Tonight’s post on Uncontested Divorce is written by one of our Lawrenceville attorney’s Wesley Wilson.
The other day I saw a billboard just advertising an attorney’s fees for an “uncontested divorce” and it got me thinking, do people really know what an uncontested divorce is? From my experience, the answer is no. So what is an uncontested divorce?
An uncontested divorce is simple, inexpensive and considerably less stressful. For a true uncontested divorce, you should be able to show up to your attorney’s office with a list of everything that you and your spouse have agreed upon, and you should have agreed upon everything. This list includes, property division, asset division, and, if applicable, child support and spousal support.
In an uncontested divorce, the only way to figure who gets what is to speak openly and honestly with your spouse. If you agree on divorce, and it is truly uncontested, you should be able to do this. You should have negotiated everything on your own to a satisfactory resolution for both of you.
If an attorney has to negotiate a term of your Agreement, you have a contested divorce. If you are not able to negotiate on your own, without an attorney present, then you do not have an uncontested divorce. If you present us with what you believe is an uncontested divorce, our job should be drafting the documents, not negotiating terms. You should be able to then take the documents back to your spouse for their review and signature. There is still ample other work for The Firm to do, but negotiating with your spouse is not part of it.
Often , in the real world, the parties are close to an agreement, they agree on most terms, but there are a few sticking points. Sometimes we have to reach out to the opposing party or draft multiple documents, or the client isn’t exactly sure what they want and we have to have multiple communications in order to come to what they believe is a fair and acceptable agreement. Whether an attorney is communicating with an opposing counsel or a pro se party, there is a cost associated with it. Costs go up with each episode of negotiations.
In addition, if there are children involved, parties need to think about what type of custody, visitation, and amount of child support (which can be calculated for you based on each spouses’ income and any additional expenses for the child(ren)), which parent will claim the child(ren) as a dependent on their income taxes, which parent is going to provide health insurance for the child(ren) how uninsured medical expenses are to be paid, how expense associated with extracurricular activities will be split and many other considerations.
Bottom line, there are many significant issues here. The parties have issues between them or they wouldn’t be getting a divorce in the first place. Sometimes it is asking too much to believe that these issues will not lead to fundamental disagreements on how all of the above categories will be worked out. And if there are disagreements, if they cannot get worked out, then the parties are not on the same page and they do not have an uncontested divorce.
Whether I’m working in my office in Lawrenceville or my office in Marietta, the issue is the same: uncontested divorces do happen and they are certainly something to strive for. But it is important to realize when you don’t have an uncontested divorce and when the pursuit of that is a fools game.