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Differences Between Uncontested and Contested Divorces

Posted On November 22, 2022 In Divorce

Divorce is always stressful and often contentious. But understanding the differences between an uncontested divorce and a contested one can save divorcing couples a great deal of anxiety, time, and money. Though mediation is a voluntary process in Arizona, Arizona family court highly recommends that divorcing spouses seek to resolve their issues of custody and property division this way rather than leaving it in the hands of an impartial judge. But before you file papers and make an appointment for mediation, it’s important to understand the differences between a contested divorce and one that’s uncontested.

What is an Uncontested Divorce?

If you and your spouse are still able to speak together civilly and peacefully enough to negotiate the terms of separating property and assets as well as the custody and visitation arrangements of your children, you can save the time and expense of going to court. When a couple negotiates their own terms within the state’s guidelines and agrees on all of the issues involved in changing one home into two households, they can have a much simpler, uncontested divorce — or a divorce by consent decree — in Arizona.

Even if they don’t agree right away on every issue if they are willing to work together to find solutions that work for everyone involved there are resources available to help facilitate an uncontested divorce. First, both parties must agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Then negotiations take place on the following:

  • Division of property, assets, and debts
  • Child custody arrangements
  • Child support payments
  • Spousal maintenance payments (alimony) if appropriate

Online divorce services as well as mediation can help a divorcing couple to draft a workable agreement that a judge need only sign off on rather than litigating the issues of division and custody in a courtroom. An uncontested divorce requires both parties in a divorce to be civil, reasonable, and willing to engage in fair negotiations. 

Though it’s possible to divorce without a lawyer for an uncontested divorce, it isn’t advisable. A lawyer can help navigate the legal process and diligently ensure the paperwork is correct for a smooth process.

An uncontested divorce in Arizona typically costs each spouse between $1,500 and $3,000.

What is a Contested Divorce in Arizona?

When a divorcing couple can’t agree on one or more terms of custody or property division despite attempts at mediation, the divorce becomes contested. If both parties can’t come to an equitable agreement then the case goes into litigation in court. If the couple can come to terms before the court date, they can still file an uncontested divorce decree rather than taking it all the way to divorce court, but if they can’t reach an agreement, a judge must decide on the division of assets, debts, and child custody.

A contested divorce is more expensive and time-consuming. Both parties must have legal representation and produce all requested documents showing the following:

  • Assets
  • Monthly bills
  • Debts
  • Income
  • Bank statements

The court will schedule mediation sessions in order to attempt a settlement out of court. If this isn’t effective, the case goes to court. A contested divorce typically takes 4 to 6 months longer than an uncontested divorce in Arizona and costs each party between $8,000 and $30,000.

While it can be discouraging to have a divorce litigated in court instead of being able to come to terms fairly, by having a skilled attorney advocating aggressively for your case, you maximize your chance of getting the outcome you are looking for.