What is a Contested Divorce?
When spouses are unable to come to an agreement on one or more issues, (i.e., division of marital assets, child custody, child support, alimony, etc.) the divorce proceedings will ultimately escalate to what is legally classified as a contested divorce. The parties resolve all or most issues through the court system. This means, since they are unable to work things out amicably, their case will be settled by a judge; or by a jury, if they opt for a jury trial.
What Does a Contested Divorce Cost?
The cost associated with a contested divorce can vary from expensive to staggering to absolutely mind-boggling. In the United States, the average cost of a litigated contested divorce hovers around $15,000 for each party. The ultimate cost determining factor is, “What issues are being contested and how many?”
What makes a contested divorce so expensive is the hours lawyers spend, (called billable hours) fighting on their clients behalf. Every time a divorce lawyer makes or takes a phone call on a clients behalf, mails or faxes a letter, drafts, files and/or argues a motion, their bill just increased. In a scenario where every issue is fought in court, expect the costs to be enormous.
How Long Does a Contested Divorce Usually Take?
An uncontested divorce can take as little as 3 months from filing, depending on the state. Conversely, depending on the complexity of the case and the spirit of the parties, a contested divorce can drag on for months on end. It is not uncommon for contested divorces to take up to a year or more to be settled in court. That is why the best option is, (if at all possible) to work towards settling all of the issues amicably.
The Emotional Stress of a Contested Divorce
There are four words that best describe a contested divorce: adversarial, unsettling, contentious and gladiatorial. Spouses must face the unpleasant experience of having their relationships (past and present), actions, finances, promises, failures and lifestyle scrutinized under a microscope by their spouse’s lawyer and this scene can get ugly.
In an uncontested divorce, both parties bring the marriage to an end, (for the most part) in a civil manner. In a contested divorce, the marital union is demolished by force. Consequently, on a scale of 1 to 10, the emotional stress that comes with this type of divorce is usually around an 8.0 on the stress factor meter. It should go without saying, “Brawling with someone you once loved and may still have feelings for, is brutal on a person’s blood pressure and psyche.”
Going To Trial; The Contested Divorce Finale
The grand finale of the contested divorce is going to trial. It’s a chapter in the divorce process that should be left unopened. However, for those who decide to read this chapter, here’s what to expect. This phase of the divorce process is highly adversarial. On a scale of 1 to 10 on the stress factor meter, we rate it a 10! Each side will be able to present, subpoena and cross-examine witnesses, file motions, tender evidence and make closing arguments.
As both sides adamantly jockey for child custody and ownership of property and other marital assets; it is literally a fight to the finish. Inevitably, whether true or false, accusations, allegations and innuendos will most likely fly and feelings will be hurt. In a divorce court trial, after it’s all said and done, neither spouse wins. The costs of the trial for both parties are enormous; the emotional stress is harrowing on the blood pressure and the side effects can linger a lifetime. In summation, we advise both parties to work it out, no matter what!