Dealing with the divorce process can be confusing and overwhelming. You need to be confident a divorce agreement is fair and meets your needs. The breakup of a marriage requires both spouses to think about how to disentangle the life they built together, and the level of contention between the parties greatly impacts the process.
A divorce attorney can point out the strengths and weaknesses of each spouse’s case and offer recommendations about reasonable ways to resolve issues without going to trial. A hard-working divorce attorney can explain contested versus uncontested divorce in Guilford.
In a contested divorce, the parties disagree on the division of assets, debts, liabilities, and custody, and the case gets resolved by way of a trial. In an uncontested divorce, the parties have arrived at an agreement on dividing their assets, debts, and income, as well as how they will share custody of their children.
Spouses will commonly disagree on alimony and how assets and debts should be fairly divided. Custody issues also present challenges as parties fight over the parenting schedule and decision-making authority.
Cases can start off contested and end up resolving as uncontested divorces. Contested cases require more attorney involvement, court engagement, and time to resolve, which leads to greater legal fees. Contested cases often necessitate expansive discovery in the form of production requests, interrogatories, subpoenas, and depositions. A knowledgeable lawyer in Guilford can help a party protect their interests whether their divorce ends up proceeding contested or uncontested.
The Court process has a system in place for protecting the interests of children during a divorce. A court-appointed guardian ad litem (GAL) is an attorney retained to represent the interests of minor children during the divorce proceedings. GALs provide the court their opinion as to what is best for the children based on their interviews with the family and independent investigation, which includes communicating with collateral sources, such as children’s teachers and therapists.
The judge can also refer the case to the Department of Family Relations, which is a neutral unit within the court system, and order them to conduct a custody evaluation. In such a case, a Family Relations Officer will speak to the children and both parents and conduct an investigation similar to that of a GAL, before recommending the best solution for the children.
A skilled attorney in Guilford will cooperate with the GAL or Family Relations Officer, keeping apprised of the specifics of their investigations, to help secure the best custody agreement for you and your children.
Once a case is ready to proceed uncontested, the court has a process to permit the parties to enter their agreement on the papers, allowing the parties to proceed with the divorce without the need to come into court. In certain cases, it is appropriate to canvass the parties on the record before the divorce judgment enters, in which event the court will schedule an uncontested hearing for the purpose of approving the parties’ agreement.
As long as a case remains contested, the court requires the parties to adhere to a discovery and trial schedule to ensure the case is not stalling. The court sets specific dates by which the parties need to report on the status of a case and will order the parties to utilize various settlement tools to try and resolve the case, such as pretrial conferences, where a judge, who is then precluded from presiding over the trial, will offer recommendations for resolving the issues in dispute.
There are certain options the parties have for attempting to reach a settlement out of court. Mediation by a neutral third-party professional, which can be a retired judge, an attorney, or in cases where the issue centers on custody, a trained family specialist, can help work through disputes. As mediations are nonbinding, if the process fails, the parties would carry on with the court process. Alternatively, spouses can choose to go to arbitration, which results in a final, binding decision. Arbitration allows parties to tailor the process more to their needs, and even though it also involves providing evidence and witnesses, the process is less formal and rigid than a court trial.
Once a divorce is ready to proceed uncontested, your lawyer will assist with drafting an enforceable separation agreement that protects your interests and fairly articulates the agreement. Conversely, with a contested divorce, your lawyer will focus on compiling evidence and getting ready to present your case to a judge during an evidentiary trial. A seasoned attorney can explain further how to resolve contested versus uncontested divorce cases in Guilford.
When a marriage breaks down, both spouses want to protect their interests, which can cause tension and hinder making final decisions. Enlist the help of a lawyer who knows the differences between contested versus uncontested divorce in Guilford. Contact us today to learn about this process.