Understanding Steps involved In a Contested Divorce

When you decide to marry, you hope you will remain married until death do you part. Unfortunately, for some couples, that is not always the case.

Divorce may be the only way out if the worst happens and you can no longer work out your differences with your spouse. In some cases, the separation can be amicable and uncontested, but in other instances, it can be very difficult and contested.

The truth is that going through a contested divorce can be very stressful and complex. Many decisions need to be made, and the process can take considerable time and energy.

If you’re facing a contested divorce, it is essential to understand the steps involved in this type of separation. This will help you prepare for what lies ahead and equip you on the ways to protect your rights.

This article outlines the critical steps involved in a contested divorce. Read on to find out everything you need to know.

What Is a Contested Divorce?

Before we dive into the steps involved in a contested divorce, it is essential to understand what a contested divorce is.

A contested divorce occurs when neither party agrees with the terms of the separation. This could include issues such as child custody, spousal support, division of assets and property and other factors. In this type of divorce case, both parties will need an attorney to represent their interests.

Unlike an uncontested divorce, both parties in a contested divorce will need to present their case before the court. The judge will then make a ruling on each issue, and this decision is binding.

Steps Involved in a Contested Divorce

The steps involved in a contested divorce will vary depending on your situation. Generally, however, the process involves the following:

1. Filing for Divorce

The first step is to file for divorce with the courts. This is done by filing a ‘Petition for Dissolution of Marriage’. This document outlines the reasons why you are seeking separation and must be served to your spouse.

The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage must be filed in the county where you or your spouse live. Every reason outlined in the document will need to be supported with valid evidence for the divorce to succeed.

Some of the common reasons for seeking a divorce include adultery, extreme cruelty, abandonment, and mental illness.

2. Service of Sermons

Once the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed with the court, it must be served to your spouse. This is usually done by a process server or through certified mail.

Once they have received the document, they will need to respond within a specific timeframe, typically 30 days.

If the respondent fails to respond within the stated time frame, the court will assume that they are in agreement with the petition.

3. Discovery Process

The discovery process involves exchanging information between each party’s attorney. This includes financial documents such as bank statements, tax returns and other relevant papers.

During this phase of the divorce proceedings, both parties must provide full disclosure about any assets and liabilities.

Discovery is usually done through interrogatories, depositions, and requests for production of documents. You need to remember that both parties must disclose all the relevant information requested during this process.

4. Mediation

The next step in the process is to attempt mediation. This is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) which involves both parties attempting to negotiate an agreement out of court with the help of a neutral third party—a mediator. The aim of the process is to reach a resolution that both parties are willing to accept.

If an agreement is reached during mediation, it will need to be written up and submitted to the court for approval.

5. Trial

If mediation fails to reach an agreement, then a trial will occur. This involves each party presenting their case before the court. The judge will then make a ruling on each issue, and this decision is binding.

During the trial, you or your attorney can call witnesses to testify in your favor and present evidence to support your case.

At this point, you can still reach a settlement or compromise. If this happens, the agreement will need to be written and presented to the court for approval.

6. Finalization

Once the judge has made their decision, the divorce will be finalized. This means that all parties must abide by the terms laid out in the ruling. The final paperwork will be filed with the court, and both parties can move on with their lives.

This is the point where a divorce decree is issued. This document outlines the divorce details and is legally binding for both parties.

It will also include information about property division, child custody and visitation rights, spousal support, and other relevant matters.


The process of a contested divorce is long, complicated, and often expensive. Understanding your rights during each step of the process is essential so you can best protect yourself throughout the proceedings.

You should also consider hiring an experienced attorney who can provide the legal advice and guidance needed to ensure a successful outcome.

No one enters into a marriage expecting it to end in divorce, but when it happens, it is essential to understand the process so you can see it through to its conclusion. With patience and understanding, you will eventually reach an agreement that works for both of you.

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