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Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: The Key Differences


Contested and uncontested divorce achieve the same end result legally, however, there are key differences between the two. Contested vs. uncontested divorce has to do with whether spouses agree or disagree with one another on major issues like property division and spousal support. Before you proceed, it is important to understand the differences between these two options and how they might affect the total cost of and time spent on legal processes. Regardless of which type of divorce you pursue, family law specialist Kate Rockas in San Rafael, CA, can guide you through each step, including filing, and provide sound legal counsel.

What is a Contested Divorce?

In a contested divorce, partners disagree on the terms of the divorce. Disagreements can include but are not limited to child custody and visitation, child support, parenting time, spousal support, and division of property. While not all contested divorces end up in court, many do. There are clear downsides to a contested divorce, as:

  • Proceedings can last many months, if not years
  • Legal fees and court expenses can be very costly over time
  • Both parties forfeit control they may have otherwise had over the outcome

While individuals tend to focus on how expensive a contested divorce can be and how long the proceedings will take, control over the outcome is a key, yet often overlooked consideration. In a contested divorce, both parties effectively relinquish any control over the situation by putting the case in a judge’s hands.

An uncontested divorce is the easiest, most straightforward, and cost-effective type of divorce.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, partners agree on the terms of the divorce. Spouses will agree on division of property, spousal support, parenting time, and every other matter related to the divorce. An uncontested divorce is the easiest, most straightforward, and cost-effective type of divorce. It is faster and less expensive than a contested divorce, and it allows both parties to retain control over the situation and agree upon the outcome. Good candidates for an uncontested divorce include couples with little to no assets, couples with no children, and couples seeking an amicable resolution.

There are, however, reasons why an uncontested divorce may not be ideal, including:

  • Physical or emotional spousal abuse
  • Physical or emotional child abuse
  • Suspicion of hidden income or assets
  • Attempts to manipulate a child into siding with one parent over another

If an uncontested divorce is seemingly unfeasible, it is imperative that you protect yourself and your children by hiring a family law specialist.

Avoiding a Contested Divorce

There are a series of topics spouses will likely need to agree on to avoid a contested divorce.

Child Custody and Visitation

In most cases, children can benefit from continuing and frequent contact with both parents. When determining custody and visitation, spouses should consider what is in the best interest of the child, taking into account the child's health, safety, and welfare.

Child Support

One parent will provide monthly payments to another to cover the costs of raising the child. More often than not, the custodial parent (the parent that spends the bulk of the time caring for the child) will receive payments from the non-custodial parent.

Parenting Time

Commonly known as visitation, parenting time is the plan for how parents will share time with a child. Parents should follow a detailed visitation schedule to avoid confusion and conflict.

Spousal Support

When a couple divorces, one spouse may be required to pay the other a fixed amount of money each month. These payments can be temporary or permanent. In determining permanent alimony, many factors will be considered including length of marriage, earning capacity, as well as debts and assets.

Division of Property

Property acquired during marriage will be divided 50/50 (or as close as possible) provided there is no prior agreement stating otherwise. This is called community property law. Exceptions to the rule include inheritance, gifts, and earnings or acquisitions after separation.

Choose Kate Rockas for Your Divorce Proceedings

Family law specialist Kate Rockas understands the emotional toll a divorce can take on a family. She focuses on amicable solutions and strives for uncontested divorces to save you time and money. However, Ms. Rockas is not afraid to pursue a contested divorce when necessary, and will advocate strongly on your behalf. To find out more and to schedule a consultation, contact us online or call us today at (415) 306-5560.

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I consider Kate to be an outstanding Family Law attorney. She is one of only two Family Law attorneys in Marin County to whom I refer clients.

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