Last Updated: December 18, 2022
When you realize your marriage is beginning to fall apart and fighting persists, it is a good idea to begin preparing for a contested divorce just in case your situation gets out of control. Most couples who divorce are not able to work out the details themselves and when disagreement is imminent, it helps to be prepared. A variety of emotions, expectations, and desires result in a contested divorce that is more time-consuming and complex than a non-contested version would be. Preparing for a contested divorce can reduce the level of emotion and prevent a battle when attempting to dissolve the marriage. Speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer will get you started preparing for a contested divorce. Connect with a local divorce lawyer for a free consultation today!
Preparing for a Contested Divorce the Right Way
A contested divorce typically takes one of two forms. It may occur when one spouse tries to prevent the divorce from proceeding due to lack of grounds for dissolution. The more common form is when the spouses agree upon the need to divorce but not about how to handle property division, spousal support, child custody, child support, and other related issues. So, how does the actual divorce itself begin?
Preparing for a Contested Divorce: The Process
Divorce is complex in every state. However, the initial steps to begin are pretty much the same. Divorce begins with one spouse filing a petition for dissolution of marriage. When people agree on a divorce (or not at each other’s throats), the divorce petition can usually just be given to the other spouse along with a draft Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage that lays out all of the potential settlement options regarding property, kids, etc.
If a person is preparing for a contested divorce, it is usually a good idea to also have a Summons filed. The summons and the Petition for Dissolution, in a contested divorce, will be personally served to the other spouse by a county sheriff or special process server. This method puts time constraints on the other spouse, usually 30-days, for them to answer and file an Appearance in court letting everyone know they are involved in the case).
When the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is filed, a divorce lawyer typically requests a hearing to air the contested issues or establish temporary orders. This normally is somewhat informal and is oftentimes called a “pre-trial conference”. The judge will likely make recommendations on some issues and the parties can accept them and enter orders to temporarily put certain things in place that will eventually be decided at a later date. These orders remain in effect until the divorce proceedings conclude, which typically occurs several months later. Both parties must present evidence to assist the court in its ruling regarding temporary orders and a divorce attorney helps a client do this. But keep in mind, if someone is preparing for a contested divorce trial, it probably will not take place for well over a year.
Preparing for a Contested Divorce: Discovery
As the divorce process proceeds, the attorneys may request discovery. This might include anything regarding the finances of the couple or influence child custody or child visitation decisions including income and expense records, credit card bills, deeds, and property titles. With contested divorce help from an attorney, a client can have all necessary documents available and organized to present a strong case. It can take several months to resolve all issues when preparing for a contested divorce, so be prepared to be patient.
Contested Divorce: The Trial
Once the parties have finalized discovery exchanges and any other items required relating to children (such as a report by child representative/guardian ad litem about the custody issues for the children), a trial can be set. A final hearing may be requested by either party to the divorce or by the judge – this is called a trial. Trial is a big deal, and most divorce attorneys attempt to avoid it because rolling the dice and gambling with a clients life issues is dangerous.
At the divorce trial, both spouses will provide final testimony and evidence and there will likely be reports regarding the kids and other witnesses involved. Spouses should receive guidance from their attorneys regarding what is required and be provided possible questions and the answers to those questions in advance. For example, when attempting to divorce an abusive spouse, an individual may need to provide police reports and medical records.
Contested Divorce: The Judge’s Ruling
The judge will use concluding evidence to determine a fair division of debts and assets and make a decision regarding child custody, parenting time, spousal maintenance (alimony) and child support. This ruling may be issued from the bench or at a later date and until it is signed and entered, the couple is not legally divorced. A ruling can take months by a divorce judge, and the entire process will probably take well over a year (2-3 years is not abnormal), which is why preparing for a contested divorce means the parties need to focus on being patient throughout the process.
Divorce can be ugly when people don’t get along and cannot agree on issues like division of property or child custody. Divorce lawyers have a process to help clients when preparing for a contested divorce which is why doing it alone is virtually impossible. The good news is, divorce lawyers usually get people in contested divorces to eventually settle, which saves time and money in the end. And divorce lawyers provide free consultations too, so make sure you reach out to get informed and find out your rights.