By Mike Stetzer
Many couples going through a divorce turn to the court to help them secure possession of important property, fairly divide debts, and determine child custody and support payments. When a couple cannot agree on elements of their separation, it is said to be a contested divorce.
Contested divorce can describe a divorce where one party is arguing the other doesn't have grounds for divorce or it can mean that the divorce, itself, is being contested.
More commonly, the term is used to describe the divorce process where both parties want divorce but can't agree on issues like child custody and support, alimony and property division.
Every divorce, contested or uncontested, begins with filing a divorce petition and service of process on the spouse who didn't file the petition. If there are contested issues, one of the divorce lawyers may request a hearing. The hearing may be requested at the same time the divorce petition is filed or at a later date.
Depending on the case, the attorney may request a hearing to establish temporary orders. The purpose of the temporary hearing is to establish orders that will remain in effect until the divorce is final. A contested divorce case may take months or longer to complete - life doesn't stand still during that time. Someone must care for the children, pay bills and maintain property.
Temporary orders may be entered by agreement or established at a contested hearing. If a contested hearing is necessary, both spouses will have the opportunity to present a limited amount of evidence to help the divorce court decide on how to rule on short-term issues. Temporary orders remain in effect until either the final divorce decree is entered or a party moves to modify and the judge grants that motion.
While a divorce is pending, each spouse's attorney may request discovery from the other spouse. This may include income records, deeds or titles to property, business account records, credit card bills and other spending records, proposed witness lists and almost anything else that may relate to the financial, custody, and visitation issues in a divorce case.
At the same time, the court may require the parties to attend divorce mediation, custody counseling or other programs designed to help with the divorce process and prevent stress on children.
At a contested final hearing, the judge will hear evidence from both parties. This may include testimony from both spouses, other witnesses, financial records, police or medical reports and any admissible form of evidence. The evidence presented helps to establish fair division of debts and assets and the best interest of the child of the marriage.
The final hearing may be scheduled at the request of either party. In some jurisdictions, a judge may schedule a status conference on his or her own motion if the divorce has been pending for a long time without any activity.
Depending upon the complexity of the divorce and the contested issues, the judge may enter a ruling from the bench or take the matter under advisement and enter a ruling later. Even if the judge enters a ruling from the bench, most states don't consider the couple legally divorced until the divorce decree has been entered.
A contested divorce case can be a long, involved and emotionally draining experience. A local divorce lawyer can help you understand the necessary steps, gather the evidence you need and navigate the divorce court system. Total Divorce can help you connect with a local divorce lawyer to find out more about your contested divorce. Fill out a divorce case review form or call 877-349-1310 to set up a preliminary consultation today.