Explained: Contested and Uncontested Divorce
When a marriage dissolves, it’s the beginning of a series of difficult decisions both parties will have to make. After deciding to end the marriage, one of the first decisions both individuals need to make is whether they want a contested or uncontested divorce. Both a contested and uncontested divorce have their pros and cons, so it’s important to know the difference between the two and choose the best for your situation.
What is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce is settled in the courtroom and must follow numerous steps before the divorce’s finalization. A contested divorce is more likely to occur when both individuals cannot agree on issues, such as property division, child custody, or financial support. Whether it’s just one issue or multiple, any disagreements call for a contested divorce.
Contested divorce forces both individuals to reevaluate key parts of the divorce. Instead of signing an agreement to speed the process, spouses have a chance to think about and fight for their priorities. Litigating a contested divorce also provides to both spouses the opportunity to search for and discovery previously unknown assets such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, inappropriate transfers of money or property, and other assets that were kept hidden from one spouse. Filing a contested divorce case may also be necessary to determine the value of assets such as a business owned and operated by one spouse.
The biggest downside in a contested divorce is that spouses going through a divorce are likely to spend more time and money on attorney’s fees and other necessary costs. On the other hand, the biggest benefit of going through a contested divorce is the chance of the courts ruling in your favor when it comes to gaining the child custody terms or assets you want.
Steps to Take When Divorce is Contested
Contested divorces are especially complex in comparison to uncontested divorces. The process is lengthier – specifically when two individuals struggle to reach agreements. Steps of contested divorce include:
- Hiring an Attorney
- Preparation, Filing, and Serving a Complaint for Divorce
- Filing and serving an Answer to the Complaint
- Divorce Discovery – Gathering of Information from a Spouse, Third-Party Witnesses, banks, and other businesses
- Pre-Trial Legal Motions and Hearings
- Settlement Proposals and Negotiations
- Pre-Trial Mediation
- Preparation for Trial If Settlement Negotiations Fail
- Court Trial Proceedings
- Filing an Appeal (If Spouse Disputes Trial Judge’s Decision)
While there are many steps to a contested divorce, sometimes it’s the best option. It gives the judge a chance to review every aspect of each spouse’s life for a ruling that gives you the result you want.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is often a more efficient route to take versus a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on divorce-related issues. Unlike a contested divorce, uncontested divorces can be done without constant negotiations, court hearings, and other legal proceedings. At times, a mediator is needed to guide both individuals through settlement discussions.
It’s not all easy. Soon-to-be ex-spouses still need to communicate with each other. This can be emotionally complex to navigate, especially when there are issues of child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, and complicated assets to divide. On the upside, an uncontested divorce can be less stressful and less expensive than a contested case.
Georgia is a “no-fault” divorce state, so either spouse can seek a divorce, contested or uncontested, without any wrongdoing by the other spouse. In those cases, the spouse can simply state that in his/her opinion, the marriage is irretrievable broken with no chance of reconciliation. This eliminates the need to prove any wrongdoing to obtain a divorce.
Georgia also provides specific grounds for a divorce based upon fault-based circumstances. Just as it sounds, fault-based grounds are when a spouse alleges that the other did something wrong. Grounds for divorce in Georgia include:
- Intermarriage By People within The Prohibited Degrees of Kinship
- Mental Incapacity at the Time of the Marriage
- Impotency at the Time of the Marriage
- Force, Menace, Duress, or Fraud In Obtaining the Marriage
- Pregnancy of the Wife by a Man Other than the Husband at the Time of the Marriage (And Unknown to the Husband)
- Adultery During the Marriage
- The Conviction of a Crime of Moral Turpitude that Results In a Prison Sentence of Two Years or Longer
- Habitual Intoxication
- Cruel Treatment
- Incurable Mental Illness
- Habitual Drug Addiction
[Related: Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce]
Which is Best?
Divorce, whether contested or uncontested, is always an emotionally difficult period. An uncontested divorce results in lower costs and a faster process, while a contested divorce may allow you to get the desired outcome.
Every divorce is different, and each spouse may have opposing expectations. Spouses considering divorce should evaluate the pros and cons of an uncontested and contested divorce and communicate their concerns.
Hire an experienced divorce attorney to discuss the details of your case and decide whether your situation calls for a contested or uncontested divorce. Contact Boudreaux Law Firm in Augusta, GA, today to schedule a consultation.