In this blog, I want to discuss the primary differences between a typical “contested” divorce and an “uncontested” divorce. These terms are not official terms in the sense that you file for either a contested or uncontested divorce. The filing process is exactly the same. What is different, however, is the complexity and timeframe involved in each.
You’ve probably heard the term “uncontested” or “simple” or “agreed” divorce. They refer to the same thing. Put simply, if the parties agree on every single aspect of their divorce, it is uncontested. While the procedural and jurisdictional requirements are the same as a contested divorce, an uncontested divorce is the cheapest and quickest way to obtain a divorce in Texas.
The process begins when one spouse (Petitioner) hires an attorney and files a petition for divorce, pays the filing fee, and makes sure the other spouse (Respondent) is properly served. One of the benefits of an uncontested divorce is that the parties may choose to forgo traditional service of process, whereby a copy of the petition and a citation is “served” on the other spouse, typically by a process server. Instead, the other spouse may choose to simply “waive” service by signing a “waiver of service.” The attorney for the petitioner would file the waiver. Eventually, a final decree of divorce will be drafted which encompasses the agreement of the spouses. At that point its simply a matter of waiting the required 60 days before it can become finalized.
If there is a disagreement on any issue, then you’ve got a contested divorce. There are many things the parties can fight over including, of course, custody of children. A divorce involving children requires the sorting out of custody, visitation, child support, health insurance, and other rights and duties regarding the children. Custody cases can be expensive and take longer to resolve.
In other cases, the primary focus might be on the division of property. Texas is a community property state, and the presumption, with very few exceptions, is that all property including assets and debts, acquired during the marriage, is subject to division upon divorce. Generally, the longer the marriage, the more community property that’s acquired and must be divided. This can include houses, cars, bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement funds.
These are by far the most common areas of disagreement in a Texas divorce. The spouses in a contested divorce can resolve their divorce through the work of their attorneys, through mediation, or by having a trial and presenting the case to a judge to make a final decision.