An uncontested divorce is a divorce that is granted without the spouses having to go to trial. The term implies that the spouses in an uncontested divorce have no disputes or disagreements about ending the marriage, but that isn’t necessarily true. An uncontested divorce simply means that the spouses are able to work out their differences and negotiate a settlement without going before a judge for mediation. A divorce is also considered uncontested when one spouse files papers and the other spouse fails to file a formal response.
Ending a marriage is difficult under the best of circumstances, but when one spouse wants the divorce and the other does not, the process can be especially painful. Even when both spouses want the divorce, it’s unlikely that they will agree on all the important matters related to ending the marriage. Major decisions have to be made concerning such sensitive issues as child custody, visitation rights, child support, alimony, and how to divide assets.
In a contested divorce, there are major disagreements between the spouses that cannot be resolved. The spouses must go to court and let a judge determine what is fair. In an uncontested divorce, the spouses are able to eliminate costly court costs and lengthy proceedings by working out an agreement on their own. This doesn’t necessarily mean that both parties want the divorce. An uncontested divorce can be granted when one spouse doesn’t want the divorce if that spouse realizes the divorce is inevitable and agrees to negotiate a settlement.
Although specific requirements may vary from place to place, the general procedure for obtaining an uncontested divorce usually involves three steps. First, one spouse must set the process in motion by filing paperwork and having it served on the other spouse. Second, the spouses must provide documentation that specifically states and describes the terms of agreement about important matters. This documentation is called the marital settlement agreement or property settlement. Third, final divorce papers, including the marital settlement agreement, must be completed and filed with the court.
Uncontested divorces are typically quicker and cheaper than contested divorces. Most divorces in the United States are uncontested, and many couples handle the entire process by themselves. All the necessary uncontested divorce forms are readily available online, along with instructions for completing and filing them. Although legal representation is not required in an uncontested divorce, one or both spouses sometimes hire an attorney to help with the negotiation process.