What Happens During a Contested Divorce?

A contested divorce can involve a lot of negotiation, mediation, and even litigation before finalizing. This is because a contested divorce involves spouses who have very strong and competing opinions on how to handle matters such as property division or child custody.

If you and your spouse are unable to agree on important aspects of your divorce, it’s important that you seek legal representation from an attorney with experience handling contested divorces. The level of conflict can rise and fall throughout the process, which is why you need an attorney who’s capable of providing dynamic representation.

Although we’ve broadly outlined what happens during a contested divorce, let’s take a closer look at the typical order of events.

Filing for Divorce

The contested divorce process begins when one spouse files a divorce petition with the court. This document outlines the grounds for divorce and the desired terms for issues like property division, custody, and support. The filing spouse, known as the petitioner, must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse through a process server.

The Response & Counterclaim

After receiving the divorce papers, the respondent must file a response, either agreeing with or contesting the petition. If the respondent disagrees with any terms, as they would in a contested divorce, they may file a counterclaim, presenting their own terms for the divorce. This sets the stage for negotiation and potential litigation.

The Discovery Phase

Discovery involves gathering information and evidence to support each party’s claims. This phase includes exchanging documents, answering written questions (interrogatories), and taking depositions.

Both parties may request financial records, emails, text messages, and other relevant documents. Discovery aims to provide a clear understanding of each party’s financial situation and any other factors pertinent to the divorce.

Temporary Orders

While the divorce process unfolds, temporary orders may be necessary to address immediate concerns. These orders can cover temporary child custody arrangements, spousal support, and use of marital property. The court issues these orders to maintain stability and fairness until it issues the final divorce decree.

Mediation & Settlement Negotiations

Many contested divorces involve mediation, where a neutral third party helps spouses negotiate and reach a settlement. Mediation provides an opportunity to resolve disputes without going to trial. If successful, mediation can save time, money, and emotional strain. However, if mediation fails, the divorce proceeds to trial.

Pre-Trial Conferences

Before the trial, the court may hold pre-trial conferences to encourage settlement and streamline the trial process. During these conferences, the judge reviews the issues, evaluates the readiness of both parties, and addresses any procedural matters. Pre-trial conferences offer another chance for the spouses to settle their differences and avoid a full trial.

The Divorce Trial Process

If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the divorce case goes to trial. During the trial, both parties present their evidence and arguments to the judge. Witnesses may testify, and experts may provide opinions on issues like property valuation or child custody. The judge evaluates the evidence and makes decisions on contested issues based on the law and facts presented.

How Long Does a Divorce Trial Take?

Some divorce trials can be completed within a day while others can take a few weeks. Ultimately, the duration of your divorce trial will depend on the nature and complexity of the disagreement between you and your spouse. Keep in mind that the entire divorce process often takes several months to complete.

Final Judgment & Decree

After the trial, the judge issues a final judgment and decree of divorce, outlining the terms for property division, child custody, spousal support, and any other relevant issues. This decree legally ends the marriage and establishes the rights and responsibilities of each party. If either party disagrees with the judge’s decision, they may appeal the ruling to a higher court.

Providing the Legal Support You Need

Navigating a contested divorce involves various legal challenges and emotional hurdles. Our experienced divorce attorney at Kay Polk, Attorney at Law can provide the support and guidance you need throughout this difficult process.

Every divorce case is unique, requiring a tailored approach. We invest time in understanding our clients’ specific situations, goals, and concerns. Our attorney then develops personalized strategies to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome. Whether through mediation or litigation, we advocate for your interests with dedication and determination.

For more information, contact us today and request an initial consultation.