difference between contested and uncontested divorce

Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorce

Goldberg Jones Divorce Leave a Comment

If thoughts of divorce run through your mind and you find yourself asking where to begin, one place to start is with assessing your situation.

Some divorces are simple and straightforward. Depending on the circumstances, it’s often possible to end a marriage with a minimum of fuss and muss. You’re always going to deal with paperwork, motions, and other speed bumps.

Do you expect a contested or uncontested divorce?

What are the differences between a contested and uncontested divorce?

By the time you get to the point where you’re ready to file for divorce, you’re probably done with it. Odds are, you just want to get it over ASAP. In many cases, perhaps most, taking the fastest route isn’t necessarily the best idea though. People often agree to unfavorable terms in custody, division of property, and other areas just to have it done.

Before you begin, it’s important to have an accurate picture of your case. We’ll break down the differences between a contested and uncontested divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

Simply put, an uncontested divorce means that both spouses agree on all related issues. However, even if both spouses agree, you still must meet specific legal requirements.

An uncontested divorce is usually easier and quicker than the other option. The process bypasses much of the stress and many of the legal fees that come in less amicable divorces.

However, while the idea of an uncontested divorce sounds straightforward, complications do arise. Both spouses need to be on cordial terms throughout.

It requires the ability to work together to reach mutually agreed-upon resolutions. That’s often easier said than done.

In an uncontested divorce, you still have to resolve all of the usual issues. You split all the marital assets and debts, settle on spousal support, and establish a custody plan and child support if you have kids.

As often happens, children complicate the process. In some instances, even if the parents agree upon a parenting plan, the court may take a closer look. They want to make sure the plan is fair, child support payments are adequate, and that it truly represents the child’s best interests.

To qualify for an uncontested divorce:

You or your spouse are legal residents of Washington.

That may seem obvious, but it’s one of the basic requirements. Only one of you must live here in order for the courts to file for an uncontested divorce.

You and your spouse agree to divorce.

Again, this may seem obvious, but both parties must agree to end the marriage. If one party doesn’t want to, that doesn’t mean you can’t—Washington is a no-fault state—but it does hinder uncontested divorce.

You and your spouse agree on everything.

For an uncontested divorce to work, it truly has to be uncontested. This means you and your spouse must agree on everything. This includes the allocation of both debts and assets if you have any. If you have children, this means child custody, child support, and visitation arrangements.

An uncontested divorce doesn’t mean there’s no conflict. Ending a marriage still requires work and compromise on both sides. But when you and your spouse agree on most things and can work together to negotiate the rest, you may be able to sidestep a lengthy, expensive process.

Related Reading: The Divorce Decree: What You Need to Know

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is, as it sounds, a situation where spouses have substantial disagreements. While both contested and uncontested divorces should use the assistance of an attorney, contested divorce usually requires the services of an attorney to reach a final agreement.

A contested divorce is what comes to mind when most people think about divorce. They can get complicated and messy. Spouses are often on bad terms and there’s a great deal of conflict.

There are numerous steps to take before a contested divorce can be finalized:

  • The divorce petition must be prepared, filed, and served to the opposing party.
  • A response to the petition must be received.
  • All documents for discovery must be prepared and submitted.
  • Any pre-trial legal motions and hearings must be held.
  • Mediation must be held to assess if the divorce can be finalized outside of court.
  • If the mediation fails, the next step is to go to trial where a judge decides the terms and allocation of assets for the final divorce decree.

While not as common as you would think, if a divorce does end up going to trial, both spouses present their cases. This includes calling witnesses, cross-examinations, introducing evidence, and more.

The whole process ends with a judge ruling on all the matters at hand.

With so much more to deal with, this often drags on for months or even years. It may be difficult and cost a great deal, both in terms of money and emotional investment. But it’s often also the only way to settle the division of property, custody, support payments, and other issues once and for all.

Related Reading: 7 Mediation Questions Answered

Speak with A Divorce Attorney

Regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, it’s still a good idea to consult a divorce attorney. No matter how amicable a split, things can go sideways in a hurry.

An experienced professional will advise you on the best course of action or look at an agreement to make sure it’s fair and in your best interests.

Related Reading: What is the Difference Between Legal Separation and Divorce
Related Reading: How Is Debt Divided During A Divorce?
Related ReadingIs Arbitration the Right Choice?

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