What Is Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is one where:
- Both spouses agree on all divorce-related issues, or
- One spouse takes no action at all during the divorce proceedings.
In a majority of uncontested divorce cases, both spouses agree on all contentious issues. An uncontested divorce resulting because one spouse does not participate in the proceedings could be a rare occurrence, depending on your state.
1. Both Spouses Agree On All Divorce-Related Issues
In an uncontested divorce, both spouses typically agree to the following issues:
- The grounds for divorce
- Alimony (how much and for how long)
- Child support required for bringing up the child, and whether to be paid by one spouse or to be shared by both spouses
- Child custody (including visitation rights, parenting responsibilities, and joint custody schedules)
- Marital property division and how separate property will be treated
- Debt division after the divorce
Once both spouses agree on all these issues, their divorce attorneys draw up a divorce settlement agreement, which is presented to the courts. If the courts approve of it, the divorce decree is signed. However, if the courts find that one of the spouses has been forced to sign the agreement, the settlement is not in the best interests of the child, and/or the settlement is unfair to one spouse, the divorce settlement agreement will not be approved unless revised to the satisfaction of the courts.
Many spouses who don’t have children, don’t have major or complicated assets to divide, or those who earn sufficient monthly income individually usually opt for an uncontested divorce. This form of divorce helps spouses save on time and costs, and end the marriage in a friendly and honorable way.
That said, even in an uncontested and friendly divorce, spouses need the help of an experienced and effective divorce attorney to ensure they are not shortchanged on any of the contentious issues mentioned above.
If one spouse disagrees with the terms of the divorce settlement agreement after signing it, he/she can petition the courts before they grant the divorce decree. In such a case, the divorce status flips from uncontested to contested.
2. One Spouse Takes No Action At All During The Divorce Proceedings
When both spouses decide to divorce but do not agree on contentious issues, then their lawyers negotiate and try to resolve the issues before the trial, or in the worst-case scenario, the case goes to trial.
Now, for whatever reasons, if one spouse does not respond to divorce-related notices, does not send his attorney to negotiate, or does not participate in the trial even after being sent a notice in accordance with state laws, then the courts decide the case ex-parte. When the courts decide on the divorce case without one spouse participating in the proceedings, it technically means that the issues raised by the other spouse remain uncontested.
Therefore, on a practical level, when one spouse or his/her legal representative does not participate in the divorce proceedings even though he/she has unresolved issues, then by default, the divorce becomes uncontested.
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