When most people hear the word "divorce," they picture something out of Marriage Story—an intense courtroom battle that ends in tears (and probably a lot of monologuing at a faceless judge). But that doesn't have to be your only option.
Choosing to pursue an out-of-court, uncontested divorce can help you resolve your marriage more peacefully, while simultaneously lowering the cost of the process. Today, we're exploring what getting an uncontested divorce involves, and why it may be the best choice for you.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce occurs when both parties involved agree on terms for the divorce. That means agreeing on how to handle various divorce-related processes, like property division, child custody and support, alimony, etc.
Conversely, a contested divorce occurs when the parties disagree on how to handle any element of the divorce.
When people hear "divorce" and picture explosive courtroom battles, they're really picturing a contested divorce. In truth, the majority of divorces get resolved outside of the courtroom.
Even though many divorces start out contested, it's not uncommon for them to become uncontested as parties have the opportunity to negotiate terms for the divorce and engage in processes like mediation that can help facilitate a compromise.
With that covered, let's explore some of the reasons you may choose to pursue an uncontested divorce.
The Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce
Filing for an uncontested divorce has several benefits:
- Reducing costs. Many of the costs associated with divorce are court-related expenses. You can conduct an uncontested divorce out of court, reducing costs. In turn, you can allocate that money towards other costs commonly associated with divorce, like finding a new place to live, purchasing a new vehicle, or buying various household necessities.
- Staying on good terms with your soon-to-be-ex. If you want to remain amicable with your spouse, uncontested divorce is a great option. You can use a method of alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, to dissolve your marriage in a mutually beneficial manner. Visit this blog we wrote on why mediation may be right for you to learn more.
- You want to keep your divorce out of court records. If you or your partner is a high-profile individual, filing for an uncontested divorce can help you reduce the profile of the divorce.
- You want to resolve the divorce quickly. Because you don't need to go through multiple protracted courtroom hearings (like you do with a contested divorce), uncontested divorces tend to wrap up fairly quickly. If you and your partner both know what you want out of the divorce process, filing for an uncontested divorce is a great way to quickly dissolve a marriage.
How to File for an Uncontested Divorce in California
Fortunately, filing for an uncontested divorce in California is a relatively simple process. To file for an uncontested divorce, you'll need to complete these steps:
- One party (the petitioner) needs to file a petition for an uncontested divorce with the county court and serve the other party (the respondent) with a notice of divorce using a third-party server.
- After the petitioner files for the divorce, the respondent has the opportunity to file a response. At this stage, both parties will need to fill out a variety of forms provided by the court. Keep in mind that a Response is not always required, depending on the level of cooperation between the parties and the Petitioner’s willingness to indefinitely extend the time period for a response to save on filing fees.
- Draft an agreement with your spouse. The agreement contains terms for the divorce that you both agree on. That includes details on how you plan to divide your property, whether one spouse needs to pay the other alimony, and how you'll handle child support and custody if you have children.
- File the agreement and Final Declaration of Disclosure with the court. At this stage, the judge presiding over the case will look over court documents and the agreement to ensure they're legally sound and that the divorce is equitable. Once the judge approves the documents, they'll sign off on the agreement and issue a divorce decree, finalizing the divorce.
If you're having trouble agreeing on a divorce-related process (like property division) with your partner, you should consider using a form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation, to reach a compromise.
At Alternative Dispute Resolutions, we help our clients effectively navigate the uncontested process. From understanding how to file forms with the court to helping you pursue the best possible outcome with your spouse, our lawyers are here for you every step of the way.
To schedule a consultation with our team or learn more about the services we provide, contact us online or via phone at (949) 558-2624.