Irvine Contested Divorce Lawyer

Most couples who want to get divorced like to believe that they will be able to do so amicably. In the divorce context, this normally means that the spouses (either by themselves or through their attorneys) will be able to reach an agreement without having to go to court. But relationships are messy, and disentangling a marriage — particularly when there are children involved — can be a labyrinthine feat. When major disagreements arise that the parties cannot settle on their own, the divorce becomes contested and may require the assistance of an Irvine contested divorce lawyer

The Contested Divorce Process in California

Contested divorces take longer to reach their resolutions because they usually require trials. However, both contested and uncontested divorces begin the same way and go through many of the same steps. In California, the contested divorce process proceeds more or less as follows: 

  1. Petition: One spouse begins the process by preparing and filing a petition for divorce, which is then served on the other spouse.
  2. Response: The spouse upon whom the petition is served files a response stating that he or she disagrees with what the petitioner is proposing 
  3. Discovery: Each spouse obtains detailed information about the other spouse, such as their income, assets, work history, etc., through interrogatories, subpoenas, depositions, and requests for production. 
  4. Settlement: Once the discovery phase is over, both parties are encouraged to come to a settlement. If the parties are unable to reach a settlement (as is the case in many contested divorces), your Irvine contested divorce lawyer will bring your case to trial. 
  5. Trial: Divorce proceedings are similar to other civil proceedings in that the parties make opening and closing statements, witnesses are called, and evidence is presented. At the conclusion of the trial, the judge will issue a judgment that settles the disputed issues as he or she believes the law requires. The judge’s order may or may not be to the liking of one or both sides. 

At the conclusion of the trial, each party may appeal the court’s ruling. 

What Leads to Contested Divorces? 

Contested divorces generally are the result of disagreements between the parties on issues of fact or law, but they can also arise when one or both of the parties is simply being unreasonable or wants to make the process difficult for the other party. Our Irvine contested divorce attorney can tell you that these divorces most frequently revolve around one or more of the following issues: 

They are also more common among high-net-worth couples due to the complexity of their finances and the significantly larger sums that are at stake. 

An Irvine Contested Divorce Lawyer Can Help with an Uncooperative Spouse

If your spouse is refusing to sign the proof of service – or the papers declaring and initiating your divorce, does not wish to divorce, or does not agree on many of the issues and decisions being outlined as part of the divorce, then you are dealing with an uncooperative spouse. Fortunately, California does allow a divorce to proceed under these circumstances so long as you can obtain some proof of service that a divorce has been initiated. To ensure your spouse is served, you might wish to hire a process server, hire a sheriff to deliver the papers, or ask a friend or family member to present your spouse with the papers. Ever seen that scene in a movie where a person is duped into opening the door for a messenger, who turns out to be handing them their divorce papers? That’s exactly what you’ll need in order to complete this important first step in a divorce. When delivered this way, your spouse won’t have to sign the papers, because whoever served them will simply attest that they were delivered. If this is an issue, your Irvine contested divorce attorney will help you navigate this process. 

A Default Divorce May be Possible in Orange County

If your spouse is contesting the divorce by either being non-responsive or refusing to agree on the issues, it is likely that you will have to go to trial. There are essentially two different possibilities that can emerge: Once your spouse has been served, you can wait 30 days for a response and file a default divorce, or your spouse will respond and you will have to prepare for trial.

In many ways, obtaining a default divorce would be ideal because it would essentially mean that your spouse has agreed to relinquish any stake in your property and assets. The default divorce would be a quick and painless way of ending your marriage and ensuring that each person receives what you believe they are entitled to. However, when you’re dealing with an uncooperative spouse in a highly contentious fight for your assets, a default divorce is rarely the outcome.

What to Expect in a Contested Divorce

Once you’ve hired your contested divorce attorney, it’s important to be prepared for the road ahead. Below, we review some of the things you can expect to occur on your road to divorce.

You Will Need to Gather Many Documents

Your attorney will ask you to gather documents that reveal the assets you jointly owned and any information about your spending and child care or support budget that can set the stage for your divorce petition. This will give your attorney a distinct sense of the assets you may be entitled to or what you might wish to ask of your former spouse with respect to alimony or child support payments. This paperwork will be important evidence in your divorce proceedings and will be good for you to keep on hand, as well.

Your Irvine Contested Divorce Attorney Will Serve Your Spouse

Once your attorney has completed your divorce petition and filed it with the court, they will be serving your spouse with the petition. This will occur either in person, by mail, or be completed by a deputy sheriff. If you’re having trouble locating or serving your spouse, a notice will be published in the local newspapers, but you might have to wait longer to actually initiate the proceedings. 

Your Spouse Will Respond to the Petition

California law requires your spouse to respond to your divorce petition within 30 days. The response entails filing their answers to your demands in a petition that will essentially spell out what you’re fighting for in court. If your spouse fails to respond to your petition, then you will be awarded a default judgment, and your spouse will be ordered to deliver everything requested within your divorce petition. This might include how your assets will be divided, who will care for your children, and how much child support payment they will be required to pay. 

If your spouse does respond to the petition, then the divorce proceedings will officially begin.

Prepare for Discovery

Remember when you were asked to compile documents for your Irvine contested divorce lawyer? Those documents will once again be needed for the court to undergo the discovery process that pertains to your divorce. Discovery is when each of the parties to the divorce proceeding is given time to request and review documents from the other party in an effort for the court to piece together the specific circumstances of your marriage. Depending on these findings, the court will determine what might be a fair and equitable distribution of assets, decide to award custody to one spouse or the other, and how much child support might be required after the divorce.

Your Irvine Contested Divorce Lawyer Will Try to Settle or Proceed With a Trial

Depending on the circumstances of your case, your former spouse’s lawyer and your own Irvine contested divorce lawyer may be able to negotiate a settlement offer in light of the documents put forth in discovery. Or, you will continue to be unable to see eye-to-eye, and the matter will proceed to trial. In either case, it’s important to have an experienced attorney by your side – so don’t hesitate to contact our offices when you’re ready to get started.

FAQs: Preparing for a Contested Divorce in Orange County

If my spouse and I are in disagreement, does that mean that we will need to go to court?

If you and your spouse are in disagreement with regard to property division, child custody, child support or spousal support, this does not necessarily mean that you will need to go to court. Oftentimes, if each spouse has a skilled Irvine contested divorce attorney, it will be possible to find a way to come to terms without court intervention.

That said, sometimes it is necessary to go to court; and, if going to court is in your best interests, you will need to be prepared to do so. Our contested divorce lawyers have deep experience in divorce litigation, and we can represent you in court if necessary.

What are some ways spouses can resolve issues during a contested divorce?

While asking a judge to render a decision is one way to resolve a contested divorce, it is not the only means of resolution that is available. Even after litigation has been initiated, spouses can still negotiate, and mediation remains an option. In fact, California judges will often refer spouses to mediation prior to hearing arguments in court.

What should I do if my spouse decides to take our divorce to court?

If your spouse has decided to take your contested divorce to court, then you will need to hire a lawyer who is experienced in divorce litigation. You will want to choose a divorce lawyer who is familiar with the local court rules and procedures, and who is experienced in achieving favorable in-court and out-of-court resolutions.

As we discussed above, even once a lawsuit has been filed in a divorce case, it is still very possible that the spouses will be able to come to terms before the judge renders a decision. This will almost always be the more cost-effective option; and, while it will be important for you to have a lawyer who is prepared to protect your rights in court if necessary, you will also want your Irvine contested divorce attorney to be prepared to pursue settlement opportunities when they arise.

What if the judge rules against me in my divorce?

If your contested divorce goes to court and the judge rules against you, you may have grounds to file an appeal. However, the grounds for appealing a divorce order are limited, and filing an appeal adds more time and cost to the process (and the outcome of your appeal is not guaranteed). As a result, while you should absolutely be prepared to file an appeal if necessary, your focus should be on working with your divorce attorney to achieve a favorable result without taking this additional step.

Will my Irvine contested divorce lawyer help us consider divorce alternatives?

In California, the primary alternatives to a contested divorce are an uncontested divorce and summary dissolution. In order to decide on the best way to move forward with your divorce, you should discuss your options with an experienced Irvine contested divorce attorney

Contact a Knowledgeable Irvine Contested Divorce Lawyer for Help

Contested divorces generally require more time and expense — not to mention stress — than uncontested divorces. If you are considering a divorce that may become contested, you should contact an Irvine contested divorce lawyer at Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy by using our online form or calling us at 949-474-0800.

Schedule a Consultation With an

Irvine Divorce Attorney at

Seastrom Tuttle & Murphy

If you would like to speak with an attorney about your divorce, we invite you to schedule a confidential initial consultation at our matrimonial law office in Irvine, CA. To request an appointment with an Irvine divorce attorney at your convenience, call us at 949-474-0800 or inquire online today.


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Serving Orange

County, California

Serving Orange

County, California