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Contested Vs Uncontested Divorce

The Spence Law Firm May 30, 2024

Going through a divorce is challenging. That's a given. But a common misconception is that every divorce is messy and requires lengthy courtroom battles. While it may be true for some, that simply isn't the case for all. 

Understanding the different pathways—contested and uncontested—can help you make more informed decisions about how to proceed with your own divorce. Whether you and your spouse amicably agree on all the terms or face disagreements on several fronts, knowing your options can save time, stress, and resources. 

A contested divorce becomes necessary when you and your spouse cannot agree on significant issues, requiring a judge's intervention to reach a resolution. This type of divorce is often part of the broader "regular dissolution of marriage" in Florida, especially when children, alimony requests, or complex financial matters are involved. 

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all critical issues, such as child custody, visitation schedules (timesharing), child support, alimony, and the division of assets and debts. Its cooperative characteristics allow you to create a marital settlement agreement that reflects your unique needs and circumstances, without the need for prolonged courtroom battles. 

A Deeper Dive Into Contested Divorce 

When people think of divorce, they often envision the contentious scenarios frequently depicted in movies and TV shows: heated arguments, emotional testimonies, and prolonged legal battles. These images reflect the reality of contested divorces, where the divorcing parties cannot agree on one or more significant issues, such as child custody, division of assets, spousal support, or other critical terms.  

This lack of agreement necessitates the court's intervention to make decisions on their behalf, thereby extending the process's duration. Due to the adversarial nature of contested divorces, they're known to be more emotionally and financially draining. 

Contested divorces usually involve several stages, such as mediation attempts and, if necessary, full court trials. During this process, spouses can present evidence and make their case for why the court should side with their proposed resolutions regarding asset division, child custody, and other contentious issues. 

While a contested divorce can be emotionally and financially taxing, it may be the only way to ensure a fair outcome when significant disagreements exist. 

Understanding Uncontested Divorce 

To pursue an uncontested divorce in Florida, couples must meet specific eligibility requirements.  

  • At least one of the spouses must have been a Florida resident for a minimum of six months prior to filing. This residency requirement ensures that the Florida court has jurisdiction over the divorce proceedings. 

  • Both spouses must agree to all terms of the divorce to qualify for an uncontested divorce. If both parties cannot reach an agreement on even one issue, the divorce becomes contested and may require court intervention. 

  • The couple must file a petition for a simplified dissolution of marriage, which involves submitting a Marital Settlement Agreement outlining the agreed-upon terms. Both parties must appear at a final hearing, where a judge will review the agreement to ensure it is fair and meets the legal requirements. 

Even if you reach a verbal agreement, you must formalize it in writing to avoid misunderstandings later. This written contract, known as a marital settlement agreement, is legally binding and enforceable by the court. It can be crafted before or after filing for divorce and should comprehensively address all pertinent matters. 

Both parties must file a Family Law Financial Affidavit to ensure transparency regarding income, assets, and liabilities. Once everything is set, a short final hearing will confirm your divorce, saving you much of the heartache and expense typical of contested divorces. 

One of the main benefits of an uncontested divorce is that it tends to be quicker and less expensive than a contested divorce. Because the court's involvement is minimal, the entire process usually resolves faster. This can be particularly advantageous for couples without children or significant assets. 

Which Path Is Right for You? 

Choosing between contested and uncontested divorce depends largely on your relationship with your spouse and your ability to negotiate and compromise on key issues.  

Consulting with an experienced divorce attorney can help you weigh your options and determine the best course for your situation. 

At The Spence Law Firm, I have extensive experience in guiding clients through both uncontested and contested divorces. My goal is to help you achieve the best possible outcome while minimizing stress and financial burden. 

Seek Professional Guidance 

If you're navigating the complexities of divorce in Orlando or Central Florida, The Spence Law Firm is here to assist. I work with families throughout Orange County, Florida, and the surrounding areas including Oak Ridge, Pine Hills, Lockhart, Maitland, Azalea Park, Osceola County, Lake County, & Seminole County. 

Whether you’re considering an amicable uncontested divorce or facing disagreements that require courtroom intervention, I offer the compassionate, diligent representation you need. 

Contact my firm today for a consultation to discuss your specific needs and how I can support you through this pivotal life chapter.