What Is the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce?

No one enters a marital union with a plan to split down the line. Despite that, CDC reports a divorce rate of 2.7 per 1,000 population in the United States. If you are about to end the marriage with your partner, it’s best to understand every process you will go through.

The termination of a marriage can be classified into two ways. Knowing what is a contested versus uncontested divorce can make the difference between an acrimonious split-up and an amicable separation. Remember that while divorce tends to be a nasty affair that often brings out the worst in people, not all divorces have to ruin the best of relationships.

What Is Contested Divorce?

With a contested divorce, one or both spouses disagree on some or all aspects of their separation. The dispute can stem from terms of alimony, child support, division of assets, allocation of debts, and more. However, a contested divorce can also arise from one party resisting the separation altogether.  

In some instances, couples start with a contested case then reach an agreement before taking the matter to court. This divorce process is what we call settlement. Once a settlement is reached, it is crucial to have it recorded in such a way that it becomes legally binding and enforceable.

What Is Uncontested Divorce?

Filing for an uncontested divorce means both parties agree to the divorce and all its related issues and concerns. You and your partner reached an agreement on how you will share parenting time and responsibilities, amount and duration of child support and alimony, and division of assets and debt.

An uncontested divorce offers couples an opportunity to terminate their marriage quietly and with dignity. Instead of going to court and arguing, this divorce process typically only involves filing court forms and a divorce settlement agreement that details all divorce-related terms. Unlike a contested case, this divorce process is typically much quicker, amicable, and less of a financial burden.

Differences Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce

While the definition of a contested and uncontested divorce seems straightforward enough, there is still more than that. The two categories each have a distinct set of legal processes. If you want to understand the difference between contested and uncontested divorce, you will have to break down each legal aspect.

Required documents

To begin the divorce process, the filing party will need to submit several divorce court documents. At the same time, the other party will also have to prepare certain documents. It’s best to work with an experienced family law firm to ensure all legal documents are correctly prepared and submitted within the tight deadline. Here are some of the papers required for each divorce procedure:

Contested divorce:

  • Writ for divorce
  • Statement of claim
  • Statement of particulars
  • Proposed matrimonial property plan (if applicable)
  • Proposed parenting plan (if applicable)
  • Mandatory parenting program completion certificate (if applicable)

Uncontested divorce:

  • Writ for divorce
  • Statement of claim
  • Statement of particulars
  • Draft interim judgment
  • CPF checklist (if applicable)

Location of hearing

Since parties in a contested divorce can’t agree on the reasons for their separation, the court will be the final arbiter. Both spouses will be required to attend the hearing, where members of the public can attend.  They will also be called as a witness to the case and be on stand to provide the necessary evidence.

Instead of an open court hearing, an uncontested divorce proceeding will take place in the judge’s private chambers. Since it’s an administrative process where the court will decide if there are sufficient grounds for divorce, both parties won’t be required to attend.

Duration of proceedings

Contested divorce typically takes longer, with court hearings possibly even dragging on for several days. An uncontested divorce proceeding, on the other hand, is generally fast and efficient and can last for only a few minutes.

Which Is the Best Course of Action for You?

An uncontested divorce is less expensive, involves fewer steps, and reduces hostility. For this reason, it’s best to reach an agreement and go for an uncontested case when terminating a marriage. But while the benefits to an uncontested divorce make it a more appealing course of action, sometimes, it’s impossible to agree to certain terms with your soon-to-be ex-spouse. It might be best to work with an experienced family lawyer and divorce mediator to work out a settlement. 

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