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Uncontested Divorce

Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which both spouses agree to the divorce and all issues involved in the divorce. These issues would include:

  • Child custody and visitation;
  • Whether one spouse should pay child support to the other;
  • Whether one spouse should pay spousal support, or alimony, to the other;
  • How the debts of the marriage are to be paid;
  • How the assets, including a home, if the spouses own one, and retirement assets, e.g. pensions, are to be divided.

This is in direct contrast to a “contested divorce”, which occurs when the spouses in a marriage cannot agree on any of the above matters, is engaged in a dispute over one of these subjects, and/or are unable to even agree on filing for divorce in the first place.

Although a person should always do what they feel is best for themselves and their family, it is much easier when a divorcing couple can agree on important issues and are able to file their case as an uncontested divorce. This is because uncontested divorce cases offer many benefits, such as saving lots of time, money, and other resources on disputing issues that the couple may never end up seeing eye to eye on.

Additionally, an uncontested divorce is typically a streamlined process that involves fewer court hearings, which can translate to lower court costs and reduced attorneys' fees. To learn more about the process and rules regarding uncontested divorce in your state, you should contact a local divorce lawyer or family law attorney for legal advice that specifically addresses your individual circumstances.

Who Is Eligible for Uncontested Divorce?

As discussed above, each state has enacted its own rules and legal procedures regarding who can file for uncontested divorce and how a person can go about doing so in their particular state. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the process, relevant rules, and eligibility requirements for uncontested divorce matters will vary widely from state to state.

As also mentioned above, uncontested divorce is typically reserved for those who have already resolved and can agree upon the standard issues in a divorce case, such as child custody, alimony, and the division of property and/or assets.

Similar to standard divorce cases, the divorce proceedings will commence once a party files a petition for divorce or for dissolution of marriage. In some jurisdictions, the petitioning spouse may also have to provide the proper grounds as to why they are filing for divorce. Thus, the petitioning spouse may need to determine whether the divorce will be a contested or uncontested divorce prior to filing the necessary forms.

They can do this by speaking with their spouse before they file the petition for divorce. If they know their spouse well enough, the petitioning spouse may be able to predict that there might be disputes over certain issues like paying child support or dividing assets. Spouses who have the option should discuss these issues with their spouse when possible or consider attending mediation or holding an informal negotiation session.

If the spouses cannot agree on such issues, then they will not be eligible to file for uncontested divorce. This means that they will likely need a judge to intervene and resolve any remaining issues that the couple is unable to settle on their own.

Pros and Cons of Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is usually preferable to a contested divorce, for reasons such as the following:

  • Streamlined Process: The process for an uncontested divorce is more streamlined. Since the parties are in agreement, there will be less paperwork. No trial of contested issues is necessary. Court hearings are kept to a minimum;
  • Less Public Exposure: Because an uncontested divorce does not involve any court hearings or trials that might be open to the public, they offer greater privacy;
  • Fewer Errors: Because an uncontested divorce involves fewer court appearances and probably less paperwork, arguably there is less opportunity for error;
  • Predictability: The ultimate outcome is more predictable in an uncontested divorce. The alternative to an uncontested divorce is a contested divorce in which there has to be a court trial of the issues on which the parties cannot agree. After the trial, the judge who presided at the trial provides a decision on the contested issues. It is impossible to predict with certainty how a judge is going to rule on an issue after a trial.

An uncontested divorce is generally preferable in most situations. In other cases, however, it may be unsuitable, and court proceedings are necessary.

What If a Dispute Arises During an Uncontested Divorce?

Sometimes, an issue arises in an uncontested divorce that may require the court's intervention. For instance, one spouse is found to be concealing assets, or one spouse decides they no longer want a divorce. If this occurs, a person should consult their lawyer immediately, as court proceedings may be necessary.

Of course, if a person would like to have an uncontested divorce, but thinks that their spouse really has not offered them a fair settlement of the important issues, then they want to consider contesting the issue and going forward with a trial if necessary.

Spousal Support In an Uncontested Divorce

When a petition for divorce is filed as an uncontested divorce, then the divorcing spouses will need to communicate and determine certain arrangements for issues, which will include the issue of spousal support.

Spousal support, also known as alimony, refers to monthly installments that are paid from one spouse to the other spouse in a divorce. In fleshing out issues concerning spousal support, the couple will need to consider and decide on the following details:

  • Which party intends to pay spousal support;
  • How much spousal support will be paid to the recipient spouse every month;
  • Whether the recipient spouse requires temporary spousal support before the couple's divorce is finalized;
  • How long spousal support will be paid for (if applicable); and
  • The manner in which spousal support is being paid (e.g., with monetary assets, property, etc.).

In some uncontested divorce cases, calculating the right amount of spousal support will need to be done outside of the courtroom. This means that the divorcing spouses may need to hire a lawyer to help them figure out the appropriate amount of alimony or possibly attend mediation to hammer out minute details. The parties can also enter into informal negotiations to finalize the exact amount of spousal support to be paid by the supporting spouse.

If the divorcing spouses are already participating in outside mediation or negotiations to determine other issues like child custody and visitation, the issue of spousal support can be discussed during those sessions as well.

Once the divorcing spouses reach a decision they can both agree on, then the parties will need to formalize the conditions for spousal support by drafting a written agreement or stipulation. The final draft of their agreement or stipulation will then need to be submitted to the court that is overseeing the divorce matter. A judge will need to approve the spousal agreement before it can be issued as a court order that is enforceable by law. Both parties must comply with the order.

On the other hand, if the divorcing spouses cannot compromise on the issue of spousal support, then they will most likely need to request that the court intervene in the matter and make determinations, such as which party is responsible for spousal support and the amount of spousal support to be paid by that party each month. In such a scenario, the parties may be required to modify the petition for divorce from an uncontested divorce to a contested divorce.

Spouse Refuses To Sign the Papers

If a person's spouse refuses to sign a settlement agreement, the person may still obtain a valid divorce, but they have to go through a court of law. Their attorney can help them navigate their way to a divorce that involves dealing with an uncooperative spouse. 

How Can A Lawyer Help Me With Uncontested Divorce and Spousal Support?

Even though uncontested divorces tend to be more straightforward than contested divorces, spouses filing for divorce may still want to consider hiring a local divorce lawyer or family law attorney in case minor issues arise during divorce proceedings or if they need help interpreting their state's spousal support laws.

A lawyer who has experience in handling uncontested divorce matters can ensure that their client properly completes and files the necessary forms on time, as well as can provide valuable legal advice about your rights and protections under alimony laws in your state. Your lawyer can also assist you with the process of mediation in the event that it is required, or alternatively, can negotiate on your behalf during such discussions.

In addition, your lawyer can help you amend your uncontested divorce petition if it is discovered that there are issues that will affect this status. Your lawyer can then assist you with filing a contested divorce petition and provide legal representation in court. Your lawyer will also be able to address any issues or concerns you may have in filing for divorce, and can discuss the main differences between contested and uncontested divorces in your state.

Finally, if you need help resolving other issues like child custody or dividing property, your lawyer will also be able to assist you with any discussions or proceedings related to these issues as well.

Call our office today at 212-994-7777 or complete the convenient online contact form to set up a consultation.