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Five Facts About a Trial

A New Jersey divorce potentially represents one of the most combative types of litigation in the judicial system. Emotions run high when it comes to a case that addresses issues that cut to the heart of a person’s life – children, money, dividing personal property. As a result, not all divorces are capable of being settled through negotiation between spouses. However, only about 2% of all divorce cases in New Jersey go to trial. There are five key facts associated with the divorce trial that you need to associate yourself with if you are heading towards or have commenced a New Jersey divorce:

  • Divorce case proceedings before a trial
  • Essential element of a divorce trial in New Jersey
  • Evidence and witnesses in a divorce trial
  • Divorce decree following trial
  • Appeal of a decision in a divorce case
Divorce Case Proceedings Prior to a Trial

A considerable amount of activity takes place in advance of a divorce case coming before a New Jersey court for trial. Keep in mind that a divorce case is a lawsuit and has many of the same attributes found in other types of civil actions.

The process before the start of a New Jersey divorce trial includes first attending a Case Management Conference (CMC). At the CMC, the Judge will set a discovery schedule and may appoint expert witnesses. Discovery is the legal procedure through which parties to a lawsuit obtain documents and other evidence from the opposing side. This can include having the other party answer interrogatories, respond to notice to produce documents. and attend depositions. There may be more than one CMC in a New Jersey Divorce.

Also, at the CMC the Judge will send the parties Custody and Parenting Time Mediation if custody or parenting time is in dispute. Further, the Judge will set a date for the parties to attend an Early Settlement Panel (ESP) when the parties appear in front of two or three experienced NJ divorce attorneys who will give a non-binding suggestion of how to settle the economic issues of the case. If you do not settle at the ESP then the parties must attend economic mediation with a court appointed mediator who will donate two hours of their time for free.

If you do not settle at economic mediation, there is one more court ordered attempt to get the parties to settle which is a mandatory Intensive Settlement Conference (ISC). An ISC is when you can spend the whole day at the courthouse (on zoom during Covid) going back and forth with the Judge until the parties settle. If you do not settle at the ISC then the Judge will schedule the matter down for trial and set dates when trial briefs, exhibit, and witness list are due. This is one of the most time consuming and expensive parts of a New Jersey Divorce.

Essential Elements of a New Jersey Divorce Trial

A divorce trial is quite like any other trial in a New Jersey court. There will be opening statements by each attorney. The person who filed the divorce case, the petitioner, is the first party to present his or her evidence to the court. The respondent follows in the presentation of evidence. In a NJ divorce trial, there will be direct testimony, cross examination, and redirect.

After evidence is presented to the court, the lawyer for each party to the case has the opportunity to make closing arguments to the court. This is the point in the case at which the parties each have the opportunity to argue before the judge as to why the court should rule in specific ways in the case.

Evidence and Witnesses in a Divorce Trial

Each party to a divorce is permitted to present evidence, including testimony from witnesses, during a divorce trial. In a NJ divorce trial, there will be direct testimony, cross examination, and redirect. Often testimony centers on two primary areas in a dissolution proceeding.

First, testimony surrounding issues associated with child custody and related matters is commonplace. Second, testimony associated with matters involving alimony, marital assets and debts is also a frequent feature of a divorce trial.

Divorce Decree Following a Trial

At the conclusion of a New Jersey divorce trial, the presiding judge will issue what is known as a divorce decree. A divorce decree is the final order of the court that includes a determination by the judge of various matters at issue in the case. These include everything from property division to child custody and visitation or parenting time to child support and any other matters that were at issue in the case.

A divorce decree is considered the final judgment of a court following a divorce trial. The parties to a divorce do have an option to file a motion asking the court to reconsider one or another of the decisions made in the divorce decree. This type of motion must be filed within a specific time period as required by New Jersey law.

Appealing a Decision in a Divorce Trial

If you pursue a divorce in the Garden State to and through a trial, you may have the ability to pursue an appeal under certain circumstances. An appeal must be appropriately lodged within a specific timeframe and in a precise manner. Any missteps in this process can and likely will result in your attempt to appeal from your divorce decree being denied before you even get into the door of the appellate court.

Three additional key facts about appealing a divorce decree need to be borne in mind:

  • There is only a limited set of “grounds” or reasons upon which you can base an appeal from a divorce decree
  • Most people who appeal cases of any kind in New Jersey do not prevail, including in marriage dissolution cases
  • The appellate process is very complex and is not something that can readily, successfully be navigated without capable legal counsel
  • You only have a certain period of time to file an appeal

Divorce trials are complex proceedings. A party to such a judicial matter enhances the odds for success by retaining a skilled, experienced New Jersey divorce attorney like a member of the legal team at the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen. Therefore, if you have a divorce in NJ you can reach us any time that is convenient for you by calling (201) 845-7400.

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Peter Van Aulen handled my case with great diligence and integrity. He is also a compassionate individual who realizes what a difficult time divorce can be emotionally. Peter works hard and doesn't take any shortcuts in preparing for a case… I highly recommend Mr. Van Aulen and his staff. Chuck Solomon
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