What’s the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?

Every divorce deals with difficult issues such as the division of marital property, debt, child or spousal support payments, and custody of any children from the marriage. While every divorce has some level of disagreement, many don’t have to go to court to resolve these issues. Learning the difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce can help you understand the state of your own case and enable you and your spouse to strive for the easiest divorce possible.

Reaching Decisions With Your Spouse

When you and your spouse reach decisions and compromises as to the terms of your divorce on your own, without going to trial, this is called an uncontested divorce. Uncontested divorces are less costly and time-consuming than contested divorces in which the couple must go to court to reach decisions. Every couple should try for an uncontested divorce before going to trial.

To work out mutual terms for your divorce without going to court, hire a marital settlement agreement attorney to represent you during arbitration and mediation. An attorney can help you negotiate your terms for the separation and work to compromise with your spouse and his or her attorney. This can be beneficial to both parties because it saves time and money by avoiding further litigation.

Mediation entails meeting with your spouse and your individual attorneys to draft a marital settlement agreement with one another’s respective conditions and terms for the divorce. Both parties will review the other’s terms to come to an agreement. If an agreement is possible, the court will grant a Final Judgment of Divorce without going to court.

It’s popular for spouses to eliminate legal costs and do a divorce “on their own,” but this isn’t always in a couple’s best interest. Your own divorce will look different from anyone else’s and require careful consideration. If you and your spouse can’t reach an agreement that satisfies both parties, you’ll go to the California family court.

Navigating a Contested Divorce

If your divorce deals with complex problems, high value assets, or great financial stakes, you’ll most likely have a contested divorce. This is the case if mediation doesn’t work and you and your spouse require a judge to make decisions regarding the divorce. A contested divorce requires the help of an experienced attorney, especially if your spouse has hired one or there are difficult financial issues at stake.

A judge may not share your views about the division of property and assets or the custody of your children. If you have to go to court, you need the help of an attorney to ensure someone advocates your side strongly in front of a judge. The court will take into account the length of your marriage, both parties’ needs, each party’s contribution to assets, your children’s needs, and the cause of the divorce to decide how to divide property.

A contested divorce may or may not result in a 50/50 distribution of marital property. Depending on your circumstances, the judge may award you more or less than half of property. Unlike an uncontested divorce, either spouse is likely to appeal a court’s decision—prolonging the divorce process and ultimately costing more time and money. An appeal goes to a higher court and takes more time to review and decide.

The path from separation to divorce can be long and hard, especially with high value assets on the line. Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, a family law attorney can take the weight off your shoulders and handle the complex paperwork and litigation that goes into a divorce in California. This is often the only way to ensure your rights are protected.