008 – What is an Uncontested Divorce?
What is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse have reached an agreement on all of the issues in your divorce case. A typical divorce case consists of several broad issues: divorce grounds, division of marital property and debts, custody of minor children, visitation with children, child support, and alimony or spousal support. An uncontested divorce means that you and your spouse have reached an agreement about how to resolve ALL of these issues and the sub-issues involved with each. This can be done in several ways. Either, you and your spouse do not have any children or property to divide and neither want any alimony or support from the other or, you both work together to reach an agreement about how to settle each of the issues. At that point, it becomes an uncontested.
Often, an “uncontested divorce” is confused with a “no fault” divorce. A no fault divorce simply refers to the grounds for the divorce, but does not have any impact on the remaining issues. The other typical grounds for divorce may include adultery, habitual drunkenness, desertion, and physical abuse.
Should We Try an Uncontested Divorce?
This depends on the specific facts of your case and the personalities of you and your spouse. It also depends on the level of trust you share with your spouse and the level of conflict you are currently experiencing. In general, you know more about your case than a judge can learn in several hours during a contested hearing so you should be able to reach a better agreement about how your case should be settled. However, some times you just can’t trust your spouse or you are just arguing too much or experiencing too much anger to be able to negotiate with one another appropriately.
What is the first step?
Generally, an uncontested divorce is filed on the no fault ground. That means that you and your spouse have not lived together in over the statutory period of time. Many lawyers like to set up a consultation to discuss the process and make sure all of the issues have been settled.
What information will you need?
In analyzing your case, I will need you to provide me general information about your marriage, the reason for your separation and desire for divorce, as much specific information as possible about you and your spouse’s assets and debts, and any other relevant information about your case. If you and your spouse have been negotiating already, I would suggest that you bring a list of the things you have agreed to and any unresolved issues to guide the discussion with your lawyer.
Do we have to agree on everything before the meeting with the lawyer?
No. You most likely will have questions and not reached an agreement on everything. However, sometimes your lawyer will see things (or know of common pitfalls) that you and your spouse have not recognized which may lead to additional items to discuss or a change in the agreement. Some things may lead to difficult circumstances or unnecessary risk that could be avoided by some forethought and planning.
Can both spouses participate?
Sure. Both parties should be a part of the negotiation of the agreement because eventually both will have to sign the agreement. However, Ethics rules prohibit a lawyer from representing both parties in a divorce. However, that does not necessarily mean the other party must retain the services of an attorney. This goes back to what we discussed earlier about the level of trust and anger between the spouses.
Not sure we want to use a lawyer…
In the event you want to try to represent yourself in your divorce case, you will need to know how to prepare all of the necessary paperwork because you will be acting as your own lawyer in the case. Many states and counties have prepared “Pro Se Packets” that have sample forms and instructions on how to walk through the process if you have no contested issues. Another option would be to use a service such as LegalZoom that will also walk you through the process of completing the necessary forms and hold your hand through the process. If you shop through 6minutelegal.com/legalzoom, then I will earn a small affiliate commission.