Thinking of getting an uncontested divorce, and not sure how to proceed further? Uncontested divorce may be a suitable option for you, but it may also not be an option at all.
What is an Uncontested Divorce?
If you think uncontested divorce may be suitable route for you, then it is important to understand what happens during an uncontested divorce proceedings. In an uncontested divorce, both parties are in total agreement as to the division of their marital property and all other terms prior to filing the petition for divorce. However, uncontested divorce may not always be the right route for everyone. While it is likely to be appropriate for a couple with no minor children and no significant assets, under the right circumstances, it is an available remedy for couples with children and significant property, as well.
Things to consider during an Uncontested Divorce
Couples should consider and agree upon all material terms of the settlement agreement before filing the petition. Material terms include such categories as: (1) child support; (2) custody and visitation (this includes agreement to a parenting plan); (3) debt allocation; (4) spousal support; and (5) division of real and personal property. After an agreement is reached, either party may file the petition for the divorce. Any name changes that either party wants to make, needs to be included in the petition. As with a contested divorce, the petition must be filed in the county where the couple reside or if the couple lives in different counties, where the non-filing spouse resides. The person who files the petition for divorce is the plaintiff and in an uncontested divorce, this is the party being represented by the attorney. The same attorney will not represent both parties but because the divorce is uncontested it is unnecessary for both parties to have representation.
Benefits of an Uncontested Divorce
There are several benefits of getting an uncontested divorce. This is the quickest, easiest, and the least expensive way to obtain dissolution of marriage. Since the parties in an uncontested divorce have already agreed to the terms of the settlement agreement, the agreement is filed at the same time as the original petition. In state of Georgia, few additional forms are required to be completed, including a detailed statement of each party’s financial situation. Filing fees are around two hundred twenty dollars ($220), and there may be additional administrative fees that vary from county to county. In some limited circumstances the filing fee and administrative fees can be waived. If the judge agrees that there are no discrepancies as to the terms and other information within the paperwork, he or she will sign off on the agreement. The divorce is then generally granted 31 to 60 days later. Since there is no trial, much less personal information is made public and neither party has to fear an airing of “dirty laundry” within a public forum. Most attorneys charge a flat fee for the most basic uncontested divorce cases because there is limited and predictable required work in the case and the end date for the case can be estimated. This makes uncontested divorce, far and away, the most affordable option. However, assets, debts and complex child custody issues can make an uncontested divorce more complex and more costly than the simplest of cases.
Disadvantages of an Uncontested Divorce
While there are many benefits to filing for an uncontested divorce, there are also potential pitfalls. A quick divorce process may tempt couples to make a rash decision that is not well thought out thus leading to disputes in the future. A later modification of the settlement agreement will require going back to court. This is why it is essential that couples truly agree on the terms at the time of filing.
Uncontested divorce is a solution for a very specific group of couples. If either one or both parties are acting irrationally, an uncontested divorce is absolutely not an option. If there is any history of domestic violence or abuse in the marriage, the couple is not on equal footing and therefore, an uncontested divorce is not appropriate. This process requires complete diplomacy from both parties and is best suited for couples that have reached a mutual understanding and wish to walk away amicably. In order to reach a settlement agreement prior to filing, the couple will have to cooperate and each person will make compromises for the luxury of being able to walk away from the marriage quickly.
If there are major issues concerning property division or child custody, the divorce inherently is not uncontested because these are issues that will need to be litigated. This is not to say that couples with large assets or children cannot get an uncontested divorce. Indeed, if the couple is capable of exhibiting the requisite diplomacy and peaceful negotiation, this option is truly in the best interest of the children because it is over quickly and quietly. Although uncontested divorces are easier to obtain, it is never advisable to represent yourself. Divorce proceedings cause emotions to run high and the uncontested divorce presents the temptation of making hasty decisions in an effort to quickly move the process along.
For these reasons, it is very important to hire an attorney in order to have an objective party advocating for your best interests. If you are the unrepresented party in an uncontested divorce, there are some measures you can take to ensure you are equally protected:
- Do significant independent research on the process of uncontested divorce;
- Speak with a trusted friend or advisor and tell them your goals in coming to a settlement agreement;
- Have that same friend act as a consultant and look over the final agreement before you sign. The above measure taken by both parties will ensure the divorce is done properly so that both parties can peacefully move on with their lives.
Based on the information presented above, an uncontested divorce may or may not be the proper route for you. An experience divorce attorney can help you determining whether you should go ahead with uncontested divorce or not. This article is written for general informational purposes only and highlights some of the things to consider in an uncontested divorce. It is advised that people seeking an divorce contact an experienced divorce and family law attorney before making any major decisions. Call us at 770-609-1247 to speak with one of our experienced uncontested divorce lawyers today.