For many people, filing for divorce is the single hardest thing they'll ever do. The divorce process is legally complex and emotionally challenging, which can make it overwhelming for divorcees.
As you head into your divorce, you'll be faced with a simple question: Is your divorce contested or uncontested? Knowing the difference can play a vital role in helping you secure an equitable divorce arrangement.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce occurs when the parties are unable to agree on the terms of their divorce. Disagreeing on any aspect of the divorce, no matter how "small" it may seem, technically makes a divorce contested.
Divorce-related processes spouses often have disagreements over include:
- The division of marital assets and liabilities;
- Whether a spousal support arrangement (if necessary) is needed;
- The details of a child custody arrangement (if necessary);
- How to handle child support (if necessary).
In a contested divorce, the parties attend hearings in court. Attorneys may help the parties argue for why they believe a proposed arrangement is equitable or inequitable and advocate for their client's best interests.
While many marriages start off contested, most courts prefer they don't end that way. If the parties fail to agree on terms for the divorce even after extensive negotiations, the court may draft a divorce decree laying out terms the judge deems equitable on the spouses' behalf.
Most judges try and avoid court-ordered divorce decrees when possible, since it removes agency from the parties and often leaves both spouses feeling frustrated. Contested divorces contentious enough to require a court-ordered decree also often involve estranged spouses, which can cause conflict post-divorce is the parties still need to see each other as part of a child custody or child/spousal support arrangement.
However, contested divorces also have their place in the divorce process. If there's a power imbalance between the parties or a factor like domestic abuse plays a role in the divorce, a contested in-court divorce can help ensure each spouse gets fair representation and neither party can manipulate or strong-arm the other into an unfair arrangement. Your divorce lawyer can help you decide whether to pursue a contested divorce in court, or to consider other options.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
In an uncontested divorce, the parties agree on how to handle every aspect of the divorce.
Divorces that start out as contested may transition into uncontested as the parties negotiate with each other to find common ground. Many courts try and facilitate an uncontested divorce hoping to dissolve the marriage in a state where both parties are happy with the terms of the divorce and are on decent or amicable terms.
To that end, many courts require spouses to attend mediation before pursuing their divorce in court. Methods of resolving a divorce like mediation are called alternative dispute resolution, and encourage parties to negotiate the terms of their divorce with one another in good faith.
Resolving an uncontested divorce is typically cheaper, less stressful, and more time-effective than resolving a contested divorce. However, as we mentioned earlier, factors like domestic violence may make it preferable to resolve a divorce using a contested battle in court.
At Beatriz Zyne, P.A., we work with divorcees to find the best way forward in divorce.
To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about how we can help usher you through the divorce process in Florida, contact us online or via phone at (305) 876-6138.