What Does It Mean If a Divorce Is Contested?
The ideal situation for any divorce case is for the parties to work together and come to an agreement on all issues. In those situations, the divorce is considered uncontested. An uncontested divorce can be resolved through mediation or simple negotiations between the parties and their attorneys.
Unfortunately, when it comes to family law, nothing is ever so simple. Almost any case will involve some issue that the parties may not agree on, and in that situation, it means the divorce is contested.
A contested divorce technically occurs when spouses fail to reach a full, mutual agreement regarding all issues in their divorce, including property division, custody of the parties’ minor children, child support, and spousal support. It means the parties were not successful in reaching a settlement agreement and have to go to court to get a judgment to finalize all unresolved issues in the divorce.
Many clients will argue that the divorce should not itself be considered contested if the parties agree on being divorced. However, agreeing to end the relationship is only one step. They also have to agree on what is going to happen with all of the debts and assets of the marriage and what is going to happen with the children, if any, for the divorce to truly be considered uncontested.
Some of the most contested issues in a divorce include the following:
- Who will get the marital residence?
- Who keeps the money in any retirement accounts?
- Who will be the primary decision maker and/or caregiver for the children?
- How much will child support be?
- Where will the children live after the divorce is final?
Does Contested Divorce Mean Fault Needs to Be Proven?
The State of Texas has several fault grounds for divorce, and these include the following:
- living apart
- confinement in a mental hospital
- conviction of a felony
Aside from living apart, one of the other most commonly used grounds for divorce is insupportability, which means “discord or conflict of personalities” that has prevented the parties from any reasonable expectation of reconciliation.
Just because a divorce is contested, however, does not mean wrongdoing needs to be proven. The parties can use one of the less contentious grounds, such as living apart or insupportability, to file for divorce and still try to work it out in an uncontested arrangement.
However, the fault grounds can help a party if he or she wants to be awarded a better division of the marital community property or if custody is in dispute. Even if one party is successful in proving one of the other grounds for divorce that indicate fault, the judge can still grant the divorce based on insupportability. If one spouse wants to receive spousal support, proving one of the fault grounds can help that spouse get that order.
Do Contested Divorces Take Longer to Finalize?
While there is no one specific timeline for how long a contested divorce takes as opposed to an uncontested one, it can be hard to definitively say that a contested divorce will be longer. However, very few of them can be completed in just a couple months’ time.
On average, a divorce can take up to twelve months to finalize. It depends on many different factors, including the court’s calendar for getting a hearing date and what issues the parties are disputing. The more issues the parties can narrow down and come to an agreement on, the better, which means the hearing date will be shorter if less issues are in contention.
After a petition for divorce is filed, the parties begin the process of discovery, which involves formally and informally requesting documentation on the parties’ assets, debts and other important information.
Depending on how cooperative each party is in disclosing this information, the process can be somewhat lengthy.
During this time, parties may also attempt mediation in an effort to come to an agreement on some or all of the issues, which can push the process back farther if the parties want to get the mediation on the calendar before setting a hearing date for final hearing or trial on the court’s calendar.
Once all is exchanged, a trial is set, which can take one to several days. Depending on how much evidence is submitted, the court may not make a decision for a couple of weeks, as well, as the judge weighs the evidence and reviews the law. The process can be lengthy, as well as expensive, which is one of the main reasons why parties want to resolve the matter as an uncontested divorce instead.
Contact A Divorce Lawyer Today
If you are considering filing for divorce, please contact family lawyers at Scott M. Brown and Associates. You can reach us by calling (979) 318-3075 or completing our online form. We have offices in Angleton, Webster/ Clearlake, and Pearland.