A contested divorce is when spouses getting divorced cannot agree on all terms of the divorce. If the spouses cannot agree on even one issue such as child custody or property division then the divorce is considered contested.
Contested does not mean the spouses are actively fighting. Contested simply means there is a disagreement that may take longer to solve. If the parties cannot solve the issue themselves a judge will decide for them.
Contested divorces can be civil. It is best to negotiate in good faith and attempt to settle with your spouse before getting a court involved. Contested divorces take longer and cost more than uncontested divorces. Hiring a family law attorney to help mediate and settle any contested issues is ideal. No one can predict how a judge is going to rule.
Getting divorced is a serious decision. You are in the best position to assess your relationship and decide if divorce is the right choice. Sometimes spouses can repair broken relationships. Other times, it may be best to move on and get divorced. Many marriages with serious issues such as domestic violence, substance abuse, and infidelity end in divorce.
Many factors come in to play when getting divorced. Making sure you assess your personal financial situation is important. Contested divorces in particular can be expensive and time consuming.
Hiring an Attorney
Once you are sure you wish to divorce your next step should be to hire a family law attorney. Even if you believe you and your spouse will agree to all the terms of your divorce, a family law attorney will ensure you receive what you are entitled to.
Many people can and do file for divorce themselves. Having a family law attorney advocate on your behalf can be a huge advantage. Family law attorneys can also relieve the stress that comes with divorce and help you focus on establishing your life after divorce.
When selecting a family law attorney, you will want to find someone who is highly knowledgeable and capable of helping you. Having a family law attorney who cares about you and your case will make it easier to go through this process.
One of the first conversations you should have with your attorney should be about how much they charge. Most family attorneys charge by the hour for contested divorces. The last thing you want is for an attorney to take your case and then withdraw later because you cannot afford their fees. Choosing the right attorney up front will lessen your stress
After choosing your attorney, you will provide them with the information they need to fill out the necessary paperwork to file for divorce. The initial filing is called a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage. This petition costs $349 to file. Some can qualify to have the filing fee deferred or waived by the court if they cannot afford the cost.
After filing the petition with the clerk of the court, you must then serve the petition on your spouse. Typically, process servers are used to serve the petition to your spouse for a nominal fee. Once your spouse is served, the process server will file an affidavit of service. Your spouse will then have twenty days to file an answer to your petition.
Temporary orders are entered by a judge while you and your spouse wait to finalize your divorce. You can request a temporary orders hearing at the same time you file your initial petition for divorce. The temporary orders hearing is generally your first appearance in family court. You and your spouse will appear in front of your assigned judge. Your attorney and your spouse’s attorney (if they hired one) will be present.
During the temporary orders hearing, the court will decide important issues that cannot wait. Some issues determined at the temporary orders hearing include:
- Who will live in the marital home
- Where will the children live during the divorce
- Who will pay child support and in what amount
- When will the children be with each parent
- Amount of spousal maintenance (alimony)
- Possession of vehicles and other valuable assets
- Who will pay the bills during the divorce
Many times, spouses can agree on many of the issues above and leave only a few issues remaining for the judge to decide. Other times, the judge will need to decide everything for the spouses.
Temporary orders hearings are extremely important. This is your first chance to make a great impression on the judge as a responsible person and parent. Being prepared and reasonable in your positions is vital. A family law attorney can help you prepare good arguments and honest information.
Arizona law requires you to disclose certain information to your spouse. This information must be all complete and accurate. The purpose of disclosure and discovery is so your spouse is fairly informed of your positions in court.
Disclosures typically includes:
- All income from any source
- Information about properties and assets
- Investments, securities, finances, retirement accounts
- Company or organization ownership
If any of the information you provide is false, incomplete, or accidentally incorrect, the court can sanction you and award costs and legal fees to your spouse.
In addition to the above information, you can request specific information from your spouse. You can request answers to specific questions, access to specific documents, medical records, and other important information that could help your case.
After information is exchanged through disclosure and discovery, you and your spouse may be able to come to an agreement on everything. Even if you cannot agree on all terms, agreeing on some issues will speed up your divorce and lower costs for both spouses. Keeping organized and detailed records of the information you receive through disclosure and discovery is extremely important. If necessary, the information obtained through this process will be used at trial.
If you and your spouse cannot agree to settle all terms of your divorce you must prepare for trial. You and your attorney will prepare a pretrial statement including all of the relevant facts, witnesses, and exhibits you intend to introduce at trial.
Your attorney will educate you on how your trial will proceed and your role in it. You and your spouse will both be under oath and anything you testify to in court is under penalty of perjury.
At trial, you and your spouse will both testify about your marriage. Expert witnesses may be called to testify on business or financial matters, property valuations, and the well-being of your children.
At the end of the trial, your judge will make decisions they feel are equitable under Arizona law and in specific to your situation. You may appeal the judge’s decision if you feel they incorrectly applied the law to the facts of your case. A family law attorney can help you decide if an appeal is a good idea.