What Happens in an Uncontested Divorce?

What Happens in an Uncontested Divorce?

Today, getting a divorce can be fairly easy.  It just takes time. Every state has no-fault divorces that allow a couple to simply decide that they no longer want to be married.  They can come to an agreement on things like child support and property division, and then they can go to court and ask a judge to approve their agreement.  This simple process is called an uncontested divorce, but a divorcing couple should be aware it can have some complications.

You may need a cooling off period

Even with an uncontested divorce, many states require a couple to prove they have been living separately for a certain period of time before a divorce can be granted.  The idea is to give a struggling couple some time to reconcile before their legal bonds are permanently severed. Some states require six months or even a year of separation.  It is best practice in this scenario for an estranged couple to be living in separate households. That is not always possible financially, though. In that case, one spouse should at least be sleeping in a different room, and the couple should not be doing “married-couple” things like cooking meals for each other.  A judge could refuse to grant a divorce if the couple is not really separated.

An agreement is required

“Uncontested” does not mean there is no disagreement.  A divorce decree will usually need to divide up the couple’s property, and the decree usually must work out custody and support issues for any children as well.  A couple may start out on their path towards divorce with sharp disagreements on issues like child custody. These issues can be “contested” to a degree, even if they are uncontested by the time the couple gets to court.  

For example, one parent may demand full custody and child support.  That parent may feel like she has done all the parenting so far and the other parent should not be involved.  The other parent may want to split custody jointly. Rather than fight this out in court, a couple may hire a mediator.  They will both spend time talking to the mediator together and separately, and then the mediator will try to help the couple come up with an agreement on custody.  These mediation sessions can get very emotional, with accusations and harsh words flying back and forth. In the end, however, each spouse may begrudgingly sign off on an agreement.  

The couple then takes this agreement to court to ask the judge to approve their agreement as part of their divorce decree.  At that point, because there is an agreement, the divorce is uncontested. A judge will sometimes not even talk to the couple.  The paperwork may simply be approved behind closed doors. More commonly, the couple and their lawyers (if any) will appear in court and talk to the judge about the agreement.  The judge will usually ask some questions to be sure everybody understands the agreement that is being made, and then if the judge finds it fair to both the couple and their children the uncontested divorce will be approved.  

Want to have a happier, healthier marriage?

If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.

Take Course