Last Updated on August 11, 2023 @ 8:30 am
Is it possible to get divorced without experiencing a heightened level of emotions? Stories of divorce wars play out in the news, on television, and in the movies. We are inundated with tales of couples fighting over everything including the family dog. However, there are also many amicable divorce stories that we do not hear. A divorce without fighting is what every good lawyer attempts to accomplish.
An uncontested divorce occurs when both spouses agree to end the marriage and the parties both agree on all of the terms and conditions that will be found in the Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage. Normally, the process works something like this (depending on the state): One spouse files for divorce and the paperwork process is streamlined, with child custody and property arrangements included in the primary divorce documents, the ‘divorce decree’ consisting of a Judgment for Dissolution of Marriage, Marital Settlement Agreement, and Parenting Plan (parenting plan may also be called an Allocation Judgment or a Custody Judgment). A court will grant an uncontested divorce if the other spouse agrees to this or does not make an appearance in court. This divorce by agreement saves time, money, and arguments.
A divorce that is uncontested can be finalized fast. In some areas of the country, in as little as 4-5 days even, but this depends on the jurisdiction and court/judge availability. Resolutions to all issues are included in a written settlement agreement that both parties sign and may need to be notarized. The Complaint for Divorce (Petition for Dissolution of Marriage) filed together and the defendant spouse must sign and file an Acknowledgement of Service indicating receipt of the Complaint and usually an ‘Appearance’ form that is proof of that spouse being involved in the case voluntarily. The plaintiff spouse must plead a no-fault reason for divorce such as irreconcilable differences and appear before a judge to finalize the divorce.
Divorce is usually not without its conflicts but an uncontested version can reduce the potential for disagreement simply due to the reduced number of proceedings. With fewer situations requiring legal negotiation, the couple speeds through the process and can get on with their lives. Uncontested divorce help from a family law attorney can further reduce the potential for conflict.
Is an Uncontested Divorce Always Right?
A divorce by agreement is not suitable for everyone. Couples dealing with complicated distributions of property or complex decisions about child custody may not find it feasible. The simplicity that this type of divorce offers comes at the price of not being able to accommodate such situations. When going through an uncontested divorce, a couple with children must make additional child custody filings. In some states, this type of divorce is not available to couples with children.
In some cases, virtually all issues involved in the divorce such as custody, child support, and financial issues might be settled with the exception of one small detail In those types of cases it is almost never worth going to an extended trial over that one issue that might cost tens of thousands of dollars and make the process take easily 2-years. This type of situation makes an uncontested divorce more of a hybrid case.
When there is only one or two relatively small issues to deal with, some judges may offer what is known as a pre-trial conference, which is an informal (no strict rules of evidence) meeting where the judge and usually just the lawyers sit in the judges chambers and discuss the issues. The judge then makes a recommendation – not an order – that the parties should probably follow. In other cases, it might be worth it to enlist the help of an experienced divorce mediator that can help the parties reach an amicable resolution on the final issue or two that is still existing.
Other cases where attempting to proceed as an uncontested divorce are where there are allegations of domestic violence, orders of protection are involved, or one party refuses to cooperate in te negotiation process. For these cases, it is sometimes best to make an attempt at reaching an agreement, but if not, having the other spouse served with the Petition for Dissolution and a Summons might be the only way to move forward.
Begin by working out what you want out of the divorce. Whether it is financial or dealing with child custody, make a list of what you want and why. Then, go through that list and think very hard and imagine if these are things that your spouse would likely agree to as well. Once that is done, speaking with a divorce attorney to get an initial draft put together to present to your spouse will hopefully set you on a path to saving time, money, and emotions.
An amicable divorce may seem like an oxymoron but many couples have experienced it. These stories of divorce without fighting do not receive much attention because they are not considered exciting. However, to the couples who were involved, these are positive testimonials for the divorce process. Being able to get through a divorce without permanent emotional scars is commendable.
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