What is the Difference Between Uncontested and Contested Divorces?

lawyer to handle uncontested divorce onlineIt goes without saying that the essential difference between and uncontested divorce and a contested divorce is that one is contested and the other isn’t. But what does that mean, exactly?


The best way to understand the differences is to compare the similarities and differences between the two of them.


All divorces start out in the same way. The spouse who decides to petition for divorce, whether it is the husband or the wife, files their documents (called a Petition for Divorce) and serves them on the other side. The other spouse then has a certain number of days within which to respond and contest the divorce or let it proceed on an uncontested basis. If the other spouse does not choose to fight the divorce or seek any relief of their own, then the divorce can be set down for what is called a desk hearing (meaning that no one goes to court and the evidence is presented to the Judge by affidavit).


Whether a divorce becomes contested will depend on whether there are any issues that cannot be resolved by agreement and whether the other side chooses to fight about those issues. The simplest divorces are the ones where there are no children or the children are all grown up, and no money or property to fight over. In this case, the person who files for divorce (called the Petitioner) will only ask for a divorce in their Petition and in most cases the divorce will be unopposed and uncontested.


However, where there are dependent children or money issues to sort out such as child or spousal support, or property to be divided, things may not be so simple and may turn into a contested divorce. The divorce starts out the same, by filing a Petition for Divorce, but where the case goes from there will depend on what happens next. If you and/or your spouse are making claims for custody or to determine your rights to property and support, which you are not able to resolve by negotiation, then the case will turn into a contested divorce. In that case, your ex-spouse will file an Answer to your Petition, seeking relief or their own and indicating what they do or do not agree with. For example, if you want custody of your children and so does your ex-spouse, then your legal documents would both claim custody.


If the parties cannot come to a mutual agreement then the Court will have to decide and rule on their dispute. This will involve presenting evidence at a trial of a contested divorce, which can be very costly and stressful.

In Summary

An uncontested divorce is a divorce where there is nothing to fight about. These cases can be handled simply, using affidavits, and you will not have to go to court or litigate anything. The only thing being sought is a divorce, or you and your spouse have agreed on everything.

In a contested divorce, you and your spouse cannot agree on at least one significant issue and seek the Court’s ruling on the matter. Contested divorce cases are a lot more complicated and costly, and involve going to court.


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