If you are thinking about getting a divorce and want to make the process as simple as possible, read below for an overview of how to get an uncontested divorce. The article provides details on everything from the filing of legal forms to how to finalize your case as efficiently as possible.
What is an Uncontested Divorce
According to statistics, about 95 percent of all divorce cases in the US are now settled out-of-court. However, the definition of the term "uncontested divorce" is still not fully understood. For those who have not gone through the divorce process, it’s easy to think of divorce like it’s portrayed in the movies - dramatic litigation in the courtroom, lawyers in heated debates, and scandals being exposed.
However, in reality, the divorce process does not need to be so dramatic. If you and your spouse can agree on all or most of the terms of your case, including how you’ll split up your assets and debts, how you’ll handle custody of any kids, and whether support will be paid (and how much), you and your spouse can write up an agreement and ask the court to approve it, rather than having a judge decide your fate. When you decide the terms of your case, you can end your marriage without the bitter conflicts, drawn-out hearings, or expensive legal fees.
If you and your spouse are able to agree on your case, an uncontested or no-contest divorce is the best way to make the divorce process as simple and stress-free as possible.
The Difference Between a Contested and an Uncontested Divorce
As discussed above, an uncontested divorce is one where the spouses agree on the terms or issues involved in their case, and present the terms to the court in a settlement agreement for its approval.
Even if you and your spouse have some disagreements, you can proceed with an uncontested divorce if you are ultimately able to reach an agreement. It is only natural to have some hiccups while trying to negotiate with your ex-partner. It may be difficult to agree on everything right away. For instance, deciding how to share parental rights and liabilities, the amount and duration of alimony, and how marital assets should be divided out-of-court may take some back and forth and a lot of compromises. If you’re unable to work together to work through certain issues, you can even hire an attorney or mediator to help you so that you can stay out of court and keep costs and stress levels down.
Once you’ve agreed on all of the terms of your case, you can create a settlement agreement and submit it to the judge for review and approval of your case. Some states require that the parties appear in court to confirm that they want the divorce approved pursuant to the settlement agreement. However, in other states, as long as the parties file a settlement agreement and other required forms, they won’t have to step foot in court.
Since the spouses are working together to create an agreement rather than spending time arguing in court, uncontested divorces usually take less time and are less expensive than contested cases.
On the other hand, a contested divorce results when spouses are not able to agree on the terms of their divorce as discussed above, and need to litigate certain matters so that a judge can make determinations for them. Specifically, if spouses cannot reach an agreement, the court can make orders on property division, child custody, spousal support, child support, and attorney’s fees.
To start a divorce case, the filing spouse will file a divorce petition or complaint with the court. This initial document can include allegations against the other spouse and the terms that the filing spouse expects in the divorce. Then, the responding spouse will have a chance to respond to the case, and answer the petition. After the spouses have conducted discovery to obtain relevant information from each other, and exchanged financial information per the court’s rules, the court will usually set a trial.
At the trial each party will have a chance to argue their side and what they want out of the divorce. It is usually a good idea to hire attorneys if you plan on going to trial. The judge will hear the arguments by each party concerning each disputed issue and weigh the evidence and testimony in order to make decisions which will become part of the final decree of divorce.
Depending on the case and the number of controversial issues, multiple court appearances may be required. Not only do contested cases take a long time to resolve, but they are also very expensive and usually stressful, especially if minor children are involved.
Ever since uncontested or no-fault divorces have become accepted in the US, the courts have encouraged divorcing spouses to try to settle their differences out-of-court, using litigation as a last resort.
It is important to remember that the outcome of a divorce can affect many aspects of your future, especially if you have children, joint property, or a joint business. No matter what your circumstances, it’s a good idea to try to keep a cool head and to separate as amicably as possible so that the outcome is most beneficial for everyone involved.
An Overview of the Uncontested Divorce Process - How does it work?
The Divorce Petition
Regardless of the specifics of each case, the uncontested divorce procedure always starts with one spouse filing initial petition documents with their local court. Depending on your filing state, the initial document may be called a Petition for Divorce, Complaint, or Joint Petition.
The spouse who is filing the divorce, who’s either called the Petitioner or the Plaintiff, depending on the state, will fill out and sign the divorce petition. The petition informs the court of the filing spouse’s desire to terminate the marriage and includes general information, including the parties’ names, the date of marriage, and date of sepa