Divorce Attorneys

Uncontested Vs. Contested Divorce: What’s the Difference?

Carlsbad, CA – Divorce. When many people hear the word, they may picture lengthy court battles, screaming spouses and final decisions by a strict judge clad in dismal black robes. Fortunately, however, California allows for a few different types of dissolutions.

After one party is served the papers from his or her spouse, contested and uncontested divorce are two methods of continuing the process.

Uncontested Divorce in California

Also called “default” cases, uncontested divorce occurs when one spouse does not respond to the other’s petition for separation or divorce for 30 days. An uncontested case may also result if a response is filed, but then an agreement is made between the two parties. This type of divorce is ideal for those who hold no bitter feelings or resentment toward each other and want to work quickly toward a resolution.

In what’s called a “true default,” the party who is served and doesn’t respond gives up his or her input in the duration of the case. The served spouse needs to not respond for at least 30 days unless he or she is actively serving in the military.

After the required 30 days have passed, the party initiating the divorce needs to fill out various forms, make two copies, and then turn in all these forms into the court clerk. Finally, a judge will review the documents. If the forms are correct, the judge will sign them, and no court appearance is required from either party. However, if there are any issues with the forms, a correction and/or appearance in court may be necessary. Lastly, both parties will be mailed a Judgment and Notice of Entry of Judgment. This final document will be stamped with a date of filing and should be retained for each party’s records.

John Griffith, a San-Diego area family law attorney with Griffith, Young, and Lass, advises: “Even if you think your uncontested divorce will be straightforward, be sure to carefully read every document you’re served. If there is anything you don’t fully agree with or understand, it may be best to seek legal advice from a professional.”

Contested Divorce in California

In more complex cases, especially those involving children, assets, debts, or property, a contested divorce is another way to proceed. For spouses who do not agree on the terms of their separation, this may be a better option.

“A contested divorce is often more time-consuming and much more costly; if you’re willing to mediate and reach an agreement outside of court, you might want to reconsider the uncontested divorce,” notes Mr. Griffith. “However, if the process is simply too complicated, contesting the divorce may be necessary. Whichever way you choose to go, it’s best to consult with a legal professional to help you handle your case.”

For a divorce to be considered contested in California, both parties must file their own responses with the court. They each need to base their disputes on the details of the divorce. If each party agrees on most issues, they can also ask for a bifurcation, wherein a separate trial will deal only with the disagreements. A bifurcation can speed up a divorce, as it focuses on resolution.

The Bottom Line

As each divorce is entirely unique, those going through it must carefully weigh their options. “The process is never easy, and sometimes it can be tricky deciding which course of dissolution to pursue. My colleagues and I are here to help during this difficult time, ensuring that you make the best decision for your particular circumstances.”

If you’re deciding whether to pursue a contested or uncontested divorce, contact Griffith, Young, and Lass, the skilled and experienced family law attorneys serving the greater San Diego area.