In New York, a contested divorce is one where the parties do not agree on whether or not to get divorced, on what the grounds for divorce will be, and/or on all or some of the ancillary issues to the divorce including but not limited to durational/rehabilitative spousal maintenance, child support, and equitable distribution. All or some of the issues stated above may need to be determined by a judge. Usually, the parties will settle somewhere through the litigation process . One of the advantages with going down this route is that the parties will both have financial discovery. The downside: it is expensive. I make no secret of this fact when I meet with potential clients at my office.
An uncontested divorce refers to a very specific situation where there is an agreement between the parties on all issues and nothing further needs to be negotiated or determined. Many times clients call me stating they want an uncontested divorce. In most of those cases, though, it turns out that the client has a very complex divorce matter, his/her spouse does not want to get divorced (or contests the divorce), or the other spouse does not agree to every detail set forth in the separation agreement. It is extremely rare for a client to call me with a true uncontested divorce. Now, simply because 100% of the issues are not agreed upon does not mean that the attorneys (or the parties themselves) cannot workout the details without judicial intervention.
A mediator, such as myself, may be useful in either scenario. A mediator can help facilitate settlement discussions between the parties before or after a summons and complaint has been filed and regardless of stage of litigation. I also represent clients in both contested and uncontested divorce actions.