Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce in New York

What Is the Difference?

Divorce is never easy. Regardless of how long you were married, divorcing is a complicated process. As you disentangle your lives, you will have to make many important decisions regarding dividing up marital property, parenting, and more. Divorces tend to be stressful, and even in the best of circumstances, disputes arise, which can make reaching an agreement feel virtually impossible.

The key difference between a contested and uncontested divorce is the couple's ability to agree on key issues. A contested divorce occurs when a couple struggles to agree on the terms of their divorce and requires the court's assistance. In an uncontested divorce, the separating couple agrees on all divorce terms without going to court.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Divorce is an emotional process, and even when both parties agree, mistakes can be made. No matter what type of divorce you are going through, it is to your benefit to work with an experienced lawyer. Having professional support by your side, making sure your best interests are protected, can bring you peace of mind and help make the divorce process go more smoothly. A skilled attorney can help you negotiate terms and can ensure that your paperwork is filed correctly.

To learn more, check out our recent blog on why you need a divorce attorney to handle your case.

Uncontested Divorce

When you and your former spouse can agree on your divorce terms, you have the option to file an uncontested divorce. This divorce process is often shorter and less involved than a contested divorce as you do not have to go through divorce litigation. However, this does not mean that it is any easier. Coming to an agreement on divorce terms out of court is challenging for all couples.

The uncontested divorce process in New York includes:

  • Filing with the County Clerk's Office
  • Serving the defendant in person
  • Defendant response
  • Calendaring and paying filing fees
  • Judgment

Can You Have an Uncontested Divorce with Children?

Before filing for divorce, you should work with your former spouse to come to an agreement on child custody, support, and visitation. Before the judge signs your divorce judgment, all of these issues must be worked out. Your child support and custody agreements will need to be filed with the family court before filing for divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on these issues, you will not be able to have an uncontested divorce.

Contested Divorce

When a couple cannot agree on divorce terms, they must go through the contested divorce process. It's important to remember that even if you disagree on just one matter, such as child support, you will have a contested divorce. This process tends to be lengthier and more costly than an uncontested divorce. You will go through many of the same steps as with an uncontested divorce, but you will also have to appear before a judge to have your disputes resolved.

There are many reasons couples end up with a contested divorce. One spouse may not want a divorce at all, or you may disagree on the grounds under which you want to file for divorce.

Common points of contention in a contested divorce include:

  • Child custody
  • Child support
  • Debt responsibility
  • Property division
  • Spousal support

Contested divorces can be an isolating experience, but you do not have to go through it alone. Letterio & Haug, LLP has handled many contested divorce cases in New York, and we strive to provide every client with compassionate yet aggressive legal representation.

Tips for Preparing for a Contested Divorce

If you are going through a contested divorce, it is incredibly important that you have committed legal representation. These cases can get intense, and you need a professional lawyer ensuring your rights are protected.

Some helpful tips when going through a contested divorce include:

  • Become conversant in your finances – collect all financial records, know what your personal and marital assets are, and become familiar with any debts
  • Stay organized – create a system of organization for all of your court records and divorce documents, and keep a calendar with all important dates
  • Don't delay – while the divorce process can take several months, do your best to respond to matters quickly and don't put them off
  • Communicate with your attorney – make sure your lawyer is up to date on everything going on with your case and notify them as things change
  • Ask questions – if you don't understand something or have a question, don't hesitate or be afraid to ask your attorney; they are there to support you
  • Seek therapy for yourself and your children if necessary – divorce takes an emotional toll on everyone, and many clients report that working with a family therapist during their divorce was beneficial

The divorce process is challenging for everyone. It is important to remember that this is only temporary, and you will come out the other side.

What Happens Post-Divorce

Once you receive your divorce judgment, you can begin to move on. However, as time goes on, you may find that some of your divorce orders, such as spousal support and child custody, are no longer sufficient for your family's needs. When this happens, you will want to work with an experienced attorney familiar with handling post-divorce modifications.

After your divorce, you should also take another look at your estate plan. With all the changes that occurred during your divorce, you will likely need to make adjustments. Read more on our blog about revisiting your estate plan post-divorce.

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