Difference Between Contested & Uncontested Divorce

by Beverly Bird
An uncontested divorce ends your marriage according to your own terms.

An uncontested divorce ends your marriage according to your own terms.

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Divorce can be a morass of legal terms that leaves couples confused and nervous, but some meanings are just what they sound like. If your divorce is uncontested, you and your spouse are not arguing any issues. A contested divorce is the stuff movies are made of – courtrooms, testimony and evidence.

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When Issues Are Resolved

If you and your spouse can reach agreement regarding custody, child support, property, debts and alimony, your divorce is uncontested. If you do this before you file for divorce, your proceedings are typically streamlined and uneventful. Sometimes, divorces start out contested, but spouses are able to negotiate a resolution of the issues during the proceedings. As long as a reasonable agreement is reached and submitted to the court, your divorce is not considered contested.

When the Court Must Decide

If there's even one issue you and your spouse can't agree on, your divorce is contested. For example, you agree on how to divide all your property and debts, but you can't reach a settlement on custody. In this case, you can still sign a settlement agreement detailing the terms of what you do agree on, but the court would have to decide the outstanding issues. Contested divorces usually involve discovery -- the exchange of information and evidence -- then a trial.

Divorce by Default

A default divorce is sometimes referred to as uncontested. If your spouse doesn't answer your complaint or petition, the proceedings will proceed without his input. In many cases, you will receive everything you request of the court, such as custody or property, because your spouse hasn't defended himself.