Understanding the difference between uncontested and contested divorces

Most couples that “throw in the towel” on their marriage and seek a divorce only do so after they’ve exhausted all other options. Usually, by the time one party seeks a divorce, the marital relationship has already ended.

When the time comes, you can choose to end things on amicable terms or to duke everything out in court. These are the main delineators between a contested and uncontested divorce

What constitutes an uncontested divorce?

Instances in which both spouses agree to end their marriage and they don’t have lingering spousal maintenance or child custody issues to resolve may fall into the category of an uncontested divorce. A judge may also convert a contested divorce into an uncontested one if one of the spouses fails to show up for a scheduled hearing. 

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce is one that requires litigation. Sometimes one party will simply be unreasonable and refuse to work toward an uncontested divorce. Other times, there are real disputes that cannot be resolved without a judge’s involvement.

If you’re unable to reach an agreement about property division, child support or custody, or spousal maintenance, then you may need to see a contested divorce. 

What are the advantages of pursuing an uncontested divorce?

Divorcing couples can derive multiple benefits from pursuing an uncontested divorce, including:

  • Having a say as the outcome in their case
  • Reaching an agreement necessary to finalize their case more quickly
  • Reducing their court costs and attorney fees
  • Minimizing conflict between you and your ex
  • Less personal information goes on public record

An uncontested divorce is also usually ideal if you have kids because you and your co-parent can start to develop a good post-divorce working relationship where the kids are concerned.

Is an uncontested divorce suitable for everyone?

An uncontested divorce isn’t ideal for resolving complex property division issues nor high-conflict parenting issues. Divorced spouses often find it challenging to reach a compromise and then stick with what they agree to, thus resulting in modification requests. 

An attorney can highlight some of the many pros and cons associated with either a contested or uncontested divorce so you can make an informed choice about which option is right for you.

FindLaw Network
Heidi L. Heinrich
Rated by Super Lawyers


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