For much of America’s history, the law frowned upon divorce. Breaking up a marriage was really only possible if one side did something wrong. This would create grounds for a “fault” divorce. Fault grounds could include infidelity or abuse, for example. A person wanting a divorce would have to prove it was warranted. As a result, many couples that simply wanted to go their separate ways would have to hire a woman to pose as a mistress so that a divorce could be granted for infidelity. Today, getting a divorce is much easier but you may be in a bitterly-contested divorce because of property division and child support issues.
You decide what is “winning” in divorce
If you are getting divorced, you need to think about what your goals are. For example, many people simply want to get legally detached from their spouse as quickly as possible. Maybe the couple has no assets or children and they just need to be separated. This couple may want to jointly hire a lawyer that can walk them through an uncontested divorce as quickly and cheaply as possible. So the best lawyer may just be the cheapest available.
Other couples have large, expensive assets to divide up. They may have strong disagreements over who should get those assets in the divorce. Or they may be bitterly divided on who should have custody of the children. These situations do not necessarily have to end up in a contested divorce. These couples may be able to hire a mediator that can work with them to come to some sort of an agreement. Even if a couple is angry and barely talking, they can still oftentimes reach an agreement that can be presented jointly to a judge. Even an ugly divorce like that is technically not contested if the judge is just reviewing an agreement.
A contested divorce looks like most other court cases
If a couple cannot come to an agreement they have to go through a contested divorce. This can be extremely expensive and time-consuming. A contested divorce usually more or less follows the same steps as any other court case. One spouse will file a petition for divorce with the court, and the other spouse will have to file a response. Then there will be a period of discovery, where the spouses can get information from each other that they will need to pursue their case. The spouses may settle at some point in this process, but if they do not then the case will go to a trial or similar proceeding.
At trial, both sides will show evidence to the court and ask it to rule in their favor. The judge may hear testimony from children and financial experts and then will have to decide on issues like child support and property division. Having two (or more) lawyers fighting with each other in court is extremely costly, and very few marriages have the assets to justify a full contested divorce. Sometimes even people with few resources will wind up fighting it out over child support or other emotionally-charged issues, though.
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