In layman’s terms, a contested divorce means that the process isn’t going smoothly and the involved parties are not agreeing on any number of things. Finalizing the divorce is not going to be a genial walk in the park. In fact, it may be a very painful and drawn out process for both parties.
The difference in contested and uncontested
When a divorce is not contested or is un-contested, the spouses do not require the court to intervene and determine child or spousal support or custody or the division of assets. The parties agree on what needs to be done and as a result the divorce marches through the system quickly, is less complicated and not a huge financial drain on either party.
On the other hand, a contested divorce means that the parties can’t agree on something; maybe on a lot of things. One party or the other objects to the division of the assets; child support; general terms of the divorces; custody of the children; alimony or allocation of debts.
A contested divorce is adversarial. In an uncontested divorce, the parties are working together and present an agreement to the court for its approval. In a contested divorce there may be disputes about property, among other things, and if this cannot be resolved a trial may be required to settle the matter. The court then decides the outcome. In essence the court has to serve as the referee.
A contested divorce can mean that one of the parties doesn’t want a divorce and is hoping to prevent it. The actual divorce, rather than the terms of the divorce, is being contested. Mostly, though, a contested divorce refers to cases where the parties both want to end their marriage but simply cannot agree on the issues before them.
When a divorce is contested, the actual process includes serving the divorce petition on your spouse; your spouse then responds and discovery is held. Discovery means that each spouse must provide information about their income and assets and anything that is relevant to the case. Discovery is achieved via document requests, depositions and written interrogatories. Spouses can make requests for temporary alimony or child support at this time.
A judge will attempt to get the parties to come to an agreement, or a settlement, rather than going to trial. The judge may encourage mediation, using a third, neutral party whose job is to help the couple resolve the issues. If this doesn’t work, then the case goes to trial. At the trial, each side will give testimony and each will be cross-examined. Witnesses will appear.
In most cases, if a divorce is uncontested and you are the plaintiff, you will show up in court and testify but your spouse, who is not contesting the divorce, isn’t required to appear. An uncontested divorce is sometimes called a collaborative divorce.
Divorce can be contentious so it stands to reason that contested divorces are more common than uncontested ones. When a couple can not come to a resolution, the judge will look at the facts and determine the outcome for them.