Wife and husband signing divorce documents

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: Which One Is Right for Me?

Brazil Clark, PLLC Oct. 27, 2023

Going through a divorce is a significant life event, and one of the key decisions to make is whether to pursue an uncontested or contested divorce. Understanding the differences between these two options can help you determine which one is right for your specific situation. This blog post aims to provide an informative overview of both uncontested and contested divorces, discussing the processes involved, and when each option might be appropriate.  

Remember, regardless of the type of divorce chosen, it's highly recommended to seek guidance from an experienced attorney, like Attorney Frank Brazil of Brazil Clark, PLLC, to protect your best interests throughout the process. Reach out today if you are located in or around Nashville, Tennessee, or anywhere throughout Rutherford County. 

What Is an Uncontested Divorce? 

An uncontested divorce is a type of divorce where both spouses agree on the terms of the separation. This includes aspects such as asset distribution, child custody, visitation rights, child support payments, and alimony. The process of an uncontested divorce is generally smoother and quicker compared to contested divorces, mainly because both spouses agree on the terms of separation. Here's how it typically unfolds: 

  1. Meeting the Residency Requirements: To file for an uncontested divorce in Tennessee, you or your spouse must have lived in the state for at least six months prior to filing. This is one of Tennessee's residency requirements. 

  1. Agreement on Separation Terms: Both parties need to agree on all major aspects of the separation. These include asset distribution, child custody, visitation rights, child support payments, and spousal support (also known as alimony). 

  1. Filing the Divorce Papers: Once you've agreed on the terms, the next step is to file the appropriate paperwork with the court. This typically includes a petition for divorce and a marital dissolution agreement. 

  1. Court Appearance: Even though an uncontested divorce is less adversarial, you'll still need to make a court appearance. But don't worry, this is usually just a formality where the judge officially ratifies the divorce. 

  1. Finalizing the Divorce: After the court appearance, the divorce can be finalized. The timeframe for this can vary, but it typically takes as little as two months. In some cases, it could take up to six months. 

Remember, even in an uncontested divorce, it's crucial to seek the right legal counsel. An experienced divorce attorney like Attorney Frank Brazil of Brazil Clark, PLLC, can guide you through this process, ensuring everything is done correctly and efficiently. This can really help speed up the process and ensure your interests are protected. 

What Is a Contested Divorce? 

On the other hand, a contested divorce occurs when the spouses cannot reach an agreement on the terms of the separation. While there may be some areas of agreement, points of contention typically arise, such as child custody, alimony, and child support payments. In a contested divorce, the court hears arguments from both parties and makes rulings based on evidence and the best interests of the family, especially when it comes to issues related to children. 
The process of a contested divorce, particularly in Tennessee, is more complex and potentially longer than an uncontested divorce. The primary reason for this complexity is the inability of the parties to agree on key terms of the separation. Here's a general overview of the contested divorce process:  

  1. Fulfilling Residency Requirements: Before filing for a contested divorce in Tennessee, one or both spouses must have resided in the state for at least six months. 

  1. Filing a Divorce Complaint: The spouse seeking the divorce (the plaintiff) files a divorce complaint with the court. This document outlines the grounds for divorce, which must be valid reasons recognized by Tennessee law. These can range from irreconcilable differences and inability to procreate, to more serious issues such as proven infidelity, bigamy, and conviction of a serious crime, among others. 

  1. Serving Divorce Papers: After filing, the plaintiff must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse (the defendant). The defendant then has a specific period to respond. 

  1. Discovery Process: This stage involves the exchange of financial and relevant information between both parties. It's a critical step that helps each party understand the other's position and prepare their case. 

  1. Court Hearings: If the parties cannot reach an agreement even after the discovery process, the case proceeds to court. Here, the judge listens to both parties' arguments and makes rulings based on the evidence presented and what’s in the best interest of the family. 

  1. Court Ruling & Appeals: After hearing from both sides, the judge issues a court ruling. However, the parties can appeal this ruling, which can extend the divorce proceedings. 

  1. Finalizing the Divorce: Once all issues are resolved, and if there are no further appeals, the divorce is finalized. 

It's important to note that court rulings in contested divorces are subject to appeal, which can prolong the finalization of the proceedings. Contested divorces can take up to 18 months to finalize due to the involvement of appeals, court appearances, and evaluations.  

Which One Is Right for Me? 

The choice between an uncontested and contested divorce depends on the specific circumstances of your individual case. An uncontested divorce is generally more suitable when both spouses can agree on the terms of the separation, allowing for a smoother and faster process. This option is ideal for couples who can maintain open communication and are willing to work together to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement. 

A contested divorce may be necessary when there are significant disagreements that cannot be resolved through negotiation or mediation. This option is more appropriate when there are complex issues involved, such as high-conflict child custody disputes or substantial financial assets that require a court's intervention.  

Seek Trusted Legal Guidance 

Deciding between a contested and uncontested divorce is a significant choice that can greatly impact the divorce process. Understanding the differences and considering the specific circumstances of your case can help you make an informed decision. It's important to remember that seeking the assistance of a knowledgeable divorce attorney is crucial in either scenario to navigate the legal complexities, protect your rights, and achieve the best possible outcome. By working with a skilled attorney, like those at Brazil Clark, PLLC, you can ensure that your interests are safeguarded throughout the divorce proceedings.