What is the Difference Between a “Contested Divorce” and an “Uncontested Divorce?”


If you are contemplating a divorce, or going through a divorce, you may have heard the terminology “contested divorce” and “uncontested divorce.” Although this suggests that divorce cases fall in one or the other category, the labels of “contested” and “uncontested” are more like opposite ends of a spectrum than two distinct types of cases.

Most divorce cases fall somewhere in the middle; some issues are contested and some are not. Labeling a case as “contested,” doesn’t necessarily mean that one party does not want the divorce itself. What is most often the contested part of the divorce is the financial support, property distribution and/or custody. Thus, even if both parties want the divorce, they can still very much have a contested divorce.

For a case to be truly “uncontested,” the parties not only both want the divorce, but they also agree on all of the other issues. Sometimes the parties sit down and agree between themselves, or they use a professional like a mediator. Either way, the written agreement and the judgment of divorce becomes a formality only, which memorializes the terms the parties already agree to. In an uncontested divorce, the entire case is resolved outside of Court. As soon as a case is filed in Court and a Judge is assigned, the divorce is “contested,” even if there are only a few issues on which the parties cannot agree. It’s important to keep in mind that cases often move on the spectrum in both directions as issues are either resolved, or new issues arise.

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