How do I Contest a Divorce?
When a divorce filing is uncontested, the general understanding is that both partners agree to the terms of the divorce, and therefore, have no need to engage in lengthy legal battles. While this is simple and relatively quick, complexities arise when the spouses disagree with one or more issues of the divorce. Typically, contesting a divorce takes place when the spouses are unable to agree on issues such as: child support payments, child custody, the division of assets and/or debts, spousal support etc.
If your spouse has served you with divorce papers, you have a set of legal rights that allow you to contest the dissolution of marriage. The first step to contesting a divorce requires you to prepare and file an answer to the complaint or petition filed by your spouse. The response or answer is the formal statement contesting your spouse’s request for divorce. Your local court clerk will maintain these forms, required for your divorce proceeding.
Time Frame for Contesting a Divorce:
Time frames regulating your response to your spouse’s petition for divorce will vary based on state and/or jurisdiction. Because of this variance, it is crucial that you pay close attention to the time constraints by which you must file a response to contest a divorce. When you receive the petition—typically from your spouse, your sheriff’s department or a third-party server—you will also receive a summons. The summons is an official court document that sets the date by which you must file an answer or response.
Considerations for Contesting a Divorce:
Considerations in contesting a divorce basically include rejecting your spouse’s position concerning primary issues raised in the filing. Considerations include matters associated with marital property, spousal support, debt division, and issues relating to the custody and care of your children.
Hearings for a Contested Divorce:
A primary mechanism for contesting a divorce, beyond your response or answer, is the formal hearing process. For instance, if you contest your spouse’s divorce filing regarding spousal support, you have the legal right to request and obtain a judicial hearing to resolve the issue.
Expert Aid for Contesting a Divorce:
A key step to launching an effective defense in a contested divorce matter is hiring a divorce lawyer. The American Bar Association provides a database and other resources to assist you in locating—and subsequently retaining—a divorce lawyer. Moreover, the American Bar Association, maintains contact information for organizations that provide low-fee or no-cost legal representation to individuals who cannot afford to hire a legal specialist.
Are All Divorce Filings Contestable?
Not all divorce filings are contestable. Under certain state laws, a divorce filing can either be ruled as fault-based or no-fault. A no-fault divorce is a marital termination proceeding where the filing is granted without either spouse being required to show fault. Under no fault divorce rules, either party may obtain a formal divorce, even if the other spouse does not contest the filing. No fault divorces may be granted if (a) the couple has been living apart for over 3 years or (b) the marriage is deemed “insupportable."
Most states fault-based divorces require one person to provide a legal reason to attain a divorce. State laws may allow for several grounds for “fault” including: adultery, incurable insanity, abandonment, imprisonment for a felony conviction or inhuman treatment. Because of these subjects, it is important to read your divorce complaint. If your spouse is alleging a fault divorce, you can contest the complaint by filing a written response to the papers served upon you. In your response, you will deny your spouse’s allegations. This denial formally leads to the undertaking of a trial. During the trial phase, a judge will review the evidence presented by your spouse. Then, after the evidence is submitted, the judge will decide whether there is a legal basis on which to allow for the dissolution of marriage.
If grounds exist to grant the divorce, the judge is required by law to render a decision or rulings on the following areas: spousal support/alimony, division of support, child custody, child support, division of assets, visitation rights etc.