There are two different kinds of divorces – contested and uncontested. In an uncontested divorce, both spouses are able to agree on all terms, including child custody, property division and allocation, without the court’s help. This type of divorce is usually handled more quickly, it’s less complicated and is typically the less expensive option. If you find yourself in a situation where the divorce complaint you’ve filed is contested, that means that your spouse does not agree on the terms that have been set, and while you may understand why your spouse is contesting the divorce, you may have many questions. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about contested divorce:
How long does it take to complete proceedings for a contested divorce?
A: Contested divorces can last anywhere between 6 and 12 months, depending on the severity of the disagreement between spouses. Uncontested divorces, on the other hand, usually take 30 to 60 days.
How much does a contested divorce cost?
A: This number varies significantly, depending on many factors. Uncontested divorces cost between $1,500 and $2,500. Contested divorces average somewhere between $5,000 to $7,000. Seriously contested divorces can cost as much as $20,000 to $40,000.
What are the necessary steps for handling a contested divorce?
A: There are 8 basic steps that each spouse will have to go through during a contested divorce:
- Choose an attorney – This is usually handled separately in a contested divorce, where each spouse chooses their own attorney. Once you’ve chosen the attorney you would like to work with, an interview is done – this is where the attorney will collect all the necessary documentation from you to determine what you’re entitled to during court.
- Serving the divorce petition – Once the divorce petition is filed with the court, your attorney should make sure that your spouse is served the petition as well. This is usually handled in person, by mail, by publication or by a legal representative. It is the responsibility of the spouse serving the petition that the other spouse receives it.
- Responding to the petition – Your spouse will have to respond to the divorce petition within a specified time frame from your state (it is typically 30 days). If your spouse does not respond, they are in default, and you can obtain a default judgment from the court.
- Discovery – This is the part of the process where spouses are able to obtain detailed information from each other about marital assets, income, custody and any other issues relevant to their case. This is done through written interrogatories, document requests, and depositions. During discovery, the spouses are able to request temporary orders for child support or alimony from the courts.
- Settlement – Most judges encourage spouses to come to an agreement before the final court date. The judge may order the spouses to go to mediation, where a third party can try to help them negotiate any unresolved issues. If the spouses are unable to come to an agreement, the discovery phase will continue and the case will be scheduled for divorce court.
- Trial – Your state’s divorce laws and the number of divorce cases in your local Family Court System will determine how quickly your case goes to trial. The judge will hear both sides of the case at trial and will then come to a decision regarding all issues. The length of time it takes the judge to write a final order is directly related to the complexities of your case, including whether or not witnesses are needed in order to make a final judgment.
- Post-trial motions – After the trial is over and the judge has signed their order, either party is entitled to file a post-trial motion for relief from the final judgment, typically within 30 days of the final judgment.
- Appeal – If post-trial motions are denied, a notice of appeal can filed within 30 days of the final judgment or within 30 days after the post-trial motions are denied.
Do I have to hire a lawyer to handle my divorce?
A: It has become more and more popular for spouses to “do their own divorce”, eliminating the legal costs involved with hiring lawyers. This is something to consider if you don’t foresee any issues with legally divorcing your spouse. However, is most cases, there are factors that have to be decided on that only a licensed attorney can help mitigate.
Do you need legal assistance for your contested divorce proceedings in the state of Alabama? The Alabama Family Law Group is here for you. We can ensure that your divorce is handled professionally and efficiently. Give us a call today!