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Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally charged process, and the way it unfolds often depends on the level of agreement between the parties involved. In Alberta, as in many other jurisdictions, divorces can be categorized into two primary types: contested and uncontested. Each approach has its own set of characteristics and implications, and understanding the differences can help individuals navigate the divorce process more effectively.

What Is Contested Divorce?

contested divorce occurs when the spouses are unable to reach a mutual agreement on critical issues such as the division of property, child custody, spousal support, or any other significant aspect of the divorce settlement. In such cases, the court becomes the decision-maker, and the process tends to be more complex, time-consuming, and costly.

Key Characteristics of Contested Divorce

1. Disagreements on Major Issues: In a contested divorce, spouses have substantial disagreements about fundamental matters, often requiring legal intervention to resolve.

2. Court Involvement: Contested divorces usually involve court hearings, where a judge will make decisions on issues where the spouses cannot reach an agreement.

3. Higher Legal Costs: Legal fees can escalate in contested divorces due to the extended court proceedings and the involvement of lawyers to represent each party.

4. Lengthy Process: Contested divorces generally take longer to conclude, potentially stretching the process over several months or even years.

5. Emotional Toll: The adversarial nature of contested divorces can take a significant emotional toll on both spouses and any children involved.

Real-Life Example:

Imagine a couple in Alberta who cannot agree on the division of their substantial assets and the custody arrangements for their children. This leads to a contested divorce where they each hire lawyers to present their cases in court, resulting in a protracted legal battle.

What Is Uncontested Divorce?

Conversely, an uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses can agree on all critical issues related to their separation. This type of divorce is generally faster, less expensive, and less emotionally draining than a contested divorce.

Key Characteristics of Uncontested Divorce

1. Mutual Agreement: In uncontested divorces, the spouses have reached a mutual agreement on all essential issues, including property division, child custody, and support.

2. No Court Hearings: Since there are no disputes to resolve in court, uncontested divorces do not involve hearings before a judge.

3. Lower Legal Costs: Legal expenses in uncontested divorces are typically lower, as lawyers are mainly involved in drafting the necessary legal documents.

4. Quicker Resolution: Uncontested divorces are generally resolved more quickly, often within a few months.

5. Less Emotional Strain: With fewer conflicts, uncontested divorces tend to be less emotionally challenging for all parties involved.

Real-Life Example:

Consider a couple in Alberta who have decided to separate amicably. They have no children, and they have agreed on the fair division of their shared assets. In this case, they can pursue an uncontested divorce, which allows them to part ways swiftly and without the need for contentious legal battles.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce: A Comparison

To provide a clear overview of the differences between contested and uncontested divorces, let’s break down the key distinctions in a table:

Aspect Contested Divorce Uncontested Divorce
Major Disagreements Present Absent
Court Involvement Extensive Minimal
Legal Costs Bit High Lower
Duration Lengthy Quick
Emotional Impact Significant Minimal

It is crucial to note that the decision to pursue a contested or uncontested divorce largely depends on the specific circumstances of each case. While uncontested divorces are generally less complicated and less expensive, they may not be suitable when there are significant disputes between the spouses.

Factors to Consider in Alberta Divorces

When contemplating divorce in Alberta, it’s essential to consider several factors, regardless of whether you are leaning towards a contested or uncontested divorce:

1. Residency: To file for divorce in Alberta, at least one of the spouses must be a resident of the province for a minimum of one year before starting the divorce proceedings.

2. Grounds for Divorce: Alberta operates under a “no-fault” divorce system, meaning you do not need to prove fault or wrongdoing by your spouse to obtain a divorce. The only ground for divorce is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Child Custody and Support:

1. Custody Arrangements: In cases involving children, it is crucial to establish custody and access arrangements that are in the best interests of the child.

2. Child Support: Determine child support obligations, which are calculated based on the Federal Child Support Guidelines.

Property Division:

1. Matrimonial Property: Alberta law divides matrimonial property equitably, but not necessarily equally. Assets acquired during the marriage are subject to division.

2. Spousal Support: Spousal support may be awarded based on factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial circumstances of each spouse, and their ability to become self-sufficient.


In Alberta, whether you choose a contested or uncontested divorce largely depends on the level of agreement between you and your spouse. While uncontested divorces offer a more straightforward and cost-effective path, contested divorces become necessary when significant disputes are at play.

It’s essential to consult with a Kolinsky Law firm in Edmonton that specializes in family law to assess your specific situation and guide you through the divorce process. Ultimately, the goal should be to minimize the emotional strain, financial burden, and legal complexities that often accompany divorce, regardless of whether it is contested or uncontested.

As you navigate the intricate landscape of divorce, remember that seeking amicable solutions and open communication can contribute to a smoother and less painful separation process, potentially allowing both parties to move forward with their lives more positively.