What does Uncontested Divorce mean?
An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses agree to terminate their marriage and agree on the major issues of the divorce, without leaving any issues disputed or unresolved, including child custody and support decisions, division of marital property or spousal support payments. An uncontested divorce has also been referred to as a "simple divorce," but this does not mean the decision is amicable. It simply means that both spouses were able to settle disputed issues out of court without judicial adjudication. The benefit of an uncontested divorce is it is convenient, private, and less expensive than a contested divorce. Uncontested divorces can also be completed quickly.
Despite what you see in the movies where an outraged spouse is tossing furniture and clothing out the window screaming at their partner, the most common type of divorce today is an uncontested divorce. An uncontested divorce is a simple, inexpensive divorce which allows both spouses to end their marriage with dignity by negotiating an agreement that is acceptable to both spouses, but the key word is negotiate. If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on the major divorce issues you can avoid the high cost of litigation and avoid court.
Do you have to agree with your spouse on every issue to have an uncontested divorce? No, spouses can decide to have an uncontested divorce even if there are issues that will need to be negotiated or mediated. What makes it an uncontested divorce is the willingness of both partners to stop fighting, keep the costs low and stay calm while ending the marriage.
Many spouses who choose an uncontested divorce will agree to mediation. This works especially well if you have a few issues that have been difficult to resolve but both spouses want to avoid going to court. Mediation will allow you to work with a third party negotiator who can make suggestions, as an objective bystander. In most cases the mediation is not binding so if issues cannot be settled you and your spouse have not forfeited your right to go to court.
When is an uncontested divorce not right for couples?
If either spouse is abusive, refuses to negotiate, does not understand divorce laws in the state or is greedy, an uncontested divorce may be a waste of time and money.
Couples considering an uncontested divorce may still need to seek legal counsel. Remember, the lawyer you hire to represent you in an uncontested divorce does not represent both you and your spouse. Even in an uncontested divorce each spouse may have different interests and should find legal counsel who can ethically represent their interest.
Many lawyers can work quickly with a client and produce the necessary documents, updating them as needed. Spouses can work together, but it should always be clear who the attorney is representing. If you come to your lawyer prepared, and you and your spouse agree on key divorce issues, the paperwork may be completed within a few hours.
How much can you expect to pay for an uncontested divorce?
Prices vary widely. Some lawyers advertise uncontested divorces for around $100, although this lawyer will have a very high case load, little time available for each client, and will charge additional fees if there are additional issues to resolve. Other lawyers may charge as much as $1,200 for an uncontested divorce. The more money you pay the more time you should expect to spend with the lawyer.
There are some disadvantages to an uncontested divorce. For instance, if one spouse does not have a lawyer it is easy for the discussion to feel adversarial, simply because one spouse has a lawyer representing them and the other does not. If this issue arises, the best approach is for the unrepresented spouse to get educated, understand the divorce process, get a coach if necessary and do not sign anything if you have questions about whether your interests are protected.
Uncontested divorces are most beneficial if the divorce process is simple. If there are complicated divorce issues such as joint title to real property or children who have special parenting needs, the uncontested divorce may not be the best method to resolve contentious or complex issues.
Even if you are considering an uncontested divorce it may be a good idea to talk to a divorce lawyer. Divorce lawyers can discuss all of the major topics in a divorce: child custody, the parenting plan, child support, spousal support, and asset and debt division. Discussing your divorce with your lawyer allows you consider all relevant divorce issues and ensure your rights are protected.