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What does "contested" mean for a divorce?
A “contested” divorce is the most complicated of divorces,
because it involves spouses that can’t come to an agreement on one or many
issues of their divorce.
Typically there are two kinds of divorces. The first is an
“uncontested” divorce; this is where both spouses agree on all issues concerning
the divorce, including but not limited to the division of marital property and
debts, child custody, child support, and spousal support (“alimony”).
The second - a “contested” divorce - is where the spouses
cannot agree on their divorce issues, and they end up in court, asking a judge
to make these decisions for them.
An uncontested divorce basically means that both spouses agree
on all of their divorce-related issues. Each state has specific legal
requirements that must be met before a divorcing couple can proceed with an
uncontested divorce. You may want to consult with a local attorney or check
your local courthouse website for the specific requirements.
Even though you have to meet certain requirements, an
uncontested divorce is often much easier than a contested divorce because
spouses can end their marriage without constant negotiations, legal posturing, and
court hearings. Thus, an uncontested divorce usually involves less stress and fewer
However, divorcing spouses must be amicable and able to work
together toward mutually agreeable resolutions. They have to be willing to
compromise in order to resolve all of their divorce issues. Although working
with your soon-to-be-ex to settle important financial and child-related issues
may seem difficult, it’s one way to end your marriage without a full-blown
A contested divorce is just what it sounds like: one or both
spouses contest (dispute) some aspect of their divorce. Therefore, the divorce
proceedings take much longer to complete and typically involve greater stress
and increased legal fees.
With a contested divorce, spouses will have to go through numerous
steps before the divorce is finalized, including:
During the settlement phase, spouses are often unable to
resolve issues. Although the divorce judge may encourage spouses to work things
out, when that doesn’t happen the next step is divorce court.
During trial, both spouses present witnesses, and their
lawyers cross-examine the witnesses and present closing arguments. After trial
is over, the court will issue a final order memorializing all of the judge’s
decisions, and finalize the divorce.
Divorce—especially ones that are contested—are complex.
Therefore, spouses in a contested divorce should definitely speak with an
experienced divorce lawyer who can inform them of their legal rights and ensure
they are fully protected.
For more information, see Ten Things You Should Know About Divorce.
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