(click a link below to go right to that section):
- What is a Contested Divorce?
- The Differences Between Contested & Uncontested Divorces
- How Divorce Litigation Works
- When Should Couples Get a Contested Divorce?
- How to Argue the Issues of Your Long Island, NY Divorce
- Contesting the Divorce Itself
- Contesting Property Distribution
- Contesting Alimony or Spousal Maintenance
- Contesting Child Custody & Visitation
- Contesting Child Support
- Contesting Paternity
- Contesting Pre- and Postnuptial Agreements
- What to Expect During Your Divorce Litigation
- Long Island Contested Divorce Case Studies
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Contested Divorces
While every divorce has its own unique set of circumstances, a contested divorce is a different animal that presents complex challenges for you and your contested divorce lawyer on Long Island. This is why it’s so important to work with a family law attorney that takes an aggressive approach to litigation to bring your case to a successful conclusion as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Contested divorces can be nightmarish. Manipulation, arguments over money, and refusal to compromise make an already difficult situation even harder. When one or both spouses refuse to budge on important issues, their divorces can drag out for a very long time, driving up legal fees and causing more frustration for everyone along the way.
Below, learn everything you need to know about contested divorces on Long Island, NY and see how the experienced team at Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. can help you navigate divorce litigation and prepare for a multitude of outcomes.
The term “contested divorce” simply refers to a divorce in which an agreement cannot be reached between two ex-spouses on one or more issues. As basic as the definition is, a contested divorce can be costly, time-consuming, and emotionally draining.
In this case, both spouses are given the opportunity to present their cases to a judge, who will then decide the terms of the divorce based on the fairest outcome. It’s important to understand when a contested divorce is needed, when it isn’t, and how to get the legal support you need when ending your marriage.
Before you decide you need a contested divorce, it’s important to understand the key differences between a contested and an uncontested divorce. Whereas a contested divorce means the parties don’t agree, an uncontested divorce means the opposite and the parties do agree. This includes all aspects of the divorce, including custody, visitation, support, and property division. In some cases when there are disagreements, minor differences can be worked out through divorce mediation or collaborative divorce methods and the case can proceed as an uncontested divorce.
Contested divorces take more time to finalize and are therefore generally more expensive than uncontested divorces. Because they are often contentious, they can also be more difficult emotionally and are often harder for children to process. Uncontested divorces are generally faster, less expensive, and less contentious and therefore and offer the best opportunity for families to start over without acrimony.
Divorce litigation begins when one spouse files a complaint with the court and copies of these papers are served to the other. On Long Island, NY, this triggers an automatic restraining order that prevents both parties from transferring assets without court permission. This preserves both parties’ assets as they are so that a judge can determine how to fairly distribute them in a process known as equitable distribution.
The court may also issue temporary orders about who will have temporary custody of the children, who will live at the marital residence, and whether child support or spousal maintenance should be paid while the divorce is pending. Once the complaint is served, the spouse it was served upon can file a response.
After both parties have filed initial papers with the court, each side can gather evidence to prove their case. Then, a judge will review it and hear witness testimony at trial. The case is carefully considered and the judge will issue a verdict they consider to be fair, equitable, and in the best interests of any children who are involved. Following the decision, a judgment is entered and the divorce is considered finalized.
While an uncontested divorce is often much easier than a contested one, it’s not necessarily the best option for every family. If your spouse proposes arrangements that are unfair or unacceptable to you, or you stand to gain more from litigating your divorce than it will cost you, it may benefit you more to have a contested divorce. High net worth divorces, for example, are often contested because spouses strongly disagree about how to distribute assets.
While divorce litigation has a reputation of being costly, time consuming, and stressful, it may still be the best option or even the only option in some situations. With the help of our skilled and experienced Long Island, NY divorce attorneys, the majority of our clients are able to reach a resolution with their spouses through mediation, collaborative divorce, or settlement. But we can also help you understand if and when contested divorce is the best option for you and your family.
How to Argue Contested Divorce Litigation Issues
If there’s any part of the divorce agreement that you’re uncomfortable with, you can refuse to sign it. This forces your ex-spouse to negotiate with you or bring you to court to get the issue resolved, where a judge will make a decision on your behalf after considering evidence from both sides.
If your spouse contests one or more issues of the divorce, you’ll need to either negotiate a compromise with them or take them to court. Regardless of which side of the contested divorce you’re on, make sure you have solid evidence to back up why a judge should agree with you and issue a ruling in your favor.
In many cases of divorce, both spouses are on the same page about ending their marriage. But there are some situations where one spouse is firmly against the idea of getting divorced and contests the divorce itself. They may hold out hope for reconciliation or divorce may be against their cultural or religious beliefs.
While a divorce may be contested, a court can’t force a couple to stay together or work on their relationship. It’s important to weigh the emotional, financial, and practical implications of arguing against the divorce itself and if it would be better to spend your resources on negotiating the terms of a divorce that is essentially inevitable.
If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement about how to separate your property, this aspect of your divorce becomes contested. Even if you agree on other aspects, like child custody or alimony, you’ll need to litigate the aspects that you don’t. And the fewer assets you and your spouse disagree on, the less time you’ll need to spend in court. For example, if you agree on who gets the boat but not who gets the marital home, a judge only needs to make a decision on the house.
During your divorce, your spouse and their attorney may try to intimidate you and make you believe that you aren’t entitled to what is rightfully yours. This is when it is critical that you have an experienced attorney on your side. A skilled divorce attorney will know best how to present your contributions to the marriage and how that entitles you to fair compensation.
Your spouse may also be asking you for assets that you have earned during the course of the marriage. While they may be entitled to a certain share, a qualified Long Island, NY divorce lawyer can help make sure your settlement is reasonable.
If possible, bring evidence that separate property you own was yours before the marriage as well as proof that awarding you any marital property you’re asking for would be fair and equitable. This is especially important to protect your future. Without a fair settlement between you and your spouse, moving forward with your post-divorce life will be incredibly challenging.
Alimony is a payment made from the higher-earning spouse to the lesser-earning one in an attempt to provide a financial cushion during and immediately following the divorce. This support typically continues until the lesser-earning spouse gets back on their feet, usually after obtaining additional training or education to re-enter the workforce. Rarely, is alimony permanent in New York.
In many divorce cases, the receiving spouse will demand more spousal support than the other can afford to pay or the paying spouse will be unwilling to pay the ordered amount. If your ex-spouse believes they are entitled to alimony and you disagree, you can contest this issue in court.
You’ll need to provide your financial information and a number of details about your marriage, including its length and the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed. A judge will consider a variety of factors and make a determination about whether alimony will be awarded and if so, how much.
If you have the right to alimony after your divorce and your ex-spouse contests the issue, you may need to take it to a judge to get a decision. Be aware that in doing so, you’re not guaranteed to be awarded alimony in the amount you request or even at all.
However, if you have compelling evidence that you’re entitled to the alimony you’re requesting and your ex-spouse has the ability to pay, it’s more likely that a judge will rule in your favor.
Child custody and visitation are perhaps the two most contested issues in any divorce. These matters are wrought with emotion, and parents can vehemently disagree on what custody and visitation arrangements are in the best interests of their children. Sadly, child custody is sometimes used as a weapon of retribution against one spouse or the other.
Unfortunately, contested child custody can be difficult to resolve. New York, along with most other states in the U.S., believes that continuing a relationship with both parents, except in cases of neglect and/or abuse, is what’s best for the child. This means that custody and visitation issues can go back and forth for years, and in some cases, until the child ages out of the system.
If you and your ex-spouse disagree on custody and visitation arrangements, you’ll need to attend an emergency court hearing. A judge will issue temporary custody and visitation orders, which need to be followed until the next hearing.
Temporary custody is typically awarded to the parent who has previously been the child’s primary caregiver, so long as they are considered safe and have the ability to provide for the child. Often, the court’s immediate goal in awarding temporary custody is to disrupt the child’s life as little as possible. Then, additional evidence can be presented and the issue of custody can be more carefully evaluated.
Again, the court’s desire is to cause the least amount of disruption to the child, so the temporary custodian is likely to become the primary caregiver unless there’s a significant risk to the child in doing so. This makes it critical to start working with an experienced Long Island, NY child custody attorney as soon as you know you’re getting a divorce.
Child support in New York is based on income and uses a standard formula to determine how much a non-custodial parent will pay. If you don’t agree with the amount of child support ordered in your case, you may be able to contest it if you can provide solid evidence as to why the support calculated by the state is incorrect in your case.
For example, if you are the recipient and have proof that the payor has lied about their income to keep child support payments low, you can file a motion for the court to hear your evidence. Or, if you are the payor and have just lost your job, you can move to have the court lower your support obligation until you obtain higher paying work.
In most male-female divorces with children, the male spouse will generally be considered the biological father, particularly if his name is listed on the birth certificate. No paternity test is required for custody proceedings to take place like it is for unmarried parents.
However, if either the alleged mother or father of the child contests paternity at the time of the divorce, they can request a paternity test. Paternity tests must be done in a hospital or lab setting; home paternity tests are not considered admissible in court. Usually, the spouse that requests the test pays for it, however, a judge may order the other spouse to absorb the costs in some cases.
If the paternity test indicates that the male spouse is the biological father, the mother will be able to pursue child support. On the other side of the coin, the father can assert his rights to contact with his child. If the test indicates that the male spouse is not the biological father, he cannot be made to pay child support, nor can he assert the right to have contact with the child.
If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, this document should outline how you and your ex-spouse are to proceed with your divorce. It may cover how marital property should be divided and if alimony will be paid and how much. The purpose of this agreement is to hopefully eliminate the need for a contested divorce, with the exception of child custody and visitation.
However, the prenup or postnup itself can be an issue of contention. One spouse may disagree that the prenup is valid at all, or they may suggest that the agreement is so unfair that it should be dismissed.
For example, if a prenuptial agreement leans heavily toward the benefit of the higher-earning spouse, the lower-earning spouse may argue that the prenup is invalid because it was signed under duress or they weren’t fully aware of what the agreement contained.
In these cases, a judge must rule if the agreement is valid and if not, the distribution of marital property and the awarding of alimony will proceed according to New York law and not the terms of the agreement.
Divorces are almost always stressful and emotional. Attorneys on both sides will present the strongest possible cases for their clients, which can be very difficult to hear. You may have your character, motives, life choices, and abilities questioned before the court, or friends, family, and medical professionals may testify against you.
Divorce litigation is often an exercise in patience and endurance. You will likely be encouraged to settle at multiple points throughout your case and may want to reconsider it as circumstances change. Our veteran Long Island, NY divorce lawyers will prepare you for the process ahead of time, so you can feel informed and confident throughout every stage of your case.
Browse our collection of contested divorce case studies and get valuable insights from real divorce cases. Get a glimpse into the challenges these couples faced and come away with actionable advice you can use when navigating your own Long Island, NY divorce.
Do I need a lawyer for a contested divorce on Long Island?
To protect your immediate and future rights, we believe you should always have the benefit of an experienced attorney representing your interest in any divorce. If your divorce is contested, it’s even more critical that you have experienced legal advocacy to make sure your rights and best interests are protected.
While no one looks forward to the challenges of divorce litigation, having a skilled attorney on your side is key to successfully navigating the process. At Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C., you can feel confident that you’re in the capable hands of experienced legal professionals who have been representing clients in contested divorces day in and day out for decades.
How much does divorce litigation cost?
How much divorce litigation costs varies between clients depending on the circumstances of their case, the complexity of the matters involved, and the degree to which spouses disagree with one another. If all of the issues related to your divorce must be decided by a judge, it will be much more expensive overall than if you only went to court over one or two matters.
Another important cost mitigating factor is to choose an attorney who is highly experienced in the field of matrimonial law. A veteran Long Island, NY divorce attorney who has specific qualifications in this area will be far more efficient and able to protect your interests than an attorney who only occasionally handles these types of cases.
Does every issue need to be decided before the divorce can be finalized?
Yes, all of the issues in your divorce need to be decided before it can be finalized. This includes child custody, visitation, support, property distribution, alimony, and any other matters related to the dissolution of your marriage. It doesn’t matter whether these issues are decided on privately between spouses or by a judge, so long as everything has been addressed.
Contact Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. Today for a Free Case Evaluation
Don’t wait to get legal help if a contested divorce is in your future. While challenging, this type of divorce can be successful with the support of a qualified and experienced contested divorce lawyer on Long Island, NY. Contact Hornberger Verbitsky, P.C. today for more information about contested divorces on Long Island, NY or to schedule a free consultation at 631-923-1910 or by filling out the short form on this page.
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