Contested versus Uncontested Divorce / by Cassandra Hearn

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Divorce in and of itself is typically evidence of disagreement between two people; however, it is increasingly common for parties to settle their family law issues outside of court. A settlement may have many advantages, such as making the divorce end sooner, costing the parties less in legal fees, and allowing the parties to tailor-make solutions for their family. Understanding the difference between contested and uncontested divorce can assist you in making the decision on how to go forward in your case.

A contested divorce is what people traditionally think of as a divorce. In a contested divorce, the parties will each file pleadings, conduct discovery, have court hearings, and ultimately proceed to a trial where a judge will make all of the decisions. A contested divorce essentially means that the parties cannot come to an agreement regarding at least one issue in their case, including: spousal support, property division, or child custody. By contrast, an uncontested divorce is when the parties have been able to come to an agreement on all of the issues. Once this happens, the parties can sign a Marital Settlement Agreement, or “MSA.”  The MSA will contain all of the provisions of the parties’ agreement. The MSA will still need to be adopted by the court and made into a court order with the final decree of divorce.

A divorce that begins as a contested divorce can ultimately end as uncontested. This is actually very common, as spouses will often come to an agreement during the case or even right before the trial. If the parties reach such an agreement at any time during the case, the divorce can become an uncontested divorce. Similarly, in some cases the parties believe they have an agreement and start off their case amicably only to have the agreement fall apart and have to proceed with the case as a contested divorce. Parties need to understand, however, that once an MSA has been validly signed by both parties, it is difficult to have the agreement set aside. Parties should carefully consider the agreement, therefore, before signing.

Divorce can be complicated whether it is contested or uncontested. We have experience helping our clients with all types of divorces. Call us today for a consultation at 619-800-0384