What Is a Contested Divorce? A contested divorce is a legal process in which spouses are unable to reach an agreement on important issues related to their separation. Unlike an uncontested divorce, where couples mutually agree on terms, a contested divorce involves disputes and disagreements that often require court intervention.

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What Is a Contested Divorce?

Understanding the concept of a contested divorce is crucial for individuals navigating the complexities of marital dissolution.

Understanding Divorce

Divorce is a legal process that dissolves a marriage, allowing spouses to legally separate and terminate their marital obligations. It is important to recognize that divorce laws and procedures vary across jurisdictions. When it comes to divorce, two primary categories are recognized: contested and uncontested divorce.

What is Contested Divorce

Here, spouses are unable to agree on essential matters such as property division, child custody and visitation, spousal support or alimony, and child support. These disagreements may arise due to various factors, including conflicting interests, communication breakdown, financial concerns, or emotional and personal factors.

Unlike an uncontested divorce, a contested divorce typically requires litigation and court proceedings to resolve disputes.

Key Features of a Contested Divorce

It involves several distinctive features that set it apart from an uncontested divorce. One significant aspect is the need for legal representation. Each spouse typically hires an attorney to advocate for their rights and interests throughout the process. The involvement of attorneys contributes to the complexity and duration of a contested divorce.

Here, spouses often have fundamental disagreements on critical issues. These disputes may involve the fair division of assets and property accumulated during the marriage, determining child custody and visitation arrangements that serve the best interests of the children, establishing spousal support or alimony, and calculating child support obligations.

The resolution of these disputes may require extensive negotiations, mediation, or, if necessary, litigation in court. Unlike an uncontested divorce, where couples can usually reach an agreement through amicable discussions, a contested divorce involves a more adversarial approach due to the disagreements between the spouses.

Common Issues in a Contested Divorce:

Property division is a key concern in contested divorces, especially when couples possess substantial assets, real estate, investments, or business interests. Disputes may arise regarding the equitable distribution of these assets, and the court may consider factors like the duration of the marriage and each spouse’s contributions when making a decision.

Child custody and visitation rights are often emotionally charged issues in a contested divorce. Determining the best interests of the child is a primary consideration for the court, focusing on factors such as parental involvement, stability, and the child’s well-being.

Spousal support, or alimony, is another matter of contention in contested divorces, with one spouse seeking financial assistance from the other. Factors such as the length of the marriage, income disparity, and the recipient’s ability to become self-supporting are considered when determining the amount and duration of spousal support.

Child support is an obligation that aims to provide for the child’s financial needs after a divorce. In contested divorces, disagreements may arise regarding the appropriate amount of child support, taking into account factors such as the income of both parents, custody arrangements, and the child’s specific requirements.

Reasons for Contested Divorce

There are several reasons that could cause this and they are listed below:

  • Communication breakdown and lack of agreement on key issues: In a contested divorce, spouses often struggle to effectively communicate and reach agreements on crucial matters. Differences in opinions, perspectives, and priorities can contribute to this breakdown in communication.
  • Financial disputes, including property, assets, debts, and financial support: Money-related matters can be a significant source of conflict in a divorce. Disagreements can arise over the division of property, assets, debts, and determining financial support for one or both spouses.
  • Child-related disagreements, such as custody arrangements and parenting decisions: Disputes involving children, such as determining custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and making important decisions about their upbringing, can lead to a divorce becoming contested.
  • Emotional and personal factors, like hurt feelings, resentment, or a lack of trust: Emotional and personal factors can also contribute to a divorce becoming contested. Feelings of hurt, anger, resentment, or a lack of trust can make it difficult for spouses to work together and find common ground.

Legal Steps in a Contested Divorce:

It follows several legal steps. It typically begins with one spouse filing a divorce petition, which the other spouse must respond to within a specified timeframe.

The discovery process follows, during which both parties gather evidence and information to support their respective claims. Negotiations and mediation may be attempted to reach a settlement outside of court. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case proceeds to trial, where a judge will make decisions on the contested issues.

  • Seeking Professional Assistance:

Given the complexities and potential adversarial nature of contested divorces, it is crucial to seek professional assistance. Hiring an experienced family law attorney is highly recommended to navigate the legal intricacies, protect rights and interests, and ensure a fair resolution. Mediators and divorce coaches can also provide valuable support, facilitating negotiations and helping spouses navigate the emotional challenges associated with divorce.


Understanding the concept is essential for individuals facing marital dissolution. In a contested divorce, spouses encounter disagreements and disputes regarding critical issues, requiring legal intervention and court proceedings.

Property division, child custody, spousal support, and child support are common areas of contention. By seeking professional assistance and understanding the legal steps involved, individuals can navigate the complexities of a contested divorce with greater clarity and confidence.


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