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What is an uncontested divorce?

Most divorces that occur in the United States are finalized as uncontested divorces. An uncontested divorce simply means that couples are in agreement about issues relating to child custody, the division of assets, and other aspects of the divorce settlement. Collaborative divorce and mediated divorce are considered types of uncontested divorces. The mediators/collaborators are there to assist in reaching an uncontested settlement.

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce occurs when both parties are not in agreement about one or more of the issues regarding the divorce. A divorce may be contested at first, but then worked out in mediation or collaboration until an agreement can be reached, at which point in time it will be filed as an uncontested divorce. If no agreement can be reached, then the case will go either into arbitration or be arraigned in court, where a judge or arbitrator makes a ruling on these issues.

The advantages of an uncontested divorce

  • It is the easiest and least expensive path towards divorce possible. Uncontested divorces do not require lawyers and may need little or even no mediation time, so therefore it’s the most painless divorce possible.
  • You can control your own destiny. When each of you are able to work together civilly to reach an agreement that works for both of you, it’s the best type of divorce possible.
  • The agreements reached in uncontested divorces are much more likely to be abided by later, since each person feels like they’ve reached a reasonable resolution they can live with.

The disadvantages of an uncontested divorce

It’s hard to think of any disadvantages of an uncontested divorce, but lawyers caution that uncontested divorces may sometimes result in people waiving rights they did not know they had, such as financial support for pensions or other sources of income. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether this is a real concern, or whether lawyers are merely concerned about trying to get people to retain their services.

Contested divorce in “fault” jurisdictions

In certain jurisdictions that require fault or grounds to be proven before issuing a divorce, a contested divorce can also mean that one party is disputing the right of the other party to be granted a divorce. See our headings on “fault versus no fault divorce” and “grounds for divorce” for additional information.

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