A contested divorce does not need to be contentious

On behalf of Jennifer Rose

There are many ways to resolve the issues presented in divorce.

When imagining a contested divorce, many people picture a courtroom proceeding featuring couples arguing stridently about everything from custody of children to who gets to keep the house. Popular courtroom television dramas reinforce the image of high-stakes, high-stress contested divorces which often dissolve into shouting matches.

The truth, however, is that even for a contested divorce, the proceedings do not need to be vocal, aggressive and full of angry accusations. Even if a couple cannot initially agree on a divorce agreement, there is still room for calm, thoughtful negotiation. While it is rare that money is no issue when dealing with divorce, there are ways to reduce the cost of divorce without sacrificing legal rights. Some divorcing couples simply want to be done with the emotions and financial considerations of divorce, so sign whatever documents it takes to be done with the divorce and move on with life. However, this can be penny wise and pound foolish, as divorce is as much a financial life event as an emotional one.

Working together while divorcing

If a divorcing couple really does agree on every issue, including custody, support and property division, then the court allows the couple to file an uncontested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, the couple files a petition to the court that sets out every term of the divorce settlement, such as parenting time, visitation, and property division. This option can save time, money and stress when done correctly. However, it should only be used when both spouses understand the agreement, their rights under the law, and there has not been a history of physical, emotional or financial abuse.

The divorce process depends on the goals of the couple

Every divorce, like every marriage, is a unique process that must take into account the goals and circumstances of the couple involved. For most divorcing couples, there will be natural disagreements regarding the highly complex and emotional issues involved in every divorce.

Many divorcing couples wish to remain as amicable as possible for the benefit of family or because they wish to begin single life on a positive note. If that is the case, mediation may be an option. A large number of divorces in Alabama are now resolved through mediation. Mediation uses a third party who is neutral to the proceedings as a go-between to help facilitate discussions. During mediation, each party obtains his or her own attorney to help understand the law, the consequences of an agreement, and other legal issues. Mediation is beneficial as a first step because it is not binding and the mediator does not decide any legal matters – either the couple agrees to a divorce settlement, or they continue on to court. In many cases an agreement can be reached after several mediated negotiation sessions.

In some cases there simply is not room to negotiate. One spouse could be abusive or unable to provide a safe home for children, for example. If that is the case, taking the matter to court can protect and provide for children. In such a contested divorce, the spouses do not need to speak to each other, but can do so through attorneys, to avoid conflicts or further emotional trauma.

An attorney can advise you of your rights

There is no cookie-cutter approach to divorce. Speaking with an experienced divorce lawyer prior to filing, or as soon after as possible, is the single most beneficial thing to do before divorcing. Laying out goals can provide an attorney with information to help you with your case. If protecting children of the marriage is the number one priority that must be determined at the outset. If saving money is of primary importance, then an attorney can discuss ways to reduce the cost of divorce while still providing you with sufficient financial resources post-divorce through property division and spousal maintenance.

Alabama residents contemplating divorce should speak to the experienced family law attorneys at The Rose Law Firm, LLC to discuss their legal goals and options in divorce.

Keywords: Uncontested divorce, contested divorce, property dispute.