A contested divorce is simply a divorce in which you and your spouse have not reached agreement on all terms, including child custody and parenting time, child support, spousal maintenance, and division of property and debt.
The phrase “contested divorce” may conjure up images of a lengthy, bitter divorce trial in some people's minds. While some contested divorces do end in a trial, it is rare and very few end in a trial on all contested issues. It's far more common for couples to reach settlement on contested issues during the course of the divorce process.
A contested divorce begins when one party serves a Summons and Petition. These documents notify the other spouse (the Respondent) that the divorce has been commenced and describe generally what the Petitioner is asking for in the divorce. They must be personally served on the Respondent, who then has thirty days to respond.
The parties then have a period of time to engage in discovery, which is the opportunity to request and review important information, such as financial records, from the other. During the discovery process, you and your spouse, together with your attorneys, will be able to identify the issues that need resolving and begin working toward settlement.
Reaching agreement is sometimes easier said than done. The factors that led you or your spouse to seek a divorce in the first place may make it challenging to sit down and negotiate openly and fairly with each other. You may want to consider tools such as mediation or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) to help resolve your case.
Mediation is a process in which a neutral party facilitates communication, helps you frame issues, and keeps you on track, but allows you to reach your own agreement. In Early Neutral Evaluation, you and your spouse voluntarily meet with a neutral person or team of professionals who evaluate the facts of your situation early in your case. They offer you and your spouse a picture of what you could expect to happen in your divorce if it proceeded to court and encourage you to reach settlement rather than launch a protracted court battle.
If settlement is reached, one of your attorneys can prepare a stipulation for all parties and the court to sign. If you and your spouse are unable to reach settlement on all issues during the divorce process, you will go to trial on the unresolved issues. Rest assured, though, that most cases settle short of trial.
If you are considering divorce, a contested divorce is only one of your options. If it turns out to be the best option for you, you'll want to work with an attorney who can both advocate effectively for you and prevent your divorce from becoming unnecessarily hostile and expensive.
If you'd like to learn more about the process of contested divorce in Minnesota, we invite you to contact Bloch and Whitehouse, P.A. at (952) 224-9977 to schedule a free initial consultation. We look forward to helping you resolve the issues in your divorce and move forward with your life.