If you’re considering a divorce and researching the process that you’ll need to go through to get a divorce, you may find references to contested and uncontested divorces. Contested and uncontested divorces have different costs and the amount of time it takes to complete the divorce process can be different depending on whether the divorce is contested or uncontested. But what do those words mean? How do you know whether your divorce is contested or uncontested? And what do you need to know about completing a divorce in either circumstance? Take a look at what you need to know about the differences between contested and uncontested divorces.
What is a Contested Divorce?
Absent any other explanation, it’s easy to draw the conclusion that an uncontested divorce is one in which neither party objects to the divorce and a contested divorce is one where one party does object to the divorce. And that is one possible meaning. However, in modern divorce courts, even if one party wants to save the marriage and doesn’t want a divorce, they cannot stop the divorce from happening. This is largely thanks to no-fault divorce laws that allow anyone who wants a divorce to get one, regardless of how the other person in the marriage feels about it.
So, what else does a contested divorce mean? Most commonly, a contested divorce is one in which the couple disagrees about some or all of the major issues that arise in the divorce process. Divorce does more than separate a couple. It divides money, assets, and parenting time as well, and often the divorcing couple does not agree on how those things should be divided, even if they do agree that they need to separate.
Meanwhile, sometimes couples can easily agree on how to divide the assets, money, and children involved in their marriage. For example, if a couple has only been married a short time and have no children or shared assets between them, they may both be comfortable walking away with only what each brought into the marriage in the first place. When both people in the couple are fairly low-income, there may not be much in the way of money or assets to fight about, and it may be less expensive for the couple to come to an agreement on their own without involving lawyers and extended courtroom battles. Some couples also discover that they’re incompatible as a couple, but remain friendly with each other and can easily work out a fair arrangement between them. In cases like these, when the couple agrees on how to separate the marital assets and divide the childcare, the divorce is said to be uncontested.
How Do Contested and Uncontested Divorce Processes Differ
In general, an uncontested divorce is likely to be both less time-consuming and less expensive than a contested divorce. That’s because when both parties agree on the terms of the divorce, the process is largely just a matter of submitting the right paperwork to the court and waiting for the divorce to be finalized. People pursuing an uncontested divorce may be able to avoid hiring a lawyer entirely by either handling the paperwork themselves or using a legal resource group to give them some guidance in navigating the process for much less than the cost of a divorce attorney.
While it’s possible for people going through a contested divorce to also do a DIY divorce or use a legal resource group for divorce help, it’s more common for people in contested divorce situations to hire attorneys, and the more contentious the divorce is, the more legal help each person is likely to need. What’s more, the less the divorcing couple agrees upon, the more time they’re likely to spend in court and the longer it will take before the divorce is finalized.
One more difference between contested and uncontested divorces is that contested divorces are appealable. In an uncontested divorce, since both parties are agreeing to the terms upfront, they can’t appeal the court’s verdict later. But in a contested divorce, if one party is unhappy with the outcome, they may be able to appeal it. This comes at a higher expense and makes the process takes longer, but it preserves the possibility of a more favorable outcome on appeal.
What About My Divorce?
There are many benefits to choosing an uncontested divorce if that’s possible. It’s worth taking the time to try to sit down with your ex – perhaps with the help of a mediator or other neutral party – to try to come up with a settlement that’s acceptable to both of you. You’ll save time and money in the long run, and because divorce can be a painful emotional process as well, coming to a quick agreement can save you some heartache as well.
However, an uncontested divorce is not always possible. In some cases, couples simply can’t come to an agreement, especially if one or both people involved are arguing in bad faith. You can’t make the other person agree to a settlement if they really don’t want to. Furthermore, in some cases, especially when there are large amounts of money or complex assets like a shared business involved, it’s very difficult to determine exactly what constitutes a fair divorce settlement, even when both parties are operating in good faith. You might need to bring in experts and take more time in order to protect yourself during the divorce process.
When you first start considering a divorce, you may not know yet exactly how the process will go, how your ex will react, or whether your divorce is likely to be contested or uncontested. Finding out all of your options and all the information that relates to your situation can help. Visiting a legal resource group like National Family Solutions is a good way to explore your options and find out how you can end your marriage as painlessly as possible while still protecting your rights to marital assets and your parental rights if you have children.