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Uncontested vs Contested Divorce

Uncontested vs Contested Divorce – What’s the difference?

Divorce is a difficult time for individuals with them coming to terms with the end of a relationship.  Most individuals hope for a divorce which is free from acrimony, and heavy legal fees. Usually this is an uncontested divorce in which the Responding party decide not to contest the divorce.

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is typically a straightforward process, where both the Petitioner and Respondent are on the same page and the Respondent is not defending the divorce. Some of the advantages of an uncontested divorce are that, it is a much faster and easier process, and usually it is dealt with by the Court on paper without the need for parties to attend court. Furthermore an uncontested divorce is less costly, less stressful, and sets a more amicable tone for the remainder of the divorce process.

Contested Divorce

Contested divorces are not very common, and it is often very challenging for the Respondent to convince a Court that a divorce should not take place.   The process of contesting a divorce is more difficult, and it requires parties to attend Court hearings.  The respondent would need to prove that in fact the marriage has not irretrievably broken down and the Parties will be required to provide evidence setting out their cases, and the Court will then adjudicate on the whether in fact the marriage has broken down  and if the divorce should proceed.  There are several reasons why parties may choose to defend a divorce, for example they may not agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down, or they may not agree with one of the facts for divorce. The most common facts which are defended are unreasonable behaviour and adultery.

Whilst a contested divorce may allow the Respondent an opportunity to set out their case, there are disadvantages in that the process is more costly, time consuming and it sets a hostile tone between parties for any remaining matters concerning finances or children.

Legal advice should be sought at the earliest opportunity regarding the divorce as a lot of people do not know that the facts cited within a divorce has no bearing on the finances or children matters connected to the divorce hence this may be a reason why some parties may defend a divorce as they are worried about the reasons which have been cited. It is also important to note that if one party wishes to divorce, would the other party actually want to stay married to them.

How does a Respondent contest a divorce?

The Petitioner is usually the partner who commences the divorce process by filing a divorce petition. Once the court has issued the divorce petition, a copy of this along with an Acknowledgment of Service form is sent to the other partner who is the Respondent.  The Respondent is then required to complete the form and say whether he or she wishes to contest the divorce, and setting out reasons why.  Once this form is completed the Respondent then returns this to the court.

How to avoid a contested divorce?

It is sensible that divorcing couples take legal advice to ensure that they avoid a long winded and costly contested divorce. Another option to consider if parties are not in agreement about divorcing is arranging mediation. This process of mediation will allow an independent party who is trained to help parties reach an agreement amicably. It is also a more cost effective and less stressful process.

Should you require advice on divorce, we at Goodman Ray would be pleased to assist you and can be reached at 020 7608 1227 or

Hilda O’Justus
Trainee Solicitor

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