each need to complete a sworn Statement of Net Worth form. Valuations are performed as needed, and sometimes sworn pre-trial examinations are conducted, called depositions. Depositions can be an important tool to learn about the other party’s situation or case, including separate property claims, the need for maintenance, or the dissipation of assets. These forms of disclosure usually take three to six months and sometimes longer to complete.
During this time, the parties are tasked with trying to settle custody and parenting issues. If unsuccessful, an attorney for the children is appointed to represent the children’s interests in the litigation.
Once the disclosure phase of the case is completed, the case is certified ready for trial and trial dates are set. However, more often than not cases are settled during the disclosure phase, as parties come to learn the strengths and weaknesses of the other side’s case. Compromises can be reached that avoid the cost, delay and uncertainty of a trial.
If your divorce is contested, working with a lawyer is of the utmost importance, especially if your case goes to court. An attorney can both represent you in the courtroom and offer guidance and support throughout the entire process. When you work with an experienced New York divorce lawyer, you improve your chances of a favorable outcome.
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