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Contested Vs Uncontested Divorce

A closeup view of a judge signing a divorce decree across the desk from the divorcing couple; one of their wedding rings rests on the corner of the judge’s paper.

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 2021, both marriages and divorces were down from the levels they were at in 2011. Regardless of whether the divorce rate is consistent, or trending downward or upward, the one thing that seems to be true is that not all marriages will work out and there are always going to be those that end up in divorce. Depending on how a divorce takes place, the whole process can be frustrating and expensive, as well as taking a significant emotional toll. Whether an individual divorce is contested vs. uncontested divorce can make a substantial difference in the divorce experience of both parties involved. If you have questions about divorce, consider contacting the experienced New Hampshire divorce and family law attorneys with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC. Call (603) 707-4800 today to schedule a free consultation to learn more.

Uncontested Divorce

The most easy and cost-effective way to get through a divorce is when an uncontested divorce happens. If both parties are able to agree on all of the legal issues related to their divorce, then a resolution can usually be reached much more quickly than when they cannot agree. A divorce arrangement in which both of the divorcing spouses are congenial can mean that the parties are able to present their already-formulated agreement to the judge for approval, rather than requiring the court to determine every aspect of their case. In an uncontested divorce, the couple can often end their marriage without much of the fuss and emotional trauma that can come when a divorce has to be fought in court.

Contested Divorce

When legal matters are not agreed upon, a divorce may be considered contested. When the divorcing spouses cannot come to terms on one or more legal matters will have a few different ways to figure things out amicably, either prior to approaching the court or during the course of the divorce proceedings.


In mediation, a neutral third-party negotiator guides both parties in an attempt to find common ground on core issues. Emphasis is typically placed on identifying areas of existing first, and then on seeking compromise on the issues where there is still disagreement. Mediation can take place before a divorce trial, in an attempt to reach an agreement that will enable the spouses to enter an uncontested petition for divorce, or it may be assigned by the court as a way of reaching a settlement option acceptable to all involved.


The arbitration process also involves a neutral third party, but in the case of arbitration vs. mediation, the third party takes a more active role. Similar to a judge, the arbitrator will listen to both sides and reach an independent decision on each of the questions at issue.

Major Legal Matters That Must Be Addressed During Divorce

Even when divorce is mutually agreeable, the legal matters that must be addressed during divorce may not be. Even couples who are cooperative with each other going into divorce often find themselves at odds during the process of devising a divorce settlement that will equitably distribute the marital property and make sure any children of the marriage are provided for. 

Due to the potentially volatile and costly nature of divorce, having an attorney with experience helping you through the process can be beneficial. 

Whether you have a contested vs. uncontested divorce will likely be a major factor in your experience and the costs associated with the ending of your marriage, but choosing a seasoned New Hampshire divorce lawyer can also make a difference. An attorney at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC may be able to help you through divorce negotiations and fight for you in court if necessary. Some of the weightiest legal issues to contend with include the following:

Property Division

All property gathered and accumulated during a marriage may be up for division during divorce. Homes and real estate, shared bank accounts, and many other formerly shared assets will have to be dealt with. The emotional connection to certain pieces of property, as well as the value of property can bring about major objections.

Debt Division

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (USGAO) reports that most Americans, 82% in fact, have at least one credit card. In America, regular use of credit cards is a problem for many couples, as personal debt levels are growing. Debts that a couple accrued during marriage will have to be divided in divorce.

Child Custody

When children are involved, the goal of a New Hampshire court is always to devise a custody arrangement that is in the children’s best interests, rather than acceding to either of the parents’ personal wishes. Courts will typically want to establish an arrangement that gives children fair access to each parent, unless there are prohibiting factors, such as child safety issues, that suggest to the court that one parent may not be a safe caretaker for the child. Having to lose any amount of time with a child can be a difficult thing to cope with, and parents going through a divorce commonly find themselves in disagreement over the amount and the scheduling of their parenting time.

Child Support

If one parent is assigned residential responsibility for a child, then the other parent may be held responsible for paying child support to account for the costs that the parent who is responsible for the greater proportion of overnight stays will have to manage on behalf of the child. Disputes over how much child support payments will be can arise.

Alimony/Spousal Support

Sometimes a spouse with higher income must make regularly support payments to their ex-spouse who has a lower income or no income at all, particularly if the spouse with lower income suspended or deprioritized career pursuits for some or all of the marriage in order to take care of shared household obligations and responsibilities, such as childcare. Such arrangements are made when the courts deem them part of an “equitable” settlement, but having to pay an ex after a marriage is over can be an issue that causes anger and may lead to arguments.

Why Do Couples Want an Uncontested Divorce?

A divorce trial is a public process and the details of one’s divorce will be public knowledge. This means, that all of the fighting and possibly messy details of a divorce can be found out by anyone, which may not be desirable by a divorcing couple. Also, going to court makes the divorce process that much more expensive. For these reasons, a couple that is struggling to come to an agreement on certain items may be more open to working together through either mediation or arbitration. Still, when there are no alternative dispute resolution methods that are successful, a couple may have their divorce settled by a judge, in divorce court.

Speak With a New Hampshire Divorce Attorney Today

Legally, the distinction between contested vs. uncontested divorce turns on whether the divorcing spouses are able to come to an agreement on all issues without the intervention of the court. In terms of each spouse’s divorce experience, however, contested divorces can be much more stressful than those that go uncontested. At the same time, the desire to avoid stressful encounters may not always outweigh the need to advocate for one’s own interests throughout the divorce process, including in such core issues as the distribution of marital property and, for couples with children, the allocation of parenting time. If you need help with your divorce in New Hampshire, you may call Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC at (603) 707-4800. Initial consultations are complimentary.


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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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