Steve Wiechman Attorney at Law
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Pros and cons: Uncontested versus contested divorce

When you’re thinking of getting a divorce, a key consideration may be -- how hard do you really want to fight?

There might be children, housing, property and a business to consider. Then there’s also your future to think about, your reputation and the emotional toll of this often-distraught process. There’s a lot on the line, so taking the right path will be about choosing what is important to you.

Divorces can be split into two broad categories: uncontested divorce and contested divorce.

Uncontested divorce

This is where the two parties work more closely together and can come to a decision outside of court. Options include mediation, collaborative divorce and coming to an agreement on your own.

Pros:

  • It’s usually cheaper and takes less time to complete as you don’t need time in court.
  • If the divorce is uncontested and less contentious there is also less chance that the decision will be re-contested later.
  • tudies have shown that mediation could have better effects psychologically for you and others you are in a relationship with, such as your children.
  • You control the agreement. Through fighting, many people lose sight of the fact that this is their divorce, and they could have total control over their future. Inviting a judge into the decision-making can sometimes muddy the waters.
  • Confidentiality -- fewer details of your life and marriage are published through court records than if you went to court.

Cons:

  • If there is a history of family violence, psychological abuse or a similar power dynamic, contested divorce is better. An abusive spouse should not get the opportunity to swing negotiations in their favor.
  • If the parties do not agree on all issues to finish the marriage (e.g. splitting assets, child custody, debt allocation, alimony etc.) then this could be a long and unhelpful process.
  • If ultimately unsuccessful, an uncontested divorce does not remove your right to a contested court process. You could go to court anyway and mediation might feel like a waste of time and money.
  • Those not experienced with the legal system or who are not confident in going through forms and paperwork on their own might be more comfortable going to court. Uncontested divorces require added work by each party.

Contested divorce

It could be that you and your ex cannot make an agreement at all. Conversation is off the table, or ends in fights, and the court must step in to make the decision. This results in both parties using respective attorneys and time in court.

Pros:

  • A court process can be effective if one party feels they cannot talk freely or without fear, or if compromise is not on the agenda for one or both parties.
  • Despite being adversarial, you may feel a contested hearing is required for your voice to be heard.
  • If you’re worried about bias, the court has none – you can fight for equality.
  • You might reach a settlement before you head to court, which would cut your costs. But taking the contested route initially might be a good tactic, aggressively acting first and making sure you’re prepared financially, legally and emotionally.

Cons:

  • Usually, contested divorce takes more money and more time, compared to uncontested divorce.
  • A fight in court is likely to be more emotionally draining for you than a settlement or negotiation. Not knowing your partner’s intentions could mean sleepless nights and surprises.
  • Ultimately, you might be uncomfortable that your future is in the hands of a stranger, the judge. They will be deciding your case using just a handful of documents and testimony. The judge cannot know you or the full complexity of your family’s dynamics.

Divorce can seem like a procedural of binaries: fight it out, or talk it out. But there are many other paths a divorce could go down. Each option has its own quirks and will affect you differently, both physically in terms of wealth and sanity. You should research widely and consider what is right for you and your individual situation.

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Steve Wiechman Attorney at Law
1101 SW 10th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66604

Phone: 785-379-6642
Fax: 785-233-8893
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