Do I need to go to court if I’m getting divorced?

During an already unpleasant and emotionally charged time, many worry if they will have to go to court when seeking a divorce. The answer to this all depends on whether your divorce is contested or uncontested.

Uncontested divorce

An uncontested divorce is when both spouses agree to the divorce. This is the most common kind of divorce and makes the process quicker. If you both agree to the divorce, then you can get your divorce finalised within 4 – 6 months.

Contested divorce

A contested divorce, sometimes known as a defended divorce, is when one spouse does not agree to the divorce. This makes the process more complex and means that the couple will have to attend court, usually for two hearings.

If your divorce is contested, either by yourself or by your spouse, then you will need to go to court to reach a settlement.

If you or your spouse want to defend the divorce, then a ‘Form of Answer’ will need to be completed and filed when the Divorce Petition has been received.

When a divorce is defended, it will be discussed in the Court as a ‘Case Management Hearing’. At this first hearing, the Court will hear any issues and decide what directions are needed if any for another Judge to then make a final decision. If after this initial hearing, the divorce is still defended then at the Final Hearing, a Judge  will decide if the divorce is able to proceed or not.

Splitting assets and finances

Splitting your joint assets can be complicated. If both spouses own assets jointly, then they will need to decide amongst themselves how to divide the assets. This could include equity from the family home, joint savings, pensions that may need to be divided along with any child maintenance or even spousal maintenance that will be paid from one spouse to the other. This is the Divorce Financial Settlement and will almost certainly involve attending court.

Other reasons to attend court

Contested divorces are not the only reason you may need to attend court in a divorce. If there are disagreements concerning child arrangements then you may need to take the matters to court. However, these matters will be dealt with separately to your divorce and different protocols will be followed to determine the outcome.

Attending court is only ever seen as a last resort if an agreement has not been found by any other means.

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