Differences Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce

Filing and Fees

For the most part filing for divorce whether contested or not is the same.  The complaint is drafted and signed.  The filing fee is the same.  The only difference would be service.  If the parties agree, then service (the legal process of notifying someone about a law suit) of the summons can be waived.  This waiver is available for both case types, but if the parties are contested, they both may not be able to agree on waiving the service requirement, especially if one party does not want the divorce.

After You File:

There is a 90 day statutory waiting period where the parties cannot get divorced before that date.  This to can be waived, but the parties have to agree and seek the court’s permission to waive the waiting period.  This to is available to both contested and uncontested divorces, but if the parties are contested, then they won't have the required agreement necessary to request the waiver.

Discovery and Disclosure:

Whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce case, the parties are required to fully disclose their financial information, within specific timeframes.  You may find however that when the couple’s divorce is contested it takes longer for to produce their information, especially if finances and or property are one of the contested issues.

Court’s Involvement:  

Before the final hearing date the case can be called in to court for status conferences, hearing dates for pending motion, and for pretrials, among other things.  These additional court dates are usually not needed for uncontested cases.  They however, frequently occur when a case is contested.

Length of the Case

Uncontested cases get divorced sooner.  As mentioned, it is possible to waive the waiting period and get divorced on or shortly after the date you file the summons and complaint with the clerk’s office.  Compared to those cases a contested case will always take longer.  Without waiving the 90 day period you are looking at at least 3 months minumun, but realistically these cases generally require more time in and out of court.  Generally these cases are not ready, or do not have a trial until nine months to a year or more after the file for the divorce.  

The final hearing times differ greatly as well.  An uncontested hearing is about 20 to 30  minutes to at the most, while a contested trial is at least a day to several days, and then the judge has to render a decision which can take up to another four months.  And while you are waiting for the judge’s decision you and your spouse are still married.

Costs/Attorney Fee's

Another major difference between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce are the costs paid to get divorced.  Obviously if you are representing yourself then there are no costs other than the initial costs associated with to filing the case.  However, there are still costs that are higher with a contested divorces.  Those costs are more time spent, more energy spent, less peace of mind, and more stress.  

Every divorce is not the same, but where a couple can resolve their divorce in an uncontested manner then that would be better for all parties involved.  The Law Office of N. Gladstone Brown has experience helping couples going through divorce and resolve their divorce without conflict, through mediation, saving those couples, time, money, and giving them peace of mind.