If you and your spouse mutually agree that it's time to divorce—and you feel you can easily reach a consensus about important issues—an uncontested divorce may be the right choice for you. It's fast, it avoids the courtroom, and it's much cheaper than a “traditional” divorce.
THE CRITICAL ISSUES
According to DivorceNet.com, the critical issues of agreement for an uncontested divorce include:
- Shared parenting time and responsibilities
- Child support payments and duration
- Spousal support (alimony) payments and duration
- Property division
- Allocation of marital debt
If you don't see eye to eye in all these areas, you can still attempt an uncontested divorce but you may need the help of a divorce mediator (less expensive) or an attorney (more expensive) to work out specific issues.
REPRESENTATION FOR JUST ONE
Writing on his site DivorceInfo.com, divorce lawyer Lee Borden explains legal representation in this type of divorce:
“The first thing you need to know about uncontested divorce is that the lawyer you get to do your uncontested divorce cannot represent both of you. As a society, we assume that the spouses in a divorce have necessarily different interests. The ethical principles for lawyers therefore require that a lawyer cannot represent both parties. The lawyer must represent one of you and not the other. The lawyer will need to know at the outset which of you is his or her client and which of you is not.”
It can take a bit of discussion and negotiation to determine who will be represented, but the non-represented party can safeguard their position with the help of a coach and/or through good research on the pros and cons of uncontested divorce.
WHEN IT'S NOT THE RIGHT CHOICE
There are some specific situations in which uncontested divorce is not the right option for either party. DivorceNet.com and DivorceInfo.com offer the following examples of when uncontested divorce should be off the table:
You have a complex life situation and/or major existing disagreement with your spouse.
Emotional or power differences exist between the parties. (This becomes very evident when only one spouse has legal representation.)
One spouse fears or has experienced domestic violence by the other spouse. (This party needs full legal representation.)
You and your spouse hold joint property titles or joint debt.
Your children have very unusual and specific parenting requirements.
Even when uncontested divorce isn't the right alternative, consider using family mediation or collaboration to settle as many issues as possible out of court. This makes the process less emotionally and financially draining for everyone involved.
If you're considering uncontested divorce, contact me to determine whether this or another option is the right one for your situation.