Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce

*****Disclaimer: This is not legal advice and is for educational purposes only. This does not create an attorney-client privilege.

Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested has huge bearing on how much time the divorce takes to conclude, from filing to a final judgment. This can also spell a huge difference in the lawyer fees you will be paying to make it through this process.

Essentially, whether a divorce is “contested” or not refers to whether the parties involved have agreed privately (or potentially with a pre/post nuptial agreement) to the terms of dissolving their marriage. Even if both parties are in agreement on almost all matters, if there is a disagreement between them that they are not able to resolve without engaging in a legal dispute, the divorce is considered contested.

An uncontested divorce, wherein both spouses agree to all the terms of the divorce, is accomplished by filing of a joint petition for divorce. Uncontested divorces are a much more straightforward process because both spouses have already agreed on all the issues such as physical custody of the children, child support, division of marital assets, division of debts, and alimony.

This process is relatively straight forward, assuming neither side changes their minds on the agreed upon terms. Assuming things remain uncontested, one spouse would hire a divorce lawyer to draft documents. Both spouses would then review the documents and agree to all the terms. If both spouses agree then a judge is asked to review the documents. If the judge approves then a final divorce decree is entered.

A contested divorce is accomplished by filing the divorce papers and then serving your spouse with them. Contested divorces are harder because you proceed through the divorce process until a judge makes a final decision, or you and your spouse reach a settlement. Things get much more complicated if the court has to step in to deliver a final judgement, as it means more hearings, court costs and contention.

One spouse cannot stop the other from obtaining a divorce. However, your spouse can prolong the process by not agreeing to the terms of the divorce. Your spouse can either agree to the terms of the divorce proposed by your divorce lawyer, or the case will go on to trial for a judge to make the final decision. Unless you are able to settle out of court before that.

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