Written by Avvo Staff

Contested Divorce: A Broad Overview

Traditional divorces involving heavy litigation are going out of style, especially since other efficient alternatives like divorce mediation and arbitration exist. However, a small percentage of divorcing couples choose to litigate their issues, especially if there is a lot at stake financially. Here’s a general overview of what to expect from a contested divorce. In general, the process ( can be quite complicated, so prepare to spend quite a bit of time, money, and energy during this period of your divorce.


How your property is divided will depend on how aggressive each attorney is, and also the judge. Ordinarily, you and your spouse could negotiate yourselves on how to divide the property, or the two of you could even use a mediator to help both of you come to an agreement. You’d therefore have a say in what property you got. However, if your divorce goes to trial your judge will be the one to make the decision.


It’s one thing if you can’t agree with your spouse on how to handle the divorce. However, if you have children then you also drag them into the conflict in a contested divorce. It’s very common for a judge to insist upon psychological evaluations in order to see which parent the children should end up.

Family relationships

Going through divorce litigation takes a toll on most people. Hostility and bitterness usually increase, and your children may end up emotionally troubled as a result as well. There’s also a higher chance that the terms of the divorce won’t be followed if a party is extremely bitter from the divorce settlement. By contrast, mediation tends to reduce the negative tension and feelings, thereby making it more likely that you and your ex-spouse will be able to work together amicably in the future.

Costs and Time

The combined costs of attorney fees can easily equal $20,000 or more. Your attorney bills for all time spent on your divorce case, which includes time used for preparing your documents, trial, phone calls, etc. If your divorce issues are very complicated, then you can definitely expect your attorney and their staff to bill even more hours on your paperwork. Additionally, the average time it takes for a contested divorce to wrap up is about one year or more, depending on the court’s schedule. By comparison, the fees associated with mediation are usually much cheaper, and the time it takes to bring your divorce to a close is also significantly shorter.

Free Q&A with lawyers in your area

Avvo child custody email series

Can’t find what you’re looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer