Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce
The ending of a marriage can be a stressful time, which will impact you emotionally and financially. Knowledge of your rights and options in a divorce ensures that you obtain a fair division of child custody time, child support and/or financial assets. A marriage can be ended through either a contested or uncontested divorce. While both types of divorce must be filed in a Maryland court of law, and require proof of grounds, there are significant differences between these two types of divorces including time, cost, process, and outcome.
Uncontested Divorce or a Mutual Consent Divorce
An uncontested divorce is one where the parties agree on every issue regarding their divorce. While uncontested divorces still need to be filed with the court, usually only one party needs to appear before the judge, and the judge will then ratify the agreement that both parties have negotiated. While Maryland law typically requires a reason for divorce, many parties in an uncontested divorce choose to use the grounds that they have been voluntarily separated for 12 months, as that does not place blame on either party. Parties may also choose to file an uncontested divorce on the grounds of “mutual consent” and the one-year waiting period may be waived. A Mutual Consent Divorce is also a no-fault divorce in that it does not place blame on either party. It can be filed by parties with or without children, so long as the parties submit a written agreement that resolves all issues relating to alimony, the distribution of marital property, and the care, custody, access and support of any minor children.
All of these legal technicalities are complex and you should still have a consultation with an experienced attorney. However, due to the lack of conflict, and complete agreement, uncontested divorces take considerably less time and money to resolve. While each divorce case is different, uncontested divorces in Maryland can usually be completed in approximately three months.
A contested divorce is one where the parties do not agree on at least one area of the divorce such as the grounds, child custody, child support, division of property and/or spousal support. A contested divorce requires one party to formally file the divorce petition with the Maryland court, and then those legal documents must be officially served on the other party. The receiving party must then answer that Complaint. In Maryland, typically the party that brings the divorce to the court and files will be the one that determines the grounds for divorce. Fault based grounds for divorce in Maryland can include adultery, desertion, cruelty of treatment, or many others. The party receiving the divorce papers must then respond and provide a defense against those charges if they disagree, and also if warranted make counter-charges against the original filing party.
Although contested divorces can be emotionally exhausting and time-consuming, there are some benefits to a contested divorce. For example, in a contested divorce, there is financial discovery, which is a complete financial accounting of both spouses’ assets, financial documents, and information.
Ultimately, contested divorces can be lengthy and complicated. After a negotiation period between the attorneys representing the parties, testimony by both parties, and evidence, a judge will make a binding determination, which can only be changed through subsequent legal action.
Contact an Attorney for Help
Making a determination regarding whether to have a contested or uncontested divorce is an important decision. Hiring an attorney can ensure that you know your rights in a divorce and receive the assets, property, child support, and custody to which you are entitled. The Prince Frederick divorce attorneys serving southern Maryland at Meng Law are experienced in family law and will give you the best possible advice regarding your unique circumstance and case. Please contact one of our attorneys today at 410-535-5500 or online.