What's the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?


If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, the process can vary depending on how much you agree on in terms of the divorce agreement. Understanding the difference between an uncontested and contested divorce in Virginia can help you determine how to navigate your divorce.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, both spouses agree on all major issues and legal matters within the divorce process. These issues can include:

  • Division of property: How you will divide the real estate, shared bank accounts, and all other shared property
  • Division of debt: Who will be responsible for any marital debt, including debt that technically belongs to only one spouse
  • Child custody: How you will divide parenting time of shared children
  • Child support: Whether a non-custodial parent will owe the custodial parent child support and how much
  • Spousal support: Whether the higher-earning spouse will owe the lower-earning spouse support for a designated period

When you and your spouse agree on these issues, you usually do not need to undergo dispute resolution through mediation, arbitration, or a judge's ruling. As a result, uncontested divorces are often faster and simpler than contested divorces.

You can sign a Virginia martial settlement agreement to indicate how they would like to proceed with the above matters. In many cases, the judge will sign off on this agreement without requiring a trial or a court hearing.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

The difference between an uncontested and contested divorce is that in a contested divorce, both spouses do not agree on one or more legal matters within the divorce process. As such, they require intervention to settle their disagreements.

A contested divorce can include any of the following:

  • Mediation: A meeting between both spouses and a trained, neutral mediator who invites discussion and encourages mutual negotiation.
  • Arbitration: An informal, private approach to dispute resolution in which the couple hires a professional arbitrator to make decisions for them, avoiding a trial.
  • Divorce trial: A court intervention in which a judge listens to both spouses, examines all of the relevant circumstances and makes a final decision on legal matters.

Many couples in a contested divorce undergo mediation or arbitration first to attempt to settle the dispute out of court. The court may even order one or both of these resolution techniques.

If these measures are unsuccessful, the couple may turn to a divorce trial to allow a judge to make the final decision.

Differences Between Uncontested and Contested Divorce

The main difference between an uncontested and contested divorce is the level of agreement between spouses. A contested divorce can become an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse reach an agreement, through mediation or other means, before they initiate a divorce trial.

Contested divorces also typically take longer to finalize than uncontested divorces, sometimes spanning over a year.

Contact Our Virginia Family Law Attorneys

Whether you are going through an uncontested or contested divorce, having qualified legal representation can help you protect your rights. Contact our family law attorneys at DiPietro Law Group, PLLC, today at 888-530-4374 to schedule your consultation.

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