Divorce is never an easy process. Tensions are high, emotions are running rampant, and anger can keep couples from seeing things clearly. If a couple cannot see eye to eye on any issues, what could have been an amicable split can quickly become a contested divorce.
In Fairfax, contested divorces can be lengthy, expensive, and incredibly stressful. Hiring an experienced divorce lawyer can help ensure that the process is resolved as quickly as possible.
What is a Contested Divorce?
A contested divorce is when both spouses cannot come to an agreement on one or more issues in the divorce. When this happens, a judge may have to decide on these issues for them.
As you may have guessed, the proceedings in a contested divorce can take significantly longer than with an uncontested divorce. Most couples find the process is more expensive and stressful.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer for a Contested Divorce?
With any divorce, even an amicable one, it’s advisable to hire a lawyer. Divorce is complicated even in the best of cases.
Contested divorces are even more complex, with lots of moving parts and rights that need to be protected. If the divorce goes to trial, this is not something that you want to handle on your own.
Even if the case doesn’t go to trial, the discovery phase, which may involve document requests, depositions, and other procedures, is best handled by a lawyer.
Most importantly, when you cannot come to any kind of agreement with your spouse and cannot be civil with one another, it’s best to have your lawyer handle the process. Otherwise, the process may drag on even further and be even more stressful.
You can be sure that your spouse will be hiring a lawyer, so it is critical that you do the same to ensure there’s a fair settlement.
Without a lawyer, you will have to handle all of the steps of a contested divorce on your own, which will be complicated and overwhelming.
Here’s What You Can Expect During a Contested Divorce
Contested divorces can get messy, ugly, and expensive. The process can drag out, which generally results in higher legal fees.
With contested divorces, several steps must be taken before the divorce can be finalized.
Find an Attorney
The first step is to find a divorce attorney. Make your decision carefully. Choose an attorney who has experience with contested divorces.
File a Divorce Petition
Once you have found an attorney that you trust, it’s time to start gathering documents related to your marital assets, children, and other issues that you feel are important. At this point, your attorney will determine what you may be entitled to, prepare your divorce petition, and then file it with the court.
Serve and Response
Your spouse will be served the petition and must respond within 21 days. If your spouse does not respond before the deadline, you may obtain a default judgment.
If your spouse responds, the case moves into the next stage: discovery.
During the discovery phase, spouses will need to provide information related to finances, assets, income, custody, and other relevant issues. Information exchanges are handled through document requests, interrogations, and depositions.
At this stage, spouses can request temporary alimony or child custody arrangements through the court.
Both you and your spouse will need to respond to discovery requests within a specified time period.
Judges generally do their best to encourage couples to come to some sort of agreement before their final court date. Mediation may be required, which would involve a third party helping you and your spouse negotiate issues.
If no agreement can be made, the case will remain in the discovery phase, and a date will be scheduled for divorce court.
Divorce trials are similar to other trials. Both parties can call witnesses, cross-examine other witnesses, and deliver closing arguments. The judge will hear both sides and then come to a decision on all issues, including (but not limited to):
- Property division
- Child custody and visitation
- Spousal support
The more complex the case, the longer it will take for the judge to write a final order.
These rulings will stand unless challenged in an appeal and overturned by an appellate court.
If you or your spouse do not agree with the judge’s decision, you may file a post-trial motion. If that is denied, you may file an appeal.
In most cases, contested divorces are settled out of court. Only about 10% of cases actually go to trial.
That being said, it’s important to hire an experienced contested divorce lawyer in Fairfax to handle your case. The road ahead could potentially be a long and bumpy one. You need someone on your side who will help ensure that your divorce goes as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Get Help From An Experienced Fairfax, Virginia Contested Divorce Lawyer
It is always in your best interest to speak with an experienced attorney as early as possible. Starting the divorce process without having a full understanding of your rights and the steps involved is an incredibly common mistake. Working together from the very beginning will give us the best opportunity to create a plan and make important decisions prior to starting proceedings.
Ready to take the first step? — Schedule a consultation today!
Frequently Asked Questions
What does contested mean in a divorce?
If the couple getting divorced disagrees on any piece of the divorce, it would mean it is contested. Anything they disagree on, such as division of property, child custody, division of assets, etc. would mean they are dealing with a contested divorce.
What can I expect from a contested divorce?
Every divorce is different, and as such, no two contested divorces will look exactly the same. If you are dealing with a contested divorce, you will need to go through a litigation process in order to determine the details of the divorce. This can sometimes be a long and stressful process.
What happens if my spouse refuses to sign divorce papers in Virginia?
If your spouse refuses to sign divorce papers, it is still possible to move forward with the divorce, it will likely just take longer and require more court intervention.