What Is a Contested Divorce in Texas?
When a divorce is contested, it means that the spouses haven’t reached an agreement on the divorce terms, whether because of the division of assets and debts or the matters of child support and custody. Before a divorce can be finalized in court, the spouses need to reach an agreement on all matters covered in the divorce decree.
When they can’t reach an agreement, each spouse should hire a divorce lawyer (if they haven’t already) to help them work through the points of dispute.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Contesting a Divorce?
Contesting a divorce shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. While there are some excellent reasons to contest a divorce, there are some drawbacks that can be significant.
Having a day in court. When a stalemate can’t be overcome, both sides may feel unheard. Psychologically, they can view having a day in court as a way to ensure their wishes are heard and considered.
The marriage has a troubled history. If one of the spouses has been abusive or manipulative, negotiating may not work. Bringing it to court could bring the abused or manipulated spouse a fairer final decree.
The divorce is fault-based. That means one spouse is considered at fault for the breakup, whether due to cruelty or infidelity. In those cases, the other spouse may have legal standing to take a larger share of the assets than they would in a no-fault divorce.
One spouse isn’t honest. If one spouse has been lying or hiding assets to avoid sharing them, taking it to court can help the other spouse hold them accountable.
There was a prenuptial agreement, but it may not be enforceable.
Having a day in court. Yes, this can be a pro or a con. Courts have legal procedures to follow, and one or the other spouse may find that what’s most important to them isn’t relevant to the judge or even works against them in ways they hadn’t thought of.
Length and expense. A contested divorce will usually take longer and could cost significantly more in legal fees as the lawyers have to prepare for court proceedings.
Increased emotions. A court proceeding can add stress to what is already deemed one of life’s most stressful experiences. It’s even more likely to do so when there are children involved. Even if the children aren’t present in court, they’ll pick up on the contention between the parents.
Lack of certainty. The court procedure’s outcome is not necessarily predictable. The judge may issue a ruling that pleases neither spouse.
Is It Worth Contesting a Divorce?
In cases where one spouse refuses to negotiate at all or if there has been abuse in the marriage, a contested divorce can be worthwhile. But for couples that can still find the ability to continue negotiations or consider working with a mediator, the extended cost, time, and animosity–not to mention the uncertain outcomes–of a contested divorce may not, in fact, be worthwhile. If you’re not sure if your divorce process can be carefully negotiated into an uncontested divorce, contact an experienced divorce attorney for an assessment and advice.
What Is the Process of Contesting a Divorce?
Once a couple has entered the divorce process and it’s become clear that nothing will budget them out of their stalemate, they should go through a mediation process to ensure they’ve exhausted all available opportunities for working their way into an uncontested divorce (unless, as noted above, there is history of abuse or one spouse is hiding assets, etc.). Mediation would involve an impartial third party who keeps the spouses in separate rooms and then goes between them to help them negotiate. The mediator doesn’t represent either of them but is there to make sure each person is heard. Sometimes, the mediator can suggest solutions that the couple may not have considered.
If all attempts at negotiation fail, the next step will be for each spouse and their attorneys to prepare for the trial. Each spouse will develop their proposal for what they want along with relevant evidence to present. Both sides will then have the opportunity to present their proposals in court. After that, the judge will decide on the issues that the couple couldn’t negotiate on, and the judge will issue a final ruling.
If the Spouse Disagrees with the Judge’s Ruling, Can It Be Appealed?
Technically, yes, but it can be difficult. The appeal can’t simply be based on one spouse being unhappy with the outcome just because it didn’t favor them as much as they felt they deserved. There has to be more legal basis for an appeal.
That basis could include there not having been sufficient evidence for the judge to make the ruling or that the judge abused their discretion. That means the judge may have acted unreasonably or in a way that goes against Texas’ divorce laws. These are the only two reasons another court will review a case for appeal. If in doubt, contact us for advice.
What Should I Do if I Might Need Help Contesting a Divorce?
Call the Cutrer Law Group at 817-813-8513 for a free case evaluation. Every divorce case is unique, and we’ll help you work through the details of yours to determine the right approach for the best possible outcomes. We understand how stressful this is, and we’re here to help you. Our experience can help you understand if there are still opportunities to avoid contesting the divorce or if that’s the best path for your case.