Family Law

The Contested Divorce

What is a contested divorce versus an uncontested divorce? An uncontested divorce is one where all terms of the divorce are agreed upon by the parties. A contested divorce is a divorce that involves at least one or more case issues where you and your spouse do not agree.

The primary issues in each divorce range generally from: 1) the award of property, financial assets, and real estate, 2) custody and decision-making regarding children, 3) the payment of child support and child expenses, 4) the payment of spousal maintenance (a/k/a alimony), 4) the award and payment of debts, and 5) awards of attorney fees. While a contested divorce occurs where one or more issues are disputed, that does not mean that contentious litigation must follow. It usually means that you and your attorney will need to explore the use of tools such as discovery, temporary orders, attorney negotiations, mediation, arbitration, or other alternative dispute resolution options to try to solve the issues in contention.

When a case is contested, it often becomes more involved, requiring the exchange of information and documents either informally or with formal discovery authorized under the court rules. While informal discovery will usually involve the exchange of agreed information, formal discovery consists of demands to your spouse to answer specific written questions, produce requested documents, admit or deny certain facts, or participate in depositions. In a contested action, which can last several months, a year, or even longer, it is also common for spouses to file court motions asking for temporary orders. Temporary orders typically address the use of property, parenting, payment of bills, and financial support while the case is pending. Temporary orders usually last until a new order is entered, or parties resolve their case via settlement or trial.

It is important to understand that the path of a contested divorce depends on the choices you and your attorney make while managing your case. With the assistance of a skilled attorney, the goal in every contested case is to move from a contested issue to an uncontested agreed resolution without the need for trial. During the process you may be faced with a spouse who wishes to remain married. That party may be uncooperative and may attempt to or believe that they can slow down and stop the process. In every contested case, having a trusted and experienced legal advisor to help you navigate the contested issues and drive the case forward is vital to a successful outcome and the preservation and exercise of your rights.