Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce
Every divorce is different, including how the couple goes about the legal process of ending the marriage. The nuts and bolts are typically the same – file a petition, perhaps attend a hearing, and wait for the final judgment to be issued. This simple reduction does not reflect the stress and strain divorce brings to those involved, nor does it show how contentious the dissolution became. People tend to assume that all divorces are like the ones depicted on television – full of drama, tension, and heavy-handed decisions by the judge. This is rarely the reality, and in fact, many couples try to make the divorce process as easy and stress-free as possible. One easy way to delineate between types of divorce is to divide between those that are contested and those that are uncontested. Contested divorce means the couple has unresolved issues they are asking the court to consider, whereas uncontested means the spouses decided outstanding matters in advance, and are simply seeking the court’s order to dissolve their marriage. Understanding the key differences between these processes will help couples determine which is best for them, and what they can expect to experience as they go through the divorce process.
As mentioned above, uncontested divorce means the couple hashed out all of the issues in advance, and only need the court’s declaration of divorce to move on. An uncontested divorce is usually the product of direct negotiation and/or mediation between the parties, and can save the couple time and money. Forming a private settlement is usually a good thing. However, couples that agree on everything, but try to go it alone without an attorney, risk filing the wrong documents or neglecting a key issue that typically cannot be fixed if discovered after things are finalized. Specifically, couples tend to think they qualify for a simplified divorce, which is only applicable in select situations, or assume that agreeing to divorce is enough for the case to be uncontested. To truly to qualify for an uncontested divorce, couple needs to show:
- Both spouses agree to the dissolution;
- A property settlement is in place;
- A detailed parenting plan is agreed to;
- The amount of child support has been set;
- Alimony is undisputed;
- No other outstanding issues remain; and
- Everyone is prepared to sign.
As the name implies, a contested divorce means one or more issues are not resolved, and the couple is asking the court to intervene and make a decision. Contested divorces will take more time and money, as each side is given time to gather information, the judge is often asked to address various motions, and a hearing must be scheduled where each side presents his/her case. Contested divorces are more complicated than uncontested ones, and it should be a goal to resolve as many issues as privately as possible. Nevertheless, legitimate disputes do exist in some cases, and when issues of domestic violence, complex property holdings, or disagreement over children, as examples, arise, a judge’s oversight is often necessary to bring settle them. One feature of a contested divorce that can help to get through the longer timeframe before a judgment is issued is the ability to ask for temporary relief. Temporary relief allows a spouse to receive alimony, child support, and time-sharing while the case is pending. Note that most cases, even those that start as contested do not make it to trial. Most are resolved through negotiation or mediation, but one needs to prepare as if a trial will occur, which is why having an experienced divorce attorney is crucial to achieving a fair result.
Speak with an Attorney
Divorce has serious and significant consequences that should not be taken for granted. If you are contemplating or in the middle of divorce, speak with an experienced divorce attorney about the best approach to obtaining a fair outcome. The Orlando attorneys at the law firm Donna Hung Law Group have extensive experience with alternative resolution options, as well as effective litigation. Contact us at (407) 999-0099 to learn more.