There can be huge differences in legal fees when it comes to a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce. An even bigger consideration is the consequence of who determines the outcome on issues such as property division, custody of your children, visitation and child support.
What do I mean by contested and uncontested? Quite simply, an uncontested divorce is one in which both parties sit down and agree on all of the issues, such as who will be the primary custodian of the children, how much child support is going to be paid (according to the guidelines), how the property you own will be split up and how the debts will be handled. If the two of you can agree on all of these issues, then YOU are the ones deciding on your future and your divorce. Most judges will go along with your agreement provided your decisions are not outside the boundaries of what is normally acceptable in these matters.
A contested divorce is simply where you do not have all the issues decided and you are asking a judge to make the decision for you in a trial in court. This requires a trial setting and hiring lawyers and putting on a trial with evidence and testimony from witnesses in order to try and sway a judge to rule in your favor.
Ultimately in a contested divorce, you will have someone that does not know either one of you (the judge) making decisions about your life and children and possibly your access to them. This is a serious matter. Judges try to be fair and reasonable, but there are no guarantees that the outcome will be what you want. Again, you will have a stranger making decisions that will affect you and your family for years to come.
My advice is to sit down at a time when cool heads are prevailing and discuss the issues calmly in the spirit of compromise. Give a little to get a little and see if the two of you can reasonably work something out that you can take to a lawyer to have handled. You will not get everything that you want. However, in an uncontested divorce situation you will get more of what you want than if you leave it up to the judge.
I have handled too many of all types of divorces over the course of my legal career to count and I achieve very good results for my clients that file contested divorce matters, but no lawyer can make any guarantees about what the judge will do. So I advise my clients to at least try to work everything out between the two of you before starting down that road. In either case, call me if I can help. Michael Holland