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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: Which One Is Right for Me? 

Law Office of Joshua S. Reed March 28, 2023

When considering filing for divorce, it is important to understand the differences between an uncontested divorce and a contested divorce. In fact, choosing between a contested and uncontested divorce may be one of the first major decisions you will have to make after filing divorce papers.  

Depending on your individual situation, these two types of divorces can involve different processes, costs, and timelines. Consider speaking with our skilled family law attorney at the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed to get professional help in deciding between a contested vs. uncontested divorce. With an office in Knoxville, Tennessee, our team also serves clients in Farragut and surrounding areas.  

What Is an Uncontested Divorce? 

An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties are in agreement regarding all aspects of the divorce process, including matters such as child custody and alimony payments. In an uncontested divorce, both parties sign a settlement agreement before filing for the divorce. This agreement covers all of the issues related to their separation.  

The aim of an uncontested divorce is for both parties to reach agreements without going to court, though the assistance of an attorney may still be necessary to ensure that the agreements they reach are fair and legally binding.  

What Is a Contested Divorce? 

A contested divorce is one in which one or both parties cannot agree on certain aspects of their separation—including child support, property division, or alimony payments—and must go to court to resolve those conflicts. In a contested case, each party has their own attorney who will present evidence and arguments in favor of their client’s position.  

A judge then decides how these issues should be settled based on the evidence presented. This type of divorce tends to be more expensive than an uncontested one due to additional legal fees associated with litigation.  

Filing for Uncontested vs. Contested Divorce 

Uncontested and contested divorce also differ in terms of the filing process: 

Uncontested divorce 

In an uncontested case, the process is relatively simple and straightforward. Typically, only one spouse files paperwork with the court outlining what they have agreed upon with regard to various elements such as asset division or spousal support.  

Once this paperwork has been submitted, it is reviewed by a judge who makes sure that everything adheres to applicable laws. If the judge finds any problems with it, they will suggest changes before approval is granted. The entire process can usually be completed within two to four months from start to finish.  

Contested divorce 

When filing for a contested case, there are many more steps involved because each side needs to present evidence and arguments in order for an agreement or ruling from the court to be finalized. This can take anywhere from six months up to several years depending on how complex the dispute is and whether or not either party appeals to any decision made by the judge along the way.  

Additionally, in some cases, mediation services may be utilized in order to help both sides come together outside of court--which can potentially save time and money while producing better results than litigating over every issue would provide.  

No matter what your divorce path turns out to be, it’s in your best interest to get assistance from an attorney to help you navigate every step of the divorce process.  

The Pros and Cons of an Uncontested Divorce 

An uncontested divorce has several advantages over its contested counterpart. Some include: 

  • It saves both parties time and money since there are no drawn-out negotiations or court proceedings to contend with—meaning everything gets done much faster than with other methods.  

  • Since all issues have been agreed upon beforehand by both parties involved in the case, there’s much less stress associated with going through an uncontested divorce than with its contested counterpart—making it easier for everyone involved to move forward afterward without lingering animosity or unresolved issues still hanging around after everything has been finalized in court.   

The following cover some cons of an uncontested divorce: 

  • The main con is that one spouse may end up feeling resentful or taken advantage of if they don’t feel like their needs were adequately represented during negotiations—especially if they were unaware that certain things weren’t even discussed before being signed off on by both parties involved in the case.  

  • If one party changes their mind after signing off on something before finalizing their agreement in court, this could result in further delays as well as additional costs.  

The Pros and Cons of a Contested Divorce 

The main benefits of a contested divorce are: 

  • It gives you an opportunity to have your voice heard in court. This means that if you feel strongly about certain topics such as child custody or alimony payments, then having a contested divorce may be beneficial for you since it gives you more control over the outcome of your case.  

  • Having an attorney represent you can help ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process.  

The downsides to contesting a divorce include:  

  • It can be costly and time-consuming. Having an attorney present typically requires paying legal fees, which can add up quickly depending on how complex your case is.  

  • Since there are disagreements between spouses, this usually results in drawn-out negotiations and court proceedings which increases the length (and cost) of the entire process.  

  • There’s no guarantee that either spouse will get what they want out of it - so there’s always a risk involved when deciding to go this route. 

Which Option Is Right for Me? 

Knox County, which includes Knoxville and Farragut, accounts for the highest number of divorce filings per year in the state of Tennessee (1,642 in 2020).  

However, before filing for divorce, you need to know which path is best for you. Choosing between an uncontested and contested divorce comes down to whether or not you are able to come to an agreement with your spouse without involving third-party mediation or judgments from a court hearing.  

If so, then an uncontested divorce may be the best option for you. If not, then a contested one may be necessary. No matter which route you choose, remember that it’s imperative that you consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in family law matters so that they can guide you through the process every step of the way.  

Decide Your Next Steps 

Every divorce is different. Sometimes, an uncontested divorce just isn’t in the cards. But when it is, it’s not always necessarily the best method. To understand which path is right for you, consider speaking with our knowledgeable attorney at the Law Office of Joshua S. Reed to discuss the facts of your case and help you decide which route to take in your particular situation. Reach out to our office today to schedule a free case evaluation