Uncontested vs Contested Divorce in New York: What’s the Difference?

Divorce is always a challenging process for those involved because it marks a significant transition in their lives. In every divorce, there are numerous emotional challenges. Sometimes, there is extreme conflict and contention involved, making the process even more difficult.

At such a vulnerable time, divorcing spouses are asked to make compromises and reach agreements with someone they are likely divorcing because of a lack of agreement. Whether or not spouses can agree will determine whether a divorce is contested or uncontested, influencing how the divorce will proceed. Uncontested and contested divorces can have vastly different consequences.

Uncontested vs Contested Divorce in New York: What’s the Difference?

Fundamentally, the difference between a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce is the issue of agreement or disagreement. In an uncontested divorce, there is agreement between the two spouses about the major issues. In a contested divorce, there is significant disagreement between the two spouses. Whether or not spouses agree can have a large effect on how the divorce proceedings unfold.

While spouses will negotiate the terms of an uncontested divorce, contested divorces will involve contentious legal battles in divorce court.

What Is an Uncontested Divorce?

In an uncontested divorce, the couple works together to find compromises that are agreeable to both parties regarding all of the major elements of a divorce. When it comes to property division, they find something that works for both parties. Spousal maintenance is also agreed upon. Lawyers can ensure that all agreements are fair and legally valid so they will be approved by the court.

Additionally, if the couple had children, they would develop a plan for custody and child support that would work for them and their children. Coming to an agreement on these things is not always easy, but both parties tend to be committed to reaching an agreement without needing to go to court. The process is often helped along by a divorce lawyer who is able to help identify reasonable compromises.

The compromises to which the two sides have agreed will then be put together in a document, usually called a divorce agreement. The court will review it to make sure there isn’t anything egregious, and most of the time, they will sign off on the agreement and finalize the divorce. If they find something unfair to one spouse, the agreement will need to be changed.

All of these factors make the process of an uncontested divorce relatively quick, with the only factor influencing the timeline being how long it takes for both parties to reach an agreement. The speed of an uncontested divorce also tends to mean that uncontested divorces are cheaper, easier on mental health, and less likely to require further conflict and legal involvement later on.

What Are the Disadvantages of Contested Divorce?

Contested divorces, on the other hand, are costly—not just financially, although they will require paying more legal fees. They can also cost spouses time, having the potential to continue for years. They are also costly in terms of stress and mental condition, as they involve much tension and uncertainty until the court makes a final decision.

Because contested divorces involve spouses who can’t agree, negotiating a separation agreement normally isn’t an option. These are the cases that go to trial, and both parties will make their positions known on the important issues.

Lawyers on both sides will present arguments on property division, support, and child custody, which is often the most contentious of issues. After these cases are made and arguments are presented, the court will issue orders and rulings on what they determine is fair regarding all major issues.


Q: Does the Other Person Have to Sign for a Divorce in New York?

A: New York is a no-fault state, and this means that both parties are not required to sign off on or agree to a divorce. One party may serve the other with divorce papers, and the other has a set time of 20-30 days to respond. If they fail to respond, then the divorce is free to proceed without them, and they will need to abide by whatever the court decides without their input.

Q: Is a Settlement Agreement Required for an Uncontested Divorce in New York?

A: A settlement agreement may not be required in every circumstance for an uncontested divorce to be finalized. However, having one can speed up the process and can be valuable in more complex cases. The more complex the case, the more important a settlement agreement may be. However, in a situation where a renting couple in a short-term marriage without kids decides to get divorced, a separation agreement would have very little impact.

Q: Is a Waiting Period Required by New York Before Divorce Papers Can Be Finalized?

A: Unlike other states, which may require six months or even one year of a couple living separately before the divorce process can even begin, the state of New York has no waiting period, and those who meet the residency requirements may file a divorce at any time. This means spouses can divorce much more quickly than in other states.

Q: What Does a New York Divorce Lawyer Do?

A: When going through a divorce, you can benefit from working with someone who’s been through the process before, knows what to expect from the courts, and is aware of the relevant law. A New York divorce lawyer can advocate for you, represent you, and advise you throughout the divorce proceedings.

Whether Your Divorce Is Uncontested or Contested, Trotto Law Firm, P.C., Can Advocate for You

At Trotto Law Firm, P.C., we have experience with both uncontested and contested divorces. We recognize the desire for the faster, calmer process of an uncontested divorce, but we also realize that sometimes, contested divorces are unavoidable.

Wherever you find yourself, we are ready to help you through the process, represent you in court, and advocate for you in negotiation. We can pursue an agreement that benefits you and your family. Contact us for help with your divorce.

Let’s Begin Our Legal Partnership Today

Contact Us

Contact us today using our consultation form below:

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.