Often, when people call our office, they will state that the divorce is uncontested just because the parties agree that they both want a divorce. While it may make the process easier if both parties agree to this ultimate outcome, this is not what attorneys are referring to when they ask whether a matter is uncontested. Instead, an uncontested divorce means that the parties have come to an agreement regarding all of the four major items related to a divorce:
- Child Custody
- Child Support
- Equitable Division of Assets and Liabilities
Of note, another common misconception about an uncontested divorce is that since we have a general idea about how to resolve an issue that means the matter is uncontested. While it is helpful to have general guidelines for how the parties desire to resolve a divorce, it is equally important to understand that the devil is in the details.
A simple example, in terms of child custody, may be that the parties have agreed that the father shall be the primary physical custodian for the minor children. Unfortunately, that does not fully address the subject matter of child custody. A visitation plan must still be put in place, minor details such as who is responsible for driving the children, how holidays and summer vacations will be handled, and who has ultimate responsibility for decisions related to the minor children (along with a host of others) must still be put into place before a matter will truly be considered uncontested.
Based upon our experience, often these minor details can be worked out with relative ease if the parties already have a general framework for the resolution of their divorce. That said, there are a number of cases over the years where the parties find what appeared to be a general agreement does not exactly work out that way when we get into various required details in the divorce.
If you and your spouse are making progress trying to work out the matter on your own, it is still advisable that you seek legal counsel to better understand all of the finer points that must be addressed in your divorce agreement. With a little guidance and perspective, we can help not only highlight the remaining issues that need to be worked out prior to proceeding forward with an uncontested divorce, but we can also offer helpful solutions for addressing differences that may arise. As attorneys that focus exclusively on divorce matters, we have seen numerous examples of these exact situations being addressed before and can offer helpful solutions to allow you to reach the ultimate result of an uncontested divorce.
As an aside, please also don’t forget that just because a matter initially appears contested, it does not have to remain that way. Through various alternatives to trial, such as mediation, the parties can narrow their differences and often cause a contested matter to become uncontested.
Finally, regardless of how your reach your uncontested agreement, it is important to retain counsel to review your proposed plan, offer suggestions for changes, and to ultimately draft all of the necessary paperwork to facilitate the filing of the uncontested divorce matter.