UNCONTESTED DIVORCE: COLLABORATIVE LAW & MEDIATION
So you want a divorce and you think it will be uncontested. Great! An uncontested divorce almost always takes less time and is less expensive than one in which you’re fighting. Uncontested divorces are certainly not uncommon, and typically include arbitration, collaborative law, and/or meditation to come to a peaceful divorce. Here are the things you should know before you start.
Filing a Petition for Divorce
Every family law suit in Texas starts with the filing of an Original Petition for Divorce, even if it’s going to be uncontested. In Texas, a Court cannot grant a divorce until the Petition has been on file for at least sixty days – a cooling off period, meant to slow down emotional decisions and give people time to reconsider. The Petition itself does not have the terms of the deal you’ve worked out with your spouse. It only includes the statutorily required items in it (Dates of marriage, whether there are children, reason for the divorce, etc.). The Final Decree of Divorce is the document which will contain the deal you’ve worked out, with specificity so each side knows what they get and what they should expect from the other.
If your divorce were contested, after the Original Petition for Divorce was filed, the other party would be served personally with process – the official notice that the divorce has been commenced. One of the advantages of having an uncontested divorce is that neither side has to be served. Instead, the party who did not file may sign a Waiver of Citation; a two-page document that says “I know about this lawsuit, you don’t have to serve me”.
Preparing a Final Divorce Decree
During that sixty day cooling off period, we’re not sitting still. We are preparing your Final Decree of Divorce and helping you complete your Inventory and Appraisement. You can think of the Final Decree as having as many as six simple lists:
- the assets the wife is getting;
- the assets the husband is getting;
- the debts the wife is taking;
- the debts the husband is taking;
- alimony, if it’s going to be paid; and
- the agreements regarding the children, if there are any under the age of 18 or who have not yet graduated from high school. These don’t have to actually be on six different pages, it’s just an easy way to look at it. Divorce doesn’t always have to be complex.
Inventories & Appraisements
The Inventories and Appraisements are done by both parties and for both parties’ protection. It is a list of all of the assets and all of the debts and what the value of everything is. It’s important for two reasons.
First, if the other party has hidden anything, it is not likely going to show up on the Inventory and Appraisement. By doing an agreed divorce, you are, after all, choosing to trust your spouse to a great degree. But if you find out about it later and your Decree is written in such a way to allow for the division of undisclosed assets, you will still have the opportunity to get part or, in some cases, even all of the hidden bounty.
Second, if your spouse accuses you of hiding assets after the divorce is over, but you included it on your Inventory and Appraisement, their accusation will almost certainly go nowhere (we never like to say never when it comes to the law, since it’s the judges and juries who make the decisions, not the attorneys).
Once the Final Decree is done, reviewed and approved by both sides and the Inventories and Appraisements are finished, your divorce is ready for prove up. A prove up is a non-adversarial finish to your divorce. Only one side needs to show up and, in most circumstances, you don’t even need an setting with the Court. You and your attorney can show up any morning of the week. The statutorily required questions are asked and you get to say “yes” or “no” to each of them. It might take an hour to get in front of the Judge, but it often takes less than five minutes of testimony to finish for the day. Once you’re finished for the day, you’re finished completely – your divorce is final.
No-fault Grounds for Divorce
Texas provides for a no-fault divorce. That means that nobody need to be at fault for a divorce to be granted. Instead, the divorce may be based on “insupportability” when there is no “reasonable expectation of reconciliation.” Many people think of this as “irreconcilable differences”. But if there is fault, the divorce can also be granted on those grounds.
Advantages of an Uncontested Divorce
- The paperwork process is streamlined.
- An uncontested divorce has lower direct costs. The process is faster and involves less time in court.
- An uncontested divorce is generally considered more private.
Important Issues Which Everyone Must Agree On
- The exact division of the marital assets and debt;
- Custody of the children;
- Specifics on child visitation; and
- Child support or spousal support
Children and money are obviously some of the most important concerns we have with our everyday life. So it is no surprise that complete agreement on those issues can often be difficult. Even during a fully amicable divorce, finding a perfect agreement can take time. An uncontested divorce is desirable when possible as it can streamline the process and save on legal expenses. Your attorney will make sure that you can come to this type of agreement in a way that protects your interests and considers all possible current and future variables.
For many people dispute resolution is an important part of the divorce process, both legally and emotionally. By nature, uncontested divorce generally involves a less comprehensive nature of dispute resolution. For people with more complicated divorces, this makes uncontested somewhat unsuitable. On the other hand, it is the right option for many others. But it is important to consider whether or not an uncontested divorce provides the level of dispute resolution you are looking for, or if something more comprehensive is better suited for you case. An experienced attorney who has handled a diverse array of cases can provide valuable insight on what is best for you.
Contact An Experienced Texas Attorney
Divorces are often draining experiences. An uncontested divorce has the potential to go smoothly. But it can be tempting to agree to something you do not really want just to be done with everything. Remember that you deserve a fair settlement. Jeffrey Anderson is a strategic, aggressive Dallas based attorney who will involve you in every step of the process and ensure that you are completely comfortable with any and all agreements made in an uncontested divorce. Call to schedule an appointment with our uncontested divorce lawyer today.