By Divorce.com staff
Updated Nov 16, 2022
An uncontested divorce is the easiest way to end your marriage. While divorce is always a difficult time, an uncontested divorce may help you separate from your spouse amicably and start your new chapter off on a positive note.
In many cases, couples are able to complete the entire divorce process themselves during an uncontested divorce. With this type of divorce, you’ll just need to hire a divorce law expert, and your case won’t need to be dragged through the antiquated, expensive, and unnecessarily effortful court system.
If you’re looking for the path of least resistance, here’s what you should know about uncontested divorce.
What Is an Uncontested Divorce?
When couples can’t agree on everything, they need to file for a contested divorce. A contested divorce occurs when both parties hire family law attorneys and argue their divorce in court to reach a marital settlement agreement. This typically takes longer than six months, and there’s no guarantee that either person will be happy with the final written agreement. It’s a slow and adversarial process that can make a difficult situation that much harder.
During an uncontested divorce, a couple enters into the process in complete agreement on the terms of the divorce. Both parties will need to see eye to eye on matters like the property division, spousal support, child custody, and child support for minor children for an uncontested divorce to go smoothly.
If you can handle your differences outside of the courtroom, your divorce process will be drastically easier, and you’ll avoid attorney fees and long waiting periods.
Why Aim for an Uncontested Divorce?
An uncontested divorce is almost always the ideal way to legally separate from your spouse. An uncontested divorce is faster than other methods of divorce. It’s also more private, less expensive, and more likely to produce an outcome both you and your spouse are happy with.
It Can Be a Quicker Process
A contested divorce case can technically take years to complete. Divorce proceedings can last a long time before divorce papers are signed. You’ll need to divide community property, establish alimony (if applicable), establish child support and child custody, and create a divorce settlement with the help of your divorce lawyer. If you can’t agree on important points, the judge will have the final say.
Uncontested divorce skips all of that debate and conflict. You’ll have already decided on all of these important terms before you file, and the process can take as little as six weeks from start to finish in some cases.
You Can Keep Your Divorce More Private
Moving your divorce through court and getting lawyers involved invites a bunch of strangers into your private business. You may not feel comfortable reliving painful moments of your marriage out in public, and it never feels good to be questioned by your spouse’s divorce lawyer.
Making these decisions at home will remove prying eyes from the process. There will be no transcript of your conversation, no one will be gathering evidence against you, and your family’s business will stay between you and your spouse.
It’s Often More Affordable
If you have to hire a divorce attorney, you’ll be paying that lawyer for every hour they spend working on your divorce case. This is money you could have spent building your new life or taking a vacation to relieve some of the stress you’ve felt during the end of your relationship.
When you choose an uncontested divorce, all of that money stays in your pocket. You can choose to seek legal advice if it makes you feel more comfortable, but it isn’t a necessary part of the uncontested divorce procedure to hire a lawyer.
You Get More Control Over the Process
In a contested divorce, a judge has the final say. If you don’t like the decision the judge makes, you’re out of luck. You have to abide by the settlement the court agrees to.
In an uncontested divorce, you and your spouse make decisions alone. You can control where you’re willing to make compromises in the process of coming to an agreement. You don’t have to surrender your autonomy.
How Should You Split Property in an Uncontested Divorce?
If you have a prenuptial agreement, you probably already know how you’ll split up your property. All you need to do is follow what the prenup says. If you didn’t have an agreement in place, you have some leeway in how you approach property division in your uncontested divorce.
What Is Equitable Distribution?
Equitable distribution of marital property refers to dividing assets in a way that’s fair or makes sense, which doesn’t necessarily mean splitting everything 50/50.
For example, it usually makes more sense to let the parent who the children will be living with most of the time keep the family home. This avoids disrupting the children’s life and causing them to endure stress during the adjustment period of divorce.
What Is Community Property?
Community property refers to all property obtained during a marriage. If you bought real estate or a car while you were married to someone, your state’s laws may recognize that asset as community property, even if you provided all of the money for the sale.
In community property states, marital property usually needs to be divided as close to 50/50 as possible. It may not always be possible to create an exact division, but the court wants all parties involved to try.
In cases of infidelity or domestic violence, or if you’re pursuing your spouse for a fault divorce, property division may favor the offended party.
How Do You Handle Assets From Before Your Marriage?
If you have real estate or a car that you owned exclusively before your marriage, that asset is considered non-marital property. It was yours to start with, and it remains exclusively yours if you didn’t add your spouse to the title or the deed. You don’t need to divide it with the other properties because it's considered separate property.
What Are the Steps of an Uncontested Divorce?
The uncontested divorce process is a series of simple steps, many of which can be completed in a few days. The longest part of the process is often waiting for your court date.
Work Out an Agreement With Your Spouse
You can only file for an uncontested divorce if you and your spouse agree to every aspect of your divorce. If you’re stuck on a few major issues, you can work with a divorce mediator to explore your options and find compromises. You’ll use this information to create your settlement agreement.
Have a Petitioner File Your Court Forms
At least one of you will fill out the court paperwork for a divorce, and you can fill the paperwork out online. Some states will even allow you to submit your divorce petition and pay the filing fee online, although your divorce cannot be fully completed online. Other states require you to come to the courthouse and file the paperwork in person.
Documents Are Served
The spouse that filed the petition for divorce will serve the other spouse the paperwork. If you’re filing for an uncontested divorce, your spouse is already involved in the process with you. They know the paperwork is coming and are aware of what it says, so you don’t need to use a process server. You can serve the divorce forms to your spouse yourself.
Complete Your Preliminary Declaration of Disclosure
A preliminary declaration of disclosure is a packet of forms that requires a few attachments. It’s a review of your financial situation, including your debts, assets, and income. You’ll be required to include information like proof of ownership of property and your tax returns.
When you complete, sign, and submit your preliminary declaration of disclosure, you do so under penalty of perjury. It’s important to be honest about your assets to avoid trouble.
The Court Approves the Judgment
After you’ve filed your documents and completed your preliminary declaration of disclosure, you’ll attend a quick court hearing. The judge will ask you to verify that the information provided in all the documents is accurate. If the judge doesn’t spot any causes for concerns, you’ll be granted a judgment of divorce.
Proceeding With Uncontested Divorce
You don’t need to call up a law firm to complete an uncontested divorce or fill out your divorce paperwork. As long as you have some expert advice at your fingertips and a solid understanding with your spouse, your divorce can be processed quickly, easily, and hopefully, amicably.
Divorce happens, but it can happen with less conflict when you have a solid understanding of your options and strong communication with your spouse. Although we understand that divorce is never easy, pursuing an uncontested divorce may be a more peaceful way forward for each involved party.