Contesting a Divorce: Is It Worth It?

Is It Worth Contesting a Divorce

Divorce can turn anyone’s world upside down. Even when a marriage can’t be saved, the breakdown still hurts. We get it.

If you’ve been served divorce papers, you’re probably reeling with questions. Do I accept this? Can we resolve things amicably? Or should I contest the petition?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Contesting may make sense if abuse, infidelity, or major disputes are involved. But it can also create an ugly court battle when cooperation is possible.

We’re here to help you think through your options, not pressure or judge. We won’t tell you to blindly accept terms or stubbornly dispute them. This is your life – the choice should feel right for you.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the reasons someone may want to contest a divorce, what the process requires, and how to weigh costs vs. benefits in your unique case.

What Does a Contested Divorce Look Like?

When a divorcing couple can’t agree on the terms of splitting up, the divorce becomes contested. This means disputed issues will go before a judge for resolution through adversarial court proceedings.

To start a contested divorce, the spouse contesting the petition must file an Answer with the court. The Answer addresses each segment of the petition, agreeing with or denying certain parts. It also allows raising any counterclaims against the petitioner.

From there, the contested process unfolds much like a mini-trial:

  • Discovery – Extensive information is exchanged related to finances, assets, custody arrangements, and other issues.
  • Depositions – Both spouses undergo questioning by the other’s divorce attorney.
  • Expert opinions – Consultations and testimonies may be required from accountants, business valuators, or psychologists.
  • Motions and hearings – Oral arguments are made before the judge to influence rulings on disputed matters.
  • Trial – Finally, a full court trial is held where both sides present evidence on unsettled aspects of the divorce. The judge then issues a binding decision.

Contested divorces can take many months or over a year, depending on case complexity. Costs also escalate quickly with each phase of litigation. But for some couples, settling out of court proves impossible without a judge’s ruling.

Is a Contested Divorce Worth the Costs and Effort?

Contesting a divorce adds substantial financial and emotional costs compared to an uncontested split. It also prolongs the process of dissolving the marriage, often by many months or longer. 

Here are some important considerations when deciding between a contested or uncontested divorce:

Financial Costs Add Up

If you contest the divorce, you will incur attorney fees, expert witness fees, costs for depositions and transcripts, and other litigation expenses. In general, a contested divorce costs tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, while an uncontested one can cost just a few thousand dollars. And if certain assets are marital property, their value may be reduced by legal costs.

Emotional Toll Can Be High

The adversarial nature of contested divorce litigation fosters increased conflict with your spouse at an already difficult time. Preparing for divorce proceedings and hearings requires significant emotional energy. For some people, accepting a less-than-ideal settlement may be preferable to a lengthy court battle.

Many Cases Settle, Anyway

Only a small percentage of divorces go to a full trial. Most contested divorces end in a settlement since litigation costs keep rising. However, your leverage in settlement talks may improve after contesting the initial filing.

When It May Be Worth Contesting a Divorce

Despite the downsides, contesting the divorce can be worthwhile if the disputes are substantial, such as cases involving major assets, business interests, or child custody. The benefits of a favorable outcome may outweigh the time and fees incurred, especially if the initial settlement offer was highly inadequate or unfair.

However, every situation is different. Speaking with an experienced divorce attorney from the outset can provide a critical perspective on whether contesting is likely to achieve your goals under the specific circumstances. 

In many cases, attempting mediation and pursuing an uncontested divorce first is the best route, even when disputes exist. The amicable process, lower costs, and ability to maintain a civil relationship with your spouse post-divorce often outweigh the potential upsides of protracted litigation in court. 

Don’t rush into a contested divorce without seriously considering whether mediation could produce reasonable resolutions at a fraction of the financial and emotional costs.

How a Divorce Attorney Can Help 

Pursuing an uncontested or mediated divorce settlement is usually faster, less expensive, and less emotionally draining than litigation. An experienced divorce attorney can provide invaluable assistance if you prefer this path:

  • Advise if mediation is appropriate – We’ll review your situation and goals to determine if mediation could successfully resolve your divorce.
  • Attend and support mediation – If you mediate, we’ll participate in the sessions to provide legal counsel and advice as you negotiate agreements.
  • Encourage reasonable compromise – We’ll help you pick your battles wisely and pursue compromises that allow both spouses to feel the outcome is fair.
  • Ensure agreements are enforceable – We’ll ensure any mediated agreements meet legal requirements so they hold up after the divorce.
  • Smoothly convert agreement into uncontested divorce – When mediation succeeds, we’ll efficiently handle completing and filing all the uncontested divorce forms.
  • Avoid unnecessary litigation – Our experience with mediation helps guide couples away from destructive court battles in favor of cooperation.
  • Focus on your family’s future – While protecting your rights, we also consider your and your children’s well-being as you transition positively into your next chapters.

With a divorce lawyer well-versed in mediation and uncontested divorce on your side, you can navigate a peaceful divorce settlement and gain closure faster. 

Get Trusted Guidance on Your Best Path Forward

Going through a divorce is always challenging, but deciding whether or not to contest the terms makes it even more complex. The team at Netsquire understands – we’ve helped hundreds of clients navigate this difficult crossroads. Our affordable flat-fee structure and fully online services make professional legal counsel accessible when you need it most.

Our New Jersey divorce lawyers combine legal knowledge with compassion. We’ll review your situation objectively, explain your options, and provide trusted advice on whether contesting is truly in your best interests or if your divorce can be amicably settled through mediation. We’re here for you at every twist and turn in the road ahead.

Contact us to get started.

About the Author


John Nachlinger is a co-founder and managing attorney of Netsquire, a family law firm focused on streamlining divorces through effective mediation, settlement drafting, and court filing assistance. As a New Jersey Supreme Court Certified Matrimonial Law Attorney and Qualified Mediator, John guides couples toward equitable agreements without the cost and stress of litigation.

Recognized as a New Jersey Super Lawyer for over a decade, John’s client-focused approach aims to foster understanding during challenging transitions. With a background spanning top law journals, judicial clerkships, and boutique family law firms, John now applies his analytical skills to create workable solutions for all parties. His mediation services reshape the divorce journey by prioritizing compassion and compromise.

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