A Step by Step Guide to Contested Divorce
No one goes into a marriage anticipating its ending. And yet, a huge portion of marriages end in divorce regardless. Happily ever after is clearly harder to come by than most of us assume. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly.
If you’re reaching the end of your days in a happy union, it’s important to really understand the ins and outs of divorce. Splitting up a marriage is not as simple as calling it quits and moving on — it can be really, very complicated. Understanding the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested one is key to moving forward.
But what is the difference, and how can it impact your divorce and the rest of your life? You may be surprised just how far the ripples of your uncoupling can go. Read on and we’ll walk you through what you need to know.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
All divorces are difficult but some divorces are even more difficult to navigate than others. If two spouses can’t see eye to eye on the terms of a divorce, things can quickly get ugly and difficult.
That’s where things come into play with a contested divorce. A contested divorce is when the two parties in a marriage can’t come to an agreement on certain aspects of their divorce proceedings. They may have disagreements about how child custody will be awarded, or about how certain assets will be split up.
A contested divorce can get ugly because the spouses will have to go to court to sort out their differences. At the end of the day, a judge will be responsible for making the final decision in the case. This can be very hard to swallow for one or both spouses, especially if a child is involved.
Contested divorces take a lot longer than uncontested divorces. Cases need to be built, evidence gathered, and the whole process needs to be filed through the slow steps of bureaucracy. There are more steps, more stress, and more legal fees to go around on both sides.
In a contested divorce, attorneys will have to go through a divorce discovery process that may even include bringing in friends and family members as witnesses. Settlement negotiations can go on for weeks or months before an actual trial date is decided upon.
The whole process can be very long, and very painful. It can also be very complicated, which is why both spouses typically enlist the help of a divorce attorney to help walk them through the many steps and big piles of paperwork.
How a Contested Divorce Plays Out
If you don’t think you’ll be able to see eye-to-eye with your spouse, you may have a contested divorce case in your future. Understanding the various steps in this kind of case can help to ensure that you’re prepared for the worst.
Meeting with an Attorney
If you’re the one bringing the divorce forward, you’ll want to be meeting with an attorney before officially bringing the divorce to your spouse. This gives you a large amount of time to interview different attorneys and find the one that feels best suited for your case.
During your interview with various attorneys, talk about the areas of the divorce that you are worried about. Do you share children or assets you think might be taken away from you? See what experience an attorney has in dealing with these situations.
Serve a Divorce Petition to Your Spouse
Once you’ve ironed everything out with a lawyer you trust, it’s time to start the divorce proceedings. In order to do that, you’ll need to serve divorce papers to your spouse.
You can serve these papers yourself or have a local police sheriff do it for you. In most cases, it is not your legal responsibility to serve these papers, but many spouses who still live with their partners find it easier.
If your spouse cannot be located a notice may be published in a local newspaper. Once served, your spouse will have thirty days to respond to the petition. If your spouse does not respond, you may receive a default judgment from the court in your favor.
The Discovery Period
The most painful and difficult part of a contested divorce might be the discovery period. This is when attorneys move in to help uncover as much evidence about the opposing part as possible. That means financial information, as well as personal wrongdoings, are on the table for discussion.
Friends and family may be brought in to answer questions and may feel like they are pressured to choose a side. Documents will be requested from each side and must be relinquished within a reasonable time.
Settlement Attempts and a Move to Trial
Following discovery, the two sides will attempt to come to a resolution based on the gathered evidence. Each side will attempt to broker a deal that serves as a compromise but still keeps their client’s best interested in mind.
These mediations will be based on the strength of evidence found in the discovery stage. Often, a settlement will not be reached. In this situation, the case will need to move to court, where a judge will make a decision based on the evidence presented.
After the trial is over, the spouses will need to sign agreements and fall in line with a judge’s orders.
Fighting for Your Rights in a Divorce
Working through a contested divorce can be one of the most difficult times in one’s life. Understanding the process ahead of time can help a great deal.
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