We often receive questions from potential clients asking what the difference is between a “contested divorce” and an “uncontested divorce.” The word “contested” refers to how much disagreement exists within any given divorce case in the circuit court.
In South Dakota, an “uncontested divorce” is a divorce where both spouses are in complete agreement regarding every single issue. This means that the parties agree on how to divide their assets (their stuff) and debts (their bills), about how to handle any child custody and visitation issues for their children, about who will make child support payments and any spousal support payment, as well as how much those payments will be, etc. The spouses have typically been able to reduce their agreement to writing, whether with or without the help of a family law attorney and there are no outstanding disagreements to resolve between them.
Because uncontested divorces only exist in cases of total agreement, most of the cases in circuit court are considered “contested divorces,” those in which there are issues that remain in controversy (the spouses disagree about how to resolve them). In other words, even a seemingly minor issue can prevent a divorce from being “uncontested” as every single issue must be agreed upon before an agreement is complete and able to be approved by the circuit court.