Last Updated: June 2, 2022
There is more than one way to get divorced and some methods are easier to follow than others. Any type of divorce requires time, effort, and (at least a little) money but spouses who work things out to achieve an uncontested divorce reduce their investments in each. At the other end of the spectrum is a contested divorce, which can take the longest, require an enormous amount of effort, and carry a large price tag. Divorce lawyers that provide free initial consultations can provide your starting point to move towards an uncontested divorce.
Contested Divorce vs. Uncontested Divorce
Everyone has heard the horror stories of a contested divorce and how they can last years and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Famous Hollywood divorces make front page headlines, and some are even televised on Court TV. For most people, an uncontested divorce is possible. But understanding the difference between the two is essential to knowing how to avoid the fight.
How to Make a Divorce Uncontested
From the moment a married couple decides to part ways, a couple should strive for an uncontested divorce. Open, honest communication can help spouses avoid a contested divorce. Each party should retain a different family law attorney to provide guidance and help negotiate property division, financial support, and child custody. Working through a third party tends to reduce the level of emotion in these discussions.
Essential Tips to Avoid Contested Divorce
Any divorce lawyer that has experience handling cases for a long time will tell you that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there are some tips that can immediately make a difference and save people the time and money that a contested divorce would cost them. Some of the main tips are the following:
- Attend Communication Therapy (even if your spouse won’t)
- Negotiate in good faith
- Never speak negative in front of the kids
- Make reasonable attempts to co-parent (and keep detailed notes)
- Stop fighting – no more name calling or placing blame – be humble
None of these will stop someone who is hell-bent on creating a world of havoc during the divorce. However, the vast majority of people will take approaching the divorce this way in a positive manner. This takes work, and it likely takes biting your tongue quite a bit – but the fights that you avoid by being the bigger person and showing good faith can save years and an insane amount of money.
Causes of a Contested Divorce to Avoid
Spouses who cannot agree on issues during the divorce must eventually let a judge make the decisions. This situation, called a contested divorce, requires exchanging information, negotiating a divorce settlement, attending court hearings, and possibly participating in a court trial. A contested divorce places even more strain on the already crumbling relationship between the spouses and should be avoided whenever possible.
Contested divorces may involve fighting over a variety of issues such as finances or children. Typically, fights over parenting time schedules with the children and decision making (custody) end up being the most contentious types of divorces. That being said, divorces where children aren’t involved and the disagreements are solely over money still can last years and take a toll on the mental and financial well-being of each spouse.
Contested Divorces – Child Issues
Child-related issues in a contested divorce can make the process drag on for years. When it comes to child custody issues, (also known as the allocation of parental responsibility), parents will sometimes take the fight al the way to the end – trial – which might be 2-3 years in the future. Child custody matters that parents fight over could be which days a child is at either parents home, who makes medical or school decisions, or whether a parent should have to undergo some type of therapy or counseling.
Child custody decisions during a divorce can take a long time because a child representative or guardian ad litem may need to be appointed by the judge. A child representative is an attorney that the court appoints to investigate the best interests of the children involved in the divorce. This likely means meeting with both parents, the children, investigating both parents homes, talking to teachers, counselors, neighbors, and other family members. Besides how much time this takes (months and months) the cost can skyrocket quickly.
Contested Divorces – Financial Issues
Contested divorces can take place because of people fighting over money. This might be fighting over the marital home, investment property, bank accounts, retirement accounts, maintenance (also called spousal alimony), or other property. In the end, the vast majority of cases (except when income levels are significantly different or other rare incidents take place), the judge will divide most of the marital property close to 50/50 (maybe 50/50, 60/40, etc.). Fighting over property hardly ever results in anything good – it is usually a waste of money in the end.
Divorce Lawyers Can Help with Contested Divorce
Divorce is unfamiliar territory and many spouses do not know what to expect. With no standardized outcomes to serve as guidelines, it is easy to assume that money, property, and sole custody of the children will come one’s way. Experienced family law attorneys bring their clients back down to Earth, telling them which outcomes are most likely.
Rising above the urge to drag each other through the mud can keep a couple out of court during a divorce. When nothing is going smoothly and the other spouse is just making things worse, avoiding an argument and letting the attorneys do the negotiating may be the best approach. It is not worthwhile or cost-effective to fight over every little issue involved in a divorce.
So, you want to have your divorce be uncontested and stop the fighting? Start by working on yourself first – show good faith and a willingness to compromise (even if it isn’t what you necessarily want). Hiring a good lawyer will help you learn what is reasonable and what isn’t – take their advice. Working out most issues and compromising on others reduces the stress involved in a divorce. With assistance from your family law attorney, you will spend less time bickering over divorce issues and more time establishing the foundations for your new life. Best of all? Most family law attorneys’ are happy to provide a free confidential consultation as well.