What Is a Contested Divorce in Arizona?

Contested Divorce in Arizona

Making the decision to end your marriage is never an easy one. However, some divorces are more complex than others. If you and your former partner cannot agree on one or more aspects of your split, then you are participating in a contested divorce. Familiarizing yourself with what to expect from a contested divorce can help you understand the legal process ahead of you.

What Is a Divorce?

If you are legally married and want to end your marriage, you will have to go through the divorce process. Your divorce is a legal process that officially terminates your marriage. It involves filing required documents with the court, waiting through a mandatory holding period, and making important decisions about how to divide the property and other aspects of life you currently share. For instance, during your divorce process, you must attend to issues like the division of your marital assets and how to approach child custody, visitation, child support, and even spousal maintenance (alimony). These decisions can be complex, which is why you should get in touch with an experienced divorce attorney who can represent your interests.

Contested vs Uncontested Divorce

Just as every relationship is unique, every couple’s divorce is a bit different. In some cases, you and your partner might be able to agree on how to proceed with the termination of your marriage and not experience any disagreements. In this case, you would be going through a non-contested divorce. However, there are many factors that might make your split more complex, such as high financial stakes or shared custody of children. If you find yourself unable to compromise with your spouse on any issue in your divorce, your split will be considered a contested divorce.

Learn more about the two types of divorce below.

Non-Contested Divorce Meaning

When two people decide to get a divorce, they must review all the things and aspects of their lives they currently share. For instance, you and your partner should consider how you will divide your time with your children, how you will deal with shared real estate, who will leave the marriage with which valuable assets, and more. A non-contested divorce occurs when both of you agree on all decisions and can make them during negotiations to be approved for the final divorce decree. This is as straightforward and speedy as a divorce can be because it does not require lengthy litigation.

Contested Divorce Meaning

On the other hand, you might not find it easy to compromise with your significant other. There are a great many details at hand when you are tasked with dividing your marriage, and it can be difficult to negotiate with someone you are ending a personal relationship with. If any of the following factors are present in your divorce, you might find yourself in a contested divorce:

High Net-Worth

If there are high financial stakes in your split, you might find yourself in a contested divorce. For example, if you have retirement bank accounts, investment accounts, and other significant financial stakes, it might be difficult to agree on who walks away with what.

Valuable Real Estate

If you and your partner own multiple properties, you might find yourself facing conflicts about how to divide them. These disagreements can stretch for long periods of time, so you should consider relying on legal counsel to help you reach a settlement.

Business Needs

If you or your partner is a business owner, or if you share a business together, you might face disputes related to your business during your split. In order to protect your business assets and avoid complications in your career as a result of your divorce, you should contact an attorney who specializes in contested divorces to protect your rights.

Substantial Debt

If you and your partner share a significant amount of financial debt, then this can be a cause of some contention as you dissolve your marriage. In order to make sure that you do not leave your marriage with more debt than is your responsibility, you should rely on a divorce attorney to be your advocate in this legal process.

Child Custody Disputes

One of the most critical factors that often causes a contested divorce is child custody. If you and your spouse disagree on who your children should spend the majority of their time with, who should have visitation rights, or other issues relating to child custody, you will need the help of the court to reach a decision. The court will always take into consideration what is in the interest of your child but also consider important factors of your and your former partner’s lives, such as your income, your living situations, and your individual relationships with your children.

Spousal Maintenance

Issues relating to spousal maintenance (also known as alimony) can cause obstacles in your divorce. If you need to resolve disputes relating to spousal support, you should turn to the court for support. The court will take into consideration the financial needs of each person and reach a decision that meets the best interests of the involved parties.

Differences Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce

Contested vs Uncontested Divorce

From the length of legal negotiations and the time spent in litigation to the emotional strain of your split, there are many differences that you can expect between an uncontested and a contested divorce. Some of the most significant differences that you can expect between the two are the following:


If you are in an uncontested divorce, then you can typically expect it to take much less time than if you are dealing with a contested divorce. Since an uncontested divorce does not require you and your partner to work through a long period of negotiations and rehash the matter in litigation, you can save a significant amount of time overall. In general, an uncontested divorce can take anywhere from about three months to a year. By contrast, you can expect a contested divorce to take anywhere from six months to a few years.


If you are able to achieve an uncontested divorce, you can usually expect to pay less money than if you get a contested divorce. While you can still benefit from the support of a divorce attorney when you get an uncontested divorce, your lawyer will not need to spend time in court fighting for your right to property or parenting time, and you will likely pay less in legal fees. On the other hand, if you hire a divorce attorney for your contested divorce, you can anticipate paying more in legal fees, as contested divorces are typically longer and involve more legal work to reach favorable terms for you.

However, it is important to remember that if you are going through a contested divorce, legal representation is more important than ever. If you want to reach a settlement with a positive outcome, you will need a dedicated attorney working hard to advocate for you.

Required Steps

The legal process that you will have to go through for your divorce can also vary depending on whether your divorce is uncontested or contested. Typically, if your spouse agrees with you on the terms of your divorce, then you will not have to participate in litigation. On the other hand, if your spouse disagrees with the terms of your split, you will have to go through a period of negotiations and litigation. This can involve multiple trips to court and may take a long period of time.

What Happens in a Contested Divorce?

If you find yourself going through a contested divorce, it is in your best interest to consult with a divorce attorney. Your lawyer can review your situation and provide informed counsel on what your legal options are. Having a seasoned legal professional representing you in your contested divorce can also help you protect your assets during your split.

Depending on the issues you and your spouse are facing, you might find that you are able to resolve them through mediation or arbitration. In these alternatives to litigation, a neutral third party will assist you and your partner with communicating and reaching a settlement. If you are unable to reach an agreement on any issues, you will have to proceed to litigation. A judge will weigh in and make a decision on the issues at hand in court.

If your contested divorce case proceeds to litigation your lawyer will craft a detailed strategy to defend your interests and advocate for your needs. Both you and your partner must complete a financial disclosure so your attorneys understand the marital property at hand. You will also need to discuss your disputes with your attorney so they can collect evidence and craft a strong legal argument on your behalf.

Contested Divorce FAQs

Contested Divorce FAQs

It is normal to have many questions about your contested divorce, including the ones below. If you have questions pertaining to your specific divorce case, then you should consult with a divorce lawyer.

What Is a Contested Divorce in Arizona?
If you are getting a divorce and you and your partner do not agree on essential decisions to be made, then you are going through a contested divorce. For instance, if you do not agree on how to attend to important assets like your debt, retirement accounts, real estate, or parenting time, then your divorce is contested. You should get in touch with a divorce attorney to represent your side of the dispute in legal negotiations and proceedings. Typically, you can expect your contested divorce to take anywhere from half a year to several years, depending on how long it takes you and the other involved party to reach an agreement.
What Is the Difference Between Contested and Uncontested Divorce in Arizona?
A contested divorce is a divorce in which the two parties cannot agree on how to divide their assets or parenting time. For instance, disagreements on how to divide significant financial assets or address child custody can lead to a contested divorce. On the other hand, an uncontested divorce is when two people dissolve their marriage and agree on all of the major relevant decisions. An uncontested divorce is typically shorter and less expensive than a contested divorce in Arizona and does not require attending several court hearings like a contested divorce might.
How Long Does a Contested Divorce Take in Arizona?
The amount of time that your contested divorce will take in Arizona will depend on a wide variety of factors. For instance, some contested divorces can take as little as six months, but others can take several years. The length of time will depend on how long it takes to resolve the disputes between you and your spouse.

Do You Need an Attorney for a Contested Divorce in Arizona?
If you are facing a contested divorce in Arizona then it is in your best interest to hire a skilled divorce lawyer. It is critical to make sure that you protect your assets and that you walk away from your marriage with a favorable decision. If you do not have an experienced attorney on your side, then you might find that the other party takes advantage of you and ends up with more from the marriage than they should.
How Much Does an Attorney Cost for a Contested Divorce?
The amount that you will have to pay for the support of your contested divorce attorney will depend on many factors. For instance, the amount of work you need from your divorce lawyer, their experience, and their pricing structure will all play a role in the amount you will have to pay in legal fees. To better understand how much you will have to pay for your attorney, you should consult with an experienced divorce lawyer about your case.
Are There Alternatives to Litigation for a Contested Divorce?
If you are seeking to avoid litigation for your contested divorce, then you can consider mediation or arbitration. If you go the route of mediation, you and your partner will discuss the disputes that are complicating your divorce in front of a neutral third party called a mediator. The mediator’s job is to assist you in reaching an agreement in a respectful manner. If you choose arbitration, you will have a similar experience, except you will be communicating in front of someone called an arbitrator. After you reach an agreement in your arbitration, your arbitrator will draw up a legally binding agreement about your settlement.

Consult With An Experienced Contested Divorce Lawyer Today

Consult with a Family Law Expert

You should not have to go through your contested divorce alone. Navigating this legal process without qualified legal support cannot only be draining, but it can also be detrimental to your outcome. Our team at The Valley Law Group understands how stressful it can be as you approach a contested divorce. We are proud to represent Arizona residents in complex divorce cases and can provide you with the skilled legal protection and support you need at this time.

To learn more about how we can assist you with your contested divorce, contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

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