When one spouse files a petition for divorce in a state court, the divorce process has started. This petition, a summons to appear in court, and other documents, will be served to the other spouse. The other spouse will then make a decision as to whether or not to contest the divorce. If he/she chooses to contest it, the exact procedures will vary according to the state, but there are some things that all states have in common.
First of all, if you wish to contest your divorce, you must file a response. In most states, there is a form that you can obtain to file your response. It is only necessary to file this document if you plan on contesting the divorce. However, it is time sensitive. You should see a date in which you must respond on the original summons and petition. If you don’t file within this time period, it will go through as uncontested.
Next, you will want to request- and attend- a hearing. On the form, you will state whether you are contesting based on the grounds of the divorce or the terms of the divorce. If you contest the grounds, it will have to come in front of the court, so if a hearing has not been set, the respondent will file a motion to prove cause and have it set for hearing through the court clerk.
If you’re contesting the grounds for divorce, you will need to disprove what the other spouse has claimed. Grounds for divorce are basically the same from state to state. There are many reasons that a spouse can seek divorce. The burden of proof falls on them, of course. For example, if the divorce was filed on the grounds of abandonment- they must prove it. Abandonment is defined as 18 months without cohabitation. Therefore, if you decide to contest the grounds, you must have evidence that disproves their claim.
These days, most states do not require any particular grounds, due to the advent of “no-fault” divorces. Therefore, there will be no grounds for you to contest. However, you can contest the terms of the divorce. For example, your spouse wants sole custody of children, but you wish to have at least partial custody. In these cases, the situation will go in private- through the attorneys- for negotiation.
Finally, if you and your spouse are unable to come to an agreement, you will need to get a ruling from the judge. The judge does have a bit of wiggle room when it comes to considering the factors that are in dispute, but does rely on very strict judicial guidelines and precedent.