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Ask a Lawyer: Contested Divorces

What’s the Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is one where the soon-to-be-former spouses settle out of court. A contested divorce occurs when:

  • The parties unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate a resolution outside of a courtroom
  • The parties know from the outset that they’ll be unable to negotiate a resolution

If the Parties Resolve Issues and Agree, Can They Switch to an Uncontested Divorce?

Yes. A contested case can become an uncontested case at any time. The parties can switch to negotiating or going into mediation at any point in the process. Over 95 percent of all divorce cases settle at some point before a trial ruling. Even cases that were fiercely contested when they began are often settled out of court.

What Are Common Reasons for Contested Divorces?

In my experience, the most common reasons that couples find themselves in contested divorce situations are:

  • Disagreements over custody or visitation issues
  • Differences of opinion regarding asset distribution or spousal maintenance (otherwise known as alimony)

Cases involving domestic violence and deeply troubled relationships in which communication has completely broken down are also more likely to be settled in court.

How Long Do Contested Divorces Usually Take to Resolve?

Generally, contested divorce cases usually take between one and two years to resolve (at least in the greater NYC area). Every divorce, contested or uncontested, is unique. Some may take less time, and others may take more. The case, the court, and how far apart the two sides are on contentious issues are just some factors that can all impact how long a contested divorce takes to resolve.

How Do I Prepare for a Contested Divorce?

Preparing for any divorce isn’t easy. For a contested divorce, when it will be your word versus the other party’s, your preparation should focus on the areas where you think the other party is most likely to raise opposition or refuse to cooperate.

For example, you’re concerned that the other party isn’t going to give you a separate property credit for the premarital funds you provided for your shared marital residence. In this situation, you can prepare by gathering as much evidence as possible regarding each party’s premarital contribution.

Keep in mind that some documents and records can take weeks, if not months, to obtain. When possible, you should request all potentially relevant documentation from the various entities where they are kept. If people are willing to give you copies of various documents, it’s easier than having your attorney prepare and execute a subpoena.

What Are the Advantages of Having a Judge Assigned to a Case?

In my experience, some people don’t listen to their attorneys regarding the best course of action, but they will listen when that same information comes from a Judge. Judges can listen to the case details presented in that first meeting and can reason candidly with one or both parties about the likely outcome if they move forward with a hearing. Judges have an air of authority that some people find more compelling than the advice of their attorneys.

About David Bliven

David Bliven is a solo practitioner with offices in White Plains & Riverdale.  He has been practicing exclusively Divorce & Family law for more than 25 years.

Mr Bliven has an “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell (the highest possible rating in both Legal Ability & Ethical Standards), a perfect 10.0 rating from Avvo (“Superb” rating) and is listed in the “Super Lawyers” directory by Thompson Reuters (a distinction given to less than 5% of all attorneys in each field of practice).  He is also a Certified Financial Litigator by the American Academy of Certified Financial Litigators – which is particularly helpful in high net worth divorces & support cases.  Mr. Bliven has also authored the books “Navigating Your New York Divorce Case,” “Navigating Your New York Family Court Case,” “Navigating Your New York High Net Worth Divorce,”  “Navigating Your New York Post Divorce Case: Modifications & Enforcement” and most recently “Navigating Your New York Contested Divorce Case.”

Furthermore, he has been published at such periodicals as, New York Law Journal and Westchester Lawyer, as well as Westchester Magazine.  Finally, he was honored as one of 2019’s “New York’s Leaders in the Law” by New York Magazine.  He was also honored as a “Super Lawyer” for the New York Metro & Westchester area by Westchester Magazine, October, 2019.

His Family Law blog may be found at:

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