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Uncontested and contested divorce.

Contested vs Uncontested Divorce

When a marriage ends in divorce, things can go one of two ways. 

In some separations, both parties are looking to end the marriage, and there is really no dispute between them over the issues. These divorces have the potential to move simply and ideally with less fighting between the former couple.  However, other divorces can become bitter battles. When former partners cannot agree on certain key matters on their own, like the division of property, support, or issues involving children, then it can become a full-on battle that wages for months or even years. 

The above scenarios are known at law as uncontested vs. contested divorces. As you might assume, the level of complexity, along with the levels of stress, anger, and, yes, even legal expense, depends on the positions that everyone takes in the split.

What is an uncontested divorce? 

An uncontested divorce is exactly that – one where neither party is putting up a fight. Both agree that the marriage is over and seek the court’s assistance to dissolve the marriage through a simple divorce on an uncontested basis. An uncontested divorce should happen “over the counter,” meaning neither party ever has to physically appear before a judge to get a divorce order.

In many cases, the uncontested divorce is the last step of the family matter. The parties are able to reach an agreement on everything without needing to go to court. This means the parties would have resolved the division of property and any support.  It also means that if there are children of the marriage, the parties have agreed on reasonable arrangements for child support, parenting time, and decision-making responsibilities. Once those issues are resolved, then both parties need to be separated for at least one (1) year, with no hope of reconciling the marriage when asking the Court to order the divorce to dissolve the marriage.  

Uncontested divorces can be negotiated before they go to the Court for approval, so they do not require motions before a judge or lengthy trials. They can, in fact, be negotiated without lawyers – however, this is rarely advisable. Instead, a family lawyer can help ensure that all of the proper steps are followed and all boxes checked so that the paperwork can be easily approved by the Court without additional negotiations. 

What is a contested divorce?

In a contested divorce, the parties, unsurprisingly, disagree on one or several key issues, leading to a dispute over whether the Court should order the divorce. This can mean child support, parenting, spousal support, or division of family property. Disagreement on any of these key issues can lead to a delay in obtaining a divorce.  In some cases, a contested divorce happens when one party goes to Court asking for just a “simple divorce,” but the other party disagrees with the Court granting a divorce order until all of the other issues are dealt with. The other party then “contests” the divorce and, in effect, ties the divorce up with issues connected to the divorce, known as “corollary relief.” 

Contested divorces are not quick, although the goal is to expedite the process and save costs wherever possible. Litigation can be a great expense that parties will often try to avoid. 

A way to potentially avoid a contested divorce is to take a civil and constructive approach to negotiations or dispute resolution early on. This can include bringing in a neutral third-party mediator early in the process to help bridge the gaps between the parties and come to an agreement on some of the key issues. 

Ultimately, while a judge may be equipped to help resolve all matters, the costs and delays of getting before the Court can be taxing. The results of a judgment are also unpredictable and may not always work out in your favour. Taking a civil and constructive approach to any negotiations or early dispute resolution can help save time, money, and headaches. 

Many parties embarking on a divorce also do not realize how expensive the process can be. While we work to be mindful of client costs wherever possible, prolonged fighting on every single issue can mean legal bills in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is not uncommon for family law litigants to exhaust their legal funds and end up self-representing themselves in the final stages of their proceedings. 

How we can help

If your divorce is uncontested, bringing an expert set of eyes into the mix is still important. You don’t always know what you don’t know, and missing a key detail could ultimately leave you vulnerable. A family lawyer can help review the process without adding further delays or complications but can make sure that you’re taking all necessary steps toward a successful resolution. 

In a contested divorce, having the right advocate on your side is crucial. Divorce is painful and stressful enough; you need a family lawyer who will advocate for you while still being mindful of your needs. Our family lawyers understand the ins and outs of the divorce process, and we have been named one of the Top 3 Divorce Lawyers in Cambridge.

We help support clients across the Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo Regions, handling everything from straightforward family matters to complicated ones. Contact us today to set up a consultation.