If you have been researching divorce online, you have probably come across the terms “contested” and “uncontested”, but might not know the difference. Generally speaking, a contested divorce is the type most people are familiar with; one person files papers, the other is served, there are court dates, mediations, and most of the time a settlement, but sometimes the case proceeds all the way to trial. An uncontested case is handled almost entirely pre-suit. What this means, is that the parties generally have come to a full agreement on all of the issues within a divorce case (alimony, child support, asset and debt division, attorney’s fees, timesharing, and parental responsibility) before either party files for divorce, and most of the time before they consult with or hire an attorney. There is very little negotiation involved in an uncontested divorce; it is mostly comprised of drafting all of the mandatory pleadings and contracts, filing these documents with the court, and attending the final uncontested hearing. While it may feel like the attorney is working for both parties, it is important to remember that one attorney cannot represent both parties in a lawsuit, and a divorce, even an agreed upon uncontested case, is still a lawsuit. This means that both parties cannot meet with and discuss the case with the same attorney, or get advice from the same attorney.
Uncontested divorces are most common in short-term marriages that do not have substantial assets or debts to split up, and often without children. While these are not requirements to have an uncontested divorce, the more complicated your marriage, the less likely it is that you will be able to proceed with an uncontested divorce. The best way to determine if an uncontested divorce is right for your case is to have a consultation with a knowledgeable family law attorney.