The divorce rate has decreased over the past twenty years, based on the US Census. Still, divorces happen, which can get very complicated, time-consuming, and expensive.
There are many things that go into a divorce. However, one specific divorce type we’ll discuss here is contested divorce. What is it?
A contested divorce is exactly what it sounds like—one or both spouses contest to some aspect of the divorce, which makes things more complicated. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you will battle in court, but surely, there will be litigation involved in the process with the need to hire a divorce family lawyer.
In a contested divorce, you will also likely go through:
- Divorce Mediation
Therefore, it’s not impossible to reach a settlement agreement, but it will take a bit more time for that. The process may become more involved or take longer depending on the complexity and value of the assets, debts, spousal support, and child custody.
How it Works
A contested divorce works with one spouse filing a petition with the court to request the marriage to be dissolved. As a result, the other spouse will receive legal notice of the petition and be given 30 days to respond.
The petition details are crucial, and they will cover:
- Assets, debts, bills, and income
- Child custody, visitation, and support
- Spousal support or alimony payments
- Domestic violence and other issues
Once the response is provided, the divorce process ensues. In this case, divorce litigation may be the best course of action. Divorce litigation is the most common divorce procedure. It involves asking a court to make legally binding decisions that both spouses can’t otherwise resolve in negotiation. It may be your best option when both spouses can’t communicate effectively.
However, there are other divorce process options as well for a contested divorce. One of them is a settlement divorce agreement, which is ideal if you don’t want to take the matter to court. Moreover, this is also recommended for prominent personalities. A settlement and negotiated divorce agreement will allow both houses to come to a resolution that can save you a lot of money and reduce the time the spouses communicate with one another.
There is also the divorce mediation process where a neutral mediator meets with both parties to resolve the terms of the divorce. Finally, collaborative divorce involves a team of professionals to help both spouses reach an out-of-court settlement through problem-solving and troubleshooting. Usually, the team includes a separate attorney and mental health professional for each spouse, a financial consultant, and a child psychologist when necessary.
For same-sex couples, divorce mediation may entail a slightly different set of circumstances that an attorney specializing in same-sex divorce can walk you through.
When you have chosen a specific divorce process, it will also involve:
- Disclose of both spouses’ financial situation
- Discovery of relevant financial documents
- Any necessary investigations
- Settlement negotiations or trial if an agreement can’t be reached
- Post-trial motions
- Final judgment appeals
How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take?
A contested divorce may take anywhere from six months from the petition date to possibly years. The most complex divorces that often involve millions of the money are the ones that usually take years.
Moreover, a contested divorce may also bring in some other complications, such as hidden assets or jurisdiction issues. Every city in California has its own special set of terms to be dealt with which is why hiring a family lawyer near you is always optimal. For example, if you reside in the San Fernando Valley, finding a professional Family Law attorney in Woodland Hills, Ca is highly advised.
How Do You Know if You Should File for Contested Divorce?
If you’re unsure whether you should file for a contested divorce, the reasons you should are pretty straightforward. For one, if you and your spouse are incapable of compromise or have unrealistic expectations about what life is after the divorce, then this calls for a contested divorce.
A contested divorce may also be due to a spouse who doesn’t want to divorce at all.
The reason contested divorce works in any of these situations is that it can help you move on with life without having to wait for your spouse to come around, especially when they don’t want to sign the divorce papers.
The Process of Contested Divorce
Now, let’s go into detail how the process for a contested divorce works. The first step, as mentioned, is to file a petition with all the correct details. When it is filed, you need to go through the service of process in which the copy of the records will be served to your spouse.
Your spouse will have 30 days to respond to the petition. If they don’t respond, you can start the process of a default divorce. On the other hand, if the spouse responds with separate allegations, that spouse should file an answer and separate counter-complained with the court and serve it on the other spouse.
Contested divorces also involve divorce discovery, which refers to various legal procedures that allow spouses to formally request information from one another. The court will set a deadline for when each side must begin and end its discovery requests. Keep in mind that not all cases will require discovery.
Also, divorce discovery is the most time-consuming and expensive aspect of a contested divorce.
Contested divorces can take some time. However, spouses can file a motion asking the court to act immediately.
Suppose both spouses can’t agree on how to resolve their issues, a divorce trial may be necessary. In this case, both spouse’s lawyers will call witnesses, present evidence, and explain the case to the judge. When it comes to custody disputes, the court may require the presence of experts to testify and explain why one parent is better suited to care for the children.
After this, the judge will will create a final judgment for divorce, or also known as divorce decree, in which both spouses must obey the terms. Should you need to change anything, you will need to refer to the state’s rules to modify a court order.
A contested divorce is, indeed, a complicated process. It could even go on for years. Having a reputable lawyer by your side will make the process more bearable during this trying time. With that, ensure you find a reliable law firm that suits your needs and you’re comfortable with. Trust us, it will make a lot of difference.