What is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce simply means that there are unresolved issues between the parties at the time of filing for divorce. The areas that must be resolved in a divorce are as follows: Child Custody, Child Support, Alimony, Equitable Division of Assets and Liabilities. Regardless of the reason(s) your matter is contested, if you and your spouse cannot resolve your differences (and these four major areas) your case will remain "contested" until such time as it is heard and decided by a judge. For your case to be considered uncontested, you and your spouse must agree on the specifics of how the 4 core areas of divorce mentioned above will be resolved. General agreement is not enough.
Why is my Divorce Contested?
There are many elements that push a divorce down the contested path - emotions, lack of awareness of finances, failure/inability to plan a future, and adverse behavior by a spouse are just a few. For example, sometimes a case remains contested merely because the emotions of a divorce overwhelm a party's ability to see the future. For others, a mere lack of knowledge as to what the assets are prevents a party from being able to fairly divide assets. Unfortunately, you are not always in control of these factors, which can be especially troubling for a party that is ready to move forward with their life post-divorce. Depending upon your unique situation, these concerns must be addressed in order for the case to move forward to resolution. One party may want to proceed uncontested but the other may disagree. As long as one party disagrees on the specifics of how the divorce will be resolved, the case will remain contested.
How do you Settle an Uncontested Divorce?
Just because your case starts out contested, it does not mean that it has to remain that way. For cases involving a lack of information, the solution is easier. Find the relevant information and share it to a level that both parties can gain comfort that they understand what they are dividing and where they are headed. For cases involving emotional challenges, the path towards resolution can be more difficult. Fortunately, there are several options to resolve disputed issues within a divorce in formal and informal ways including settlement conferences, mediation, and either (or both) early case and late case evaluations.
Concerns About Costs & Length of Time
Contested divorce by nature can be a longer and more expensive process. Cases can drag out months and even years and the cost for a contested case can be staggering - often resulting in one, or perhaps both, wasting some or all of the marital estate fighting about various issues that need to be resolved. To learn more about the details involved in a contested divorce process, please see our section on the divorce process.