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  • Haefner Divorce Lawyers Saint Louis
    Aug 19th, 2021

    What’s the Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce?

    Child Custody Child Support Divorce Divorce Preparation

    Uncontested vs Contested Divorces

    As someone who has done more than the average number of divorce cases, and who specializes in both contested and uncontested divorces, I feel that I have a pretty good handle on what I am dealing with. 

    Unfortunately, most people do not understand the difference and want to go the cheapest route (which sounds good in principle but can cost you significantly more down the line).  

    If you can do an uncontested divorce, I strongly recommend it.  It saves you time, money, and stress. 

    Often we can get it done in a couple of months, usually, no court appearance is required, and with any luck, you will forget your attorney’s name in about six months. 

    However, if you are not agreed on all issues, you should probably start the case as a contested matter and see if we can settle along the way (something that happens in over 90% of our contested cases). 

    What is an uncontested divorce?

    An uncontested divorce is advised when everything has been agreed upon. 

    This means that there is an agreement on the following:

    • Assets: We know what we have, and have agreed how to divide it.
      • If there is a home, we agree if we are going to sell it, or in the alternative, who is going to keep it, how long they have to refinance it, and what they are paying the departing spouse as their end of the equity.
      • If there are retirement accounts, we have agreed how we are going to divide them, and if there is a division, who is going to pay for the Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) to get the money out of the retirement without it being a taxable event
    • Debts: We know who is paying what bill, as well as what needs to be refinanced
      • I suggest that you each run a free credit report and see what is out there.  You may be surprised.
    • Child Custody: We know how we want to share parenting time, what type of custody, whose address we are going to use for mailing and educational purposes, and how we are going to handle transportation of the children (as in, where exchanges will take place).
    • Child Support: We know who is going to be paying child support, we agree on an amount (or agree that we will use Missouri’s Form 14 calculations, if maintenance (alimony) is going to be paid, and if so, for how long, and how we are going to divide expenses for the children, including insurance, daycare, out-of-pocket costs and activities.
    • Attorney Fees: You really should get an attorney to draft the documents, even if it is all agreed upon.  It will save you time and stress in the end, plus your finished Orders will be much more comprehensive, which protects everyone.  I personally do not represent both parties (as I think that opens the door for a conflict, as well as raises some ethical questions), but when I am hired to draft uncontested documents I am representing one party, even if they decide to split my fees or have the other party pay them completely.  

    Related: The best ways to win your Missouri Child Custody Case

    There are times where everything is agreed on, but questions remain (example: we agree he should be paying child support, but we do not know how much is appropriate). 

    In those situations, you may still be able to hire an uncontested divorce lawyer

    You just need to talk to a local divorce attorney and find out the answers to those questions and see if there is an agreement.  

    Understanding Contested Divorces

    But if what is listed above is not 100% agreed upon, then you have a contested matter. 

    That does not necessarily mean that you will have to have a trial, but it does mean that your attorney needs to proceed as though that is a possible outcome and plan accordingly.  

    Attorneys draft things with an end in mind. 

    When I am dealing with an uncontested divorce case, I draft documents in the least confrontational way possible as my only goal is to get this across the finish line without a little fuss as possible. 

    When I draft things that are contested, the rule is that you cannot get what you do not ask for, so we ask for everything that may be put before the Court. 

    I am always mindful that we will hopefully settle the case, but am ready to proceed to trial if necessary.  You also need to get educated on the process, and I strongly recommend you read my book, Exit Strategy (free copies are mailed out or can be downloaded at FlatRateDivorces.com).

    Whether or not you have a contested or uncontested divorce, it is going to be stressful and emotions are going to run high. 

    Do not make impulsive decisions, settle for terms you will regret, or fight for things that really don’t matter. 

    Related: The difference between uncontested, contested, and mediated divorces 

    Your attorney is a good guide on some of these things, but a therapist is usually better equipped to handle the emotional fallout. 

    Finding the Best Divorce Attorney Possible

    Many times, your first instinct might be to search for a “Cheap Divorce Attorney“.

    While we understand you want to save money, a good divorce attorney can save you substantial money in the long run, especially if you are hiring a contested divorce attorney.

    While we are good at what we do, most of us suck when it comes to people and emotions for the simple fact that it is not our job and the more experienced family law attorneys tend to have dulled our emotions (or we would not be able to do our job effectively for very long – burn out is very real in this area of law). 

    If you have a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce, I am confident that my team can help you through this process. 

    Call us today at 314-200-6101 to schedule your free 30-minute phone consultation and see if we are a good fit for you.

    Contact an Experienced, Dedicated Family Law Attorney Today