Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce: Understanding the Key Differences

The mere mention of divorce conjures up images of couples battling over who did what to whom, and who gets what — but it doesn’t have to be that way, and in many cases, it isn’t. There are plenty of couples who manage to navigate the challenges of parting ways without significant arguments or animosity.

If you’re in a situation where you and your soon-to-be-ex are on the same page on most major issues, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to skip over a lot of the red tape and nastiness by pursuing what is known as an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce is one in which both partners agree on all the major issues including child custody and support, division of property, whether there will be any spousal support and if so, for how much. If you can come to terms on all of these elements of divorce and put it down on paper, you can submit it to the court for approval and, once approved, be granted a divorce without the need for any litigation or significant intervention from attorneys.

The inability to come to terms is what distinguishes an uncontested divorce from a contested divorce, and though that may seem simple and obvious, the impact of this difference can be huge. When a couple can’t agree on the best way to move forward on any one – or all – of these important issues, they face the reality of a prolonged legal journey. Not only will there be meetings and negotiations to arrive at terms that both find acceptable, but the lack of agreement means that court hearings will need to be scheduled for each issue, separately. These may be delayed due to unanticipated scheduling problems for either side, their attorneys, or even for the court. Documents will need to be gathered and submitted for review, misunderstandings will need to be ironed out, and the whole thing ends up taking a lot more time and costing a lot more money.

Not everybody can agree to terms, and an uncontested divorce may not work for your situation, but it is important to understand the difference that agreeing to terms from the outset can make. If you need guidance for navigating your divorce, contact us today.