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What is a Contested Divorce?

 
We live in a day when divorce disputes are increasing.  As a result, public opinion, divorce lawyers, and many judges consider it important to complete a successful divorce proceeding with as little pain and expense as possible to both parties.  By far the vast majority of divorces are, therefore, uncontested divorces.  Uncontested divorce occurs when both parties agree to get a divorce, and to settlement that a divorce lawyer helps them to negotiate.  An agreement to conclude a divorce dispute must address division of property, alimony, child custody, and child support. 

However, many people still must go through a contested divorce.  That means that one of the parties doesn’t want the divorce at all, or one or both parties cannot agree on the settlement terms that their divorce lawyer has negotiated in their divorce dispute.  Clearly, a contested divorce is a much more difficult process and can be almost impossible without the help of a divorce lawyer.  Couples who try to navigate a contested divorce without the help of a divorce lawyer often find that it costs much more in time and money than it would have to employ the services of an experienced divorce lawyer.

Process of a Contested Divorce
Many couples begin a divorce dispute by attempting to secure an uncontested divorce without the help of a divorce lawyer.  They meet, sometimes with a divorce lawyer and sometimes without one, hoping to come to an agreement over the vital aspects of the settlement.  However, if they can’t agree on one or many of those elements, it becomes a contested divorce and they must rely more on their divorce lawyers to help them reach an agreement on their divorce dispute.  If the divorce lawyers and their clients cannot reach an agreement, they must argue their divorce dispute before a judge.

Prior to their court date, both divorce lawyers must go through a discovery period.  During this time the divorce lawyers investigate the property, children, lifestyles, and needs of both partners in the divorce dispute.  An experienced divorce lawyer can evaluate all of those elements and estimate what a judge will consider to be an appropriate settlement to the divorce dispute.  When they go to court, each divorce lawyer will argue the divorce dispute in the best interests of his client.  The judge has the final say in this kind of divorce dispute, and he will either make his ruling that day, or take it under advisement until he is prepared to rule.  Once the divorce dispute is settled and a decree is issued, the contested divorce is final.

Limitations of a Contested Divorce
Some divorce disputes are so complex that they take months or even years to decide.  In those contested divorce cases, a judge may issue some temporary orders to guide the partners and their divorce lawyers during the ongoing divorce dispute.  These temporary orders may address issues of child custody or support, visitation rights, alimony, and even property conflicts. 

Despite the expense and pain of a contested divorce, it cannot provide retribution or absolution to either party in a divorce dispute.  Nor can a contested divorce wipe away the hurt and loss that both partners and their children suffer.  A divorce dispute can rarely result in a better financial position for either party either.  However, a divorce lawyer and a divorce judge can help provide an equitable settlement that protects both parties from financial and emotional ruin because of a contested divorce. 

Both parties also must consider the consequences of a contested divorce.  The discovery period and the trial can be intrusive and contentious, even with the help of a divorce lawyer.  In a divorce dispute, a great deal of private family information must be made public.  This can be humiliating for the spouses and for the children involved in the divorce dispute.  These issues must be considered before a contested divorce continues.  A wise and experienced divorce lawyer may help them understand the consequences and guide them to a more equitable negotiation to end the divorce dispute.

Misuse of the Contested Divorce Proce
A contested divorce can also be the result of one or both spouses unfairly or illegally creating conditions that would make a divorce possible or more easily and beneficially procured, often without the knowledge of their own divorce lawyer.  Those conditions can include the following:

  1. Provocation – a situation in which one party intentionally provokes the other into offending behavior that would be grounds for a divorce dispute.
  2. Condonation – a situation in which one partner condoned the actions of the other at one time, but later condemns them and uses them as grounds for a contested divorce. 
  3. Connivance – a situation in which one party lured the other into offensive behavior in order to create grounds for a divorce dispute, or set the stage to make the offensive behavior unavoidable.
  4. Collusion – a situation in which both parties work together to create grounds for one party to sue the other in a contested divorce.  This usually occurs when both parties do not want to wait the proscribed period for a no-fault divorce in their state and seek to create grounds for a fault-based, or contested divorce.

If it can be proven that the divorce dispute process is misused, the manipulative partner will lose the advantage they hoped to gain in the divorce dispute by his deceptive methods.  The only way collusion could be proven is by one of the partners having a change of heart and admitting his collusion in furthering his divorce dispute.

In many cases, a judge or divorce lawyer will see through such attempts at deception and will guide the spouses more appropriately.  In addition, most divorce lawyers and judges will attempt to streamline the process as much as possible.  Even a contested divorce can benefit from the experience of a divorce lawyer who has been through hundreds of contested divorces. 

In summary, while an uncontested divorce is simpler, cheaper, and quicker, sometimes a contested divorce is the only option.  It is difficult to resolve these difficult issues without the help of a divorce lawyer.  A divorce lawyer is not only necessary for the legal elements of a contested divorce, an experienced divorce lawyer can help you clarify what you can and cannot expect from a settlement.  A divorce lawyer who has handled hundreds of contested and uncontested divorce cases can also help you understand how to reach the best conclusion of your contested divorce.
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