There are two ways to classify a divorce: contested and uncontested. Uncontested divorce involves spouses who agree on the separation of their assets and dissolving of the marriage. In a contested divorce, the parties may not agree on the terms of divorce, which parent should house the children, or even whether they want a divorce.
What Steps Are Involved in Contested and Uncontested Divorce?
When couples agree to the terms of separation, they need only ensure that the terms are fair and file the necessary paperwork to make the divorce legal. In contrast, a contested divorce is often complicated and usually involves representation by a divorce attorney. If the case progresses to trial, spouses will have to endure the stress and legal fees of an ongoing court case, and they will be bound by the judge’s verdict.
The process of a contested divorce generally includes:
- Filing the petition. One spouse must prepare and deliver the divorce petition to the other. After the served spouse responds to the petition, it can be filed with the court.
- Discovery. Both spouses will be expected to provide information necessary to prove and disprove elements of the case. This can involve gathering records, contacting witnesses, and taking depositions.
- Negotiation. Once each side has an idea of the information that could come up in court, attorneys begin to negotiate settlement proposals between the spouses. Settlements are the preferred resolution to contested divorces because they are less costly than going to trial and there is no need for appeal. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case will proceed to divorce court.
- Trial. Throughout the trial, both spouses will present witnesses, respond to attorney’s questions, and endure cross-examining by the other side.
- Decision. At the end of the trial, the judge will decide which spouse receives which assets, how debt will be allocated, who will receive custody of the children, and how much support must be paid.
- Appeal. If either spouse disagrees with the judge’s decision, he or she may file an appeal to a higher court.
There are far fewer steps involved in uncontested divorces. For this reason, it's a good idea for couples who do not agree on the specifics of their divorce to seek an attorney’s advice. A good divorce attorney can help you work out amicable terms for separation, allowing you to file an uncontested divorce and avoid going to court.
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