Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
There are two kinds of divorces - contested and uncontested. A contested divorce is one in which the parties cannot agree, either about getting divorced or about the terms of the divorce, such as the division of assets, allocation of debts, alimony, child support, or the custody of children.
In an uncontested divorce, the spouses agree on everything and do not need the court to divide assets or make determinations about spousal or child support or custody. In general, an uncontested divorce will proceed through the system more quickly, be much less complicated, and less of a financial burden.
Often couples will begin the process of a contested divorce and then, before the actual trial, reach agreement on the financial terms and otherwise-of the divorce. This is called a settlement. One of the biggest advantages of a settlement is that neither spouse will appeal it, because both by definition agree to it and thus are presumably happy with it. Both parties can therefore be assured of finality and an end to litigation. If you reach a settlement with your spouse, it is essential to have the agreement memorialized in such a way that it makes the settlement legally binding and enforceable.
Most judges and lawyers prefer to settle out of court in an uncontested fashion. If you and your spouse can not come to some type of agreement on your own, typically your lawyers will help you reach one eventually.
It has become more and more popular for spouses to "do their own divorce", eliminating the legal costs involved with hiring lawyers. Spouses that are successful doing their own divorce are almost always in agreement, thus they are doing an uncontested divorce. This is something you may want to consider before hiring lawyers if you and your spouse are in agreement.
It is not recommended that either spouse attempt to represent him or herself in a contested divorce. There is an famous quote, "he who represents himself in court, has a fool for a client". This is very true, because the complexities of a contested divorce are far to much for the average untrained individual to absorb. The financial and emotional repercussions of acting as your own lawyer in a contested divorce case can be devastating.
The remaining portion of the tutorial is focused on the process of the contested divorce, because of these complexities. Hopefully you will not end up going down this path, which is sometimes unavoidable, but it is essential that you read and learn about it. It is crucial that all people contemplating or experiencing divorce understand the full spectrum of the process. Too often, what starts out as uncontested becomes contested and vice versa, which is why the path from separation to divorce can take many turns.
As you continue, what you will learn will make you realize that working hard to come to an agreement with your spouse is probably the best decision for everyone involved. It is this common goal that is often forgotten by one or both spouses.
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