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What’s the Difference Between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce?

When it comes to divorce, there are two types of filing options: contested and uncontested. The one couples choose to pursue is dependent upon their relationship, as well as their situation around their divorce.

Contested and Uncontested Divorce

No matter how long a couple has been married, dissolving a marriage can be complicated. These complications increase if both parties have different ideas on key divorce terms, including property division and parenting time. Consequently, the greatest difference between a contested and uncontested divorce is whether spouses challenge or accept the terms of a divorce agreement.

In a contested divorce (also known as a divorce dispute), one or both parties disagree on one or more issues. Or, at least one party wants a divorce and the parties have not yet agreed upon the terms of a settlement. Often contested issues include:

  • Whether or not to dissolve the marriage
  • Dividing marital property
  • Child custody and parenting time
  • Any marital debts
  • Maintenance or Spousal Support

These disagreements often require the presence of an attorney and extend the divorce process.

Even if both parties agree on the above items (an uncontested divorce), the Court requires a judge to approve the final agreement to legally end the marriage.

What Does it Mean to Have an Uncontested Divorce in Illinois?

While both parties may settle on key items, the state requires they still go through the legal process to meet all requirements for a divorce. The judge will review the divorce agreement to ensure it complies with State and local Court rules, and to be sure the agreement is valid, fair, and enforceable to both parties. Each party must also comply with filing deadlines and sometimes appear before the court to finalize the divorce.


Compared to a contested divorce, an uncontested divorce is often the quickest way to dissolve the marriage. It also involves less time spent in court and fewer expenses on lawyers, accountants or any other professionals utilized throughout the process. Couples without a significant amount of marital property or children commonly benefit from uncontested divorces.

Additionally, a prenup or postnup contributes to whether a divorce is contested or uncontested. This is because couples consider and discuss most assets or items in the divorce process ahead of time. 


The Court does not recommend an uncontested divorce if both parties have a history of domestic violence or abuse. For an uncontested divorce to work, communication is key. If couples have a difficult time discussing issues in a calm and productive way, an uncontested divorce may not be the best course of action.

When Should I Contact an Attorney?

As previously mentioned, the state requires divorce agreements to adhere to both State and local Court rules, regardless of whether it is contested or uncontested. An attorney can thus be an available resource to help both parties navigate all the necessary paperwork.

If there are disagreements, an attorney may also help by providing mediation services. This allows parties to have a structured conversation and come to an agreeable solution to any present issues.

No matter the situation, having a skilled attorney on your side can make all the difference when going through divorce. Kristen Strieker has been practicing family law in Madison County for 10 years and is available to help clients with everything from contested and uncontested divorces, parenting plans, mediation and more. Contact our office online or call for more information. 618-391-1120.

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