Understanding Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

MLF Team

Understanding Contested Vs. Uncontested Divorce


The American Psychological Association states that up to 50% of all first marriages end in divorce. Of these divorcing spouses, many approach ending marriages with little to no knowledge of the legal process ahead. One common point of confusion is the difference between contested vs. uncontested divorce. The State of Georgia allows both forms of divorce, and spouses must choose the most fitting option based on their unique circumstances. The experienced Georgia divorce lawyers at The Millard Law Firm provide divorcing spouses with personalized advice, helping them choose the most suitable route forward. Book a consultation by calling (678) 319-9500 today.


Contested Divorces Involve Disagreements


A contested divorce involves at least one disagreement between the spouses. These disagreements may involve subjects such as:


  • Child custody
  • Property division
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Whether to get a divorce in the first place


What Causes a Contested Divorce?


Within each of these categories, there may be more specific points of disagreement. Among divorcing couples with children, disagreements over the exact schedule for child custody are common. The distribution of formerly shared assets is another area in which divorcing spouses often struggle to come to a meeting of minds on the particulars. Discussions of asset allocation frequently include disagreements on particular pieces of property, such as:


  • The family home
  • Retirement assets
  • Vehicles
  • Vacation homes
  • Equities
  • Family businesses
  • Art collections
  • Livestock
  • Pets


Even the most minor disagreements can lead to contested divorces when couples are unable to reach a resolution on their own.


What Happens During a Contested Divorce?


If spouses encounter even a single impasse during divorce-related negotiations, litigation is the most likely outcome. In these instances, the divorce will take the form of a civil lawsuit. During the legal proceedings, each spouse will have a chance to make their case, which they may do on their own or with the assistance of an attorney. The family court will then decide on how to resolve the issue(s). During a divorce trial, the divorcing spouses or their attorneys may:


  • Present evidence
  • Call upon witnesses
  • Offer closing and opening statements
  • File documents with the court
  • Appeal decisions


A major part of the litigation process is the pre-trial discovery phase. During this process, the spouses and any attorneys they have retained will gather as much information as possible. Each legal team must share certain documents when requested to do so by the opposing party, and there are very specific rules that govern the discovery phase.


Uncontested Divorces Resolve Disagreements


Even in a contested divorce, spouses will still have the opportunity to negotiate settlements during most of the litigation process instead of allowing the divorce trial to reach its conclusion. This shift toward mutual agreement is often desirable, but it is legally distinct from an uncontested divorce.


What Causes an Uncontested Divorce?


The main difference between contested vs. uncontested divorces is the presence of disagreements. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses reach agreement on all essential matters related to child custody, spousal support, and division of marital property on their own, without seeking to have the matter adjudicated by a court.


Uncontested divorces are common in the following scenarios:


  • Amicable breakups
  • Divorces that must be resolved quickly
  • Divorces involving budget-conscious spouses
  • Divorces in which privacy is a priority
  • Families who wish to limit psychological distress for their children


What Happens During an Uncontested Divorce?


During an uncontested divorce, spouses negotiate the conditions of their divorces behind closed doors. They may carry out these negotiations with assistance from lawyers, mediators, financial experts, child psychologists, and a range of other individuals depending on their specific needs.


Private Negotiations


These negotiations are private. Unlike litigated divorces, details of the marriage do not go on public record. One popular method is “collaborative law.” In this scenario, spouses often retain attorneys to help them conduct their negotiations in private. Before the negotiating process begins, the spouses and any attorneys typically sign a non-disclosure agreement.


Spouses must agree on every detail of their divorce to avoid a trial. Because negotiations can be both highly complex and emotionally challenging, many divorcing spouses in Georgia prefer to work through even collaborative negotiations with the assistance and support of an experienced family law attorney. Divorce lawyers can use carefully developed negotiation strategies outside the courtroom to promote cooperation, compromise, and understanding between spouses as they address potential areas of conflict. Lawyers from The Millard Firm can help spouses seeking positive outcomes in a number of ways.


Final Decree


When spouses finish these negotiations, they can work with their lawyers to draft a settlement agreement. This is a legally binding document that contains all of the conditions and agreements finalized during negotiations. A judge must still approve and sign the final decree during a simple hearing or upon a motion, however.


Factors To Consider When Choosing Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce


Many divorcing couples hope to have an uncontested divorce. In some cases, working together to come to an agreement can be less costly and time-consuming than a divorce trial. However, there are a number of other factors spouses should consider when choosing between uncontested and contested divorces in Georgia.


Financial Concerns


Spouses who wish to save money may prefer uncontested divorces. Trials can be quite expensive, and spouses can lower divorce-related costs by avoiding litigation. However, if the spouses cannot agree on how their shared finances should be divided, then the finances themselves may be a reason for taking the divorce to court.




Spouses who wish to resolve their divorces as quickly as possible often prefer uncontested divorces. Couples who come to an agreement independently have far more control over the timeline of their divorce than do couples in litigated divorces, which may last months or even years.




Litigated divorces can be difficult for children due to their time-consuming and often combative nature. Many have argued that amicable, uncontested divorces are easier for children. On the other hand, the physical and legal custody of children and the amount of time they spend with each parent can be among them most hard-fought issues in a contested divorce. The Judicial Council of Georgia provides printable forms and instructional videos for couples filing for divorce both with and without minor children.




Spouses who value privacy may also prefer uncontested divorce. Business leaders, celebrities, and public officials may be especially wary of marriage-related details going on public record.


The Chances of Productive Negotiations


As attractive as an uncontested divorce may sound, spouses must also be realistic about the chances of productive negotiations. If the spouses are bitter or highly combative, they may struggle to find common ground during their negotiation process. Some spouses may negotiate in bad faith, or use the negotiation process to stall the divorce. In many cases, a contested divorce is the only real option despite its higher cost and time-consuming nature.


How To Find a Divorce Lawyer in Georgia


If you have questions about contested vs. uncontested divorce, consider scheduling a consultation with a divorce lawyer in Georgia. The Millard Law Firm provides personalized guidance to spouses contemplating a parting of ways. Our experienced divorce attorneys are tireless in pursuing our clients’ interests in the courtroom, but also welcome the opportunity to help clients reach amicable settlements through the negotiation processes of collaborative law. To learn more about contested vs. uncontested divorce in Georgia or to begin preparing for your own divorce case, call (678) 319-9500 today to schedule your private consultation with our divorce law team.