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We’ve signed our Agreement What is Next?  Part 1

We’ve signed our Agreement… What is Next?  I

I. We’ve signed our Agreement… What is Next?

If you are reading this, congratulations — the heavy lifting of mediating a settlement is behind you, and what comes next is straightforward (if bureaucratic and administratively tedious).  

A fully executed, notarized Agreement: The golden ticket to an uncontested divorce.

Once spouses have signed and notarized their formal agreement — either a Marital Settlement Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement in New Jersey, or a Separation Agreement or Stipulation of Settlement in New York — we file pleadings to legalize the divorce.  

Once spouses have a signed agreement, they can proceed with an uncontested divorce, which is permissible only when an agreement exists between the parties.  In contrast, a contested divorce requires litigation — the fundamental misadventure that a mediated divorce circumvents. 

In an uncontested divorce, also known as a no-fault divorce, the grounds generally used are irreconcilable differences for six months or longer (NJ) or an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage for six months or longer (NY). 

Preparing the Pleadings

Although an Agreement is in place, the divorce is not yet final. Nor can the Agreement alone be submitted to the court. The Agreement must be submitted with various other documents known as pleadings. The pleadings are the legal documents required by the court to process a divorce. The pleadings contain forms requesting the court’s intervention, asking that the court review and formalize the divorce and grant the relief the parties have requested. Pleadings include, but are not limited to, such forms as the Complaint for Divorce, Acknowledgement of Service, Certification of Non-Military Service, and Certifications confirming insurance information and other personal data. The pleadings inform the court of what is happening (a divorce), to whom it is happening (the parties, their children), and what the court is supposed to do about it all.  

The pleadings and the procedure they require ensure that the rights of the parties are protected, particularly that each party is properly informed of the legal proceedings and has the opportunity to consent or object. The pleadings distill the matter into a particular format that the court can easily recognize and process. In the same way, doctors must submit prescriptions in a particular, standardized format, so must lawyers submit pleadings. The standardization assists the court in reviewing the submissions in a manner somewhat more like grading results of a standardized, fill-in-the-bubble test than evaluating an essay exam. 

In order to prepare the pleading, the parties are required to provide some additional information and, in New Jersey, fill out a couple of forms directly. The majority of the documents are prepared by the attorney filing the uncontested divorce.


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