What is the Difference Between Uncontested Versus Contested Divorce in Texas Family Law?

What is the Difference Between Uncontested Versus Contested Divorce in Texas Family Law?

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Divorce is often an emotionally fraught, difficult time for everyone involved. While this may be true for the majority of divorces, it’s not true for everyone. In fact, Texas law allows for both uncontested and contested divorces.

Not sure what uncontested versus contested divorces really are or how they are different from one another? Read on information about both types of divorces and how family law attorneys can assist with your divorce case.

What are Uncontested Divorces?

uncontested versus contested divorce
Couples can reach a mutual agreement in separation

Uncontested divorces are exactly what they sound like: uncontested by both parties. Also called “simple” or “agreed” divorces, uncontested divorces occur when both parties in a divorce agree on every single aspect of the paperwork, including:

  • Child support arrangements
  • Child conservatorship or custody arrangements
  • Alimony payments, if any
  • Property division
  • And so on

If you’re thinking that such divorces are rare, you’re right! A divorce is only uncontested if there are no disagreements between both parties regarding the terms of the divorce, which is not very common even if both parties are relatively amicable and respectful. Most people who get divorced do so because they disagree on one or more things, so it’s surprising when they agree on everything regarding their final divorce decree.

Despite its rarity, an uncontested divorce is the quickest and cheapest way to get divorced in Texas.

The Uncontested Divorce Process

If you and your partner are interested in an uncontested divorce, you’ll go through a streamlined and straightforward process.

  • First, the spouse who files for divorce (called the petitioner) hires an attorney and files an official petition for divorce
  • The petitioner pays a filing fee and serves the divorce paperwork to the other spouse, called the respondent
  • In an uncontested divorce, a respondent spouse may choose to waive service of process, which is typically required in most divorce cases. In this case, they receive divorce papers instead of being served them. They can do this by singing a “waiver of service”
  • The petitioner or their attorney files the waiver, effectively skipping several steps
  • A final decree of divorce is drafted, which outlines the agreements and stipulations that both parties must agree to
  • Then both parties must simply wait 60 days before the divorce is finalized. The 60-day timeframe is intended to give both parties time to reconsider the elements of the divorce and contest anything they may wish to

Although uncontested divorces are straightforward, it’s oftentimes still wise to hire a divorce attorney to make sure the paperwork is filed correctly and that everything is airtight. Even a simple error when filing paperwork could cause the final decree of divorce to be delayed. You’ll likely save money on legal fees compared to the contested divorce process anyway.

What are Contested Divorces?

uncontested versus contested divorce
An uncontested divorce can be smooth and straightforward

Contested divorces are the exact opposite of uncontested divorces. If one spouse or both disagree on any element of a divorce, the divorce becomes contested and requires the intervention of divorce lawyers to navigate legal procedures and court hearings. It doesn’t matter if the contested item is very small or is ultimately immaterial or inconsequential.

Divorces typically include many elements that spouses can disagree on, including:

  • Child visitation rights or child custody
  • Child support payments
  • Health insurance rights or payments
  • Rights and duties regarding children
  • Alimony payments and response annuities
  • Property division of marital assets
  • And more

Typically, contested divorces revolve around disagreements for child support or child custody or division of property. Because Texas is a community property state, all property acquired during a marriage, including assets and debts, is automatically subject to division regardless of divorce circumstances.

For example, if a couple gets married, buys a house, has a few kids, and purchases several cars, all the property purchased within that timeframe is subject to division. The longer a marriage is, the more “community property” has generally accumulated and must therefore be fairly divided.

Even immaterial property can be divided in this way, like bank accounts or investment accounts. This is the most common area of disagreement in Texas divorces, alongside child support or child conservatorship.

How a Contested Divorce Works

uncontested versus contested divorce
Contested divorce often prolong the process and can be emotionally and financially draining

A contested divorce has a lengthier process and more areas for error because one or both parties may request changes to the finalized divorce decrees or agreements over time. The process for filing a contested divorce works the same as an uncontested divorce up to a point:

  • Once the respondent receives divorce paperwork, they may hire an attorney and start contesting the demands from the petitioner (if any were sent)
  • At this point, legal representatives on both sides hash out the details for the divorce, sometimes with the rulings of a judge/family court. The attorney-client relationship ensures all sensitive matters are kept private

Given the complexity of some contested divorces, full divorce proceedings may take several months or even several years from start to finish.

Do You Need Legal Advice for a Contested Divorce?

uncontested versus contested divorce
Having an attorney representation in a contested divorce can ease your burden significantly

While legal representation is not strictly necessary to divorce a partner, it is always recommended. A contested divorce gets messy and more complex the longer it goes on, making it more likely that one or both parties will forget something, file paperwork incorrectly, or miss out on something they desired because they did not represent things correctly to the family court judge.

Family law attorneys may assist with contested divorces significantly by:

  • Ensuring that their party files paperwork on time and accurately
  • Helping to represent their party’s side of the story as accurately and fairly as possible
  • Helping to ensure that their party receives what they are due in terms of alimony payments, child support payments, community property, and so on

Furthermore, one cannot discount the moral and emotional support that a skilled, empathetic family law attorney can bring to the table. Divorce is emotionally difficult and draining for even the toughest folks. Family law attorneys can show you that you’re not alone and that you have someone working on your side for your best interests.

Contact Tarrant County Family Law Attorneys Today

Whether you’re pursuing an uncontested divorce or are certain that your divorce request will be contested, family law attorneys can help. Maynard Law has decades of collective experience helping families just like your own through the complex divorce process, and our lawyers are ready to hear your side of things and get to work on your case.

Contact us today for a free initial consultation and more information.

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