A contested divorce simply means that there are unresolved issues between the parties at the time of filing for divorce. The areas that must be resolved in a divorce are as follows:
If any part of the above-listed items is in debate, then the divorce will be considered contested.
There are many elements that push a divorce down the contested path – emotions, financial ignorance, and adverse behavior by a spouse are just a few. Regardless of the reason(s) your matter is contested, if you and your spouse cannot resolve your differences (and these four major areas) your case will remain “contested” until such time as it is heard and decided by a judge.
Of note, just because your case starts out contested, it does not mean that it has to remain that way. In particular, there are several options to resolve disputed issues within a divorce. As discussed more in our section on alternatives to trial, the parties can attempt to resolve their differences in numerous formal and informal ways including settlement conferences, mediation, and either (or both) early case and late case evaluations. If these mechanisms are unsuccessful, however, your contested case will continue through the litigation system. To learn more about the divorce process, especially as it relates to a contested divorce, please see our section on the divorce process which discusses discovery, motions, hearings and final trials that happen in contested divorce cases.
While what happens in a contested divorce is described in greater detail on these other pages, the attorneys at Meriwether & Tharp, LLC wanted to take a brief moment to highlight that a highly contested divorce naturally become litigious. This can be a very expensive proposition and the costs involved in a long-term contested case can be staggering – often resulting in one, or perhaps both, wasting some or all of the marital estate fighting about various issues listed above that need to be resolved. Although there are a number of cases that require litigation, whenever possible, it is strongly advised that the parties work to resolve these issues as soon as possible and without the need for court intervention.