Divorce is often messy, stressful, and complicated. With that comes divorce’s financial and emotional toll on everyone involved. Fortunately, there is a way to have the divorce process simplified, far less stressful, and easier. An uncontested divorce reduces financial and emotional stress on all parties involved.
An uncontested divorce happens when all parties agree on all terms of the divorce, including division of assets and debts, custody and child support, spousal support, and any other issues that may be included in the divorce proceedings. This is far easier and less stressful than a contested divorce where both parties are not in agreement and rely on a judge to define the terms of the divorce.
Whether there is one issue or many, any situation requiring courtroom time with a judge to set the divorce terms is considered contested.
An uncontested divorce is far less time-consuming, stressful, and expensive. Eliminating disagreements and a long, drawn-out series of court proceedings is always ideal – if you can get everyone to agree on everything.
So how does it work? What are the steps? Do you need a lawyer? We’ve put together everything you need to know about the steps to get an uncontested divorce, including when it may be time to consult a lawyer.
10 Steps For Getting an Uncontested Divorce
You and your spouse have decided you can work together amicably about the details of your divorce. If you believe this is possible, you may be ready to move forward with an uncontested divorce.
Here are the steps to get an uncontested divorce:
- The Petitioner – The first thing that needs to happen is the petitioner, or person filing for divorce, needs to determine how they want to end the marriage, deciding between divorce, annulment, or legal separation.
- Agreement – Determine if you can reach a mutual agreement with your spouse regarding the terms of your divorce or legal separation. (This will allow you to save time, money, and stress by reducing court visits and can utilize a mediator instead of a judge.) If so, congratulations! You’re ready to move forward. Alimony, child support, a parenting plan, and any other ongoing arrangements must be part of the agreement process and be presented to the court with documentation.
- Paperwork – The petitioner completes all necessary court forms your state requires for an uncontested divorce. You can learn more about the necessary forms for your specific state.
- Filing – The Petitioner files step 3 with their local courthouse. A court clerk will start a file, beginning the divorce proceedings.
- Serving – A legal adult not involved in the case delivers or serves the other spouse, or respondent, with copies of the court paperwork. There are a few reasons for this step. When a lawsuit is filed, the respondent has a right to be notified of the lawsuit, in this case, the divorce. This has to be done with enough time for the respondent to address anything with the court if they desire.
The person who served the respondent then has to fill out and send a proof of service form to the petitioner showing that they’ve correctly given the respondent the necessary forms. The petitioner then files this form with the court clerk.
- Decisions – The respondent decides if they’re comfortable moving forward with an uncontested divorce or if they have issues they’d like the court to intervene.
- Response – If the respondent chooses to file a response, they must complete the necessary paperwork and file with the court clerk. They have to file within 30 days of being served and will have to pay the filing fee.
- Serving – At this point, a legal adult not involved in the case must serve the petitioner with a copy of the respondent’s court forms. As with step 5, the person who served the paperwork will need to fill out and send a proof of service form to the respondent, who will then file the form with the court clerk.
- Disclosure – The preliminary declaration of disclosure begins. In this step, each side will continue to exchange documents until both parties are satisfied with the divorce terms. This process helps all parties divide up belongings, assets, and debt.
- Approval – The court approves and signs a judgment declaring the couple legally separated or divorced. This cannot happen if both parties do not agree on every single aspect of the terms. Once the court signs the judgment, the paperwork must be filed to finalize the divorce.
If both parties cannot agree on something at any point in the process, they will be required to go to court to reach an agreement.
When You Should Consult With a Divorce Lawyer
Because divorce is an emotional process and unravelling a marriage can be complex. While you should follow the steps to get an uncontested divorce, you should also consider consulting with an attorney. At the very least, a lawyer should be hired to review any paperwork before filing. This ensures everyone’s best interests are considered, and all paperwork is completed correctly to avoid delays or complications.
While it is possible to complete an uncontested divorce from start to finish without a lawyer, there are a few instances where you may want to consider legal assistance:
- A divorce lawyer can be incredibly helpful in answering questions or helping to complete necessary paperwork correctly, which will avoid the need for future amendments and ensure the divorce is completed as quickly as possible. They can also assist in helping set reasonable expectations and offer advice regarding alimony, child support, and custody agreements, ensuring a fair agreement is being reached.
- It is also recommended that you consult a lawyer if you have been married for a long time, have a disabled child, feel that your case may be complex, if you live in a community property state, or have other extraordinary circumstances that may require special consideration.
- Uncontested and amicable do not mean easy. Divorce is hard for everyone involved, even in amicable, uncontested divorce situations. Preparing yourself, your family, and anyone closely connected to your family for the emotional aspect of divorce is a key element in a successful uncontested divorce. Remember, just because it is the right thing to do, doesn’t always mean it is an easy thing to do.
- While uncontested divorce does allow you to skip the courtroom, there is still a process that must be followed. Typically, you can expect an uncontested divorce process to take four to six months from start to finish.
- If both parties agree to the terms in their agreement, a judge may deny them if they appear unfair or concerned that one party was under duress when agreeing to the terms.
- An uncontested divorce is most often successful in relationships with few children and assets, as there is less to sort out and, therefore, less opportunity for conflict.
One of the greatest benefits of learning the steps to get an uncontested divorce is that it is far less expensive than traditional divorce proceedings. Additionally, it can save time and frustration if both parties are willing to work to reach compromises that everyone can be satisfied with. These steps to get an uncontested divorce are merely a guideline. To learn more, you and your spouses should do further research before choosing this divorce method.