A contested divorce is any divorce where the two spouses cannot agree on at least one key issue. The key issues are child custody, child support, alimony/spousal support, and the division of marital property and debts. In some contested divorces, the couple can’t agree on anything. However, a divorce is “contested” so long as the couple disagrees on only one issue, even if they reach agreement on others.
The Negatives of a Contested Divorce
The primary drawback from a contested divorce is expense. It takes longer to get divorced because a couple needs a judge to decide the contested issue. For example, if a couple can’t agree on custody, a judge will hold a hearing and listen to witnesses before deciding.
A contested divorce can take a year or longer, all the while a client must pay his or her attorney for representation. Preparing for a hearing is a complex task, and lawyers will spend many hours on your case, all of which cost money.
Going through a contested divorce also increases the odds that you will be unhappy with your divorce. If you negotiate a settlement, you can at least get some of the things you want. If you go before a judge, he or she could decide every key issue in your spouse’s favor.
Another negative is publicity. Divorces are public in Ohio, and if you are well known then anyone off the street (including reporters) can listen in on your dispute. There are real incentives for avoiding a contested divorce, though sometimes they are unavoidable.
How to Avoid a Contested Divorce
Reaching an agreement on even one issue can cut down the duration and expense of a divorce. If you can agree on all key issues, then you will divorce must faster, and everyone can get on with their lives.
The best way to reach an agreement is through negotiation. Sit down with your spouse and talk about how you will divide marital property. If possible, come up with a custody arrangement that allocates the children between the parents.
If you are struggling to reach an agreement, you can possibly consider mediation. A neutral third person, the mediator, will listen to you describe the areas of disagreement and can offer workable solutions. Mediators are skilled at getting couples to really listen to each other and find points of agreement. Mediation is often successful, and many judges require that you participate in mediation.
Hiring a lawyer does not mean you are committed to a contested divorce. A lawyer is also an advisor and can help you strategize how to approach negotiations. If you truly want to avoid a contested divorce, an attorney can help you understand trade-offs. For example, you might be willing to forgo alimony if, in exchange, you get the family home. A lawyer can help a client think through these different scenarios.
When a Contested Divorce is Unavoidable
Despite their best efforts, many men and women end up in divorce court for a contested hearing. This is not always avoidable. There are some common situations where our clients proceed with a contested divorce:
- Your spouse is being unreasonable. For example, your wife might insist on having full physical custody of the children with very little visitation for you. In this case, you might have to go into court for a contested child custody hearing.
- You can’t mediate with your spouse. Some spouses carry emotional baggage into mediation. Abusive and harassing spouses are impossible to mediate with, so you might have to roll the dice with a contested hearing.
- You have real legal disputes. For example, you and your husband might disagree whether his business is marital property. A judge will need to decide.
Preparing for a Contested Divorce
These divorces can be emotionally draining, especially if you believe your spouse is being unreasonable. However, there are many ways to make a contested divorce work for you.
You should learn as much about divorce as possible, including the legal issues in dispute. This gives you a good grounding on what to expect when you go to the hearing. You might be asked many embarrassing questions in court, but you will understand why they are asked.
You should also focus on helping your attorney as much as possible. In particular, identify key witnesses. If child custody is in dispute, your lawyer wants to talk to people who have seen your close relationship with your child.
Contact an Ohio Divorce Lawyer Today
Lawrence Law Office has tackled many contested divorces, and we know how judges decide these cases. We are passionate advocates for our clients. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.