A contested divorce occurs when at least one divorcing spouse does not agree to the requested terms of the divorce documents. Contested divorces can arise when a disagreement occurs over custody, spousal or child support, division of assets and debt, and many other areas. A contested divorce will often require a longer legal process, and may rely on the decisions of family law justices or professional mediators to work out an acceptable settlement.
Divorce can be an incredibly difficult process for many people; in addition to emotional strain and stress, trying to determine the terms of division may be difficult or impossible to achieve between spouses. A contested divorce occurs after one spouse has legally filed for divorce and the other has received the initial divorce papers. If there are terms the receiving spouse does not agree to, he or she can file for a hearing to contest the grounds.
A preliminary hearing may be the first step in a resolving a contested divorce. At this meeting, the judge or mediator may set out certain temporary orders regarding division of custody, alimony, and property that are legally binding during the divorce process, but may be changed by the judge during the final settlement. This hearing allows short-term solutions to support, custody, and assets that allow the couple and any children to survive separately and legally during the possibly lengthy divorce process.
After the first hearing, attorneys for each party gather evidence and data to make a final request for the permanent division. Required documentation includes credit history, bank account and income statements and papers that determine property ownership. When children are involved and custody is an issue in a contested divorce, attorneys may require additional information regarding the care and psychological status of the children. Witness lists may be compiled for use in the final hearing.
After the period of discovery, the court official holds a final hearing where all evidence is heard, then makes a final ruling. The ruling may be given immediately, or the official may take some time to review all evidence and documents before deciding. After the ruling, the divorce decree is officially filed. It may take several additional months for the paperwork to process.
According to many experts, a contested divorce should be avoided whenever possible. It can extend the period before legal divorce months or even years, and often results in high legal fees. A long divorce process can extend the emotional stress on all involved, including any dependent children. If unavoidable, both parties in a contested divorce should retain counsel as quickly as possible to ensure a smoother process. After attorneys are hired, some experts recommend avoiding as much contact with the other spouse as can be managed, allowing counselors and court officials to argue and make decisions instead.