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Do I Have to Go to Court for an Uncontested Divorce?

Spouses couple signing decree papers in front of lawyer or mediator

An uncontested divorce is one of the ways you can divorce your spouse. An uncontested divorce simply means you and your spouse agree on all the terms of the divorce. These may include:

  • Child custody
  • Parenting time
  • Child support
  • Spousal support (alimony)
  • Division of marital property

If you agree on these terms, then there is no need for you to go to court.

The Uncontested Divorce Process

The divorce process in an uncontested divorce is a bit different from a contested divorce. In an uncontested divorce, you will need to first fill out a divorce settlement agreement. This settlement agreement should outline the specifics of the agreement you made with your spouse.

You will then take the agreement to the judge. In most cases, judges will ask some basic questions, like:

  • Whether you fully understand the terms of the agreement
  • Whether you chose to sign the agreement voluntarily

The judge will usually approve the agreement unless they believe it's fundamentally unfair to one party.

State laws set a certain waiting period before a divorce becomes final. Make sure to research your state's laws to know when your divorce will be finalized.

Drafting the Settlement Agreement

Drafting a settlement agreement can be time-consuming and complicated as you and your spouse have to agree on everything before you take your agreement to the judge. The process may be a little easier if you don't have significant assets or if you don't have children.

Depending on your situation, it may be worth it to retain a divorce lawyer who will help you with the drafting. The lawyer can also just review your agreement to make sure your rights are protected. Many people choose to retain a lawyer solely for this part of the process. This allows them to ensure they aren't giving away their rights, while still keeping the cost of divorce low.

Why Choose Uncontested Divorce?

There are a number of reasons why many think an uncontested divorce is the better route to finalize a dissolution of marriage. Some of them include:

1. Uncontested Divorce Is Cheaper

Because it takes less time, and because most of the work is done outside the court, the costs of uncontested divorces can be significantly cheaper. Although an attorney is recommended, the faster procedure will save you money in attorney fees and filing fees.

2. It Generally Takes Less Time

An uncontested divorce usually takes less time because there is no need for you or your spouse to go to court and argue the case.

If you have minor children, finalizing the divorce this way would be ideal. This is because your children wouldn't have to see the tension in the time-consuming and costly proceedings of custody and child support.

3. The Outcome Is More Predictable

Since you and your spouse agree on the terms of the divorce, a court hearing won't be necessary. The judge will look at the legal documents and approve your divorce if everything is lawful and fair. This means there is very little room for surprises in terms of what your final divorce will look like. You, and not a judge, will determine the outcome of your divorce.

4. Information Is Kept Out of the Public Records

Most of the divorce paperwork filled during a divorce proceeding is public record unless sealed. However, in uncontested divorce cases, the documents you file with the court clerk do not disclose a lot of information. Thus, there isn't a lot of information that goes into the public record.

Do You Need a Lawyer for an Uncontested Divorce?

You are not required by law to have a lawyer in either a contested or an uncontested divorce. In cases of uncontested divorces, you may be able to handle the case with no help from a lawyer. However, it is always the best option to at least have a lawyer go through your agreement to make sure your rights are protected.

It may also make sense to hire a mediator to help you and your spouse reach an agreement. A mediator is a trained professional that helps spouses explore their options and reach a mutual agreement.

Uncontested Divorce for People With Children Or Substantial Assets

It is still possible to go through an uncontested divorce, even though children and substantial assets may be involved. In such cases, however, it might be best to hire a family law attorney or a mediator to make sure both parties negotiate an agreement until they reach a get a fair deal.

Additional Resources

Seek Legal Help in Your Divorce Case: Speak to an Attorney

Divorces can be emotionally, financially, and physically exhausting. If you are planning to go through a divorce, you need to know the laws and procedures followed in your state. A good option for you to protect yourself and your finances may be to speak to an experienced divorce attorney near you.

Next Steps

Contact a qualified divorce attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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