What is an Uncontested Divorce?
There is often great confusion regarding uncontested divorces. It is important because lawyers often charge a flat fee for an uncontested divorce. Attorneys can do that because in an uncontested divorce, the attorney can predict fairly accurately the number of hours he or she will need to devote to the case. When a case is contested, the attorney can not predict what the other side will do or how long it may take to reach an agreement or even if the case needs to be tried before a judge or jury.
Signs for Cheap "Uncontested" Divorces Often Mislead Divorcing Couples
If you're like most people, you may see cheap yard signs on the side of the road advertising "uncontested" divorces. Often the stated fees are around a couple hundred dollars or so, far less than what a lawyer would seek to take on a new divorce case. The first thing you should know is that the advertised fee is just what the person wants to charge you, not your overall cost for a divorce. In fact, in a divorce case, the filing fees alone often exceed $300. So, once you realize this, it is easy to figure out these signs are highly misleading.
Next, you should also know that whoever answers the phone is probably not a lawyer, but just a person that wants to sell you forms which you could have gotten for free at a library. If it is a lawyer that advertises in such a way, for numerous reasons beyond the scope of this article, it is safe to say that they probably aren't complying with the ethical rules relating to attorney advertising. In addition, it probably wouldn't give you a lot of confidence in that attorney.
Furthermore, people sometimes believe that if their spouse wants the divorce as well, then the divorce is uncontested. Not true. In fact, whether the divorce will be granted is hardly ever contested since nearly every state offers a form of no-fault divorce. So, the party doesn't need to prove anything beyond the fact that they want a divorce.
What is the difference between an Uncontested Divorce and a Contested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce occurs only when both spouses have agreed to all terms relating to the divorce. This includes several broad categories such as
- Division of the marital property and debt
- Amount of any Alimony or Spousal Support to be paid, if any, and by whom.
- Custody of Children including a Parenting Plan
- Amount, Duration and terms of Child Support
Until everything is agreed to, the matter is contested. If the divorcing couple has an agreement, it is incumbant upon the lawyer to fully inform the client of the reasonableness of the agreement and issues the client may not have considered. Sometimes the divorcing couple may have different ideas about the terms when the agreement is actually reduced to writing. More often that not, the parties did not consider certain issues such as tax issues, treatment of holidays in a parenting plan, the treatment of retirement plans and unvested interests, the true value of a small businesses. In addition, some assets that are often overlooked such as frequent flyer miles, memberships, deposits, rights to purchase tickets among others. Furthermore, if either party has separate property, the attorney would evaluate whether there is any basis for the other spouse to claim all or part of that separate property or whether it should be recharacterized as martial property.
A good lawyer will usually counsel the client regarding the benefits of having an agreement as opposed to fighting it out in court, especially when minor children are involved. However, the decison on how to proceed is the client's alone. The attorney needs to be sure the client's decision is an informed one.
Thinking About Divorce?
So, you are thinking about divorce. It's always a trying time when you think your marriage may be coming to an end. Many, if not most, couples end up splitting long before ''til death do they part." So, remember you are certainly not alone. Even marriages that do survive will have moments when one or both of the spouses will consider divorce. Hopefully, that will be the case for you, but you should keep in mind that there is life and happiness after divorce, even when it is very difficult to imagine right now.
Our Role as Your Attorney in a Divorce
As attorneys, our job is not to provide you with marriage counseling. Likewise, we neither encourage nor discourage you from seeking a divorce. That is among the most important of decisions. It is yours to make and yours alone, but the decision should be made with strong experienced legal counsel guiding you through the process. Simply put, our job is to give you the best legal advice we can for you and your family, to present you with all your legal options, and to represent your interests zealously, without judgment.
When to See A Divorce Lawyer?
We strongly advise anyone considering divorce to meet with us as soon as possible. Too often, we see a new divorce client who wants to file for divorce immediately or has already been served with divorce papers. While we can certainly handle those immediate needs, the clients' legal options would likely have been better had the client consulted with us long before the decision to seek divorce was made. Preparing will almost always give you a better result and sometimes the reasons the client wants a divorce could be rectified by a solution other than divorce, such as legal separation, or post-nuptial agreements for example.
Ideally, the time to seek a consultation is when you believe divorce is a mere possibility rather than a certainty, perhaps even sooner. We would review your financial information, listen to your unique family situation, advise you on your legal rights in terms of property division, parenting issues, ongoing support etc., and counsel you on the steps we recommend you consider to put yourself in the most favorable position in the event you decide to move forward with a divorce.
One situation where we would likely advise clients to consider immediate action is when there has been violence or abuse in the family. If your spouse is violent , abusive, controlling, suffers from mental illness, or has a chemical addiction, the safety of you and your children should be your first priority. Even if you are also a victim, you have a duty to protect your children from abuses of the other parent.
It is not unusual for abusers to manipulate their victims. Their behavior may seem normal or the victim may even feel that the fault is theirs. If this is happening in your family, or even if you think it might be, you need to break that abusive cycle to protect yourself and your children. If this is happening to you, contact us immediately to discuss your options or if you are in immediate danger contact the police.
Meet with an Attorney
Every case is unique. Divorce and family law attorney David Chowins would be happy to meet with you to discuss your particular situation. Call 469-630-2550 to set up a consultation. Often he can meet with you the same day or arrange an immediate telephone consultation.