For most people, divorce is a big scary mess they don’t ever want to be a part of.
And then it happens.
Even if you know it’s the right choice and you’re looking forward to a new life, the actual process of divorce is rarely pleasant. But where it falls on the scale of Worst Experience of My Life to Not Very Fun depends in part on the type of divorce you have.
An uncontested divorce can limit the misery factor and get the whole thing over faster and with less drama.
Sounds good, but what actually is an uncontested divorce?
What does uncontested divorce mean?
An uncontested divorce is one where the two parties (the spouses) agree on all the terms of the divorce without involvement from the court.
So if you want an uncontested divorce, that means you and your spouse will come to an agreement on:
- The division of your marital property and assets
- The division of debt
- Child custody and parenting time
- Child support
- Alimony, or marital support
You’ll agree on all those terms before you file anything with the court. When you do file, you’ll simply be asking the court for approval of the settlement agreement you’ve already signed.
Do I need an attorney for an uncontested divorce?
Because uncontested divorces involve less conflict than contested divorces, you may think you could complete an uncontested divorce without an attorney.
Technically, you can. Courts don’t require that you have an attorney to file your uncontested divorce paperwork.
But the settlement agreement in a divorce is a significant legal document that can have far-reaching impacts. Even if you and your spouse negotiate the terms on your own, you should each have an attorney look over the agreement. That way you can be sure that the agreement is fair and that you’re not unknowingly signing away any rights or property that you want.
Some divorce attorneys have flat fee packages for exactly this type of case. They can help a couple negotiate the terms without involving the court. Or, if a couple has already reached an agreement, they can draft the paperwork or review the paperwork drafted by a spouse’s attorney.
The ability to save money by using an attorney’s services for only select parts of the divorce process is a major advantage of an uncontested divorce.
The pros and cons of an uncontested divorce
Going through a divorce is never a pleasant experience, but an uncontested divorce can make the process less painful.
Pros of an uncontested divorce
Uncontested divorce has significant benefits. Focusing on these advantages helps many couples get through the difficult emotions of a divorce to focus on moving forward with their lives.
- An uncontested divorce is faster. Contested divorces can take months or even years to complete. With an uncontested divorce, the speed of the process is determined by you and your spouse’s ability to come to an agreement. Once you do, you’re limited only by the time it takes the attorney to draw up the paperwork and the mandatory waiting period, if your state has one.
- An uncontested divorce is easier. If you have an uncontested divorce, you won’t be attending hearings or answering questions from an opposing attorney. You won’t have to prepare for a trial or prove your case. Instead you’ll do just two things: reach an agreement with your spouse and file with the court.
If you present your case to a family court judge, you are agreeing to abide by the terms they set. That means they decide how your assets will be divided. They decide what the child custody schedule will be. They decide who pays off your credit card debt. That’s a lot of control to give up. When you have an uncontested divorce, you may not get everything you want, but you and your spouse will be making those decisions — not a third party.
- An uncontested divorce is less expensive. No matter what, divorce costs money. But the price difference between an uncontested and a contested divorce can be tens of thousands of dollars.
- An uncontested divorce involves less drama. Litigation is an inherently dramatic process. Each lawyer is working to make sure their client wins, and that means every issue becomes a fight. In an uncontested divorce, the parties decide they don’t want to spend time or money — or mental and emotional energy — on all that fighting. This benefit can be especially important for couples that have children and want to protect them from the pain of a messy divorce.
Cons of an uncontested divorce
There are no true disadvantages of an uncontested divorce, but there are some people for whom an uncontested divorce isn’t a good fit.
- Uncontested divorce may not be a good option for situations that involve abuse. In a marriage that involves abuse, the abused party often needs the court to step in and provide protection and relief from abuse.
- Uncontested divorce isn’t a good option when there is a significant power imbalance. Some couples may not be on equal footing. One person is unable to negotiate for what they want or need. In these marriages, the outcome of settlement negotiations wouldn’t be fair for both parties. Like in an abusive situation, the party with less power needs the court to help create fair terms.
- Uncontested divorce is difficult for couples that cannot agree on terms. When a couple simply can’t come to an agreement about the terms of their divorce, they can’t have an uncontested divorce. Sometimes focusing on the benefits of an uncontested divorce — for instance, reduced cost and time — can help couples find compromise.
Not everyone will be able to come to a full agreement with their spouse. For couples that can meet in the middle, an uncontested divorce saves time and money. It can pave the way for an easier co-parenting relationship and set you more quickly on the path toward a new chapter in your life.
We specialize in uncontested divorce because we’ve seen how helpful this process can be for couples that know they’re ready to move forward. Contact Porchlight so we can help you choose a divorce process with less drama.