It amazes me that so many potential clients do not know the difference between contested and uncontested cases. For example, many who call my office believe that a case is uncontested simply because both parties agree that they want a divorce. What they fail to realize is that each party desiring to dissolve the marriage is just the beginning. For a case to be truly uncontested there needs to be an agreement or resolution to all the issues involved. These issues include, but are not limited to: 1) Grounds; 2) Custody, Support, Visitation; 3) Division of Marital Property; 4) Allocation of Debts; 5) Division of Pensions and Profit Sharing Accounts; If there are children involved, the list of issues expands.
For example, who can claim the child or children as dependants for tax purposes must be resolved? Additionally, who will provide the medical coverage and who will cover any extraordinary or uncovered medical expenses? Who will have the children for the Christmas Holiday, summer vacations and winter vacations from school? Importantly, will there be a life insurance policy, naming the minor children as irrevocable beneficiaries for as long as there is a duty to support the minor children? These and other issues can be very important to the parties and to the court. What if there is not a complete agreement on all the above issues? Well, the parties have just crossed over into a contested case. A contested case simply means that there are issues involved that cannot be resolved by the parties and there will need to be negotiations among parties and counsel and possible, orders of court. Thus, if there is even one issue in dispute, the case is contested. Albeit, not hotly contested, contested nonetheless. In such a contested case there can still be ongoing discovery issues.
This is where each party requests of the other and must disclose the nature, location and extent of all of their property, assets, and debts. This can be a very exhaustive exercise or simply an effort to force the other party to stipulate. In any event, the cost of a case will increase as discovery efforts continue. Attorneys charge by the hour and must painstakingly review the information submitted by opposing counsel. Additionally, the attorney must review and submit the information provided by his client as well.
Thus, a contested case can involve a much higher degree of work, expense and time. So when a caller states that the case is agreed upon or uncontested, I must ask additionally questions to insure that there are no issues in dispute.
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