The vast majority of divorces begin as contested issues and gradually evolve into uncontested divorces. The definition of a “contested” divorce is simply any divorce case in which the divorcing couple disagrees about certain aspects of ending their marriage. The most common causes of these disagreements include child custody, child support, property division, and individual issues unique to that particular couple.

If you plan to divorce in Wichita, the process ultimately involves moving from a contested divorce to an uncontested divorce, a process that will be different for every couple who goes through it. While rare, a couple can secure their divorce faster if they have developed a mutual agreement for handling all aspects of their divorce. However, this typically only happens for couples with no children, limited jointly owned assets, and who have not been married very long. The vast majority of divorces handled by the Wichita family court system start as contested matters.

How to Approach a Contested Divorce

It’s not uncommon for divorces to be emotionally heated issues. In some divorce cases, one spouse wants to divorce but the other does not. Some divorce cases erupt from one spouse’s negative actions that directly caused the breakdown of the marriage, such as infidelity or spousal abuse. Some couples agree to divorce but disagree about who gets what when it comes to their marital property, and some couples disagree vehemently about child custody rights.

Whatever the case may be, a contested divorce requires each of the divorcing spouses to secure legal representation and work toward an uncontested divorce and, ultimately, a divorce decree using one of two methods: litigation or mediation.

Before you agree to an early settlement or brace yourself for a lengthy court battle with your spouse, it’s vital to carefully consider both of these options and the potential benefits and drawbacks of each

The Divorce Litigation Process

Divorce litigation is a matter of civil law overseen by a family court judge. If a divorcing couple cannot agree to mutual terms for their divorce or they simply refuse to negotiate peaceably, there is virtually no other option but to litigate the matter in court. This is a time consuming and expensive process for both parties, and it will ultimately follow the same legal framework as any other civil law case.

Both parties will have the opportunity to provide evidence and documentation to establish their property rights and their cases for child custody. The divorce litigation process may also entail interviews of family members, the couples’ children in some cases, and other parties who can provide the court with detailed information about the nature of the marriage, each spouse’s contributions toward the marriage, and the reasons for the breakdown of the marriage.

Choosing divorce litigation is very risky. While you may harbor very strong negative feelings about your ex and desire to take them to task with a lengthy court battle, this option will eventually be costly to you as well. There is a significant degree of risk involved in opting for divorce litigation over mediation. For example, if your spouse was willing to undergo mediation but you are not and the court handles the matter, your final divorce decree may be far more unfavorable than the potential outcome of mediation would have been. You could spare yourself a great deal of time, expense, and stress if you are more agreeable to the idea of mediation.

When a divorcing couple undergoes the divorce litigation process, the court will carefully review all of the facts involved in the case and answer the question of equitable distribution of the couple’s marital property. Kansas is not a community property state, so the family court of Wichita will not aim for an exact 50/50 split of a divorcing couple’s shared marital property. Instead, the Wichita court strives for as close to an equitable distribution of marital property as possible. This may result in a 60/40, 70/30, or even 80/20 division of the couple’s shared property, depending on the facts in play in the case and the judge’s interpretations of those facts.

Divorce Mediation

While divorce litigation ultimately shifts a contested divorce to an uncontested divorce forcibly through the legal processes of the family court system, divorce mediation is the other available option. It can streamline the transition from a contested divorce to an uncontested one. Unlike litigation that leaves the decisions concerning property division, child custody, and child support firmly in the hands of the court, divorce mediation is an opportunity for a divorcing couple to work through these questions in a low-pressure environment under the guidance of a court-appointed mediator.

The mediator’s job is to facilitate constructive negotiations and check the legality of proposed agreements. The mediator maintains neutrality throughout the mediation sessions, and mediation can last as long as a divorcing couple needs to reach a mutually agreeable set of divorce terms. While legal counsel is only required in some situations, it is generally a good idea to have legal representation with you during mediation sessions, especially if your spouse has an attorney on their side.

Which Is the Best Method for Handling a Contested Divorce?

Ultimately, divorce mediation is a faster, cheaper, less stressful, and arguably more effective method of transitioning from a contested divorce to an uncontested one. When you agree to divorce mediation, you and your spouse will arrange mediation sessions with the Wichita court system. The court generally strives to ensure the same mediator will preside over each session, so they remain familiar with your proceedings.

While divorce mediation may be the generally preferred option for resolving contested divorce cases, mediation may not be an option in some cases. For example, if your soon-to-be ex-spouse committed a crime, engaged in domestic violence, or has a serious substance abuse problem, you may have no choice but to litigate your divorce. This is especially true if there are any criminal proceedings in play against you or your spouse. An experienced Wichita divorce attorney can review your situation and help you determine the best method for handling your divorce and what to expect from the process.