Contested Divorce 101: Legal FAQ

divorce law cartoon in NY If you are married couple that realizes that both you and your spouse want to end the marriage, a divorce is the only way to legally make it happen. There are various requirements to comply with and steps to follow when filing a divorce depending on your state or country laws.

What is an uncontested divorce?

When the spouses have agreed to end their marriage as well as the various issues that go with the divorce, then the divorce is considered an ‘uncontested divorce’. In this type of divorce, the couple comes to an agreement on the divorce issues and are willing to meet halfway in terms of the division of their marital properties, debts, custody of their children, and payment of child and/or spousal support is discussed and settled.

What is a contested divorce?

Unfortunately there are instances where the couple does not agree on one or all of the issues of their divorce. When this happens, a lengthy, more expensive, and stressful process of filing a ‘contested divorce’ follows.

When both spouses disagree on how to divide their properties, finances, debts, and custody rights of the children and matters regarding child/spousal support, then they need to file a contested divorce. When the matter is brought to the higher court, the judge decides on these matters until a conclusion is reached.

While a contested divorce means that spouses have disagreements regarding divorce issues, many times the couple can agree before they taking things to court.

Filing a divorce

The first procedure in getting a divorce is to try to work things out without the need to take things to court. Sometimes, when spouses do not agree on their terms, they use mediation and arbitration to settle their concerns with the help of their attorneys. This saves time and stress brought about by lengthy court procedures. Couples get to reduce each other’s hostility and both parties can focus on their lives.

Issues in contested divorce

In a divorce where couples are in dispute with some issues, everybody will need to set aside time to prepare for lengthy divorce proceedings. These always involve more stress on the couple as well as the children. In addition, the longer it takes, the higher the legal fees incurred.

Among the common issues in contested divorce are complex problems between the spouses and the situation, high financial stakes, and the need to go through technical legal procedures.

An uncontested divorce can proceed without an attorney but a contested divorce may prove the necessity of a litigation with the help of lawyers. When there are difficult financial issues and one spouse starts to hire an attorney to represent themselves, then the other spouse must have an attorney also. If no settlement can be made between the two parties, then everybody goes to the court.

What you can expect

1. Complex issues

This involves issues pertaining to the spouses’ preferences in the custody, financial issues, and other issues presenting problems. Often times these complex issues are the personal issues between the couple, and other problems that hinder the couple to reach a consensus on financial matters such as debts, conjugal properties, custody, and support.

2. High financial stakes

There are much more expenses involved when couples file a contested divorce since the couple needs to go through the whole process of the divorce proceedings. The longer it takes for them to agree, the higher the expenses that will be incurred due to attorney’s fees, court expenses, documents needed, and other related matters.

3. Technical legal procedures

There are numerous steps that need to be followed when filing a contested divorce. Get to know these steps below to better grasp the complexity of this type of divorce.

Hire an attorney.
File and deliver the divorce petition that includes the legal documents that states the grounds for the marriage breakdown.
The other spouse responds to the petition.
If you skipped hiring an attorney and got this far, you absolutely need an attorney to proceed.
The information gathering process follows where legal procedures to collect information from your spouse and other people are taken.
The pre-trial legal motions as well as hearings are conducted.
Lawyers submit proposals for settlement and negotiations.
If the settlement is not successful, they prepare for court.
Go through the court trial process and complete it.
If you still contest the trial judge’s decisions, file an appeal.

During the settlement phase, some couples can reach an agreement with the help of their lawyers. Everybody tries to help the couple agree on things for a smoother flow of the divorce process. However, if they still do not come to an agreement during that stage, then there is no other way but to take things to court.

Basic goal of the court

During the trial the couple and their witnesses are present. The lawyers from each camp cross-examine and question the witnesses on stand and afterwards, present their closing arguments. When the trial is completed, the court issues the final order and decides upon the issues and finalizes the divorce. This can take a very long time.

Contested divorces are complicated and it is recommended that couples try to open each other’s minds to agree on a win-win situation.

How a good lawyer can help

An experienced divorce lawyer can also help in the negotiation process as well as the technicalities that go with a contested divorce if the couple cannot agree with each other’s terms. When you get yourself into this kind of predicament, find a good lawyer that has a proven record of experience in this area as they are knowledgeable and experienced in the various details to be considered in a contested divorce.
Expertise can greatly help you fix the issues that go with your divorce. You can find experienced divorce lawyers online as well as those recommended by people who you already know. Talk to as many as you need to until you find one you are comfortable working with for some time.

Posted in Divorce Law.

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