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Uncontested and Contested Divorce: What Are the Differences?



There are two types of divorce available in most states: contested and uncontested divorce. The time required to obtain a divorce, waiting periods between filing an initial petition and receiving a final divorce decree, separation prerequisites, residency requirements, legal costs, and court costs may vary by jurisdiction and which type of divorce is filed. As such, separating couples approaching a divorce should educate themselves on the differences between the two divorce types.

Contested Divorce

The contested divorce is the type in which the spouses cannot arrive at an agreement on one or more key issues in order to conclusively terminate their marriage. When spouses cannot arrive at an agreement, even with the assistance of their legal counsel (if any), they must approach a court to adjudicate their dispute. Contested divorces are commonplace now, especially since there are so many different issues to resolve during the course of terminating a marriage. The typical hot button issues requiring resolution during the course of a contested divorce include sensitive topics such as:

Uncontested Divorce

Uncontested divorces are often referred to as simple divorces. An uncontested divorce occurs when the couple agrees on all issues required to conclusively and effectively terminate their marriage, leaving nothing of consequence that is disputed or unresolved. This type of agreement is not equated necessarily with an amicable divorce, however. Instead, the agreement means that all disputed items raised between the couple were settled out of court and short of the requirement of judicial adjudication.

Most couples would probably express a preference for uncontested divorce because of its speed, simplicity, convenience, privacy, and inexpensiveness. The efficiency and cost savings of uncontested divorces are the major advantages highlighted by most divorcing couples. Lawyers are not required in order to achieve an uncontested divorce, although they can be used and often are indeed used in such situations. It is important to realize though, that any party can technically file a petition or complaint for divorce without the assistance of legal counsel.

When an uncontested divorce case involves a couple with a minor child or children, the case often is referred to a part of the applicable court for the conducting of interviews and recommendation(s) in child custody matters. Those custody matters regard which parent receives custody of the children, the type of custody determined to be in the children's best interests, and the child support award amount. If any objection to the ruling arises on the part of either spouse, then counsel usually intervenes, and the divorce becomes contested. If no objections are filed, the case continues to court.