Will your divorce case be contested or uncontested? As a divorce attorney, this is one of the premier questions and one of the initial questions that I have to ask my clients right from the outset.
The reason why I need to know whether the case is going to be contested or uncontested is because there’s a complete different situation, complete different timeframe, complete different price and structure of a case, depending on whether or not it’s going to be contested or uncontested.
If the case is going to be uncontested, that means that both parties are in agreement on all issues concerning the divorce. If both parties are in agreement, then I can prepare a completely different set of documents than I would prepare if the case was going to be contested. The great thing about an uncontested divorce is that the parties have resolved all of the issues amongst themselves. They are not relying on the court, the judge, and the mediators and facilitators to come up with different suggestions, which then go before the court for approval.
In an uncontested case, the parties have already reached an agreement, they are willing to proceed as an uncontested case, and they know exactly the terms that they want to be made part of their judgment. When a case is uncontested, it’s going to move swiftly through the court system. In fact, a case can be completed within three to five weeks if it’s going to be completely uncontested.
On the other hand, if the case is going to be contested, then we have an open-ended time frame. We also have an open-ended fee structure, where someone is going to put down a certain dollar amount for a retainer and the attorney is going to charge by the hour.
Obviously, the total cost of the case is going to depend on the attorneys’ hours expended during that representation.
It is very difficult to give time estimates with regard to contested cases. It is very difficult to give precise results or potential outcomes concerning contested cases. A contested case is a
fluid case that can change on a dime from week to week, from month to month, and the parties’ opinions and ideals and desires change as well.
So when I meet with a client, the very first thing I want to know is, are both parties in agreement on all major issues, and are both parties willing to sign the documents? If so, I can quote an uncontested retainer, I can quote the court cost, I can quote a timeframe, and I can put together a program that will facilitate the finalization of the divorce within about a three- to five-week period.
If, on the other hand, the case is going to be contested, I cannot offer anything in terms of timeframe other than to say it’s going to be more than six months and probably less than two and a half years. So the very first thing that I want to know when someone comes to see me for a divorce is “will the case be contested or uncontested?”