What Makes an Uncontested Divorce Become Contested?

No two divorces in Florida are identical. Some couples have been married decades, own multiple homes, and have adult children. Other couples looking for a dissolution of marriage (the legal term in Florida for divorce) have only been married for a couple of years and never seriously considered having children together. And, of course, there are countless couples in between. 

What every divorce has in common is that it is either contested or uncontested. The difference between these two is fairly clear-cut: spouses in an uncontested divorce already agree on the issues decided upon in the divorce settlement agreement. This means both spouses agree on property and debt division, alimony, time-sharing (physical custody of children), parental responsibility (legal custody), child support, and other important issues. Spouses going through a contested divorce are not in agreement on one or more of those items.

Does This Situation Sound Like Yours?

To give an example, let’s say you and your spouse, who have two minor children and rent the house you’re living in, agree  the marriage is not working anymore and that the best course of action for everyone is to get a divorce. You never cared for the house all that much, so you agree that you’d start looking for a new place. Your spouse agrees with you to split the cost of furnishing your new place; other than the couch and bedroom set, the two of you haven’t made any significant purchases. At that point, your divorce is still uncontested because you and your spouse decided on living arrangements and asset division.

Soon, the topic of the kids comes up. Your spouse travels a lot for his job, and you worry about the kids’ staying on top of their schoolwork if you were to split time-sharing 50/50, with two weeks at one location and two weeks at the other location. So, you propose that you get the kids during the week while your spouse gets time with them every holiday and heavily during the summer — at least until your spouse’s travel demands get under control. Your spouse disagrees, though, and the two of you are unable to come to an agreement. The divorce is now contested. 

Different Processes

Time-sharing is a common way that divorces become contested. Other times, spouses disagree on the division of large assets — like the equity in the family home — the distribution of debts, temporary spousal support or child support, and other potentially contentious items. Another reason a divorce might become contested is due to one spouse’s suspicion that the other is concealing assets. This situation can be remedied through the contested divorce process, which includes a phase called “discovery.” This is the process through which During this process, each side submits exhaustive information about finances, assets, property, and debts. 

Instead of discovery, an uncontested divorce in Florida requires each spouse to sign a financial affidavit. This affidavit is an oath by both spouses that each one is being truthful about his or her finances. Discovery takes more time to complete than this step. Simply coming to terms on the divorce agreement, though, takes the majority of the time in a contested case. If couples agree to everything before filing the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, the entire process could take as little as a few weeks. On the other hand, it’s not uncommon for contested divorces to last longer than a year. 

Our recommendation: consider what you and your spouse disagree on before jumping to a contested divorce. If you’re feuding about a couple thousand dollars worth of assets, keep in mind that the attorney’s fees for a contested divorce would likely top that. If, however, you are legitimately worried about your kids’ safety with your spouse and her new boyfriend, hiring an attorney would be the smartest thing to do.

Our Firm is Here For You

Even if your divorce couldn’t be any simpler on the surface, it’s still a wise decision to have an attorney look over your divorce settlement agreement before the judge approves it. Only an experienced and knowledgeable attorney knows the best way to meet your goals. Attorney Heather Bryan has handled countless divorces in the Lakeland area and would be honored to speak with you about your legal matters today; call the firm at (863) 825-5309 to set up a consultation with our team.

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Heather Bryan Law, P.A.

Our firm has experience defending Floridians against all sorts of criminal charges. Additionally, we are well-equipped to handle emotionally charged family law matters and devastating personal injury cases.

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