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Contested vs. uncontested divorce

You can choose to pursue a contested or an uncontested divorce. Many people assume that this term refers to the odds that a divorce will even happen. For instance, maybe one person files for divorce and the other person contests it, saying that they don’t want to get divorced.

But this is a misconception. The divorce itself is generally never in question in the modern era. No-fault divorce means that couples can always split up if at least one spouse wants to do so. The other person may not like it, but they can’t stop the process from happening. So, what is the actual difference between a contested and an uncontested divorce?

Working through the terms

A contested divorce occurs when two people don’t agree on the terms of the divorce. The contested matter could be something like child custody issues or how to divide a couple’s assets. When at least one aspect of the divorce process cannot be resolved by mutual agreement (as all aspects are in an uncontested divorce), the divorce becomes a contested process.

For example, maybe one person wants to have sole custody. The other person doesn’t want sole custody, but thinks that it should be shared. Since a couple can’t agree on how to set up their parenting arrangement, these terms are being contested. The court will have to determine how custody should be divided – and courts usually err on the side of shared custody.

Another example could be if one person has an inheritance. They believe that it’s a separate asset and they should be able to keep the entire inheritance. Their spouse believes that it is a marital asset that needs to be divided between the two of them. Once again, the court can help to sort this out if spouses cannot come to an agreement on their own.

Establishing a court order

In a contested divorce, what will eventually happen is that the court will produce an order telling the couple how to divide assets, how to split up custody of their children and how to proceed moving forward. This is a binding order that must be followed. There are situations in which it can be modified, but parents or former spouses cannot simply choose to ignore it. That’s why it’s so important for those involved in a divorce to know exactly what legal options they have while this order is being created.