What to Expect in a Contested Divorce

By Matthew Derrringer

When a couple cannot come to an agreement in a divorce case, a contentious and expensive process is likely to begin. This process may be long, you may have to appear in court and testify, and you should expect to pay more than you would like to in attorney fees.

When a couple cannot come to an agreement in a divorce case, a contentious and expensive process is likely to begin. This process may be long, you may have to appear in court and testify, and you should expect to pay more than you would like to in attorney fees.

Temporary Orders and Mediation

After the divorce petition is filed, temporary orders are usually required with regard to children and finances. In cases involving children, for example, temporary orders for custody, support and visitation arrangements are often made. Other couples may need an immediate court order regarding exclusive use of the marital home. Although these temporary orders are sometimes made without all of the facts due to the rushed nature of the decisions, the orders given by the court usually stay in effect until the final divorce decree is issued. In some states, disputes can trigger a requirement to attend mediation. When mediation is ordered, the couple and their attorneys attempt to reach an agreement outside of court. This is done in the presence of a neutral third party, who oversees and facilitates discussions.

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Discovery

The next step is the discovery process. Attorneys for each side seek a large amount of information, including the details about the other spouse’s financial holdings, debt obligations and retirement accounts. This information can be obtained through interrogatories, which are essentially a list of questions each side wants answered. The questions have to be very specific, and these can trigger more fighting if someone feels the questions are unnecessary or excessive. If you and your spouse cooperate and provide requested information, more formal discovery techniques such as depositions are not needed.

Struggle for Settlement

As the discovery process unfolds, and sometimes lasting all the way up to the moments before trial, the attorneys for the divorcing spouses are usually engaged in intense efforts to reach an out-of-court settlement. Structured, formal settlement conferences and pretrial proceedings are common during a contested divorce, because a trial is considered a last resort, but the productivity of these sessions usually depends on whether you and your spouse can cooperate to reach a settlement.

Trial

As the last resort, and last step, of a contested divorce, a trial takes place. You and your spouse lay out evidence for the court to come to a decision. The court can decide on issues of child custody and support, alimony, visitation schedules and property division. Both sides will each have the opportunity to call witnesses and present documents to help bolster their assertions. Once the court has heard all of the evidence, a divorce decree will be issued.

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What Happens at a Pretrial Hearing for Divorce?

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What Is a Litigated Divorce?

A litigated divorce is an adversarial process, with each party represented by legal counsel and presenting their strongest arguments to the judge. The divorce ends with a judge, rather than the parties, deciding the issues of child custody and support, spousal support and property division. Divorce is governed by state laws, which vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the general litigation process is similar -- as well as costly and potentially contentious -- in every state.

Can Illegal Aliens Testify in Divorces?

When you divorce your spouse, there are several steps you must complete before the court will issue your divorce decree. These steps range from filing the petition for divorce with the court and serving your spouse with a copy to participating in settlement negotiations and hearings before the court, if necessary. If a hearing is held, it may be necessary to call witnesses to help shed light on the facts of your case. Whether any of these witnesses are undocumented is usually irrelevant.

How Long Does the Divorce Process Take After the Deposition in Virginia?

Your depositions -- formal statements, either oral or written, that carry the same importance as testimony in court -- play a different role in a Virginia divorce, depending on whether the divorce is contested or not. In contested divorces, spouses do not agree about the terms of the divorce, and in uncontested divorces they do. However, every divorce is different, and the length of time required for your divorce will vary based on the court’s workload.

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