Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: What’s the Difference?

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  2. Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: What’s the Difference?
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With around 6% of people in North Carolina divorcing in 2019, know that you are not alone if you seek this option. Depending on your circumstances and the needs of both partners, you might want a contested or uncontested divorce. 

To help you understand both options, we have provided information on the main differences between these two processes. By getting more information on each, you might be able to resolve any divorce proceedings with the least amount of stress.

Uncontested Divorce

This type of divorce occurs when both partners agree on all major legal issues surrounding their split. These issues are often lengthy and can include many things such as:


Child custody, support, and/or visitation

Property ownership

Why Choose This Method?

There are several reasons why someone might choose to consider an uncontested divorce for their circumstances.

First of all, it is often much faster. The divorce is uncontested because of the lack of conflict when it comes to the major aspects of the separation. As such, with this type of legal separation, people rarely need to take as much time to process the issue.

Oftentimes, especially if at least one party is represented by a lawyer, no one will have to appear in court to testify in order to obtain a divorce judgment. This means the person does not need to worry about the significant time and stress that might come from multiple visits to the court.

An uncontested divorce also brings the benefit of reduced expenses since the parties involved do not have to allocate substantial funds towards legal fees, thanks to the expedited process.

An uncontested divorce often leads to less conflict between two people, during and after the court proceedings. As they both resolve the issue before heading to court, the appearance is more one of formality.

If the two individuals wish to preserve a friendly or professional relationship in the future, it can ensure there is no breakdown in goodwill over the course of the proceedings.

The Process

Before starting the divorce process, the two parties should have a shared understanding of what they want the outcome to be from the divorce. While they may not agree on this at the start, they can often have a discussion to hash out these details. It is often very useful to have a legal representative in the room so both people understand what the demands are of each of them moving forward.

Through this discussion, they should create a separation agreement that defines all the legal duties of each person. This will include any claims of ownership of assets and agreements on responsibilities such as children. 

As North Carolina is a “no-fault” state, a divorce lawyer does not need to prove wrongdoing to grant a divorce. They do need to prove the separation of the two people for “a year and a day”, though. 

If there are no further concerns, the court will grant the divorce and end the marriage from a legal point of view.

Contested Divorce

This type of divorce occurs when the parties do not agree on all issues in the separation. If the issue is preventing a settlement agreement, then they may end up progressing to a contested divorce.

Why Choose This Method?

People often move in this direction when they want to protect an interest and they feel the other person may harm that. For example, if there is an unresolvable conflict related to child custody, property, money, or intellectual rights, then a contested divorce may be necessary.

The Process

If a person is considering a contested divorce, the first step to take in the process is to speak with a competent lawyer and ask for legal help. This attorney will be able to advise them on the steps they need to take as well as any evidence they should gather.

Once this has occurred, the spouse initiating the divorce needs to file a complaint. This complaint can include the issues of divorce, child custody, child support, alimony, and equitable distribution. Complaints can also address claims for divorce based on acts of marital misconduct, like adultery. This filing should also include the reasons behind why there is a dispute, for example, the aforementioned child custody.

After this has begun, full court proceedings can occur. These include discovery, the possibility of counterclaims, and sometimes mediation.

At any point, the spouses may agree to a settlement, meaning the divorce would proceed forward much like an uncontested divorce. If this does not occur, then it will move forward to a trial, where both parties can call witnesses and make legal arguments related to their wishes.

A trial is often very costly and can take a long time. For these reasons, people often prefer to avoid it, although it is sometimes unavoidable for many different reasons.

Another difficulty with a contested divorce is that it is often a far more emotional journey for the spouses and those around them. For example, as children often become a point of contention, they may feel blamed for the situation. It is important to ensure the well-being of everyone to prevent the proceedings from weighing too hard on any people who are involved.

Find a Family Lawyer

With this advice on what each divorce type is, you should now know whether you would prefer a contested or uncontested divorce. Even with this understanding, we do not suggest you follow either process without legal representation and guidance.

A legal expert can dot every “i” and cross every “t” to ensure you adhere to the proper processes and do not end up with problems further down the line. If you are in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, give us a call at New Direction Family Law and we can start helping you resolve this difficult situation today. New Direction Family Law has a combined 50 years of experience protecting the rights of our clients in family law matters. Our holistic approach allows us to provide high-quality, individualized attention to individuals in Wake, Durham, Johnston, and surrounding counties in North Carolina.

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