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Divorce | Family

What is the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?

10 min read
Philip Ahn, Attorney

by Philip Ahn, Attorney

Regarding divorce proceedings, there are two primary types: contested and uncontested. A contested divorce occurs when one spouse files for a divorce, but the other spouse disagrees with the filing and cannot agree. In this case, the court will decide on matters related to child custody, division of assets, alimony payments, and other divorce-related issues. On the other hand, An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses agree to the divorce terms, such as division of assets, children custody arrangements, and alimony payments.

Differences Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce

In a contested divorce, both parties cannot agree on the terms of their divorce; this can be regarding children, division of assets, alimony, or any other issue that is part and parcel of the entire divorce process.

In a contested divorce, the parties cannot agree independently, so the court intervenes and decide on those issues. The judge will always choose the children’s best interests when determining full custody.

In an uncontested divorce, spouses agree with their divorce settlement. Divorce is usually quicker and less expensive since there is no need for lengthy litigation. Uncontested divorces are typically less stressful since both parties agree on the terms.

The other difference between contested and uncontested divorces is duration. A contested divorce requires a much extended period, typically several months or even years, depending on the case’s complexity. The period is long because the parties involved cannot agree on specific issues, meaning legal intervention is necessary.

On the other hand, an uncontested divorce completion can happen much more quickly and with fewer complications, sometimes even in just a few weeks. Spouses can settle most cases of contested and uncontested divorce out of court with the help of a mediator.

Preventing Disharmony in Family While Handling Contested and Uncontested Divorce

Keeping a level head during this difficult time is best to avoid family acrimonies in contested and uncontested divorces. When spouses disagree, they should attempt to work through their differences without escalating the situation and worrying the children.

Seeking Legal Help About Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces

Both contested and uncontested divorce cases often require the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to help ensure that both parties’ rights are protected. If you are uncertain about the difference between contested and uncontested divorce, contacting a divorce lawyer who can advise on the two methods is crucial.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot settle on all aspects of their separation and thus must take their disagreements to court. A contested divorce involves filing a petition or complaint with the court and usually requires at least one hearing before a judge or magistrate. Depending on the contested divorce case’s complexity, contested divorces can take considerable time to finalize.

Some issues that may be contentious in a contested divorce include:

  1. Children’s custody
  2. Visitation rights
  3. Alimony
  4. Spousal support
  5. Asset and debt division and other divorce-related issues

Fault-based divorce attorneys can help you navigate legal procedures and paperwork for your divorce. More importantly, a fault-based divorce attorney can help protect your rights.

In a contested divorce, the judge may order one or both spouses to file financial disclosure statements. These documents detail each spouse’s income and assets, so lawyers and judges can accurately divide community assets. If one of the spouses does not have good faith in the negotiations, or if one spouse’s lawyers file a motion, it may become necessary to go to court, meaning that both spouses must appear before a judge and present their case.

When the spouses reach a formal agreement, lawyers file the necessary documents for the court’s approval. An experienced attorney can provide advice and guidance on what information you must include in financial disclosure statements

Steps to Follow in a Contested Divorce

When pursuing a contested divorce process, follow the steps:

  1. File a Complaint: The first step in the contested divorce process is to file a complaint with the court. The complaint will indicate the grounds for the divorce and should include requests for child support, alimony, division of assets, etc.
  2. Serve Notice to Spouse: Upon submitting the complaint, it must be served to the other spouse so they can respond, usually by mail or in person.
  3. Response to Complaint: The other spouse must then file a response to the complaint within time. The answer can include an agreement or disagreement with the allegations in the complaint.
  4. Discovery Process: The discovery process gathers more information in a contested divorce, including documents, witnesses, and other evidence that will feature in the trial.
  5. Negotiation or Settlement Conference: Depending on the situation, parties may settle their differences without trial through negotiation or a settlement conference.
  6. Trial or Hearing: If the parties cannot settle their differences, there will be a trial or hearing. At this point, the judge will decide on the outcome of the divorce.
  7. Appeal: If either party is dissatisfied with the court’s decision, they can appeal it.
  8. Finalizing Divorce: Once the judge decides, the divorce will be over.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is the fastest way to end a marriage and is not time-consuming. A no-fault divorce occurs when both parties agree that the marriage should end and are willing to compromise on all outstanding issues, such as the division of property and alimony. In most cases, the parties may also agree on children’s custody arrangements and visitation schedules.

No-fault divorces are more common in today’s culture, as they provide an easier way to get divorced without needing long, drawn-out legal battles. Spouses can simply file a joint petition for divorce in which the two parties agree to the divorce and the property division.

Divorce lawyers in a no-fault divorce petition will work to negotiate a settlement agreement with the other spouse that covers important issues such as child visitation, division of assets, and debts. Additionally, the divorce attorneys will help the couple understand any laws that may apply to their situation and provide guidance on other matters, such as maintenance.

Steps to Follow in an Uncontested Divorce

The uncontested divorce procedures are as follows:

  1. File a Joint Petition: In an uncontested divorce, both spouses must file a petition indicating that they agree to the divorce.
  2. Prepare Necessary Documents: The spouses must also prepare other documents, such as financial disclosures and agreements to divide assets.
  3. Serve Notice to Spouse: Upon submitting the joint petition, it must be served to the other spouse so they can respond by mail or in person.
  4. Wait for Court Approval: After filing the petition, the judge will review it and determine if the divorce is appropriate. If approved, the judge will issue a decree of divorce.
  5. Finalize the Divorce: After approval, the couple must decide, which usually involves paperwork, such as filing a divorce decree with the court and transferring property. The parties may also have to attend a hearing to finalize the divorce.

6. Obtain Legal Advice: Even in an uncontested divorce, obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney is vital to help protect your rights and ensure the divorce is processed correctly.

7. Update Estate Plans: It is essential to update estate plans such as wills and powers of attorney to ensure your wishes are honored and your interests are safe following the divorce.

How to File for a Divorce in the US

Before beginning the divorce process consider the following:

  1. Understanding your state’s divorce laws is essential. All states have different requirements for filing for a divorce, and you must be aware of these laws before proceeding.
  2. It is also critical to consider all aspects of the divorce process, including financial implications, children’s guardianship, grounds for divorce, and the overall impact of the process on your family.
  3. Choose the type of divorce that is right for your case. The two most commonly used types are uncontested or contested divorces. An uncontested divorce means that both parties agree on the facts of the divorce and do not require a trial to settle the matter. A contested divorce is one where there are disagreements between the parties and requires legal intervention to resolve.
  4. File the necessary paperwork. You will need to fill out and submit a petition for divorce, which outlines the facts of your marriage, grounds for divorce, and requests for relief. Be sure to complete the petition wholly and accurately, as errors can delay or even derail the process.
  5. In some states, you may have to attend a mandatory hearing or mediation session before the judge considers granting the divorce. It is an opportunity for both parties to come together and negotiate the terms of their divorce. It is essential to prepare thoroughly beforehand, so you are ready to present your case in the best possible manner.
  6. After your divorce approval, resolving any other outstanding issues, such as child support, division of property, and spousal support, will be necessary. You can negotiate a settlement with your spouse or proceed with a trial if necessary.

Although the divorce process can be complex and overwhelming, navigating the system with the right understanding and resources is possible. Seeking legal advice from a family law attorney about the consequences of contested vs. uncontested is the best way to ensure that your divorce meets the needs of both parties.

What Does a Contested Divorce Entail?

In a fault-based divorce, major issues typically revolve around the following:

  1. Alimony
  2. Division of marital property
  3. Children’s guardianship.

A spouse can petition lawyers to get involved in a divorce issue, known as ancillary relief, and the attorneys can help with topics such as property division.

A served spouse can respond to a divorce petition by providing an answer with other relevant documents. The other spouse must give the served spouse the required paperwork — typically within 30 days of being served

Do You Know What a No-Fault Divorce is?

A no-fault divorce, also known as an uncontested or “simplified” divorce, is when both spouses agree that the marriage should end without either needing to prove their spouse wrong.

No-default divorce allows a couple to reach an agreement on issues such as property division, such as family home and child support, more quickly and efficiently than other divorces. A spouse can opt for an uncontested divorce instead of a contested divorce because it requires less legal involvement

How Swiftly Can an Uncontested Divorce Be Executed in the United States?

The time it takes to complete an uncontested divorce in the USA can vary depending on several factors, including state laws and the court system’s efficiency. Generally, an uncontested divorce process can take a few weeks to several months.

A spouse can file for an uncontested divorce without going through a trial. The spouses may handle the process relatively quickly if they agree on all divorce terms, such as child custody and property division.

In the Context of a Divorce, What Does an Uncontested Settlement Mean?

When a divorce is uncontested, both spouses agree on their divorce terms. They agree on all matters, including but not limited to the property division, alimony payments, and child custody arrangements.

Undisputed divorces can be completed quickly as opposed to contested divorces, where one or more issues need resolution by either mediation or family court trial proceedings. A filed uncontested divorce form can be presented to the trial or a mediator and signed by both parties.

Unlock the Potential of an Unbundled Attorney to Fight for Your Divorce Case

Divorce is hard enough, but it can feel impossible when you have to fight for child support and property division.

Hiring a divorce attorney to take on your case can be incredibly expensive. The cost of hiring other lawyers could cost $5,000 or more. However, an unbundled lawyer’s legal fees are between $500 to $1500.

Although unbundled legal services are unsuitable for every case, they offer affordable alternatives to full legal representation. An unbundled attorney will help you with specific tasks related to your family case, such as reviewing divorce papers or negotiation support for a fraction of the cost of hiring a full-service lawyer. Are you unsure of whether to go for a contested or uncontested divorce? If so, contact an Unbundled attorney today for legal advice and representation.

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