How Do I Contest a Divorce Petition?

Let’s say you’ve been served with divorce papers. You may feel as if your world is tumbling down. Anticipating the divorce process probably feels daunting, your path ahead likely seems unclear … and perhaps there are small details (or major issues) on the petition that don’t sit well with you. 

What details are we talking about? In their petition, your spouse details their proposed terms of the divorce. This may include the division of your marital assets and debts and even things like child custody and alimony.

Let's explore what it means to contest a divorce petition and how you can navigate this challenging terrain.

What information is found in a divorce petition?

A divorce petition, also known as a complaint or petition for dissolution of marriage, is the initial document filed to commence a divorce. It contains critical information about your marriage and the grounds on which the petitioner is seeking divorce.

The most important details include the names of both parties (the petitioner who is filing for divorce and the respondent), the date and place of marriage, and whether minor children are involved. It outlines the reason for divorce, commonly referred to as "grounds" for divorce. Acceptable grounds vary from state to state.

Financial aspects are another key component. The petition includes details regarding shared properties, debts, and assets, along with a plan for the division of these assets. It may contain a request for spousal support (alimony) and child custody arrangements, if applicable. 

Indeed, a divorce petition sets the tone for the divorce proceedings, so understanding its contents is crucial.

Can I contest the details of a divorce petition? 

You can contest the details of a divorce petition. If you disagree with what your spouse has stated in the petition, you have the legal right to challenge it. This is typically done through filing a response, also known as an "answer," to the divorce petition. 

In your response, you can dispute the facts presented by your spouse. For example, you might disagree about the date of separation, how your property should be divided, or how child custody should be arranged.

The process for contesting a divorce petition varies by state. In some jurisdictions, you may also be required to submit a counterclaim that outlines your own terms for the divorce. This becomes your opportunity to present your side of the story.

A contested divorce is one type of divorce. An uncontested divorce is another. Uncontested divorces take less money and time because a divorce court appearance is usually not required, and you don’t have to hire a divorce attorney. But you may need to do some negotiating before you can get to an uncontested status.

Respond in time

There are a lot of divorce laws you must adhere to in this process. For example, you must abide by your state’s divorce residency requirements, and you may have to go through a waiting period after the initial paperwork is filed.

Equally crucial is your response to your spouse’s divorce petition within the time frame set by your state laws. Usually, this is between 20 and 30 days after the papers have been served. If you fail to respond, a default judgment in favor of your spouse could result.

Do you want to contest a divorce petition? Consulting with a legal professional can get you the guidance you need – guidance tailored to your specific circumstances and interests.

Can I contest the divorce itself?

While it's possible to contest the details within a divorce petition, it's important to understand that you can't contest the divorce itself. If your spouse wants a divorce, they have the right to pursue it. This can be a hard truth to accept, but acknowledging it can help both people move forward positively.

If you disagree on the details of your petition, mediation is a valuable tool. Mediation allows both parties to communicate their needs and negotiate terms in a neutral environment. In fact, mediation may help you and your spouse move from a contested divorce to an uncontested divorce. In other words, the help you get from your mediator may help you reach a compromise that satisfies you both.

Hello Divorce offers professional mediation services, providing a platform for open dialogue and compromise. Our empathetic and experienced mediators can guide you through this challenging process, helping you reach an agreement that respects everyone's interests. 

Divorce is not a battle to be won, but a transition to be managed with grace and dignity. At Hello Divorce, we understand that can be a hard truth to swallow, but we’re here to tell you it’s okay. You will make it through this. We have services that can help, so if you’d like to talk to a friendly and knowledgeable account member who cares, schedule a free 15-minute informational call to introduce yourself and learn more about us.

Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.