Contested Divorce Forms
When one spouse has filed for a Petition of Divorce, it is within the rights of the other party to contest any of the stated grounds, property divisions, or child custody terms laid out in the divorce papers. Contested divorce forms can draw out the divorce process, and a divorce lawyer should always be contacted in this event.
If both parties are unable to reach an agreeable compromise, the matter will fall to a judge who will set the final terms after a series of hearings. If you are experiencing a contested divorce contacting an experienced divorce lawyer should be your first course of action.
Understanding A Contested Divorce
When two divorcing parties are unable to reach an agreement, the process can become complicated. A few of the most common issues couples contest are:
- The allocation of debt that has accrued during the course of the marriage.
- Custody and parental rights of children, and any child support payments.
- The allocation of spousal alimony.
- The general division of assets and property.
Any of these issues tend to be what couples have the most difficulty agreeing upon. Working one on one with an experienced lawyer can give you the divorce help that you need to settle things quickly.
The Finer Points
While the process can vary slightly between states, generally these are the steps taken with contested divorce forms.
- File a complaint. A divorce complaint is an official request for divorce, and is typically written by a lawyer. This form must then be filed in the county where you currently reside, along with the county your spouse resides (if you are separated), and the county where the marriage was officiated. The person who files this complaint is known as the plaintiff, while the opposite party is the defendant.
- Served papers. A copy of the divorce is then served to the defendant, along with an official court summons. This must be filed within 120 days the initial divorce filing. When working with a lawyer, they will typical help walk you through this process so that nothing is missed.
- Defendant. The defending party has 20 days, after being served, to respond to the court. This is called the defendant ‘answer’.
- First court date. Within 90 days from receiving the defendants response, a judge will hold a hearing. During this appearance a date for the full trial will be set. During this time the judge will also inquire about the contested issues, and if either party has made headway with an agreement. If the defendant isn’t present, the attorney representing the plaintiff may request a default against the other party. If the court rules in favor, the final decree can be entered without a signature from the defendant.
- Discovery. Lawyers from both sides will begin collecting information to prove their clients case. This can be anything from physical evidence, witness testimony, or information gathered from the opposite spouse through communication.
- Temporary court orders. Between the time of the first hearing and the full trial, either party can request a temporary order in regards to alimony or child support.
- Settlement. A settlement conference, typically held before the full trial, is a time for the involved parties to attempt to reach an agreement. If contested items can be resolved at this time, the full trial will not be necessary. In many cases where contested divorce forms occur, a compromise can be reached during the settlement conference.
- Full trial. If a compromise cannot be reached at the settlement conference, the full trial will proceed as planned. During this trial both parties will do their best to present their cases to the judge. Additionally, attorneys from both sides will present the evidence they’ve collected in favor of their represented party. When a final decision is handed down, parties will have up to 30 days from the trial to file an appeal.