Whether or not to end a marriage is one of the most difficult decisions our clients face. When answering this tough question, clients often want to know the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce. Knowing the distinction between these two types of divorce can mean protecting your current rights, preserving your future rights, and achieving an amicable divorce settlement.
The terms contested and uncontested may be confusing to some. Just because both parties to a marriage want a divorce, does not make the divorce uncontested. A contested divorce is one in which the client and his or her spouse can not agree upon issues ancillary to the dissolution of the marriage. These issues can include child custody arrangements, property division, spousal and child support obligations, and the division of marital debts. If the parties can not reach an agreement on these issues, the courts will have to intervene. Often to the detriment of one party.
An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties have reached a settlement agreement regarding the issues accompanying a divorce. In my experience, uncontested divorces are more regularly achieved by younger couples with no children or substantial assets. Reasonably working though the previously mentioned issues with your spouse is the best option, and can set the stage for cooperation in the future if one party later seeks to modify the agreement.
Regardless of whether or not a divorce is contested or uncontested, it is extremely important to hire an attorney to represent you. This may seem self serving, but it is essential you protect your rights not only now, but also in the future. Certain divorce agreement language may bar the spousal support paying party from reducing their payment amount in the future, even if the payor is able to satisfy the legal standard of a bona fide involuntary change in material circumstance.
–Ross Charles Allen