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Does a Contested Divorce Take Significantly Longer Than an Uncontested Divorce?

divorce decree document

It may not be what you want to hear if you are involved in one, but it is true that contested divorce in Texas typically takes longer than an uncontested proceeding. When parties can agree on the key issues, there are fewer trips to court and no need for litigation related to asset division, spousal support, and care for minor children. Disagreements in any of these areas will definitely prolong a divorce case, so you can expect that disputes in all of them will extend the proceedings.

However, aside from anticipating that a contested divorce will take significantly longer, there is no way to know the exact duration from start to finish. Every case is different, so there are many different factors and variables that affect timing. The best way to ensure an efficient process is to retain a Texas divorce lawyer who can help you navigate some of the legal issues, such as:

Nature of the Disputes

The term “contested” divorce simply means that the parties do not agree on how to handle the key issues that come up during the proceedings. Every case is different, but disagreements are common in the following areas:

  • Classifying Property: Texas is one of nine US states that applies the law of community property in divorce, which starts by categorizing assets as separate or marital. Generally, any items owned before the marriage belong to the respective party; any assets acquired after the wedding are a community. Disagreements develop when the lines are blurred over community versus separate property.
  • Property Division: The Texas Family Code provides that the court shall order division of community assets in a way that is “just and right.” In a contested divorce, the parties usually do not see eye to eye on a fair, equitable property division.
  • Spousal Support: Spousal maintenance remains a hotly disputed issue, starting from the question of eligibility. The party seeking it must demonstrate a lack of ability to support himself or herself, along with certain statutory factors. Then, the court will consider the amount and duration, which is typically related to the length of the marriage.
  • Children: Both parents have rights and responsibilities with respect to their minor children, regardless of the fact that they are ending their marriage. In a contested divorce, parties often disagree over child custody, visitation, and support. Texas law presumes that parents share in raising children, so they will usually be appointed as joint managing conservators. The focus becomes who pays child support, what kind of custody schedule is ordered, and other decisions relating to the children.

Partial Resolution of Disagreements

After reviewing the above divorce disputes, you might realize that there are certain areas where you can agree. A contested divorce may NOT take significantly longer than an uncontested case when you can reach a compromise on some issues, even if there are outstanding disagreements.

It is wise for both parties to rely on their respective divorce lawyers in this respect, as an agreement is more likely when you address matters at an arm’s length. Your attorneys may be successful in getting closer together on property division, spousal maintenance, and issues related to minor children. 

Court-Ordered Mediation

When disagreements remain despite your efforts to come together on divorce matters, a judge will likely order both parties to go through mediation. During this process, a neutral, specially trained mediation professional will engage the parties in productive conversations regarding disputes.

Your lawyers will be present to advise you and advocate on your behalf, with a goal to negotiate an agreement on outstanding issues. All compromises become part of a binding, legally enforceable order regarding asset division, alimony, and care for minor children.

Hearings on Disputed Issues in Contested Divorce

If parties are still in disagreement, a court will set a trial date to determine the outcome of those issues. Both parties will both be allowed to present documents, exhibits, and testimony to support their legal arguments. The judge will review all evidence and apply various divorce statutes, case precedent, and related laws to reach a decision.

The contested divorce trial concludes when the court enters the order regarding the judge’s findings.

A Texas Divorce Attorney Can Guide You Through Contested Proceedings

While disputes over divorce issues can prolong the proceedings, it may still be necessary to go through contested divorce to ensure the protection of your legal rights. Compromise is certainly an attractive goal when it reduces the length of the case, but not when it comes at the cost of your post-divorce future.

For more information on how we can assist with contested divorce cases, please contact The Ramos Law Group, PLLC. We can set up a consultation to learn more about your circumstances at our offices in Houston, TX.