A contested divorce is one where the parties have not agreed on all issues. Normally the parties cannot agree on such things as child support, alimony, property division, and child custody. The contested divorce will start by one party serving the other with a complaint for divorce through the Circuit Court in the city or county of residence. This complaint must allege the grounds for divorce (adultery, cruelty and abuse, abandonment, or one year separation). The other party will hire a lawyer and that lawyer will file an answer to the complaint.
Typically in a contested divorce there will be discovery. That is where each side requests documents and information from the other side. In most cases, each side is required to produce the requested documents and information. Often times the requested information will have to do with tax returns, paychecks, martial assets and marital fault.
The first hearing in a divorce is a pendente lite hearing. At the pendente lite hearing the Judge determines things like temporary spousal support, child support, child custody and who gets use of the house and automobiles. The Court will also order the parties to not dispose of any martial assets.
This order normally remains in effect until the divorce is completed. At this hearing the court will typically not make a ruling on division of property.
Ultimately, the Court will hear evidence as to valuations of property and martial fault. The court can divide the property equally between the parties, or give more to one party than the other based upon martial fault. For example, if the husband spent a lot of money on a girlfriend, the Judge could give more to the wife to compensate her for the squandering of martial assets.