The Basics of Uncontested Divorce
An uncontested divorce is one where all of the issues are settled without litigation by attorneys. It requires a couple to agree on all the important points, such as alimony, child custody, and how to divide their property. This is typically the best-case scenario because the divorce will be over quicker, and legal fees will be lower with less for lawyers to do in court.
A contested divorce is the opposite. Strong disagreements between the divorcing couple result in a longer and more expensive ordeal.
You may want to divorce uncontested if you can, but the end of a marriage may be the absolute worst time to find common ground with your spouse. Still, if you and your spouse can sit down and talk it all through with just the two of you, then an uncontested divorce is a real possibility.
Deciding On An Uncontested Divorce
Keep in mind, that uncontested divorces are not the best solution for every divorcing couple. Child custody and sentimental property just might be worth fighting for in court.
In some states, uncontested divorces are not an option for any couples who have children. Even in states where uncontested divorces are legal for couples who have children, additional paperwork would still need to be completed in order to finalize the divorce.
Is an Uncontested Divorce Right for Me? Here are Four Things to Consider Before Pursuing an Uncontested Divorce:
- Are you and your spouse both willing and able to sit down and negotiate the terms of your divorce? The negotiations can include division of property and assets as well as living arrangements for your children.
- Are you looking for a way to minimize the cost of the divorce? Saving money is more important to the two of you than making the other one suffer.
- Do you both realize the marriage is over and the idea of a quiet divorce versus a lengthy court process seems like the best option for both of you? Most uncontested divorces don’t need to go to court.
- There are no significant assets or sources of income that your spouse may be hiding from you, or you from them.
If you answered positively to each of these points, consider these tips about pursuing an uncontested divorce before making the final decision about whether or not an uncontested divorce is right for you.
- Don’t Trust Your Soon-To-Be-Ex-Spouse Implicitly
Even though you and your ex-spouse may have reached the decision to get divorced amicably, make sure that you do your own research about your ex-spouse’s assets and debts. You don’t want to end up in a position taking on debt from your spouse that you didn’t even know about. Be sure to get your fair share of the marital property.
- You and Your Spouse Will Need to Agree on Everything
Uncontested divorces are meant for couples who agree on all key issues surrounding the divorce, including child custody, spousal support, and property division. You can draft your own agreement, or you can use state-provided forms as a template. Make sure to read templates carefully, however, since some states’ uncontested divorce forms say that both parties agree to give up rights to alimony.
- You and Your Spouse Will Need to Fulfill Eligibility Requirements
Even though you’ve both agreed to a divorce doesn’t mean you can bypass the basic eligibility requirements for a legal divorce. This means you must pay court filing fees a
nd meet the residency requirements for filing with the court.
- It May Take a While for the Divorce to be Finalized
Uncontested divorces don’t bypass the mandatory waiting period established by the state. Most states have a specific waiting period involved before a divorce is finalized. Some also have a mandatory waiting period before either party can marry again.
- Make Sure You Know the Value of Your Personal Property
It’s normal for divorcing spouses to negotiate over the division of costly marital property items like cars, electronics, furniture, and collectible items. The value of these items is often exaggerated by one or both of the spouses, so hiring a third party appraiser to assess the value of the property so that a fair division of the assets can be made may be useful in your situation.
- You May be Giving up Much More Than You Realize
Many couples are under the impression that property division in an uncontested divorce means that each party walks away with the assets they brought into the marriage. Keep in mind, however, that community property states entitle each spouse to 50 percent of all community assets—including your spouse’s job earnings and real estate—acquired between the date of your marriage and the date of your separation.
- Get Your Own Lawyer
Many couples who pursue an uncontested divorce draft their own divorce agreement and hire an attorney to look it over. In most cases, attorneys are reluctant to say the agreement is satisfactory since they didn’t draft the agreement themselves.
Even if both spouses agree on all of the terms of the divorce, it’s generally best for each party to retain their own lawyer for individual legal advice before entering into a divorce agreement. That way, each spouse knows for certain that his or her interests are protected down the road.
It is possible to represent yourself with an uncontested divorce, but a lawyer will look out for your best interests. They can give you legal counsel throughout the negotiation process and make sure that you understand the entirety of your agreement before you officially sign the paperwork. If you have large assets and property that is being divided up between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, a lawyer can be especially helpful in navigating your negotiations. Remember, once you have signed a document it can be next to impossible to go back and change the terms of the agreement. A lawyer will help to make sure you get fair representation and distribution of assets.
Aside from looking over or drafting the divorce agreement, your own attorney will be able to advise you about concerns specific to your situation. Even if you have few assets to divide, debts are also divided during divorce. Remember that you may need some legal help with dividing debts.
- Measure Twice, Divorce Once
Before engaging in an uncontested divorce, it’s important to truly understand how an uncontested divorce works. Even though an uncontested divorce can save the parties a lot of money, those savings will quickly vanish if any contested issues come out during the hearing to approve the divorce decree. Be sure that you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse agree on everything before pursuing the divorce on an uncontested basis.
Alfredo Ramos is a writer specializing in issues important to parents and families – leveraging his experience in divorce, adoption, and other cases through work with the Ramos Law Group. In the past, he has served in the US Navy as the Medical Department Head with the primary mission of mobilization readiness of reserve personnel.