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What is the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Florida?


Put simply, contested versus uncontested divorce in Florida centers on the presence of disputes between the parties. Florida’s divorce laws cover grounds for divorce, property division, alimony, child custody and parenting time, support, and other topics. When spouses cannot agree on how to resolve these issues, they are going through contested divorce. If they compromise on all details, the parties are looking at an uncontested divorce.

In practice, most divorces are a combination of the two. There may be areas where you can agree, but you want to stand firm on others. The best strategy is to resolve as many issues as possible by settlement, leaving fewer conflicts that must go to a hearing in court. You can achieve these goals with help from a Dade City divorce attorney, but it is useful to review the differences between contested and uncontested divorce.

What to Expect with Contested Divorce: When the parties cannot agree on certain topics, the court makes a decision according to what Florida divorce laws dictate.

  • Property division works by equitable distribution. The judge will classify assets as marital or separate based on when they were acquired and whether any portion of marital funds was used to pay for it. All marital assets are split fairly, which may not be exactly 50-50.
  • A court will decide whether alimony is proper, and then the judge determines the amount and type. Note that permanent alimony is no longer available in Florida.
  • Allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time, i.e., custody and visitation, are determined according to the child’s best interests. The Court always has the final decision making authority on issues related to children regardless of whether you and your spouse agree.

 Options for Uncontested Divorce: If you and your spouse reach a compromise in the areas mentioned above, the court may not impose the law. You create your own divorce, working out solutions that work for your situation and family. Many parties can agree on numerous issues with support from their respective lawyers. However, you can also take advantage of other legal options to achieve an uncontested divorce:

  • Mediation is a proceeding in which the parties address divorce issues through conversations guided by a trained mediator.
  • Collaborative divorce involves a series of discussions with the parties’ attorneys, financial experts, a neutral facilitator, and others who support your efforts to reach a resolution. 

Most Cases are Hybrid: It is likely that your divorce will encompass some elements of both contested and uncontested divorce. The parties strive to agree on all possible issues, ideally leaving few for the courtroom. Matters that remain in dispute will go through a contested hearing that is similar to a trial. Both sides present arguments, testimony, and evidence, and the judge will apply the law to make a decision.

A Florida Divorce Lawyer Will Guide You Through the Proceedings

Even if you cannot work out a full settlement, there are advantages to resolving as much as possible by agreement. To learn more about what to expect with contested and uncontested divorce, please contact The Law Office of Laurie R. Chane. You can reach our offices in Dade City, FL by calling 352-567-0055 or visiting our website. We can set up a consultation with a skilled divorce attorney who will advise you on the process.

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