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What happens when a divorce is contested?

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Years ago, if you wanted a divorce, one spouse had to prove that the other spouse had done something worthy of divorce in the eyes of the law. That trapped a lot of unhappy couples in marriages that one or both no longer wanted.

Today, since Texas is a “no-fault” divorce state, you can’t be trapped in an unhappy marriage just because your spouse doesn’t want a divorce. That doesn’t mean, however, that every divorce will go smoothly. Many divorces are contested on one or more grounds.

What does it mean when a divorce is contested?

A contested divorce is one where the couple can’t agree on one or more important issues. The most common reasons for contested divorces are disagreements over:

  • Property division
  • Spousal support (alimony)
  • Child support
  • Child custody and visitation

A contested divorce doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed for a no-holds-barred legal battle with your spouse — but it doesn’t mean you aren’t, either. It all depends on how willing you and your spouse are to negotiate some kind of agreement you can both live with.

What happens when a divorce is contested?

More than likely, once you file a petition for divorce, your spouse will file a counterpetition. That will give you the starting points for your negotiation and tell you how far apart you and your spouse are from agreement on whatever issues are holding things up.

Then, the court may issue temporary orders that help maintain the “status quo” for the family. For example, you may get a temporary custody and visitation schedule and a temporary child support order. These temporary orders may not remotely resemble the final orders, so don’t panic if they aren’t in your favor.

At that point, negotiations can start. Sometimes the parties to settle their disputes without going to court. If that fails, the contested issues will be settled by a judge.

Contested divorces are undoubtedly harder than uncontested ones. The more you and your spouse are willing to negotiate, the more control you will have over your own future — and the quicker you can get divorced — but sometimes you simply have no other option. If that’s the road you’re on, make sure you carefully prepare your case with the assistance of an experienced attorney.

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