What Is the Difference Between Contested & Uncontested Divorce?

  • March 12, 2024
  • Kelvin Birk
  • Divorce

Divorce is one of the most stressful and life-changing experiences a couple can go through. There is much at stake, and emotions often run high, as both parties have to come to agreement about important issues such as division of their marital assets and debts, custody and support of their children, and spousal maintenance or alimony.

This is difficult enough when divorcing spouses think they are in agreement and the divorce is considered to be uncontested. If they cannot come to an agreement outside of court, the divorce can become a contested one, and may result in a stressful, lengthy and expensive divorce process. In general, it is better for all parties when a divorce is uncontested, but there are times when this is not the case and a contested divorce may be necessary and desirable.

To determine what type of divorce is best for you, it can help to retain an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer. Your lawyer can examine the facts in your individual divorce situation and represent your interests to make the process smoother, keep you from being taken advantage of, and fight for the best possible resolution to benefit you and your children.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

Missouri allows two basic types of divorce, contested and uncontested, and there are advantages and disadvantages to each:

A contested divorce is one in which the divorcing couple cannot agree on issues such as property division, child support and custody, and spousal maintenance. If these issues cannot be worked out, the divorce will wind up in court, and a judge will rule on the case and make the decisions.

The disadvantages of a contested divorce are that the process takes longer, becomes more expensive, and may become more contentious and result in more animosity. The advantage is that in situations where one party is unreasonable or tries to take advantage of the other, an impartial judge can make a decision based on what the judge perceives is fair and reasonable for both parties.

It may be necessary to go through the process of a contested divorce and have a judge rule in situations when there are significant complications such as:

  • When there are high assets, significant property and debts, or complicated business arrangements involved
  • When there are issues with prenuptial agreements that one party wants to enforce and the other party claims the prenup is invalid and not enforceable
  • Where there is spousal or child abuse or when spouses are not on speaking terms.

An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses are able to agree on these issues and negotiate the divorce terms without having a trial. The advantage is that these divorces usually are quicker and less expensive than contested divorces, and since both sides have agreed on terms, hard feelings are less likely.

The main disadvantage of an uncontested divorce is that problems can occur when couples make mistakes when trying to do things for themselves, especially if they do not have the help of an experienced divorce attorney who can advocate for their rights. In addition, even when couples think they have reached an agreement on all issues, unforeseen problems may arise, or they may fail to take care of everything that needs to be included in a settlement agreement in a correct and timely manner.  The situation can deteriorate to the point where a contested divorce is necessary, and the costs and time period involved may be greater than if the couple had just gotten a contested divorce to begin with.

In any situation, especially when children or substantial assets and property are involved, having an experienced divorce attorney on your side can help you decide which type of divorce is best for you and save time, money, and aggravation in the long run.

Cape Girardeau Divorce Types and Effects on Issues

Missouri rules and laws on the major issues of divorce are the same whether your divorce is contested or uncontested. In both situations, decisions need to be made on the following:

Division of assets and debts – In Missouri, assets are divided according to the principle of equitable distribution (452.330). This means the court attempts to divide marital property in a fair and reasonable manner, taking into account the length of the marriage, each spouse’s income and earning capacity, the contributions of each spouse to the marriage, and any other relevant factors.

Assets that are considered to be marital property (acquired jointly with your spouse during your marriage) are deemed to be owned jointly by both divorcing spouses and will be considered for division, while separate property assets return to their owners and are not divided.

It is important to be aware that equitable distribution does not mean equal distribution. A court may decide to give one party a larger share of the assets than the other, based on factors such as the economic circumstances of each spouse and the custodial arrangements for minor children.

Prenuptial agreements 

If a valid prenuptial agreement is in place, its terms will generally dictate the division of property, spousal support, and other financial situations. However prenuptial agreements cannot set out arrangements for child custody or support; these must be decided at the time of the divorce.

Spousal support

Missouri courts will award spousal support payments when one party cannot maintain living expenses and the other party can ably provide financial support. The supported spouse may suffer some disability or be less advantaged in terms of education or employment.

Spousal maintenance is not meant to impose punishment on the paying spouse. It is instead supposed to ensure that both parties can sustain a standard of living after divorce that comes close to what they had during the marriage.

Missouri courts may order permanent, short-term, or temporary alimony.

Child support and custody

Issues of child support and custody are determined based on what the courts feel is in the best interests of the child. When parents agree about parenting plan issues, they can submit a joint plan to the court for approval. If parents are unable to agree on a parenting plan, the court will make a decision. Payments for child support are determined using Missouri’s Child Support Amount Calculation Worksheet, or child support can be arranged out of court by a mutual support agreement between the parents.

Get Help from a Cape Girardeau, MO, Attorney Regarding Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce Issues

Whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, having a top-class divorce attorney in your corner during the process provides the peace of mind of knowing that your interests are being capably looked after and allows you to focus on moving forward with your life.

Regardless of which type of divorce is right for you, Cape Girardeau, MO, divorce attorney Kelvin Birk can help you come up with solutions that will protect you and your children now and into the future.

Delaying can only complicate your situation, so get skilled and knowledgeable representation regarding all divorce & family law issues by calling us today at 573-332-8585.


Attorney Kelvin Birk

Attorney Kelvin Birk

Kelvin Birk is a lawyer as well as a certified public accountant, with more than 30 years of experience in accounting and tax and business consulting, and more than 20 years of experience in numerous legal matters. This combined expertise allows our law firm to provide a level of service above that of other firms. Whatever your legal situation, your attorney at Birk Law Firm can counsel you as to the tax implications. We have experience in providing myriad legal representation services to residents of southeast Missouri and other areas.. [ Attorney Bio ]