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Introduction to Contested Cases

Before you start your divorce, you may not know if the divorce is going to be contested or uncontested.  How you start the proceedings may influence whether the case will be contested or uncontested.  If you start the proceedings with an ex-parte motion to kick your spouse out of the family home and seek a supervised visitation custody order, then the case is probably going to be a contested case.

Before you start your case in attack mode, contact your spouse (in person if possible or at least by email).  See if they are willing to participate in settlement discussions, either directly with you or by using a mediator.  If your spouse refuses to participate in reasonable settlement discussions, then you are obviously going to at least start the divorce as a contested case.  It may take a year or longer to get to trial and there may be any number of court appearances along the way.  At any point before you get to trial, you may be able to reach a settlement agreement with your spouse.  If so, you can then process the divorce as an uncontested case by following the step-by-step instructions for “non-default divorce with agreement”  that are set forth in other sections of this website.  If you are never able to negotiate a settlement with your spouse, then your case will go to trial.  At trial, you and your spouse will present evidence and make arguments to the trial judge and the judge will then decide all of the disputed issues.

If you have not already done so, you should review all of the information in the previous sections of this website

(i.e., Preliminary Considerations; Initial Filings; Declaration of Disclosure; Getting Educated; Settlement Discussions; and Judgment).  In a contested divorce, you will use many of the same court forms, use many of the same procedures, and need to understand many of the same legal concepts that were explained in these sections of this website.  In the above referenced previous sections of this website, we explained numerous legal matters you need to understand before proceeding with a contested divorce, including, but not limited to, the following:  residency requirements; the differences between divorce, legal separation, and an annulment;   basic information about filling out court forms; and how to apply for a fee waiver.  We also set forth explanations regarding fundamental legal concepts including the following: community property vs. separate property; how to divide the family home; how to divide retirement assets; how to divide debt; the different types of child custody arrangements; how child support is determined; how spousal support is determined; and how to request an award of attorney’s fees.  You absolutely need all of this information as a foundation before you proceed with the following instructions on how to process a contested divorce.  You can’t just start a contested divorce at this point in the website.  You need to read the other sections of the website referenced above to have a basic foundation of knowledge before you can proceed with a contested divorce.

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