A seemingly oxymoronic term, the uncontested divorce has hit the mainstream of late. While I think this is an excellent development since I am a collaboratively trained family attorney and believe knock down litigation rarely benefits most couples and families, I believe this style of divorce deserves a bit of explanation and clarification.
An uncontested divorce is a divorce where both parties agree on the major issues. These issues include;
- The division of property;
- Sharing of parenting time and responsibilities (if the parties have minor children);
- The amount and duration of any child support;
- The amount and duration of alimony (spousal support); and
- Distribution of debt(s)
Uncontested divorces are “easiest” when either (1) the parties have been married a relatively short period of time or (2) the parties do not have minor children. That said, if parties do have children, but agree in large party on all necessary requirements for the dissolution of the marriage, all that is needed is to file a Complaint for Divorce, memorialize the agreement and parties’ wishes in a Judgment of Divorce and have it entered by the Court. I have had uncontested divorces where only one party had an attorney. I always make it absolutely clear that I exclusively represent the rights of one party and have no legal duty or obligation to the other party. To ensure they truly understand (and to protect myself), I typically make them sign a letter and waiver to this effect. Parties can still engage in an uncontested divorce with each having their own lawyer (just to ensure each side is protected and the Judgment of Divorce and its terms are fair, reasonable and accurate).
All of this sounds great, right? The trouble comes when Party A believes it is/will be uncontested, hires their lawyer on that belief, and then Party B either immediately or as the case goes on dictates (either directly or indirectly) that the divorce is not uncontested. When this arises, expectations of both the attorney and party need to be discussed and addressed as this completely changes the landscape, timeline, complexity and costs of the case.
Limited scope representation lends itself quite well to uncontested divorces. With this, we can work to ensure you have the most flexible and cost-effective assistance (i.e. paying for a detailed consultation, preparing pleadings, reviewing documents or appearing for a pro confesso hearing). Limited scope representation lets you pick and choose what services you want and is more affordable depending on how much or little assistance and representation you want/need.
If you are interested in an uncontested divorce, please contact me and I will help you determine your options and best strategy.