What Does It Really Mean to Have a Contested Divorce?
Divorce isn’t easy.
Georgia had a divorce rate of 11.7 per 1,000 people in 2018 and the state is tied with the 24th highest divorce rate in the country. While we would love to say that all of these divorces are amicable, that’s just not the case. A lot of these couples will fight to the bitter end, and the legal term for that type of divorce is known as a contested divorce.
Like marriage, divorce often does not go as planned.
If a marriage fails, the culprit can typically be traced back to strong disagreements by one party, or disagreements on both sides that continued right up to the end. If you couldn’t agree on things when you were married, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to come to the table and find a middle ground now. Hopefully, you can, but if you are reading this, that answer is probably no.
If this situation sounds familiar, you’re definitely going to want to talk to an experienced Atlanta divorce lawyer to understand what you can expect in terms of divorce costs (like alimony) or other issues (like child support or visitation, if you have children).
If your spouse is refusing to meet you halfway… or threatening to kick you out… leaving you with no money… not letting you see the kids… or threatening to “take you for everything you got”, the one thing you can count on is that you are definitely in for a bumpy road.
You can go it alone, but you should probably get some advice first.
These types of “court battles” end up dragging things out in a way that is costly, emotionally draining, and time-consuming to everyone involved. The sheer amount of time that ends up being spent litigating issues in court is what can make these types of divorces expensive — and how you measure expensive can mean many things.
Is a lawyer more expensive?
Or is years of unfair alimony or child support expensive?
What Is a Contested Divorce?
Spouses that agree on all of the terms in a divorce will be in an uncontested divorce.
These divorces are beneficial because they can save couples:
Divorce is stressful, and when a disagreement occurs, the divorce can become even more stressful. In terms of money, you can spend $3,500 or $20,000+ on a divorce. The average divorce in Georgia costs $14,000 according to lawyers.com.
A fast, amicable divorce where both spouses agree on the terms of the divorce outside of court and on their own will be the most cost-friendly.
If either spouse cannot agree on divorce terms, the divorce will be considered contested.
How a Couple’s Divorce Becomes “contested”
Disagreements can escalate into one spouse pushing for a higher share of assets or even an unfair share of the assets. The key factors that are often contested are:
- Division of marital debt
- Division of marital property
- Child custody
- Child support
Perhaps one spouse accumulated the majority of the debt in a marriage, so the opposing spouse is refusing to split the debt.
Georgia is different than most states and will consider bad conduct in a divorce. A person can ask for a divorce due to:
- Cruel treatment
Spouses that have been deserted or that have partners that are unfaithful often go through a contested divorce because they’re hurt, angry and often want revenge.
“While you need to choose your battles, it’s important to always express how you’re feeling and what’s concerning you,” explains relationship specialist Rachel Sussman, LSCW.
If you and your spouse cannot sit in the same room and agree on key parts of the divorce together, the court will have to decide on these issues for you. One issue is all it takes for the divorce process to leave the mediation or negotiation stage.
How to Resolve a Contested Divorce
Hiring an attorney that will guide you through a divorce is a wise choice. An attorney will help you through the negotiation process, but you will take on a lot of the initial burden by providing paperwork on:
- Martial assets and debts
- Children from the marriages
- Issues that are important to you
An attorney will go through all of the documentation you provide and discuss what you’re entitled to from the attorney’s perspective. The process will follow a standard process afterward:
- Your lawyer will file a divorce petition
- Your spouse will be served with a divorce petition
- Your spouse must respond to the petition within 30 days
If your spouse fails to reply to the petition, it’s possible that you can obtain a default judgment against your spouse.
Discovery will take place next. The discovery process is where information is shared among spouses include detailed lists of property, debts, expenses and other information. Missing a deadline during discovery will slow the case down.
Spouses can also make requests at this time for:
- Temporary alimony
- Temporary child support
Judges will encourage both parties to work their hardest to come to an agreement. With the help of an attorney, it’s possible to come to an agreement and not have the divorce go in front of the court. The judge may even order the couple to go to a mediator to try overcoming issues they have in the divorce.
The next step is going to trial. Post-trial motions will take place afterward if it’s approved by the judge. You also have the right to appeal the final judgment.
Mediation or Negotiation Takes Time
It is in the best interest of all parties not to bring the case to court. Couples must understand that it can take several mediation or negotiation sessions before an agreement is made. Couples may have difficulty:
- Dividing assets inherited during a divorce
- Determining who will have custodial rights
- Where children will live and when
A divorce can move as quickly or slowly as the spouses allow. Uncontested divorces can take as little as one month to complete while complex contested divorces can take a year or more to complete.
If you need help with your contested divorce, contact us today to speak to an experienced Atlanta divorce attorney.