What is a Contested Divorce?
Contested Divorce simply means that you are not able to resolve all of the 5 main issues which need to be resolved before being able to obtain a divorce. These are:
- Property Division;
- Debt Division;
- Spousal Support;
- Child Support; and
- Child Custody.
Courts generally do not allow you to divorce without resolving #1 to #5. Those need to be settled or decided upon before getting a divorce. If you cannot settle your issues, you will need to claim and argue them through the Courts.
How to Resolve a Contested Divorce in BC
This is usually done through filing the Notice of Family Claim with the BC Supreme Court. This form asks you what the divorce issues are and you need to complete the Schedules which apply to your case.
So for example, if you and your spouse have property together, you need spousal support and there are children, then you will need to claim all 5 issues stated above if those have not been settled.
Once you do that and complete the form, you will need to serve it to your spouse. He/she will have to respond to your claim and perhaps file his/her own counter claim seeking any of the #1 to #5 items that apply to his/her case.
Once that is done, both you and your spouse will need to file and serve Financial Statements so that the judge has an idea about your finances and abilities to divide property and/or pay spousal and child support.
Thereafter, you and your spouse will need to attend what is called a Judicial Case Conference in which a judge will sit with you and your spouse (and your lawyers) in an informal setting and try to see if you can settle your issues. If no settlement is reached, then litigation continues and ends with a trial.
Contested Divorce and Trial
If all else fails and you have to go to trial over your issues, you will have to first explain to the judge what your story is, prove the property and debt and it’s values, your incomes, and finally state each of your abilities to care for your children, etc.
Needless to say, trials are intensive, traumatic at points and very lengthy. The average length of a trial is 5 to 25 business days because you need to explain your life story to a judge and prove all the points you want to be recognized in court. It is not as simple as you may imagine it to be.
If no settlement is reached, depending on your case, costs of trial with the assistance of a lawyer can range anywhere between $30,000 to $500,000 or more. It is a no-brainer that trials should be avoided at all costs but you will be surprised one day when you find yourself with no choice than to do a trial. This happens when your spouse just wants to stay connected with you through litigation, you or your spouse are unreasonable and consumed with vengeance, etc.
Trials need lawyers because a judge is not going to give you legal advice and is often dismayed at the disorganization and lack of legal knowledge when self-represented litigants try to do it themselves.
Our advice? Just avoid trials. We don’t like them either. If not, at least consult with a family lawyer at all stages to ensure you obtain what you deserve. Sometimes saving on trial costs can cost you more in losing assets/custody because you didn’t know what to argue or show to the judge.
To contact our award wining family lawyers to set up a consultation, please call 605-974-9529 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The content of this page was updated in 2017 for more accuracy, freshness and comprehensiveness.