Contested Versus Uncontested Divorce: What’s the Difference?

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Ending a marriage can be difficult, but the legal process doesn’t always have to be. There are two basic types of divorce in Missouri: contested divorce and uncontested divorce. When a spouse files for divorce, they may be able to amicably resolve their differences with the other spouse outside of court — or spouses may disagree on the important issues that must be determined. While an uncontested divorce can allow you to part ways with your spouse with less conflict, a contested divorce may be necessary in particularly contentious cases.

What is a Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce is one where the spouses cannot agree on the critical issues that must be decided in order to divorce. Usually, these types of divorces involve multiple court appearances and are lengthy, costly, and stressful. In a contested case, spouses may not be able to reach an agreement on one or more of the following issues that must be determined in any divorce action:

Importantly, even if your spouse refuses to work toward a resolution of your case, they cannot stop you from obtaining a divorce. In contested matters, spouses can continue to negotiate a settlement throughout the divorce process. If there are any issues that cannot be settled, the case will go to trial and a judge will decide the outcome.

While many divorces can be resolved by using mediation, negotiation, or the collaborative process, proceeding with a contested divorce can be best in cases where there is a disparity in power in the marriage. Because contested divorces are litigated before a judge, and there are a number of discovery tools available, it can help to ensure a fair outcome if a spouse might be concealing assets. A contested divorce can also be the better option in cases involving spousal abuse or domestic violence.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one where you and your spouse agree on all aspects of the divorce and the issues that must be decided. These types of divorces generally move quickly and are more cost-effective than contested divorces. This process can also ensure you divorce amicably — which is essential if you have children and must keep your co-parenting relationship intact.

When you use the uncontested process, it doesn’t necessarily mean that spouses automatically agree on everything, but that they are able to reach an agreement outside of court. Often, mediation and negotiation are used in uncontested cases to help spouses resolve any remaining issues that must be settled. Significantly, an uncontested divorce allows the spouses to remain in control of the outcome of their divorce. Rather than let a judge decide the issues that will impact them for years to come, the spouses work out the terms of their divorce on their own and the judge will issue an order.

Whether you should proceed with an uncontested divorce or a contested divorce will depend upon the specific facts and circumstances of your case. However, uncontested divorces are always the better option if it is available in your situation. Since negotiations and settlement discussions take place outside of a public courtroom, uncontested divorce can provide more privacy. The process can also be less stressful than a litigated divorce for the whole family, including your children.

Requirements and Procedures for Divorce in Missouri

The requirements to divorce in Missouri are the same, regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. Either spouse must have resided in the state for at least 90 days prior to commencing the divorce proceeding. You must also file a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage with the court and serve it upon your spouse. You will also need to file a statement of both spouses’ incomes and expenses, your settlement concerning how marital property and debts will be divided, and the agreed upon parenting plan. There is a 30-day waiting period in Missouri before a judge will sign the final divorce judgment.

If the case is contested, there are several more steps in the process. Once your papers have been filed in the court and served on your spouse, the discovery phase of litigation will begin. This allows both spouses the opportunity to request information from each other to learn more about the pertinent issues that must be decided — specifically, those involving finances. This is also the stage where depositions may be held. If there are still issues in dispute after discovery has concluded, the case will go to trial and a judge will render a ruling.

Contact an Experienced Missouri Divorce Attorney

Whether you are considering a contested or uncontested divorce, it’s essential to have a skillful attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and options. Divorce and family law attorney Mark A. Wortman provides knowledgeable representation to clients in the greater Kansas City, Missouri area who are facing both uncontested and contested divorce matters. To schedule a confidential consultation to learn how he can assist you, please contact him today online or by calling (816) 523-6100.

Categories: Divorce