An uncontested divorce is one where all issues in the case are resolved by the parties themselves – with or without the help of attorneys – rather than being decided by the judge. These issues include those relating to children (custody, visitation. child support and other financial issues relating to children), property (the division of assets), debts (allocating responsibility for all marital debts and obligations), and maintenance (alimony).
A contested case is one where the judge is directly involved and called upon to make certain decisions because the parties cannot reach agreement. If a case is contested, it will ultimately end through a contest trial before the judge.
Some cases begin and end as uncontested. Others may start as hotly-contested situations, but end as uncontested, due to a settlement being reached. Other cases remain contested and ultimately proceed to a trial, where the judge will make all decisions left unresolved.
An uncontested case is always preferable. Uncontested cases will typically be less expensive, less stressful, and will involve less risk – i.e., not knowing what a judge will decide – than contested cases. Additionally, in an uncontested case, the parties retain control over their own destinies.
The vast majority of divorces are ultimately resolved through a negotiated settlement, and therefore end as uncontested cases.