Often, one spouse knows before the other that the marriage is over. Maybe it’s only over for them and their spouse thinks the marriage is fine. Or maybe they both know their marriage has issues, but one feels like they should work on it and the other is ready to call it quits. Whatever the case, if a person wants to get divorced but their spouse isn’t on the same page, they may be headed for a contested divorce.
What Is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce happens when spouses cannot agree on the terms of the divorce, or they cannot even agree that they want to get a divorce. Issues that can result in a contested divorce include the following:
- Acceptance – If one spouse is unable or unwilling to accept that the marriage is over, it can be difficult to convince them to agree to a divorce.
- Religion – In some cases, a spouse’s religion does not recognize or looks down upon divorce. This can lead to that spouse refusing to agree to a divorce.
- Child Custody – It has become a cliché, but that is because it is true. Many couples stay together for their kids. However, that is, of course, not always the case. Unfortunately, if couples cannot agree on child custody issues, it can lead to a contentious divorce process with the kids caught in the middle.
- Finances – Disagreements involving a couple’s finances are one of the most common causes of a contested divorce. Generally, the issues focus on spousal support, especially if one spouse has a much higher income than the other spouse.
- Property Division – When divorcing couples negotiate how to divide up their assets, such as their home, vehicles, and financial accounts, things can quickly become heated. One spouse may want to keep the house and the other may want to sell it. One spouse may have been the primary breadwinner and believe that because of that, they should keep the majority of the couple’s assets. Issues such as those are what make property division one of the leading causes of contested divorce.
Once it is clear that you are dealing with a contested divorce, here is how you can expect the legal process to unfold:
- Divorce Petition – One spouse files for divorce. The other spouse is served a divorce petition.
- Response to Divorce Petition – The divorce lawyers for the spouse who received the divorce petition respond.
- Discovery – The divorcing couple’s attorneys exchange information regarding evidence that may be presented and witnesses that may be called if the divorce goes to trial.
- Settlement – The two sides try to negotiate a settlement and avoid a trial.
- Trial – If the sides do not reach a settlement, the divorce trial proceeds.
- Post-Trial Motions – This involves any motions that are filed after the trial is over. An example would be a motion for a new trial.
- Appeals – The appeals process involves the side that lost a trial in a lower court having a higher court review the lower court judge’s decision in hopes of proving that decision was a mistake and having it overturned.
Tips for Dealing with a Contested Divorce
Unlike uncontested divorces, contested divorces present several obstacles that can trip up spouses who are seeking to end their marriage quickly, efficiently, and fairly. Below are a few tips that can help you as you navigate a contested divorce:
- Avoid Social Media – Nothing good comes from sharing details of your divorce on social media. In some instances, you give your spouse evidence to use against you. Your best bet is to shut down your social media accounts during your divorce. It will provide you with peace of mind and prevent you from accidentally hurting your case.
- Evaluate Your Options – This depends on your position in the divorce. If your spouse is contesting the divorce, you need to make sure you have the resources to handle the legal battle. Check your finances and make sure you know your parental rights if you and your spouse share children. Generally, if someone is contesting a divorce, they want something. It could be they want to manipulate you into staying married, force you to pay more spousal support (or receive less spousal support), convince you to give up more when it comes to property division, or gain the upper hand regarding child custody.
- Turn the Other Cheek – If your spouse is acting out, being cruel and aggressive, don’t fall for the bait. They are only hurting their case and making yours stronger. Don’t help them by allowing them to drag you down to their level. Get a restraining order if you need to and/or only communicate with them through your attorneys. Whatever you must do to keep your cool and stay safe, do it. When all is said and done, you will be happy you did not retaliate.
- Protect Yourself – While you should try not to retaliate if your spouse is making poor decisions and displaying bad behavior, there are things that you can do. You can report their behavior. If your spouse does things like violate a restraining order or child custody arrangement, you should let your attorney and/or law enforcement know. It will not only help your case, but it will also help ensure your safety.
- Rely on Your Friends and Family – Determine which friends and family you can trust and rely on. Keep them updated on your situation and keep them close. Contested divorces can last a long time and are very emotionally draining. You need loved ones you can count on to have your back, keep you grounded, and pick you up when you’re feeling down. Plus, some of them may have witnessed your spouse’s bad behavior and can testify on your behalf.
- Figure Out Their Motivation – You know your spouse better than anyone else. If anyone can determine and understand their motivation for contesting your divorce, it is you. You have a better chance of finding a middle ground and reaching a settlement if you know where they are coming from and what they want.
Need Help with a Contested Divorce? Contact Our Experienced Family Law Attorneys Today
No one should be forced to stay in a marriage they are ready to leave. That’s the definition of an unhealthy relationship. Fortunately, contested divorce offers people an option for legally and efficiently ending a marriage with a spouse who doesn’t want to get a divorce.
At Arnold Law Group, APC, we understand how messy divorce proceedings can be if divorcing spouses aren’t on the same page. Our team of divorce attorneys have over 30 years of combined legal experience helping clients with uncontested and contested divorces. We work with our clients through every step of the divorce process. We protect their rights and aggressively pursue what is important to them, whether it is child custody, spousal support, property division, or all the above.
If you are facing the prospect of a contested divorce, you don’t have to go through it alone. Our experienced divorce lawyers are ready to help. Call us at (559) 900-1263 or get in touch with us online to speak with a member of our legal team about your situation today and learn how we can help.