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Should I Go Through a Contested or Uncontested Divorce

Two people with crossed hands at a desk with a contract and wedding rings

Going through a divorce is a difficult process, even if both parties want to end the marriage. Understanding the different terms related to divorce actions in Florida can help reduce the stress and anxiety you might feel as you begin discussing divorce options. While it is not difficult to understand the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce, there are distinct consequences of choosing to go one route over another route.

Proving Fault in a Florida Divorce Action

Many people assume that the main difference in a contested and uncontested divorce action is proving fault for the breakup of the marriage. However, Florida is a no-fault divorce state. Therefore, you can obtain a divorce by simply stating that the marriage has ended because you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences.

You do not need to prove that your spouse was cheating on you, abandoned you, is guilty of domestic abuse, or committed any other type of wrongdoing to cause the marriage to end. Therefore, uncontested vs. contested does not refer to whether your spouse agrees or disagrees that the marriage should end. Even if your spouse does not want a divorce, you can still move forward if you want one.

Uncontested Divorces

In an uncontested divorce, both you and your spouse agree to all the terms of the divorce. Terms of the divorce include matters related to the children, which includes support and timesharing (previously called custody and visitation) alimony and dividing up the assets and debts. The divorce is uncontested if you and your spouse have worked out all of the details pertaining to these issues.

When parties have worked out the terms related to these issues, there are still requirements that must be completed including a financial affidavit, parenting plan, if you have children, as well as a complete marital settlement agreement that is signed and notarized by both spouses.

Uncontested divorces are great because they allows the parties to quickly, amicably, and inexpensively obtain a divorce and move on with their lives. Where a contested divorce can take months (or even years in some cases), an uncontested divorce can be done in a matter of weeks if the parties are motivated.

Also, uncontested divorces can be accomplished cost effectively. When compared with the cost of a contested divorce, an uncontested proceeding can save the parties thousands of dollars.

However, if you and your spouse disagree on even one small matter related to the divorce, the action becomes a contested divorce. In many cases, issues related to money and children are the most common points of disagreement between divorcing spouses.

Contested Divorces

A contested divorce is when the spouses do not agree with the terms of the divorce. Issues often arise in valuing and distributing the marital assets, awarding alimony, determining how much time each parent spends with the children, and how child support will be calculated. Sometimes the parties are able to work together to even resolve complicated cases.

In a contested divorce, the case proceeds on a different route, which usually requires more court involvement. There may be hearings on temporary issues and mediation will be required. If mediation is not successful, you will proceed to a trial before a circuit court family law judge.

The cost of a contested divorce depends greatly on how much conflict there actually is. If the matter is “semi-contested” and parties can quickly reach an agreement then it could be a couple thousand dollars in legal fees. If there are major disagreements between the parties and much at stake, a trial could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Even in contested proceedings, it is almost always better to work proactively with the other side to narrow the issues and reach a resolution. However, Court remains an option when the parties cannot agree.

Most cases that are contested, end up resolving when you have attorneys able to narrow the issues and establish the evidentiary basis that allows you to prevail. Successful negotiation and mediation requires skills that give you the upper hand against your spouse.

Seek Help from an Experienced Divorce Attorney in Bartow

There are many things to consider when you contemplate ending a marriage. One of the best things that you can do for yourself and your children is to seek advice from an experienced Bartow divorce lawyer. Advocate Law Firm, P.A. works with our clients to protect their rights and best interests during a divorce.

You can contact our office today by calling (863) 644-5566 to schedule a consultation with our Bartow divorce lawyer.