Just what is an uncontested divorce and is it an option in your situation? If you and your spouse can agree on all the issues involved in ending your marriage, then this type of divorce is definitely worth considering. The following article highlights the benefits of getting an uncontested divorce as a way to reduce the conflict and avoid having a judge decide the terms of your divorce.
By Tracy Rotharmel Shanks, Divorce Attorney
An uncontested divorce will generally take much less time to complete than a contested divorce. When a divorce is contested, the spouses usually have to work through their attorneys and the court to reach a final outcome. When couples fight over issues such as community property, child support, custody and spousal support, it can take years and multiple court appearances to reach a ruling. Many times that ruling can be appealed, which can extend the duration and cost even further.
Uncontested divorces can be completed quickly and efficiently because the couple is in agreement on the issues, there is no back-and-forth between attorneys, and there are no court hearings. In some cases, an uncontested divorce can be completed in a matter of weeks.
For every divorce there are two major cost factors - court costs and attorney’s fees. Court costs are settled costs by the court that can usually be found on the court’s websites. Attorney’s fees are fees charged by the attorney. The attorney’s fees can either be a fixed-cost or an hourly rate. The more time an attorney spends on your case, the more costly your attorney’s fees will be for your divorce.
An uncontested divorce is much less expensive than a contested case. In an uncontested divorce, both parties are in agreement regarding the divorce and any ancillary matters such as spousal support, child support and custody. By reaching an agreement prior to retaining an attorney, the spouses can save a dramatic amount on attorney’s fees. The agreement prevents the back-and-forth demands for information between attorneys and multiple court appearances. In many jurisdictions, attorneys charge a low-cost fixed amount for an uncontested divorce. Common attorney fees for an uncontested divorce are $500.00. For contested cases, most attorneys charge an hourly fee with a retainer for thousands of dollars.
Also, some jurisdictions charge lower filing fees for an uncontested divorce, which can further lower the cost associated with getting a divorce.
Marital separation is already an emotionally tumultuous situation. The legal process of divorce can cause further turmoil. In a contested divorce the spouses battle over their property, children, and ongoing financial support. As mentioned, a contested divorce can take years, resulting in extended periods of distress.
An uncontested divorce provides spouses the opportunity to divorce without destroying all remnants of their relationship with each other. This can be especially important when there are children involved. Instead of waging a legal battle over every aspect of the divorce, the spouses can work together to decide an equitable means of addressing property, custody and support. This spirit of cooperation can be very helpful in maintaining a cordial relationship with your spouse as you work within the agreement of the uncontested divorce.
In many jurisdictions, an uncontested divorce can be filed without an attorney. To obtain an uncontested divorce without an attorney you would want to contact the court where you would file your divorce and ask for the self help desk. Generally, this department can provide you with the correct paperwork to file. However, most courts will not provide you with legal advice.
It is always advisable to consult with an attorney and have the attorney file the divorce on your behalf. An attorney can tell you if the terms you have agreed upon are equitable and properly protect your rights. Also, most family law attorneys offer low-cost uncontested divorce packages.
While an uncontested divorce may not always work for you and your spouse, approaching the divorce with a degree of cooperation can save you money, time, and hardship.