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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

contested divorce vs uncontested divorceWhen dissolving a marriage, many guys struggle deciding whether to settle in an uncontested divorce or to take things to court. When weighing the pros and cons of each, it is important to understand what an uncontested divorce is.

What is an uncontested divorce?

There is a common misconception that an uncontested divorce refers to the willingness of the spouses to be divorced at all. This is not true. These terms simply indicate whether the parties agree to the terms of a proposed divorce. A party’s desire to remain married to a spouse who has filed a divorce suit has no bearing on whether a divorce is uncontested or contested.

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce simply is a divorce wherein a suit for divorce has been brought by one of the parties, wherein the other party does not agree to any or some of the terms of the divorce that have been proposed.

For example, if you file a petition for divorce, and your spouse files a counterpetition or other responsive pleading requesting that the court deny your requests, your divorce is “contested.”

To clarify further, take these hypothetical examples:

Contested divorce process: Will and Marie are married. Will does not want a divorce, but Marie retains an attorney and files a suit anyway. Will is served with Marie’s petition. In her petition, Marie requests that the court award the family home to her, but Will thinks they should sell the home and split the net proceeds instead. Will retains an attorney, and his attorney files a pleading requesting that the court deny Marie’s requests for relief.

Uncontested divorce process: Will and Marie are married. Will does not want a divorce, but Marie retains an attorney and files a suit anyway. Will is served with Marie’s petition. In her petition, Marie requests that the court award the family home to her, and Will agrees. Marie’s attorney drafts a more detailed document to finalize the terms of the divorce. Will retains an attorney and the review the document together. Will agrees with all the terms, and he signs it.

It may also be helpful to think of the issues in a divorce, rather than the whole suit itself, as uncontested or contested. For example, you and your spouse may agree in one area of the suit, how you think the property should be divided, but disagree in another, like where the children should go to school. You may save time and money by litigating only those issues on which you disagree. 

The Differences Between a Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Two of the biggest differences between these two types of divorce relate to the cost and speed of the process.

Contested divorces typically take longer to settle as there are more disagreements to resolve. As such, an uncontested divorce generally results in lower legal fees. Furthermore, an uncontested divorce may not be appealable since both parties are in agreement. While if a contested divorce cannot be settled by those involved the judge will have the final say and those decisions may not align with either party’s wishes.

Whether you believe that your divorce is or will be “uncontested” or “contested”, you should consider hiring a divorce attorney to protect your interests.

Frank Murphy

Edited By Frank Murphy

Chief Compliance Officer
Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy is the Chief Compliance Officer and an Executive Partner at Cordell & Cordell. His responsibilities include oversight of the Firm’s compliance with Legal and Ethical obligations as well as contributing to the day-to-day operations of the Firm as an Executive Partner.

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