The fastest and least expensive type of divorce is an uncontested dissolution of marriage: where you and your spouse reach an agreement that resolves all aspects of your divorce (timesharing, child support, equitable distribution, alimony). With an uncontested case, the party filing for the divorce need only to appear in front of a judge for a matter of moments. The court will, at that time, briefly review your court leadings and agreement and enter a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Conversely, a case is "contested" when the parties disagree on one or more issues, such as property, finances or child custody. Even if you agree on getting divorced, if you do not have a complete agreement as to all of the issues, then the divorce is considered "contested". In this instance, one party files a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, requests court intervention and the other party will respond accordingly. You will be required to exchange, at minimum, complete Mandatory Disclosure.
Why Reach an Agreement Without the Need for Court Intervention?
- Less expensive - In a contested case, the likelihood of numerous hearings, depositions and a plethora of court documents being filed is increased. All of which cost you money you may or may not have. In an uncontested dissolution, you and your spouse have reached an Agreement prior to the filing of Court papers, thereby eliminating the necessity of any court intervention outside of the Final Hearing. The simple fact is that less money that you have to spend on an attorney is more money in your pocket for you or your children. Rather than just assuming that an attorney will bo out of your price range, feel free to call for a price quote. You may be surprised on how affordable the uncontested divorce really is!
- Less conflict - If the level of conflict between the parties is low or the parties are at least on speaking terms, uncontested divorce offers a way to keep it that way. Keep in mind, if you have children, the other party will - to some extent - be in your life forever and the better relationship you have will positively impact your children. If you don't have children, your issues are likely purely financial and may be easily resolved by following the legal standards.
- Privacy concerns - An uncontested divorce also minimizes the amount of dirty laundry that need be made public record. Your Settlement Agreement will be public record, but there are no allegations made within the Agreement or within the Petition. In a contested divorce, allegations (whether true or not) are placed within motions, the contested petition, filed transcripts, intermediary court orders – all of which are public record.
- Faster – An uncontested dissolution of marriage may be completed in as quick as four weeks, compared with a contested divorce which may take anywhere from six months to a year or more, depending on how much the parties fight. There is a lot to be said about being able to move on from an unhappy situation, avoiding your own trips to the Court house or attorney's affice and the emotional toll that the time may take on the parties and any children.
- Compliance – Studies have shown that parties who are part in negotiating or arriving at an Agreement are more likely to adhere to the terms of the Agreement than if the terms are ordered by the Judge.
- Stay in control - If parties are able to arrive at an Agreement between themselves, the Agreement may be formulated to custom fit their individual circumstances, whereas if the Court were to make the ultimate decision, the Order is more boilerplate, as the Court simply does not have the time to custom tailor an Agreement to fit your life, and is not as acutely aware as to the ins-and-outs of your life as you are.
Why Hire an Attorney for an Uncontested Divorce?
- Ensure all aspects of divorce are addressed – Again, stay in control of your divorce and make sure that any aspect of your life that should be addressed, are addressed. The Court will not have the time to divide "the pots and the pans". Nor will the Court know that
- Speed –Typically, I prepare all paperwork for an uncontested divorce and have it ready for a client within a day or two. I will explain each and every document thoroughly so there is no confusion or staring in awe at a blank financial affidavit. Upon both of the parties properly signing all of the paperwork, the papers are filed and a hearing is obtained in a matter of days. Unfortunately, I receive phone calls all of the time from parties who have filed an uncontested divorce without an attorney who tell me that 8-12 weeks later they are still waiting for the Court to schedule a Final Hearing. Don't let that be your situation!
- Accuracy - It is mandatory that all paperwork that is filed with the Clerk is prepared properly. It is not only that the correct paperwork is filed, but also that the contents of the paperwork is proper. Any mistakes could cause the Clerk to reject your case or the Judge to refuse to grant your divorce. Letting a lawyer handle all of this can save you time and prevent any mistakes.
- Problem spotting – A document preparation service cannot and will not know legal implications of certain decisions contained within the Agreement.An attorney, such as myself, has likely seen scenarios similar to yours. An attorney is able to know where problems are likely to arise in the future and can attempt to formulate an Agreement which may prevent future disagreements.