What is a Contested Divorce?

August 24, 2018 / 8:00 pm

When Jim and Alice met during their first year in college they never would have thought the words “contested divorce” were anywhere in their future.

They began dating at the end of sophomore year, got engaged after graduation and got married a year later. And things were bliss in the early days, and really good for the next few years.

Then came some years that weren’t so good. They fought. They didn’t communicate. They grew apart. Things fell apart. And when it came time to get divorced, things got unpleasant.

What’s the difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce?

Whenever we’ve discussed divorce here before, we’ve always talked about it as something that’s difficult. But some divorces are more difficult than others.

Uncontested divorce

In an uncontested divorce, both parties essentially agree on all the issues tied to their separation. As you might expect, these divorces are often easier than the contested variety, with less negotiating and legal drama involved, and therefore less stress and lower legal fees.

But this means both spouses must be on civil terms with each other and willing to work together to an outcome on which they can agree, and willing to make compromises.

You might not think you and your spouse will be able to sit down and hammer out various financial and/or custody without fighting things out in court.

The requirements that need to be met for an uncontested divorce vary from state to state. In Pennsylvania, you need to show that:

  1. The marriage is irreparably broken
  2. Both spouses agree to the divorce
  3. Both spouses sign an affidavit that consents to the divorce

Once the court receives these affidavits – 90 days after the initial divorce papers are filed — it will grant the divorce without needing to hold a formal hearing.

Contested divorce

In a contested divorce, one or both spouses disagree about one or more factors in the divorce. These divorces take longer to finalize, cause added stress, and cost more money.

There are many more steps involved. First, one of the spouses files for the divorce and waits for the other to respond. Attorneys need to be hired to begin the discovery process – in other words, collecting information from witnesses.

There will be numerous pre-trial hearings and motions, settlement conferences between the attorneys, and – if a settlement can’t be reached – a court trial.

This trial is like any other trial: Both sides put forth witnesses, cross-examine the opposing side’s witnesses, and argue their case to the judge.

When the trial concludes, the judge will issue their ruling and finalize the divorce, but that doesn’t mean the case is over, as a spouse who opposes the judge’s decision can always appeal.

No matter which route you take as you approach the end of your marriage, you will need an experienced attorney by your side.

During a divorce – whether it’s a contested divorce or uncontested – it’s normal to feel angry, confused or scared. Let the divorce attorneys at Penglase & Benson serve as a calming presence.

We’ve spent decades helping people like you get fair treatment during their divorce proceedings. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.