Understanding Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorce

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When couples disagree about a lot of issues, they may end up divorcing. Unfortunately, that inability to be on the same page about things can impair their ability to have a quick and stress-less divorce. There is a huge difference in how a contested and an uncontested divorce proceeds, so read on to learn more.

The Main Divorce Issues

Almost all divorces deal with the same common issues. To speak of the below situations as issues is to minimize the true nature of how they impact parties in a divorce. Often, the more emotional the issue, the more difficult it will be for the couple to resolve it during divorce. On the other hand, a general feeling of bitterness and anger among the couple can spread like a miasma to affect issues that should be easily resolved. For example, if one party cheated on another, the spouse that feels victimized might seek to exact revenge by dragging out the proceedings, by asking the spouse to pay more than their fair share of the debts, and by asking for more in spousal support and property divisions. Common divorce issues that need to be agreed upon are:

  • Child custody—both legal and physical
  • Child support
  • Child visitation arrangements
  • Marital property divisions
  • Marital debt divisions
  • Spousal support or alimony

Overview of an Uncontested Divorce

When the couple agrees on all of the above elements of a divorce, it's said to be uncontested. That also means that both parties agree on the need for a divorce in the first place. If the court has to step in and "help" the couple come to an agreement, it's now considered a contested divorce. The procedure for uncontested divorces is quick and easy with very little paperwork or court appearances necessary. The couple comes to an agreement, the agreement is filed with the court, and the judge grants the divorce. Couples with few assets and no minor children often speed through the process in a matter of weeks. If the couple has children, debt, and assets, they can still have an uncontested divorce, but there may be more paperwork required.

Overview of a Contested Divorce

Disagreements on important matters like child custody will create an inevitable backlog that can extend the time, stress level, paperwork load, court appearances, and money spent considerably. For every contested issue, time must be spent on negotiations, subpoenas, mediation, child studies, and more. In most cases, the couple is able to agree on some issues and not so much on other issues. What cannot be decided must be placed in the hands of the judge.

Just so you know, the terms "uncontested" and "contested" are not actual legal terms, and you won't find them listed on any divorce forms. Instead, they are a manner of describing a divorce that may or may not be more complicated. To find out more about dealing with the above divorce issues, speak to divorce lawyers like those at McKone & Unruh.