There are only two ways to get a divorce; contested or uncontested. If you both agree then you have an uncontested divorce. If you cannot, then you have contested divorce. One is filing a few forms the other requires going to court.
If all terms are not agreed upon then you have a contested divorce. Your spouse cannot stop you from getting a divorce. She can, however, disagree on the terms of the divorce. She may want the house, all the cars, and eighty percent of your income for ten years. These are unreasonable terms. A judge will never give her all this. You either agree to her terms or move forward with a contested divorce.
Even if a single term is disputed the divorce is considered a contested divorce. You cannot submit a partial divorce. Agreeing to everything except taking on her school debt is still a contested divorce.
Some contested cases are over big issues. Some are not. We have gone all the way through a trial over $5,000 dollars in furniture. We advised the client it would be cheaper to buy new furniture than to pay attorney fees. They chose to move forward with a contested divorce anyway.
The Big Issues
Every case is different and the specific issues disputed can vary widely. However, some of the most commonly disputed aspects of contested divorce cases include:
- Deciding who gets the home
- Dividing debts. Especially school or business debts
- Child custody and visitation arrangements
- Spousal support
The downside of contested divorces is the time and money spent. With an uncontested divorce you file a few pieces of paper and the divorce is done. With a contested divorce you must submit your claims, gather evidence, and appear at a trail. All this takes more time and more money.
The Contested Divorce Process
The uncontested divorce is simple. You file a few forms called a joint petition. There is much more involved in a contested divorce. In general, the process of a contested divorce is;
- A divorce complaint is filed with the court, and a copy of this complaint along with a summons and joint preliminary injunction is served to the other spouse (i.e., the defendant).
- The defendant must respond to the divorce complaint within 20 days of being served with divorce papers. This response is called an answer.
- The first appearance in court is either a temporary motions hearing, a hearing to discuss mediation, or a case management conference where discovery and a date for the trail is set.
- Discovery is the evidence-gathering process critical when it comes time to prove claims.
- A trial date will be set, and the divorce case will be heard in court. During this process, each side will present evidence uncovered during discovery, and question witnesses.
- A final divorce judgment will be handed down by the judge. Either party in the divorce will have 30 days from the date of this final judgment to appeal the judge’s decision.