What Is Uncontested Divorce?

An uncontested divorce is a common option for spouses who are able to agree about divorce related issues without the courts, for example, custody of their children. Many couples are able work out arrangements for the division of their marital property, the custody arrangements for their children, and post-marital support, like alimony payments, without the courts stepping in and making those decisions. The cooperation and mutual consent of the spouses is part of what an uncontested divorce is.

Depending on the situation and the circumstances of the divorce, the spouses may be able to come to a decision about these issues without lawyers or mediation. However, other times, lawyers or mediators prove to be very useful as things like the property laws, divorce laws, and custody laws vary by state, and the parties involved in the divorce may not be familiar with the details of these laws. Furthermore, legal documents dissolving the marriage are often better handled through attorneys familiar with preparing the documents.

Because the spouses going through the divorce are cooperating and working together to complete the divorce process without involving the courts, an uncontested divorce is much less costly than a divorce case that requires the court’s involvement to resolve any aspects that the couple is unable to resolve on their own. For this reason, many couples may choose to be more cooperative and collaborative through the divorce process if they are unable to afford the high court costs that come with many contested divorce cases.

In divorce cases where the spouses are not in agreement, they may be unable to proceed with an uncontested divorce. This disagreement is the difference between uncontested divorce and contested divorce. Issues that may prevent an uncontested divorce are finances, large property holdings, or other uncommon circumstances. When there are large amounts of property or financial holdings involved in a divorce, equitable division of marital property can be especially challenging for the spouses to agree on.

Some divorces may have involved spousal abuse or other reasons for one spouse to have requested a “fault” divorce, such as adultery, abandonment, or addiction. In cases like these, a spouse who is claimed to be at fault may be less cooperative, and may refuse to come to an agreement about the property division or child custody arrangements. In cases where one or both spouses are unable to agree about issues that are necessary to dissolve the marriage, the courts must evaluate the situation and decide which settlement would be most equitable for the parties involved. The court can take many factors into consideration to come to that decision, and those factors may vary by state, or even by judge.

Another favorable aspect of uncontested divorce is that the divorce process can be resolved faster when the parties are cooperative. There are laws in place in certain states that require a specific amount of time to pass before the courts will grant a divorce, so in those places, the divorce process may seem slower in an uncontested divorce. But if the custody, property division, and support arrangements are decided more quickly, then the process will go more smoothly even if a waiting period law is in place.

While uncontested divorce may be the preferred option for some couples going through a divorce, it is not always possible. Contested divorces where the courts must get involved to resolve some of the issues are sometimes the only option for more complex divorce cases.

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