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What is the difference between contested and uncontested divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 23, 2024 | Divorce

Divorce can be a confusing and intimidating process for many Tennessee residents. If this is your first divorce, you might have many questions about the steps involved. You may also hear various terms used and have no idea what they mean or if they apply to your case.

This is understandable. One of the first determinations you must make is if your divorce is a contested or uncontested divorce.

Uncontested divorce

If you and your spouse agree on all divorce terms, you have an uncontested divorce. This means more than you are simply agreeing to get divorced. You must also agree on the grounds for the divorce and have no disputes about any of the divorce terms.

Tennessee law allows you to file for a fault or no-fault divorce. A no-fault divorce means that neither spouse blames the other for the end of the marriage and you both agree that you have irreconcilable differences and there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Grounds for divorce

A fault divorce means one spouse chooses to cite one or more specific grounds, or reasons, for the divorce.

Some of these reasons include:

  • Adultery
  • Desertion
  • Imprisonment
  • Substance addition

Although your marriage may involve more or more of these situations, that does not mean you must file a fault divorce. In fact, in most cases, there is no practical reason to file a fault divorce.

When you file a fault divorce, your spouse has a right to deny your accusations. This usually serves no purpose except to make your divorce longer and more complicated.

Common divorce terms

Divorce terms include terms regarding property division, alimony, child support, taxes or any other financial matters that come with ending a marriage.

Your marital property must be divided in an equitable, or fair, manner. This is sometimes a more complex process than you initially realize.

Tennessee has another form of uncontested divorce called an agreed divorce. You can only file for an agreed divorce in limited circumstances. An agreed divorce is only allowed if you and your spouse do not have any children, real estate, retirement accounts or business interests together.

If you meet these requirements and agree to all other aspects of the divorce, such as division of personal property and alimony, you could potentially get an agreed divorce.

Some divorces may start as uncontested divorces and turn into contested divorces. You and your spouse may believe that you agree on the divorce terms but as the process unfolds, realize that you do not.

Contested divorce

A contested divorce means that you do not have an agreement on any or all divorce terms. You must agree on every term for your divorce to be an uncontested divorce. If you agree on all terms except for one minor one, your divorce is still considered a contested divorce and cannot be finalized until this minor term is resolved.

Many divorces are contested divorces, at least at some point. This does not always mean you will end up in court. Using collaborative divorce methods, such as mediation, could help you resolve any remaining issues.